A little history and . . .
Why We Grow For Farm Members Only and Harvest Some for Farm Guests
We used all our retirement and all the equity of the home we sold to start a farm in the middle of Scottsdale suburbia. Hard work with long days were the norm as we sought to succeed in turning parched, weed choked land we rented into a place of beauty. We had no plan really - just some tenacity.
Until you farm - you have no clue as to how much it costs. Simple things like irrigation, truck loads of good soil, seeds, vegetable starts, organic bug and weed control, fencing to keep predators away from eating your vegetables, wood for new raised beds, tools, shade cloth, weed eaters, wheel barrows, baby chicks/feed, etc are on the list of "need to buy - again."
It didn't take long into this adventure before we saw our "investment" into this rented land - dwindle - fast.
So, what farmers do in trying to earn a living is to sell what they grow/produce - to people. Farmers depend on people who understand where good food comes from. They depend on people to want that good food. They hope people appreciate that good food. Farmer's depend on the relationship of and the regular support from those people who purchase the fruit of their hard work.
In the beginning, we converted the properties Arabian horse barn into our FarmShop. We worked hard to clean and scrub and paint and vision what the possibilities could be with a horse barn.
Week after week - season after season - we placed our vegetables, eggs, herbs and flowers in a French Market style. Week after week - season after season - lovely folks would stop by the farm, take a look and sometimes purchase a thing or two or sometimes just take a look and purchase the $1 cup of coffee we offered, instead. I get this - my husband makes the best French Press coffee and the morning beauty at our farm in our French cafe area is drawing.
If you have read any of the press about The Simple Farm you would have read things like: The Simple Farm is an oasis HERE and Utopia HERE. We have heard farm guests say that we are a sanctuary to the soul and (no longer) Scottsdale's Best Kept Secret.
Being those kinds of things to thirsty city souls delight Michael and I, however, being just that we knew wouldn't sustain us and pay the rent.
The Simple Farm has given city folk an experience and a taste of farm life and a taste of what a farm to table supper (here)/brunch is about. I will always have fond memories of the first brunch I served at the farm. I made and served goat cheese quiche along with a fresh gathered bowl of farm greens and mint tea and French Press coffee of course looking so inviting on my powdery pink linens. What stands out most are the comments of several women, "Is this one of those 'farm to table' things" AND "This is like Ina Gartens."
We have embraced our community of children by teaching kids how to milk goats, take care of chickens, plant seeds (and more) in our Day in The Life Of A Farmer program from a few years ago (no longer able to do this). We have supported the local Montessori Jr. High School by providing a place for those students to "shadow" us for about 3-4 days in our daily farm life. We have given many gardening and cooking workshops, workshop on how to make cheese, milk goats, take care of chickens along with other workshops to inspire creativity.
After a few seasons, we began to take an honest look at numbers. Many times we said we had to quit. The way it was going just wasn't working.
We, like everyone else, need a steady income. We, like everyone else, need to responsibly sustain ourselves and pay our bills - car gas, electricity, health insurance, goat/chicken feed, clothes, the roof over our head, etc.
We knew something needed to change in order to continue or we need to quit.
And, so in 2014, we went from the Farmer's Market model to our Farm Members - CSA type of model. The Farmer's Market model NEVER guaranteed that Michael and I could pay our bills. Some days were good "farmer's market' days and others not so much. Changing to our Farm Members (who paid for 5, 7, 9, 10 weeks in advance) guaranteed that we could write a paycheck. Since making the shift to grow for Farm Members only AND to harvest small amounts of our beautiful produce, herbs and flowers and place those INSIDE our FarmShop for our Farm Guests has helped us to be able to move toward being self sustaining.
I believe The Simple Farm is the ONLY farm in the valley where the produce is harvested and within 24 hours it's ready for the members and for farm guests. I believe we are the ONLY farm in the valley where you can come TO the FARM and SEE what's growing as you go to the FarmShop and gather your produce. We DO hope more farms like ours start up - BUT what makes any of that possible is the support of the community. Support like caring, getting understanding, finding out what the grower/farmer needs (lots of volunteers for one).
So, if you happen to stop by our farm when we are open on Thursday mornings and notice ALL the bounty in our Farm Members Back Room (on the way to see our Goaty-Girls) and that inside our FarmShop it's not as full - it's because those Farm Members have paid in advance for ALL their produce. Because we know Farm Membership isn't for everyone and we know some of our regular Farm Folk KNOW we grow amazing and beautiful produce - we DO harvest what we can - always what's in season - for those folks.
I know, that not everyone understands or is informed about how we run our farm, however I have attempted to communicate on our website as best as I can - like here. People are busy and don't have time to read all the particulars of how we have run the farm the past two years. I get that. I do, however, try to also communicate verbally when new folks stop by - but don't always get to - to each one. I suppose I could put up BIG SIGNS to explain WHY there isn't a TON in my FarmShop - but I stopped most signage and I don't continually "blog" about how we run the farm. If I did, it'd be all about THAT verses the heart of what we do.
Believe it or not, we appreciate all comments. They help us grow and show us that we might need to communicate or write or share - again. And, occasionally, I get comments from Farm Guests that have come to the farm with expectations that cause them to leave feeling so disappointed. Their honesty let's us know that it's 'time' to communicate afresh how The Simple Farm operates.
Of course, not everyone understands that we might have had crop failure, or that those pesky rabbits broke through (again) and ate the lettuces or broccoli or that all the wonderful Back Room produce and herbs are because we grow ONLY for Farm Members . . . . . when they leave a comment like, "Made a long trip thinking there would be a good selection . . . . . . the selection was very limited, but I did see that the CSA had three times the number of items. Definitely not worth my trip."
So, what is important, in this very good food movement time and this season of life where the awareness of GMO and organic and the farmer to chef to consumer relationship is so important is to GET understanding and to not be critical but to discover the needs of the consumer as well as to come along side and support the grower and the farmer and the dairyman.
Thanks for letting me share.