In 1996, organic farmers Ralph and Lisa Turner launched Laughing Stock Farm on a fifth of an acre in Freeport, Maine. With trial and error, success finally came, a stable customer base, and 12 1/2 acres more.
“Our quality produce, coupled with his commitment to buying fresh local vegetables, have turned our business into a sustainable family farm that can serve you for years to come.” their website proudly states.
When the pandemic struck last year, as Portland-area restaurant vendors were forced to close, that future appeared to be in jeopardy. His main source of income suddenly disappeared. Left behind, eight overflowing greenhouses plus 10 tons of vegetables in cold storage supply, and zero demand.
Zero sales translates to zero cash flow.
With the money already invested in products that they could not sell, a loss seemed inevitable and broke even a pipe dream. But instead of ditching the crop, the Turners, who are trained engineers, went back to the board and came up with a Plan B.
The couple opened a farm stand, selling prepackaged produce for $ 3 each, and sent a message through the company newsletter.
“We pack things up like we have maybe 10 people a day,” Lisa said. The New York Times. “We sent it to probably 450 email addresses, and then people started sharing it, sharing it and sharing it. The first day was like, wow, a lot of people… The eggs were flying out of here… We went through 130 dozen eggs in two and a half days. It was crazy “.
Realizing they were on to something, Lisa contacted a local beef farmer and arranged a delivery. She says that with customers clamoring for a steak from left to right, the initial 40-pound delivery didn’t even make it to the freezer.
Even more surprising was that customers began to leave generous tips from people who wanted to show their support and keep the farm solvent until the next planting season.
Lisa compared the experience to the climactic scene in Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, when a parade of grateful locals show up to shower George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) with enough cash to keep his beloved from Family business Building & Loan will go under.
When all was said and done, the Turners didn’t make big profits, but they were able to stay in the black financially. In the next year, they have changed their business model. In addition to growing and selling their own crops, they will have a farm shop that will offer their own organic produce alongside produce from other local meat and dairy distributors.
While they cannot be sure that they will be successful in their new endeavor, they have reason to be cautious. Of all the Christmases she’s been through, the one that just happened has really put things in perspective for Lisa. The support and kindness that she and her husband received from friends and strangers was both a blessing and an affirmation.
“There is so much to be thankful for,” Lisa said. “And it is an antidote to fear.”
SHARE the acts of kindness of others and send this story to your friends …