Monday, April 6, 2020

Safety First - Always!

As someone who has regularly handled the food that others will eat for the past 13+ years, I didn't have to give it a lot of extra thought about certain precautions that I'd need to take here at the farm with the arrival of COVID-19. I probably wash my hands as much as a surgeon. And while I don't get sick very often, I've been known to call off a market or CSA distro if I am. I always want to promote a picture of health and wellness. It's only natural to me.

My main concern was making sure that customers and any farm visitors were taking precautions being around each other and the food that others might take home.

So, here at Eden's, during our CSA pick ups and during markets, you'll see some minor changes, or see some things perhaps you never took note of before, but were always here with your health and safety in mind. And if you see something you feel is not sanitary enough, please pull me aside and let's talk.

Market customers, for instance, will see much of our produce already bagged up or bundled and put into a container this year. You will see more use of individual paper sacks to display things like squash, cucumbers and melons, instead of just seeing a bushel-basket full of items from which to pick through.

There's always been a sink with soap and water – or a “wash station”, both inside the shop and outside where we hold markets.

Visitors will be asked to stop to use one or the other if they're going to be shopping and handling common area items like gates or doors. Our market is usually set up outside, so there are minimal common things to touch.

Additionally, there will be hand sanitizer available on the market tables should someone forget and need to scratch an itchy nose. The restroom will be attended to more frequently and users will be asked to be tidy after themselves, as one always should be.

Should there be multiple people showing up to shop all at once, we'll be limiting the number of people that can be shopping to one family at a time to give everyone enough space to feel safe. There's plenty of room to wander and admire or feed the chickens or take in other sights of the farm while you wait. We have plenty of shade and are not located on a hot, blacktop parking lot, so you should be comfortable.

Regular market and garden shop hours are still in effect unless otherwise changed by local officials;

1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday mornings from 9am – Noon.
4710 Pioneer Road, Balch Springs 75180

Our CSA members will, in some cases, have a share pre-packed and delivered. We're offering this service to our “at-risk”, elderly or otherwise potentially vulnerable members at no charge.
For a low cost, at home drops may be available to other members, depending on location and schedule. Market-style pick ups now include gloves for everyone who doesn't have a pair of their own. We all want to keep each other as safe and healthy as possible.

 All in all, out on the farm is probably one of the safest places to be, according to pretty much everything I've read. Outside in the fresh air, with plenty of space to be safely distanced from others, and the casual, uncrowded atmosphere of Eden's market, is a natural antagonist to a virus that can jump from person to person in a crowded store.

And perhaps more important than anything else, please be sure to feed yourself and your loved ones the healthiest, freshest and cleanest, Real Food, Grown with Integrity that you can find. 

We're right up the road, down on the farm. I hope you'll come see us, soon. Thank you, and stay well! 

Farmer Marie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Long and Winding Road....

So, 14 years ago I cut the to Eden's Organic Garden Center in Northeast Dallas. It was short-lived up there after my "roommate", a former professor and landscape company owner, decided to move his biz north and I could never have afforded the rent on my own. But he had generously afforded me the opportunity to start my garden center, something I'd been wanting to do for a few years. I'll never really be able to repay that. I was the first retailer in DFW to carry High Mowing Organic Seeds, and I had a full selection of organic gardening needs. It taught me a zillion lessons!

So I moved everything down here to Balch Springs, which was where I intended to have a garden center business originally anyway, setting up pallet tables on "cinder blocks" for the plants and converting the vacant guest house into my "garden shop", a much scaled down version of the original store with the same mission; to help people have safe yards - growing without the dangers of most commonly used synthetic garden applications. I even had a url called "safe-yards" dot com at one time.

Well, Home Depot (and Walmart which was already open I believe), had a different destiny for me in mind. 
A small retailer like me couldn't afford to buy at wholesale cost what the big box stores were selling essentially the same things for at retail. Flowers are flowers to most people, and even perennials were being carried by them both. The locals weren't going for it and "organic" hadn't really caught on yet. Being a lower income area, especially back then, I knew I'd have to bring people in from other areas if I was going to survive. 
To make my shop more unique, alongside the garden center, I decided to host a once a month farmers market, and offer a co op - allowing people to pre-order and pick up their food items, from local ranchers and farmers I knew through TOFGA. I didn't want it to resemble the 2007 version of the downtown market - at all - and I wanted it to be farmer friendly, too. (If you recall, the old DFM was sheds of idling cars and rows of out of state/country produce - almost all of it conventional)

With a little free press, it was a big smash hit. So much so, that another little market popped up in East Dallas. Initially we alternated Saturdays and shared customers and vendors, but a few years later, with a wealthy founder and paid staff, it became the "go-to" market and expanded to every week, then two locations. Great for the carbon footprint of things, but not so great for my little underfunded twice a month market. 
Such is life. I was an incubator for many a successful small producer, lots of home gardeners and even a few farmers. I still get thank you and progress reports from past customers, bread from D's Sourdough, and have a dear friend in the founder of the Texas Honeybee Guild, and I learned, or am still learning, to be a commercial farmer! So it's been mostly good I'd say.

And, I'm still here, albeit a somewhat different version of the original, 14 years later, in my community of east Balch Springs, (which is now a food desert, thanks to 8 dollar stores and a failed supermarket), trying my darnedest to stay afloat.
Lots of new players on the food scene these days yet most of the growers and customers still flock to either downtown or East Dallas. Much of Balch Springs hasn't caught on yet to the freshness factor of eating straight from the farm and we lost our local newspaper several years ago that used to carry my gardening column so as new people move in, they've not heard of me. 

I'm doing things a little different this year. I'm going to focus on a pop up farm stand here at the farm for my neighbors, and yes, anyone else who makes the drive, as well as continue to grow lots of awesome produce for my Community Supported Agriculture members. They have been the backbone of how I've managed to stay afloat all of these years since 2008. (and yes, we're accepting members for summer considering the unusual situation we're all in this year.)
I've had a market stand built to put out front whenever I have surplus and hopefully, it'll introduce my neighbors to eating locally and to the fact that there's a farm right down the road from them. 
Hoping to have our first pop up market stand soon. Keep in touch via email. 
I look forward to seeing many new faces, and hopefully, a few familiar ones, too. 

Stay well my friends.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Farmer Marie