One of our blog-friends, Meg Paska, over at Brooklyn Homesteader recently opined on an interesting topic. It's something I had been meaning to post about, but kept forgetting. The topic is Unsolicited Farm Drop-Ins. People that stop by the farm randomly without forewarning. Meg's post basically said, "Stop. Call or text us first and make sure your visit is timely for us. Farmers are busy people and you can't just come up here and interrupt our day (or show yourself around the farm if we're not here)."
To be sure, we don't have near the foot-traffic that Meg does on her farm. One reason is that we don't know a whole lot of people out here and we're not close enough to a city for any of our city-friends to make a quick trip out. In addition, Meg has a budding CSA business, popular farm classes, and other things to bring customers out to the farm. We're not quite there yet.
However, we too get random farm drop-ins on occasion. And when we first moved out here I felt the same as Meg. However, over time I developed a different stance... and here's why:
Initially, we had no friends in our little city. But we had neighbors and other people that soon took us under their wings and made our lives much happier and easier. Without them I don't know what we'd have done (or what we'd still do).
One such person is a guy that does some fencing and small construction projects in the area. Naturally, he has leftovers from projects lying all around his yard and he welcomes his friends to come take what they want, free of charge.
Well, as new farmers, the thing you need the most is fencing. That and buildings/infrastructure. So this was a homerun for us. We had just met the guy so I felt uncomfortable showing up unannounced and taking a bunch of his stuff straight out of his yard without calling him first. Over the course of a few days I called and left him messages and he called back and left me messages. The proverbial phone tag ensued. Finally, I got him on the phone and asked if I could come over and get some scraps. He said, "of course, come over whenever, even if I'm not here, don't worry about it". Ok, I thought, so I did.
A week or so later I wanted to load up on free stuff again. I called him and he called me and more phone tag ensued. Eventually, he stopped calling me back. I was persistent, however, and when I finally got him on the phone he was a little miffed. Miffed for country-folk isn't like miffed for city-folk, however. He was still very nice (annoyed country-folk are still nicer than nice city-folk), but there was the tiniest change in his tone of voice. He was also a little more short in conversation than usual.
From this early experience I deduced that showing up unannounced was far more acceptable than annoying someone with a phone call. And so it went.
Over the course of the last year I've generally been proven right. The majority of our visitors are unannounced. That's just the way it is.
One thing that takes some adapting to is the length of conversation when get a visitor. We were accustomed to 1-3 minute city chats. Out here you'll be lucky to get out of a conversation in 30 minutes, let alone three. More likely it'll take an hour or two.
But I shouldn't say you'd be "lucky to get out in 30 minutes", because really it's a treat. Taking the time to converse with someone else in a meaningful way is something that was pretty much lost in our city lives. Now we just put down what we're doing and enjoy the conversation. We roll with it. Random visits break up the day, relieve the stress of hustling around, and are honestly relaxing.
Plus, we're building new friendships and in every conversation we end up learning a lot, whether it's about the history of the area, or some place we didn't know about, or something we were doing wrong, etc.
I imagine if we were in Meg's shoes and random drop-ins were happening on a more frequent basis I'd feel the same as her, but alas we're not that cool!
What do you think? I'd be curious to hear other people's experiences, whether in the city or in the country (or both).
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