Ralph and Lisa Turner run Laughing Stock Farm in Maine, where they grow organic vegetables that they always sold wholesale to restaurants in Portland. In March, all the restaurants in Maine were shut down because of the pandemic, and they were left with ten tons of unsold produce plus eight greenhouses full of unharvested plants. They didn't have the financial reserves to ride out the loss of all that income and still plant for the fall, so they were looking at bankruptcy.
Not knowing what else to do, they decided to open a farm stand. They sent out emails to people they knew in the neighborhood and in the restaurant business and began bagging up produce for sale. Lisa Turner:
If you want to live in a better world, one less focused on money and profit, with more room for friendship and caring, more room for small organic farms, make it happen.
We bagged up stuff as if we were going to have maybe 10 people a day come.
We sent it out to probably 450 email addresses — and then people just started sharing it and sharing it and sharing it. The first day it was like, wow, that was a lot of people. And I had to refill some stuff that I wasn’t really expecting to.
The eggs were flying out of here — we had kind of a back stock of eggs. We went through 130 dozen eggs in two and a half days. It was insane.
I called a friend who has a beef farm. And I said, we’re doing this — what’s your minimum delivery? Just bring me some stuff. She said, yeah, we can bring 40 pounds. I never got it into the freezer. I never got it priced. People were taking it out of the box and saying, how much is this? I had to look at the invoice and figure out what I was going to charge for it. It was nothing that we had imagined. It was the nuttiest thing we had ever seen.
It was so astonishing that you couldn’t process it. It really did feel like people were just coming in and throwing money at you. There were people who came in and were just like, yeah, here, keep the change. I’m going to take a $3 bag and I’m giving you a $10 bill, keep the change.
There were a gazillion people. . . .
It was like when they threw money at Jimmy Stewart. There were people coming in, just wanting to help. It was a lot of our customers and friends. And it was also a lot of people that we’ve never met.