Why Relationship and Community in Your Food Sourcing Matters


Laura with mask
Laura delivering a bag of pre-ordered goods to our pickup table outside Farmstead

“I’m so tired of this!”

The exasperated voice berates my ear through the telephone.  It is yet another call from yet another client, wishing we were open for indoor dining, wishing they could have a normal summer, wishing the pandemic would just go away.

But it doesn’t work like that.  Deadly viruses don’t go away by wishing.  The best that we can do is stay informed and adapt, keeping the greater good rather than our personal desires in focus.

When you drive up to Farmstead Creamery, it’s obvious that things are different from last summer.  The plethora of outdoor furniture has vanished (repurposed to hold seedling trays by our house as we baby them before planting), and the only celebrity animals present are the delightful hummingbirds.  There is a designated table for order pickup, well in front of the entrance door, and a white half-circle painted on the gravel with a sign “wait here for pickup.”

This morning, a family on vacation with their two eager young children stopped for gelato.  As I brought out their order, I enthusiastically cried, “Let’s play toes on the white line!”  Everyone went looking for the line for the requisite toe placement, backing up several feet.

“Why toes on the white line?” the 6-year-old daughter asked.

“So that you and I and all our animals can stay safe,” I offered.  “Safety first, right?”

The mom echoed, “That’s right, safety first.”

Our food is precisely where we need safety first, now more than ever.  As vacationers return to their summer homes or rentals, we’ve noticed a real dichotomy between those who want things to be normal and those who want to be sure that they stay safe from contracting the virus.  From the former, the responses to our farm’s choices to keep strict protocol range from disappointment to outrage, while the latter share that they find our pivot applaudable and inspiring.

“I feel safe here,” a long-time client shared the other day.  “I know you guys are doing absolutely everything you can.  What I can’t wrap my head around is that people would come here and harass you for wanting to take care of their health.”

Yes, exactly, but it is happening.  I remind myself that, globally, we are all going through a grieving process over the loss of normalcy—a process with stages that include denial and anger.  We all have different skills or mechanisms for coping with grief and loss, and sometimes we take that pain out on others.  I remind myself that doing the right thing for the greater good is the reward in itself, whether or not it finds approval.  Truth is not always pleasurable.

Being informed and acting responsibly with that information matters, whatever the situation.  This was part of the message I shared as a guest speaker in a Zoom meeting with the Sawyer County/LCO Economic Development Corp last Thursday.  I shared our story, our concern, our response to the pandemic, and our hope that others would be so inspired to change and adapt.  Would it not be wonderful if our region could be seen as a safe place to come for those concerned about COVID-19?  Our farm seeks to be a leader by example towards that vision.

Those of us who are concerned will be looking for allies—folks and businesses who care about the situation and the people they serve.  New studies announced each day are showing that masks work, distancing works, staying outside works.  We can find great hope in this information.  We do these things for each other—I wear the mask for your protection, you wear the mask for my protection.

how masks work

Your local farmer can be a key member of your ally team, especially when they’re on board with helping keep everyone safe.  Pickups can be outside, goods are handled by drastically far fewer hands, and you can know the practices being used to grow and raise the food.  Food becomes a relationship, a community, rather than a commodity we acquire.  Your food has a face (even if it’s wearing a mask), a person who cares about you and your family. 

With each pickup, I take time to ask how they and their family are doing.  It’s not a formality.  I actually care about our friends of the farm.  I want them to weather this storm as best they can.  That is the attitude of an ally.  Would that we could all be such allies for each other!

This week, consider who your allies are for health and wellness.  Who has your wellbeing in mind over chasing normalcy?  Cultivate relationships with these people and their businesses.  By doing so, we support each other towards a better future.  Your choice and actions matter!  You matter.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura and chicken
Laura with a chicken

Laura Berlage

Laura writes our weekly “Down on the Farm” column (launched in 2012), which is featured in several regional newspapers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her articles have offered encouragement, actionables, and perspective gained from the homestead lifestyle.