…And All are Happy

One of the blessings of being a conscientious Farmgirl is the intuitive need to make others happy. This is also one of the curses. Perusing through MaryJanesFarm magazine, we see hints of this drive in all of us–great ways to host a brunch, perfect gifts to make for hosts of parties, or stylish and practical ways to organize all of our duties in easy to navigate folders, drawers or other storage. We are often looking at the others in our lives and how to make their experiences as comfortable, memorable and great as possible. Perhaps this is something innate in all women, but it is especially heightened in Farmgirls all over. It’s what we do–we take care of our families, our animals, our vegetables and our other labors of love.  We want to make everyone as happy as possible in any way that we are able. And (overall) we love it.

Jon and Stef Visit Alaska–And these tres amigos were all happy!

Stef: A Portrait of Happiness-Exploring the Matanuska Glacier

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending time with two of my dear friends from college-Jon and Stef. There is something so special about hanging out with old friends. They have seen the best, the worst, the most mundane and the craziest in us. I have lived with Jon and Stef, so they’ve seen my crabby morning self and my delusional-late-night-sleep-deprived self. I’ve seen all of these sides in them, too. Even after all of the experiences we have shared with each other, when they visited I still felt that hostess tug to make sure their stay was as happy, fulfilling and comfortable as it could possibly be. Of course I had a blast during their visit as well–we went to a music festival, explored a glacier, went on a really beautiful hike, and ate some darn good Alaska Grown faire. However, their visit got me to thinking about how we go way out of our way to make others happy–especially as small scale farmers.

Jon the Mountain Man, doesn’t he look happy?

Jon and Stef helped out on the Farm for one of the day’s activities. It was a CSA harvest day, so it was a busy and fun one for both of them to help out. Jon has some farming experience while Stef doesn’t have much, making a lot of the work new to both of them. They helped harvest potatoes, sugar snap peas, cabbages, beets, and chard. They also helped clean and process the veggies, pack the shares and pack up the truck when it was time for delivery. They were amazing helpers, and I think we all had fun!

The most stressful part of the day is always the share packing time (we can refer to this as SPT from here on out!). If you are a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture), you may be familiar with this method of picking up a share: You arrive at the pick up location and walk through a line of binned produce taking the indicated number or weight of each veggie until you get to the end where you can leave behind any produce you do not want and exchange it for something that another member didn’t want. This is a common CSA method. The other is that you arrive at your pick up location and you pick up a pre-packed bin, bag or box(or it is even delivered to your house!) . Many CSAs offer two different sizes of shares: a large and a small–the names are often clever like “abundant” and “basic” or something like that. And some–SOME–pre-packed CSAs even allow for substitutions. Sun Circle Farm customers are some of these lucky members who are allowed to substitute two items in their shares per week. This is where the stress for the farmer and her helpers comes into play.

Jon and I in a successfully packed truck, full of successfully packed CSA shares (you can kind of see my baby bump!)

Other CSA members are not as lucky as those at Sun Circle Farm–they get what they get and they better learn to love cauliflower or find someone who does, darnit! However, Anne-Corinne wants to appease her customers palates. So, every Monday, she labels the “special request” bins, and we (her trusty farmhands) attempt to navigate the world of substitution requests in an organized and timely manner. It generally results in organized chaos with lots of “So, the large shares get two zucchinis except for which ones, again?” and “who requested extra peas?” All in all, it goes relatively smoothly, but every once in a while there are some snafus–like this week when I caught the edge of a tray of tomatoes with my pants as I walked around too hurriedly, sending the tender toms tumbling to the ground…tomatoes don’t like falling very much. We are also sometimes short on something so it has to be harvested and processed quickly; or there are extras of something else, so we have to double or triple check all of the shares to make sure all of the customers get their due share of produce. It is actually quite an exhilarating process, and we all feel very accomplished at the end–full of adrenaline with our focuses waning.

Mimi and friends assemble herb bunches for the week’s shares! Happy veggies get paired with happy herbs (herbs can NOT be substituted…phew!)

So that’s what our Mondays are like–it’s always a mad rush at the end to pack up the truck correctly. Usually we have just moments to spare as the truck rolls off to feed the lucky shareholders and we settle down for our late lunches. It’s good to know that the shareholders are getting the food they want from week to week, but we often ask ourselves, is it worth it? Couldn’t we just give each customer the same glorious bin? And the answer is–yes, it’s worth it. It gives the farm a competitive advantage, and we know that fewer veggies are going to waste. Plus, happy customers make happier farmers!

But you know what? Some people don’t revel in others’ happiness like we do. Many people are demanding and protective of everything. They make silly demands that they expect will be followed at the drop of a hat. Many people insist on ridiculous requests–like the woman who will only eat zucchini that is about 5 inches long (“otherwise, they might as well be pig food!”), so we have to specially label her share just for the dinky zukes). Just today, after deciding on the theme for this week’s post, my other farmer friend, Amanda, asked me how we deal with CSA members who request to pick up on a different day than that outlined in the contract. We usually harvest all of the veggies at the same time, and if a member wants to pick them up the next day, they can stop by the farm and do so, with the understanding that the produce was picked at least one day ago. Well, Amanda delivers to Anchorage (45 minutes away), so this isn’t really a possibility for her. I guess she’s gotten some angry e-mails from one or two entitled customers who don’t seem to remember the contract they signed with her just a few short months ago. These customers demand money back or some other kind of reparations for their inability to pick up their own shares (even though forty other people are able to). The customer is NOT always right, in my mind. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Overall, though, everyone is SO HAPPY to get their delicious produce week to week, that the whiners and complainers are easily forgotten. They even become comical after awhile. Furthermore, as the season goes on, we are perfecting the substitution dance. Once the last share of the summer is ready to be completed, we’ll be packing bins with our eyes closed.

Until next time, enjoy these pictures of happy things:

Little Miss Leila with a freshly eaten blueberry stained grin!

Violet the Kitten enjoys a damaged tomato (of the Taxi variety)!

Willhelmina enjoys the fruits of our weeding labors.

…And All are Happy.

I hope you all are enjoying these late summer days. How do you go out of your way to ensure others’ happiness?

Sending you peace and love from Alaska,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

  1. Joan says:

    Oh how nice to have a CSA in your area – there are noises being made that we might get one going in our area – YEA!!! even though I am not physically able to do much I will do all I can to help out, think it will be fun for this old farm girl to have time with the soil. God Bless

  2. Karen Pennebaker says:

    How on earth do you grow all this in Alaska? I live in a wooded area of West Virginia, where my garden gets bright sun 6 to 8 hours a day in summer due to being in a deep hollow surrounded by the woods…here it is August and our nights have not been warm enough for the tomatoes to do well. Green rocks, that’s what I have…and small rocks for the most part. We have only had about 10 days of good hot summer weather all summer and rain most of the summer…mud, weeds and slow growing veggies!! However, I do have good luck in ANY weather with White Half Runner Beans. They will climb 8 feet (maybe higher, if you put the on something higher) – never did know why they called them "half runner" when they climb better than pole beans!!

    Looks like you have a good life there!

  3. Robin Reichardt says:

    That’s happiness!That blueberry stained grin! Oh to be a kid again up in the mulberry tree, picking and snacking with stained fingers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *