I have sat down to write a blog at least a half dozen times over the past few months. Words failed me (shocking) because all that came to mind over and over again was finding something worthwhile to share. Commentary on the impact of the past year and a half has been covered from every angle. But the truth is, moving forward only comes with reflecting on the impact of the past. And, one last introductory thought, if you follow this blog, you all know I have abandoned my original commitment to make this all about food and farming. You get a lot of heart and emotions from me; I cannot be authentic any other way.
Last year felt like crisis mode. Uncertainty held an ominous cloud over our heads. We worked so hard just to meet needs, basic needs and to create a higher level of convenience and service. I am not taking any credit here, my staff did it - they did it all and they did it well. We kept our outdoor events and workshops going, we watched families enjoy our kids garden when so many other places roped off and canceled their programs. I never doubted for one moment we had the platform and responsibility to provide these services. It was the right thing to do and I am glad we did.
This year feels like recovery mode. It has been encouraging to see people out and engaging social life again without that ominous cloud. Yes, there are some who still carry their umbrella’s anticipating that cloud is going to appear again but, on our farm, and in our little space in the world, you can put down your umbrella and find a little respite from the storm.
Two things really stand out to me that have impacted the recovery process for me personally. The first is gratitude. Gratitude is a principal I have always tried to practice. It does make a difference in our emotional lives and our perspective when we can find even the little things to be grateful for. More than ever though, I see people more grateful for those little things that we all took for granted for so long. It is more meaningful now for people to be together with those they care about most.
The second thing is less wasteful. We are less wasteful from a practical standpoint of our resources. When some of our basic supplies felt threatened, we learned how to be creative with our stewardship. But more importantly, we are less wasteful with our words and time. I hope this lesson sticks for people, that despite the hard road traveled to get here, I hope we all remember to use these gifts that we have been given.
Less wastefulness with our time and our relationships is a generous gift the past year has given us. More gratefulness for what we have and less longing for what we don’t is another generous gift. As we move into recovery, I challenge you not to cast those gifts aside, but to hold on to them tightly and treasure them. Gifts are to be received with grateful hearts and used as they were intended.
Oh, and a quick note on the farm side of things. It is an exciting year! Our new fruit trees are all doing well, they will not have production on them this year, but hopefully they will start next year! Strawberries have been abundant and beautiful. Our plan to plant so many more has been a success! We have been able to provide an awesome picking experience for the community and it warms our hearts to see people enjoying the opportunity. Pumpkins are in the ground; the corn maze is about 6 inches tall and getting bigger every day. This will be the last year for our older peach tree orchard but we will have a pick your own opportunity there as well, another welcome experience after losing all of last year’s peaches. Kid’s workshops kick off this week with just as much fun as we have ever had before (oh and lots of learning too).
Perhaps the most exciting thing of this year is that Big Dan’s BBQ restaurant opened inside. After being delayed a year (for obvious reasons), Dan and I have been so thankful for the timing of opening. We are also thankful for the way we see our guests coming to gather and simply enjoy time together. We also enjoy the gift of togetherness that it has given us with our staff and our family. If you haven’t already, we both hope you will come visit us.
With a grateful (and less wasteful) heart,
It’s been a long time since my last post. It’s not because I haven’t had a lot of things on my mind and heart to share; that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The challenges of the past year haven’t escaped any of us, only impacted us in different ways. For me, it has been like holding my breath for a very long time - uncertain of so many things - the farm plans, educational choices for my kids, the disparity in expectations from the public, the chaos of the world around me. Did anyone else feel like somedays it was just hard to breathe?
Something about fall has been hopeful - maybe day after day of sunny chilly weather, the changing of the leaves and the brightness of the harvest. Or maybe it’s just been watching people enjoy our farm and the outdoors, watching families and friends gather and linger at picnic tables and benches. This year fall seemed less rushed and more settled. Despite long days and the hard work of this season, something about that was refreshing and restoring. For that I am deeply grateful, we are all doing our best to find the silver linings in some dark clouds that have lingered.
We have all been forced to think so differently about most aspects of our lives over the past year. As we approach the gift giving season, now is the time to start making an intentional approach. I have given myself some criteria for my own personal use and thought I would share.
Shop Local. We hear that over and over but what does that really mean and why is it so important? Studies show that an average $68 per $100 dollars spent locally go directly back into the community, that is far greater than the amount per $100 spent at chains and large retailers. It means taxes paid stays locally, it means local jobs are sustained and it means small businesses can stay open and continue to provide exceptional services that all big businesses can not. Now, I get it, there are just some conveniences that push us to shop out of the area and online, but as often as possible, do your research and find local. Even if you are paying a little more for a product or service, consider the implication you are having on your local economy and neighborhood. If I can walk into a store and ask to speak to the owner and be able to do that, then I know I am shopping in a truly locally owned and operated store. (Note: it doesn’t mean the owner is ALWAYS there, it just means the owner is accountable and accessible!)
Shop Practical. That doesn’t sound fun, but stick with me, you might change your mind. There are some everyday essentials that can turn into creative gift ideas. Let’s start with food. A themed food basket can meet a practical need for eating and snacking. Scan Pinterest for some inspiring ideas to create a breakfast basket, a movie night basket, etc and then customize accordingly! Clothes also fit the practical category too - everyone loves a comfy pair of socks or pajamas, a warm blanket or a heated pad for cold nights. Instead of gift wrapping or gift bags, pick a reusable bag or purse or decorative storage box and fill it with goodies. Soap and body care is also essential and we have many local artisans represented in the area.
Shop Experience. Here is where we tie it all together - what are the practical experiences that everyone on your shopping list would enjoy? A salon visit, a pedicure, a massage, a winery, a shopping trip to their favorite store, an educational experience like a paint class or art workshop or a staycation package. Think ahead to traditional summer experiences like mini golf and amusement parks and pick up gift cards, tickets or passes! Our local family owned restaurants have all struggled to keep their doors open this season; stop in and pick up a gift card (or two or three). Not only does it provide a great experience idea, but it also ties in local and practical. Experience gifts also spread out the joy of the season!
Continue to follow our Facebook this season for some clever ideas for gift giving this year that will meet all three criterias - local, practical and experience! I like our ideas and gifts and I think you will too!
We were scheduled to open for the season April 24th and 25th, 2020. A few weeks before, a few of my staff members cornered me and said, "we need to be here for the community, people are scared right now, they are having a hard time getting what they need, let's open early." You don't need to twist my arm after a presentation like that. By the weekend, our doors were opened - following all guidelines and even making extra efforts for cleaning and sanitizing.
So here is why I believe small businesses, including places like hair salons and gift stores should be able to open and when they get the go ahead to do so, these are the places to frequent:
1) Ability to keep things clean, constantly. We sanitize our carts, our baskets and our credit card machine after every single use. We already had a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning checklist - that includes our door handles and light switches! We just bumped up the amount of times we are doing that.
2) Crowd control can be managed well. Small businesses can easily see everyone coming in their door, typically they are greeted with a smile (currently with an eye smile!) and a hello. It's easy to make sure there is plenty of space for social distancing. Businesses that schedule appointments can manage that even easier! In a few cases, we were requested if someone could come during non open hours. Absolutely! We can do that!
3) We know you and your needs. In our case, we have been able to help large families get the amounts of food they need. One family I talked to had to go from store to store each week because of food restrictions. As a small business, we could accommodate them.
4) We can follow all guidelines and maintain a safe place in a friendly way. Our signs use words like "kindly" and they are presented in a nice colorful way. Our store is bright and open, we have intentionally created more space in all of our shopping areas so social distancing isn't an issue.
5) Giving back to the community comes naturally (or at least it should!). In my opinion, community partnership is a privilege. Instead of being annoyed when someone asks for a donation I see it as an opportunity to say thank you a school or group or organization who considers us a vital part of the community. As an essential business with permission to open, we were able to support some local folks and organizations who lost their avenues of sales. One example is the Girl Scouts. Understandably, the Girl Scouts were not permitted to sell in typical fashion this year. The cookie sales are essential to funding their programs. With special permission granted, they were allowed to drop off their cookies in retail spaces to be sold. We were happy to partner with some of our local troops to sell their cookies - people were so happy to get their cookies and troop leaders were relieved to not have boxes of cookies in their pantries. Community kindness isn't just about giving, it's about doing! And we can do!
6) There is the highest level of accountability. The folks who come in the our doors are my neighbors and friends, my children go to school with the children whose parents and grandparents shop in our store. When you receive an email, Facebook response or other similar message it's directly from me or another real person. It's not an auto response and it is ultimately my name on the line! I have no large corporate company name to hide behind.
7) A positive experience can change your day. Last but not least is the mental and emotional health struggle that has escalated during the past few weeks. It's been cold, rainy and the end of winter, routines have been disrupted and for some folks those adaptations just don't come easily. A familiar experience, can help.
The past few weeks, as hard and challenging as it has been to adapt our business, will be one of the most memorable times in the history of retail business for me personally. People were kind, people were patient, people were understanding in all regards. All of this has helped us all slow down a bit and renew our perspective. The community support that has been behind us, I hope will continue and I hope to respond in kind.
As small businesses are permitted to open up again, they are going to desperately need our support! I love seeing this happen already. Frequent them, buy gifts from them, tip well!
That being said, if you are a small business, set your standards high. Be a safe place, don't be shy about telling your customers and community what you are doing. I struggled with that, but then I realized that is what helps earn and sustain our trust. Follow the guidelines but be kind and friendly about it. Be accommodating.
In this Together,
We are opening the store early this year to help people get basic food. But the reality is, I am feeling sad about it. This week a very small staff is working to clean, tidy, stock some shelves and put together a list of "essentials." Traditionally, opening weekend for me comes with great anticipation ... familiar faces and hopefully new ones, catching up with people on their winter and seeing kids who come to explore and learn! Instead our minds are considering how do I make sure I avoid direct contact, how do I make this as sterile and informal for people as humanly possible? To the core of my being that just goes against everything we have worked so hard to make sure we are not. However, we will do whatever it takes to help people get what they need and be safe and secure doing it! We will be hopeful that when this does pass, and it will, we can pick up the pieces together and appreciate each other and what we have just a little bit more.
I have been known to say, "the glass if half empty and it's rotten milk, but we can still make some yummy banana bread!" So, here we go ... that is how I feel right now. This is not at all how I want to open our doors for the season. However, there is something about "presence" and that's what we will be. We will be present here in your community, present to do our best, present to offer a familiar face and smile, we will be present to open the doors even if we can't offer you a physical hug.
Please take care of yourselves and those who are literally close to you right now! Please reach out to those who are at a distance too. Find something to laugh about and laugh often ... it is OK! (Need a laugh? Check out Big Dan's or Rohrbach's Facebook for our family food video!).
Be safe, be well.
So far, we are experiencing some pretty mild winter weather. As much as everyone loves those high temperature days, we don't really welcome them on the farm. Warm temperatures early in the season can trick the trees into thinking that spring is coming soon, and they will start to wake from their winter rest. We aren't ready for that because it makes for a risky spring if buds are open too soon. In 2019, we lost 75% of our peaches due to an early bud push and a late spring extreme cold snap/frost. We are hopeful that 2020 does not repeat that!
Ok, moving past the winter blues; we are busy inside right now! We have some exciting changes to unveil over the next few months inside and outside! To sustain a small business and small farm, we have to do our best to stay current with consumer trends and farming practices. Stay tuned; as these things unfold over the next few months, we will provide more details.
You're going to hear a common theme this year in our conversations, media and promotions. "Strong Roots" is the foundation of all we do. Strong roots of 65 years of a family owned and operated farm has brought us to this point. Even when we need to adapt, we don't lose sight that we have a history of providing the best possible experience for our community and stewarding our land and resources to the best of our ability. That ties in to every aspect of our life. We stand strong on that history and we move forward continuing to pursue the best for the future! Stay tuned, we have a great year ahead!
Getting ready to share another year with you,
When our Andrew was really little he used to say the four seasons were "Spring, Summer, Fall and Christmas!" I am not a very big fan of winter, cold, or sunless days on end but Christmas, I love Christmas! Yes, I admit I am that person who starts Christmas music early in November, and I love to start changing over decorations as soon as possible. (Maybe because I really do get to max out enjoyment of fall decorations with all of our events and activities!)
For many reasons, we must have a winter, but I could live with a season of Christmas instead! Christmas is warm, sparkly, and twinkly, and any simple reason can be found to celebrate! I am trying to take my own advice from the last blog and truly slow down a little, to stop and enjoy the moments. It certainly is not always easy; it takes an intentional commitment.
In our church a few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker from a local youth center. He talked about how in the youth center, they sit around the table with the kids who come. On those nights they serve a warm meal and talk about their day. Phones are put away and open discussion is encouraged! We make every effort to have family dinner in our home as often as possible, so that isn't really what impacted me most. I couldn't hold back the tears, though, when he mentioned how some of these kids just don't even have a bed to sleep in, or clean clothes or dependable hot meals. So we had a family discussion (around the dinner table), what could we do this season to help?
No doubt we live in an entitled culture; the online shopping mentality of - I need/want it, I buy it, it shows up on my door step within two days. I get that, I embrace that convenience too.
I don't believe we will change that culture, but we can learn to keep perspective in the midst of it. First it starts with gratitude, followed by generosity. Could we give up the idea of making our own extensive Christmas lists and instead focus more on being thankful for what we do have and spend more time helping others who don't have?
What does any of this have to do with the farm and farm life? Well, nothing really. It really doesn't but that's ok, this is what we are working through in our home right now and to share it with you helps hold us accountable to follow through. This week is Angel tree week and we are partnered with two local schools to help provide Christmas gifts to children in need. The opportunities in our community are endless. I encourage you this year, if you aren't already, find a way to meet a need. Little or big, every one makes a difference.
Wishing you all the joy, Hope and warmth of Christmas,
Never before can I remember an October where we had a perfect fall day for every Saturday! So many memories were made this year by young and old who came to the farm to experience the harvest, the corn maze, time with family and delicious eats! We know for sure of two engagements that happened in the pumpkin patch!
For me, it's a mix of emotions that it is drawing to an end. Truth be told we could never keep up this pace for much longer! Our days were back to back with school tours, guests, pumpkin picking and all of the fun that comes with this season! There is something about the constant flow of familiar smiling faces, new guests who have just discovered our little place in the world and the color and decor that comes along with the season that keeps the momentum going.
But now it's time to turn to a quieter season, a season of more reflection as we anticipate Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Purpose now to minimize, reflect, quiet your heart and do less. Embrace the gratitude and giving of the approaching seasons with expectation of more good things to come!
Grateful for you,
We can grieve the ending of summer or we can embrace the beginning of fall. The emergence of a new season always creates a tension of emotions, some easier to welcome than others. When summer changes to fall, it doesn't take me long to get over my great attachment to warm, sunny days to get excited about all the colors and harvest of a new season! Pumpkins, gourds, mums, apples ... all of it freshens up dull corners. Summer to fall is an easy one for me, fall to winter, now that one I will not look forward to with so much excitement (except Christmas ... I LOVE Christmas!).
Life changes are the same way. Some are easy to embrace. Others are not easy, they come undefined and without certainty. Farm life is no exception. Farmers are facing major seasons of change and I am not talking about spring to summer and summer to fall! We live in a time of innovation with the best technology resources at our fingertips. I am proud to be fourth generation in a farming family. I am grateful for a solid foundation of life work and dedication that has been modeled before me. All of that presents mixed emotions with how we move forward in our farming operation. To me, it's significant to honor the past but not hold on to it at the detriment of moving forward. The past ten years or so we have embraced innovative soil operations. If you've followed our social media you've been able to see what the transition to no-till farming and Cover Crops has done for the health of our soil, the minimization of chemicals and the increase in yields.
In the future we will continue to embrace those changes, seek the best practices, and learn by trying (and sometimes failing). You will begin to see changes in our orchards over the next five years. As our trees are aging out we are moving to a now proven method of fruit production called High Density. There is so much we are learning and we promise we will be sharing with you as we go! High Density allows for greater fruit production with better tree health. One of the most exciting things about all of this is it will allow us to provide more pick your own experiences to our community!
Here's to embracing the seasons! So grateful for you,
There are places I just love to be. My back porch, early in the morning and at the end of the day, near a field where anything is growing (but sunflowers are my favorite!) and our kids garden to name a few. I also love to walk into the doors of our farm market because it's bright and colorful, it's open and welcoming.
The places we spend time is so important for many reasons, just as much sometimes as the people we spend our time with! I so much enjoy the people I work with and the people who walk in our doors each day. I don't take for granted that most hours of my day are spent in the spaces that I love to be and with people I enjoy!
I love watching summer spaces come to life - leaves on the trees, flowers blooming and plants growing. It's easy to get caught up each day in the to do list, the projects, the work that needs to be done. But I am learning to enjoy the spaces. I am learning to pause in moments and be thankful for the little things. Summer is going so quickly and soon the spaces will look different. New colors will appear on the farm as a new season approaches. But in each change, each season, I am learning to create space for myself, to be thankful and to reflect. I hope you can make time to do the same. I hope if you haven't already you will come visit our little space in the world!
The picture at the bottom of this page is a map. A map of a segment of our farm. It was in the middle of a table, surrounded by people, including myself, who will make key decision about the future of the farm. The cool thing is, we are in an amazing time for agriculture. New methods, real time data, resources that are beyond imagination and an industry where people support each other, share information and want to help you succeed because it really is about caring for our land, our community and our families.
All that being said, it can still weigh heavy on my shoulders. There are some big risks that come with changing the way we always farmed, just like there are big risks associated with not changing the way we farm.
And then there is reality. Reality is, due to one night ... just one night ... where the temps dropped too low and the peaches had just pushed too far into blossom, we lost a significant amount of our peach crop. There is no recovery from that, only a hope that next year will be different.
And then there is another reality. The reality that each new day I will have familiar faces and new faces who will walk in our front doors. They will smile and feel welcome in our farm market and even when I explain how our crops were impacted this season, they will understand, they will still come back. And I will know that every decision we make, every risk we take is because those faces depend on us. Depend on us to help them understand a little more. They depend on us to create a great place for kids to play and learn. So even though we struggle in one area we succeed in another.
So facing the future, it's a good thing. It's hopeful. It's challenging but the hard times keep life in perspective.
Thanks for walking in our doors, it means the world!
Hello! I am Denise (Rohrbach) Bosworth. My husband Dan & I established Big Dan's BBQ in 2012 & took over the management of the farm market in 2015.