First the Egg Carton, then the Produce Stand

June 14, 2022

This week we bring you the answer to that question that’s been burning in the back of your mind and keeping you up at night… Well, maybe it’s not keeping you up at night. Actually, I hope not ;)

Q: “Just how do the labels get on all those One Straw egg cartons?”

A: Farmhand Eli, now nearly 6 years old!

The job used to belong exclusively to my 91-year-old grandmother. Thanks to her, I haven’t had to paste a label on a carton in years. And while she’s still game, she has competition in the labeling market.

You see, Eli has discovered money.

Perhaps it was, in part, all those hours he spent in the office with me as a toddler, entertaining himself as I did the bookkeeping. Sometimes I wonder if all those office hours were a good thing…but he does have excellent scissor cutting skills because I let him play in the office supply drawers to stay busy, so it can’t be all bad!

But whatever the reason, Eli has now become quite the eager entrepreneur! He doesn’t have any particular large purchases in mind (except those I’ve forbidden until he’s 18, like a motorcycle).

Rather, his goal is to make money for the mere purpose of meeting arbitrary savings goals he sets along the way. Right now he saves up ones and fives to trade for a 20, which is so cool to have in your money jar!

He’s also has his own personal savings account at our local bank and takes in his own deposits. Let me tell you, the bank ladies are in love :)

So, he is quite eager to label egg cartons! Farmhand Vera likes to earn money, too (currently for chocolate chip cookies at the Coop), so Eli will often subcontract out the little green egg labels for her to complete.

Egg labeling wasn’t the Farmhands’ first job. It started with gathering eggs!

This may seem dangerous with a 3 year old and a 5 year old, and sometimes accidents do happen, but they actually break fewer eggs than I do.

The secret? They don’t get paid for broken eggs!

Recently, Eli has started asking for more jobs. Despite wanting to encourage his blossoming work ethic, Martin and I couldn’t come up with any other farm chores that are age appropriate. Livestock and electric fences can be touchy.

So, Eli was left with no alternative but to start his own business.

Coming soon to a pickup location near you: Farmhand Flowers and Produce!

He was going to call it Eli’s Flowers, but after discussion he expanded the name both to allow inclusion of his sisters as they grow up and to allow for expanded product options depending on the season. Smart thinking!

Eli and Vera have already begun training for this new enterprise by performing the role of customer liaison at the Monday on-farm pickup. That is, they stand at the table, introduce themselves, ask for your name so they can find the order, and then bring out your meat and eggs.

To date it’s been a great success, and now Eli is ready to move on to the next step of selling his “own” flowers and produce.

So, fair warning, you may see this cheerful little businessman at Saturday PT pickups throughout the summer with his little table set up lemonade-stand style.

If you have spare change along, you may even have the pleasure of taking home a small bouquet of flowers, a bunch of herbs, or some garden produce – whatever is fresh or blooming in our (small!) home garden.  

He’s planning to make everything $1 :)

Well folks, there you have it. Farmhand Eli, entrepreneur and soon-to-be kindergartener.

While this is a propitious start, none of the Farmhands may grow up to want to be farmers, and Martin and I are OK with that.

That is, we’ll be OK with it as long as we feel confident that we’ve shown our children that farming can be a joy. That intimate connection to our food and involvement in where it comes from brings a profound vitality and love for all of creation, both human and animal.

And for all that to work, they also have to know that they can make real wages that reflect the toil and skill involved in growing food.

 We hear too many stories of how small farms are dying because there are no heirs to take over. Either the kids grew up hating every minute, feeling they were forced into drudgery for low or no pay while their parents struggled to make ends meet, or their strapped families encouraged them to leave the farm and get a “real” job. We find that terribly sad and strive to make our farm more than just another statistic.

You are an important part of that endeavor – by being with us as part of the farm family and choosing local, small scale food – you are allowing one more family farm, essential to our food security, to stay viable and full of vitality.

And where one farm can succeed, another will take that encouragement and follow. We build each other up, like a reverse domino effect.

And what better sign that your efforts and ours our succeeding than that our joy for growing honestly good food is beginning to seep through our children’s plans and conversations – and coming soon to you, through a tiny, budding produce stand.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for being such an important part of our farm family. We truly wouldn't be here without you.

Charlotte Frederickson

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