The Things We are Really Good At
A couple of months ago we were approached by a foreign tour operator. He wanted to bring minibuses of tourists to the farm for our meet the goat experiences. The pay would be far greater than anything we are earning on Airbnb, and all we had to do was accommodate mini buses of around 30 people who were on their way from Stirling Castle to Glen Coe, via the Lake of Menteith.
We didn't even have to look at each other to say "No" in unison. Despite Kevin and I having a conversation just days before about how we could increase the turn-over for our on farm workshops and events, this just didn't feel right. It wasn't us. Large groups have to be managed differently, kept behind the gates, moved around carefully. You never get to talk to anyone, not really, and an event that used to feel like letting people into your life as a smallholder begins to feel like operating a petting zoo (with less compliant animals!!!).
That moment marked a turning point for both of us, I think. We'd been bumbling along a bit on the on-farm workshop and event side of things. Not really sure about where to go from here and how to make events (particularly weekend events) work for us as two people who both have other jobs. However, the offer of a fair bit more money for something we wouldn't really do well crystallised for us that small and personal is a lot better a fit than big and anonymous.
Because lessons like that have to keep reappearing until you learn them, this weekend we finally advertised our shop opening hours of 11-4 on Saturdays. Locals can come and buy meat, pick up pre-ordered bread and grab some seasonal jam or our new goat's milk soap that we have finally got our licence for. The days in the run up, I fretted so much about how it wouldn't look "shopy" enough. How awkward it would be that the freezer for the meat was in the office and not the studio as the electrics aren't right in there. How we would be such weirdos being people who sell meat and jam and soap and tea and experiences and workshops. "Shops should be a coherent thing. You aren't focussed enough" the voice in my head said. We don't even have a "till" and there are children (and cats and chickens and occasionally a pig) EVERYWHERE.
And then the first customers walked in. We thrust cups of coffee and warm cinnamon buns in their hands while we showed them what we do and talked about our passion for the land and this place. Theo snuck cinnamon rolls and told people about "his" sheep. Georgia played her fiddle to anyone that would listen. No one minded walking over to the freezer, most folk were keen to hear about our boxes and how we built an online business before we build an in-person one.
And I realised that THIS is what we are good at...bringing people with us on the journey.