As the real food movement has grown, we've seen a huge increase in the amount of families seeking their food from alternative sources -- like private farms.
And we've also seen an increase in the amount of farmers who are willing to provide us with wonderful, nourishing food.
These are good developments, but along with this growth comes some confusion and unintended consequences. Many a farmer has been burned by a customer who just didn't understand.
Buying from a farmer is different than buying from a grocery store. Different rules apply. You have to learn to think in a whole new way.
The bottom line is this: we have to treat our farmers and sources well so they will continue to be there for us.
We've put together this guide for a start.
Let's treat our farmers right.
Laurie and Jamie
1| Be considerate.
The greatest of the Farm Sourcing commandments, encompassing all of the others. The old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” applies in full force here.
When in doubt as to how to act when sourcing — and in life — remember #1.
2| What thou orderest, must thou buy…whether or not thou still needs it!
The moment you place the order, consider it a binding contract.
We've heard many a tragic tale of a farmer stuck with goods that were ordered by well-meaning people…and then abandoned.
Remember: your farmer plans his farm production and finances around your orders. Often, to fulfill your order, they must first invest their own money and resources. In essence, if you don’t pay for what you ordered, you are stealing from your farmer.
If you find you cannot use what you ordered, it is your responsibility to pay for and pick up your order, as you promised. (Then feel free to find another home for it!)
3| Expect to educate and to be educated.
The farmer/customer relationship is a relationship. Farmers are not mind readers. Tell them exactly what you want to buy and provide the literature so everyone understands.
In return, the farmer will have a lot to teach you, too. Make sure to listen.
4| Be helpful and friendly.
You and your farmer have entered into a relationship, and he or she is a human being, too. He will need help from time to time and you are in a great position to be of help. Help as much as you can and give freely of your cheerfulness!
Remember: a smile costs you nothing and pays great dividends!
5| Remember that a farm is someone’s home.
Treat it with the same respect you’d want people to show at your home.
Homes are where people sleep — don’t pull in at 11:47 PM and flash your headlights in the windows.
Homes are where people entertain – make an appointment.
Homes are where children are raised – don’t do or say anything that you would not want your children hearing/seeing.
6| Remember that a farm is someone’s business.
Farmers want to please you. But they must make money in order to be there next year for you.
Make sure your farmer makes money. It helps you both in the long run, right?
7| It is your responsibility to pick up your food. Keep your appointments.
When you buy goods from a private farmer, it is your responsibility to pick it up, unless stated otherwise. And if you say that you will be at their farm at 8:30 PM on Tuesday, move heaven and earth to make your appointment.
Everyone has an occasional late day, but if you are consistently flaky about making your appointments, don’t be surprised to see your sources dry up.
If, on occasion, you cannot make your appointment, it is your responsibility to find an alternate pickup date and time that fits into THEIR schedule. Do not inconvenience your farmer. And do not ask them to bring the product to you unless that is part of their business.
8| Pay promptly and have exact change.
Your farmer is not Walmart. Their business is producing food, not being a cashier. Expect to pay cash, and don’t expect them to have change — overpay a bit, if you must, to avoid making them search their home for half an hour for the $2.75 they owe you.
After a long, fruitful relationship, some farmers will extend you credit. But don’t ask for it. You must prove your worthiness first.
(And expect to pay more. You want your farmer to thrive — and they cannot do that charging Walmart prices.)
9| Think short term…and long term.
Real food is largely governed by the seasons. The food is ready when it is ready. And when it’s ready, it will likely be ready in great quantity!
Bloom where you are planted and find ways to use what your farmer has now. (We promise: with a little planning, a dash of enthusiasm, and a good sense of humor, anyone can handle six bushels of asparagus!)
If you start to feel overwhelmed, think about the long term investment that you are making in the farmer, the local community, and your own family’s health.
It’s worth it.
10| Farms are PRIVATE PROPERTY.
Your farmer has worked hard to build and maintain his farm, and unfortunately, in many areas of the world, unidentified strangers can present a threat.
Individual farms vary, but a good rule of thumb is this: don’t bring or send your friends, family, acquaintances without receiving clear, unambiguous permission from the farmer.
And, remember, the farmer has the last word and he or she doesn’t need to explain it. No means no.
Want to learn more? Check out Laurie and Jamie chat on Kitchen Radio Episode 6, Sourcing Traditional Foods!