- This week we celebrate our one-year anniversary! Join us on Friday from 5pm-6pm (hard stop when the Market closes) for some celebratory champagne.*
- Exciting new additions this week are early romanesca zucchini, broccoli, and STRAWBERRIES.
- Bread schedule is back to normal, but still no fresh baguettes this week. (We do still have a handful in the freezer.)
*Sparkling wine made from organic grapes, actually.
Scroll (way) down for the list of what we have available this week.
One year! I can’t believe it’s been that long, and I can’t believe there was ever a time when we weren’t doing this. I want to share with you some of the story behind our decision to buy the stand, and how it’s going so far. This is partly because I enjoy remembering, and partly because we are frequently asked, “Is this going okay for you?” or “How is the stand doing?” and I’d like to give you some insight into that. This may be a long one, so I won’t be offended if you skip down to the availability list….
When Dusty and I were presented with the opportunity to buy the Millworks Farmstand, we had about three days to make a decision. We had plenty of experience seeking out good local food for our own consumption, but we had no retail experience. We loved the Harvest/Millworks stand, but had had never thought about doing something similar ourselves. Those three days we spent thinking and talking about it were hard, and may have been the biggest test of our marriage up to that point (we’d been married for just shy of two years, so in fairness, we hadn’t encountered many tests prior to that!). But, as you know, we went for it!
The anniversary we’re celebrating this week marks our opening as Radish & Rye Food Hub, but it was actually early April when we made our decision and took over the stand, continuing to operate for about a month and a half as the Millworks Farmstand. At that time, I was (and really still am) in the process of transitioning out of the job where I’ve been since 2007, and was hoping that the next adventure would involve a lot of freelance work and flexibility. Since we already knew we could make things work financially on my part-time salary, we thought as long as the stand generated about enough income to replace that — which was an optimistic-but-not-unrealistic expectation given the stand’s historic numbers — we’d be fine. Dusty, who was self-employed and already had a flexible schedule, would work on Thursdays and Fridays until my schedule opened up a little bit more, and then I would handle the weekdays, or we’d take turns, and we’d both be there on Saturdays. It would be something like a hobby that happened to take up three days a week for me and a day for him.
We were so wrong.
Dusty did work Thursdays and Fridays alone for the first few weeks, though I often tried to duck out of work early on those days to provide him some relief. At first, he didn’t really need it — the market was quiet enough that he could receive deliveries, bag lettuce, and sometimes even run to the restroom between customers (though of course he never complained if I showed up for the afternoon). Once my job schedule opened up — right around the same time we changed the name to Radish & Rye — the long-term plan remained that I would mostly take over on Thursdays and Fridays. Dusty stuck around for those days at first while I got up to speed on all the things he’d mastered by that point, but neither of us hesitated to schedule meetings or other off-site commitments, knowing that there was nothing that couldn’t be handled by one person.
I’m not sure at what point we gave up on the idea that Dusty would work elsewhere on the weekdays, but I know that I really appreciated his help receiving deliveries on Thursday mornings, and really appreciated being able to take breaks when he was there, and, perhaps most importantly, I know that we both really loved being at the market. Several new stands opened in early June 2015, and the market was getting a lot of favorable attention, and traffic started to pick up, slowly but steadily. We started having to sometimes cancel other commitments we’d made during market hours, and both gradually stopped scheduling things for market hours when there was any other alternative.
When we realized that it looked like Dusty wouldn’t be working elsewhere on Thursdays and Fridays after all, we also realized that that changed the financial equation for us personally. While we could make it work on the numbers we were anticipating (and, by that point, experiencing), it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for Dusty to be giving up other paying jobs on those days if the stand was only making enough to replace my income. We were also quickly realizing that the hours we put it in at the stand was only part of the picture — we hadn’t been counting on all the non-market hours spent on bookkeeping, inventory, ordering, sourcing out new farmers and producers, writing blog posts (just kidding, we weren’t doing that yet), getting refrigerators repaired, and on and on and on — and my ability to take on additional freelance work to supplement was going to be very limited.
So I, with the business management background, took a look at what we’d need to do to make the financial side of things make sense for us. We had (and have) no expectation that the stand would make us rich, but we did need to have some confidence that it would provide enough income that it could mostly replace the work we were foregoing. The answer turned out to be that we would need sales to at least double.
Let me tell you, at that time, I had no belief that that was achievable. From a business perspective at that moment, I thought, “Well, so much for that.” Luckily, we were both having too much fun with the stand to really care whether or not it made financial sense.
We weren’t, at any point, losing money (except from an opportunity cost perspective); we both had income from other sources; we were saving money on groceries and restaurant meals thanks to the bonus CSA shares we get for being a pickup point, and an abundance of wilted kale and other leftover veggies at the end of each week; and we’d previously prioritized keeping our cost of living low specifically to enable us to take on projects that might not have an immediate return. We knew that we could make it work for as long as we wanted to, and we really wanted to. Still, it was hard not to think, at least sometimes, about how much more financial sense it would make for Dusty to be able to work actual paying jobs on those days.
It helped, though, that the increased traffic at the market was translating to increased sales. so nearly every week we were a little more hopeful, and felt a little more justified in what we were doing. We added beef. We bought new refrigerators. We kept looking for the best locally produced foods we could find. And we continued to love every minute of it.
In reality, it didn’t take long for an average growth rate of around 2% per week to add up to a point where we started to think maybe our goal of doubling wasn’t too far out of reach. The week of Thanksgiving — a standout week for food retailers everywhere, I imagine — we hit our target number. By this January, we were hitting it every week (except for that week when we got three feet of snow on a Saturday…).
We’re now averaging about 20% per week beyond my original goal for us, and even our down weeks are higher than that goal. I don’t know (and probably don’t want to know) what our effective hourly rate is when you factor in all the non-market hours we work, but we do feel like we’re being fairly compensated for doing something we love. Just as thrilling to us, if not more so, is seeing how many dollars pass through our hands to local farmers and producers. When people ask us, “How is the stand doing?” it is very easy to respond with an enthusiastic, “Great!”
The flipside of this is that not only is now unthinkable for one person to work the stand for more than about an hour at a time (and you never know ahead of time which hour!), we’re realizing that there are many periods of the weekend when it would be very helpful to have three people working. We need help.
I will lay out in some future blog post more info about what we’re looking for and what we can offer, but if the idea of working at Radish & Rye is so exciting to you that you can’t wait for that, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll talk (we do ask that you not come to the stand to inquire, since we’ve got our hands full!).
This has been a lot of talk about the how the stand is doing financially, which is mostly because I assume that’s what people are asking when they ask how we’re doing. The financial health of the stand also serves as a proxy, though, for some of the harder to measure metrics of health. In a market full of interesting and delicious things to buy, I’m tickled every time someone chooses a product we’re selling, from a farmer we know, from a town not too far away. The increase in sales we’ve seen isn’t because we’re business or retail experts — far from it — but because people like you want the goods we’re providing. We are deeply grateful to live in a time and a place where there is a demand for real food, good food, local food; and we’re deeply grateful to be a link in its supply.
Thank you for being with us this past year. We hope you’ll join us this Friday evening (June 3) from 5pm-6pm for a champagne toast to the market, to the area’s farmers and producers, and to you, without whom we would have no business at all.
(late) Spring Treats
- French Breakfast Radishes
- Zucchini (Romanesca)
- Broccoli (is this really a treat?)
- Bok Choy
- Curly Kale
- Lacinato Kale
- Mixed Braising Greens
- Pink Chard
- Red Ribbed Kale
- Young Spinach
- Lettuce Mix
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Romaine Lettuce
- Salanova Lettuce
Onions & Garlic
- Green Garlic
- Garlic Scapes
- White Scallions
- Granny Smith
- Celeriac (limited quantities)
- French Fingerling Potatoes
- Russet Potatoes
- Ugly Sweet Potatoes
- Cremini Mushrooms
- White Mushrooms
- Butternut Squash
- Maybe some other things?
- Blue Suede Moo
- Wine-Washed Tomme
Lykens Valley Creamery
- Baby Swiss
- Clothbound Cheddar
- Goat Gouda
- Sharp Cheddar
- Smoked Cheddar
Valley Shepherd Creamery
- Red Goat (limited quantities)
- Melter Skelter
- Apple Tree Feta
- Camelot Valley Chevre
- Camelot Valley Feta
- Camelot Valley Moonlight Fog
- Camelot Valley Starlight Crotin
- Hope Springs Mild Cheddar
- Hope Springs Monterey Jack
- Millwood Springs Blue Cheese (new!)
McGrath’s Brick Oven Bakehouse
(fresh Friday & Saturday)
Multigrain Pan Bread
Oatmeal Pan Bread