Being Local

We sell our product, shredded local cabbages and other vegetables, swimming about in an enzyme and probiotic rich brine.  This alive, and at times effervescent, food lives in a jar.  A canning jar, that is the only solution we have found that is made in the USA.  This canning jar is not enough to assure the traveller our product which can pop like champagne, will not leave their wardrobe smelling like Sauerkraut or Kimchi forever.  And it is liquid, and the airlines are touchy about that as well.

As purveyors of this product that is truly of this valley we stand at a market that at times is made up of 50 % visitors to the State of Jefferson.  Sometimes this is fun, sometimes we feel like just another part of the "show" that these visitors have come to see, but there are many who would love to take our spin on So. Oregon's great food culture home with them.  Here are Christopher's thoughts on our commitment to staying truly local.

“Why don’t you sell on the Internet?” a woman asked recently after explaining why she couldn’t buy the "Lemon Dill Kraut" that she had just tasted and proclaimed the best in the world.  “I have a soft-side and there is no way I’m getting that by TSA so I can’t buy it now but I would once I got back to New York.  You have to, its how things are bought and sold these days!”  With that little piece of economic advice she left the shade of our tent for the next vendor down the line, Jonathan and his frozen lamb. 

“Good luck getting the frozen lamb shank on-board,” said the voice in my head.  Maybe it was the triple digit heat or maybe the lack of people standing across from my table buying things but I kept running the question through my head.  At first it seemed a no-brainer.  I helped HP setup their e-commerce sites fifteen years ago.  That was when it was all by hand and you had to know something.  Now anyone can pick a on line service, pick from their list of choices and voila--on the web by Monday morning, lobbing kraut-laden packages up from Medford to all points in the US.  Then I succumbed to the China effect. There are three hundred and eleven million people in the US so if we just sold to one-half of one percent that would be, half of 3.1 million, being conservative well over a million new customers!  We had racked up sales of about two jars by that point and the ice in the pan was melting already. 

I asked Ray what he thought of selling buffalo on the Internet.  “Did you see that woman that was just here a minute ago? he asked me, pointing to where she had stood I guess.  “She just bought all the tenderloins I had, over a hundred dollars worth.  I sell that for forty a pound here but on the Internet we sell it for fifty and we can’t keep it in stock.  There is a guy in Chicago that buys six hundred dollars worth at a time.  Man that guy must eat well.”

A customer that had no chance of procurring a tenderloin wandered into the shade of Ray’s tent so he left me pondering our new sales channel.  Why not?  If someone is willing to pay fifty bucks a pound for a frozen buffalo tenderloin they would pay ten bucks for a jar of the best kraut in the world.  If you can get a frozen hunk of meat across the country you can get a jar of fermented veggies there too.  Still no-brainer, still doable and by Monday we would be worrying about how we were going to fill all those orders.

Kirsten returned from the stand across the street, a sweet little vegetable stand called Meadowlark Farm.  She bought a bag of salad greens for sampling our salad dressings.  “Look here” she said opening the bag for me to peer into, “they put violets and calendula petals in after they weigh it.”

I looked and thought that’s not something you can do and ship across the country.  That’s something you do when your customer is standing right in front of you and you have three other farmers selling a greens mix at the market and you have to give them a reason to come to you for the greens that will grace their table.  That got me thinking about what reason we give our customers to come to us for the fermented fix.  When someone asks me where we get our cabbage I can point to one or two of the stands at our market or tell them Whistling Duck and they recognize the name from one of the other markets in the area.  If I’m selling to a lady in New York what does Blue Fox or Whistling Duck or Barking Moon mean to them?  Nothing.  Wimsical yes but no connection to their quality or their story.  I might as well source through a distributor and get the best market price, which through the complexities of the market economy and subsidized oil prices means likely California or North Carolina or Florida or God knows where but not down the road.  Not in Applegate nor the Rogue Valley nor Oregon for that matter. 

Here’s the deal.  If we are buying from anywhere and selling to anywhere then we could be based anywhere.  In fact, it would be best to be based near a shipping hub  because our costs would be based on shipping rates more than anything else.  We might as well be making anything as well because place wouldn’t matter.  But place does matter.  We are local in that our last child was born in our farmhouse.  We have planted enough trees to fully overwhelm us in our old age when we will be begging grandkids to come to the farm and pick, prune, weed or plant for us.  We will never move from this place while still breathing and we hope that we are buried here.  So if here is so important why would we do something that could be done anywhere just as well?  Our story is about pointing to a beautiful table of vegetables and saying “that is beautiful and you need to buy all you can eat.  But come this Fall the bounty will go away and won’t come back for seven months, maybe eight.  We are preserving that beauty now for you during the dark times and you will taste and remember.  Ours tastes wonderful because theirs tastes wonderful.  Our story begins where our local farmer's leave off and its a story best told locally.