Before we could leave for our week-long vacation, we wanted to clear some of the ready-to-eat produce from the garden and orchard.
We had quite a few salad greens ready to be harvested. Buttercrunch lettuce, arugula and nasturtium were all ready to go.
There was no honest way I would personally eat everything that was ready to harvest. But, I also didn’t want it to go to waste sitting in the garden untouched. Sprinting hot off the excitement of finding Myrtle, my roots and fruits and flowers cart, I decided to make an impromptu produce stand in the lakeside neighborhood nearby.
Sunday morning, I got up at 4:30 a.m. and ran into town for a few bags of ice. I was in the garden with ice water and pruning sheers by 5 a.m. From there, it was like cruise control.
I had 15 heads of lettuce and 6 bags of arugula washed, packed and chilled in a deep cooler within an hour. The animals noticed I was busy in the garden and all started to chime in with their stories from the night. Our coming-of-age rooster sounded his hilarious call at the sun. The kittens bounded out from the barn to swat at the lettuce leaves as I rustled through them near the ground.
By 9 a.m., we set up our very first pop-up produce stand at Lake Dabinawa a few miles south of McLouth, Kansas. Given that we pulled it all together that morning, the concept was simple: a cooler, a table and a sharpie-drawn sign.
Since our only goal was to see that the lettuce in the garden didn’t go to waste, we posted on Facebook that our entire haul was available for free. If anyone truly wanted to pay, we planned to donate any cash to Harvesters Community Food Network. In our minds, this not only got fresh produce into the hands of our neighbors (and potentially some that really needed it without having to call them out) – but it also put some funds in the hands of an organization that is working overtime to keep our communities fed in this crazy pandemic. Wins all around.
By 10:30 a.m., Aaron’s sister Sarah and nephew Noah arrived for an afternoon on the farm. We’re pretty family first around here, so we set out a box to collection any donations and left our pop-up stand running on full honor system. Take what you want or need. Leave what you can if you want to. Please don’t take the cooler.
Around 3:30 that afternoon, I finally made it back to the cooler to take things down. Imagine the excitement to discover a completely empty cooler and – instead – $50. We estimated the value of the produce to be about $27, but figured we wouldn’t actually sell it all. Never once did we think that we’d end up having $50 to donate.
The pop-up stand was genuinely such a great experiment for a random weekend. We proved a few things to ourselves:
- We have plenty to learn about how to sell our food in a farmer’s market setting. I did some research on how to harvest and keep the lettuce fresh. The process worked perfectly for this test run, but we have tons of research and testing to know how to do the same for all of the other produce in the garden.
- People are genuinely great. The honor system version of our stand worked wonderfully through the day. It was a nice reassurance that there really is good out there in a time when a lot around us is super crazy.
- Neighbors are kind and respectful of COVID-19 worries. Since we were outdoors, we didn’t see many masks – but everyone did their part to keep a very safe distance. We opened the cooler (and left hand sanitizer out for everyone’s use). They grabbed the most available lettuce without touching others. Then dropped money in the box to be handled later.
- Early morning harvesting was spectacular. The farm was so cool and quiet. Aaron and Isai did their part to sleep in while I got to enjoy the complete zen and peaceful joy of seeing the animals wake up to the sunshine. It was one of the greatest experiences on the farm so far.
Now, I’m more motivated than ever to get Myrtle freshened up and ready for some fall festivals. I have no idea what we will have to sell – but I love the idea of having a small family stand to run through the summertime!