It has been two years since the world was turned upside down and this has certainly altered how we have done business. Our focus turned to making sure the CSA stayed stable by really trying to meet more individuals' needs in a sustainable way and mostly dropping the in-person Saturday Wolfville Farmers Market to meet demands of the online orders of WFM2go. There was so much consideration that went into these decisions that I think it would be great to talk about!
We will not be returning to the in-person Saturday Wolfville Farmers Market in 2022 after attending them casually for the last two years. We consistently had some of our worst sales days ever during this time period and unfortunately we don’t have the personality to say “you gotta lose some to win some” for us it is bittering not because we think we are the best or we think people should do things that make the feel unsafe but because we grow food. Food that could go somewhere to someone and not waste away on a table. As we looked around the market and saw others struggling it seemed like the little bit of sales we were making would be better if it went to those who were really wanting to make a go of the market situation. Now of course this wasn’t a selfless decision but rather a personal and somewhat logical one.
Our online WFM2go sales were booming and if we invested now into this stream when all this craziness ended we would have hopefully built a long lasting connection with those customers that they would at least continue to return at a level that was comparable to our market days. We also had no issue with the 25% cut that WFM2go had to maintain operations and staff but for others that was harder to accept than slow days at the market. What I am trying to say is that there are different sacrifices that work for different people and these differences are really part of the strength. We were able to happily sell away on wfm2go and others were happily selling away at the market but these two streams were supporting each other. The market provided the credentials and customer base for WFM2go to exist and WFM2go was keeping sales flowing when the market was down.
We may have never made the decisions to cut the market if it didn’t experience this downturn, but because it did we used this as an opportunity to learn the ropes of having employees, and expand our perennial fruit plants which will be a backbone for a more sustainable future for the farm in every sense of the word. I was also able to devote more positive energy to the CSA which was always a goal of mine. I have always loved the communication side of the CSA, but sometimes I didn’t have time or extra energy to do that, which meant I needed more time devoted to this instead of squeezing it in as an extra thing to do and with employees I was able to accomplish that!
We also got to experience selling during the winter months because of WFM2go. Selling at markets in the winter means you need lots of variety to really draw people in, which wasn’t something that we were interested in pursuing, but with WFM2go providing variety we could sell in the winter in a very focused way. It even led to running a winter CSA with Emily Tebogt this year which we will now do together every year going forward. The only reason I even kept winter selling on the table for our farm was because Emily always talked about how important it was and now it was the perfect time to venture out into it because I could see how to make it work for our farm!
Our farm’s biggest strength was in maintaining the farm instead of growing it. We decided we wanted growth to be a by-product and not the goal. I mean after all a goal post based on growth never stops moving and seems to have far more consequences than gains in long term scenarios. It also allowed us to make decisions we wouldn’t have made otherwise only to find that our business did end up growing. Isn’t that funny?! The hope for our farm is just to live and to feed people, nothing extravagant because extravagant things require a lot of work and well, we’ve got enough on our plates, after all we are farmers! Haha!