December and the New Year... Looking back.

Good Life is looking intently forward these days, with big hopes and big changes to unfold in 2014.  Our last big event for 2013 was the Nov 25 Thanksgiving Market, which caused us to revel in our progress towards non-sketchiness that we’ve made in the four years we’ve been selling turkeys, and in the five years we’ve been in business.  Happy 5th year to us!  Here we go #6!

We thought it’d be amusing to illustrate the growth we’ve experienced via the lens of the Thanksginvg Market… partially as a humorous look at the past and partially as a toast to the ever improving future.  Here’s the scene…  In 2010 we sold our first batch of turkeys… 85 in count, in a collaborative marketing endeavor with our dear friends at Shelterbelt Farm in Caroline.  We figured that between the two farms, we’d maximize our outreach power, comfort each other through the trials of raising birds who are determined to die for the first 8 weeks of life, and share the burden of processing and distribution.  At that time, neither of us had a good on-farm site for distribution, nor had either of us worked with a site in downtown Ithaca.  Good Life Farm was also at a more primitive stage of our off-grid life, having absolutely NO lights on the farm with which to guide customers down the muddy driveway and into our half finished barn basement (those of you who pick up at the farm may think it is still half finished, but it’s a long way from 2010…).  The upside of 2010’s story is that we were lucky enough to rent one of Regional Access’ fridge trucks, and because we failed to recognize the reality of SUNSET time in late Fall, we ended up sitting at the end of our dark driveway on our dark country road, waiting for each customer to crawl down Hickok Road in confusion.  When they were close enough, we’d flick on the lights of the truck and hop out like turkey delivery superheroes and/or criminals.  This was our on-farm Sunday pick-up, followed by a similar routine on Monday for the downtown Ithaca folks, all perpetuated in the semi-lit parking lot of Cass Park.  I hear it wasn’t too much easier at the Shelterbelt Farm home, but possibly better lit.


In 2011 we were determined to make things easier for us and for our customers, and so restricted on-farm Sunday pick-up hours to daytime (it is possible to know when the sun sets) on the Sunday before Turkey Day.  Our Monday, downtown Ithaca pick up was better planned, occurring behind the Piggery on Franklin St, but due to my excessively dark lifestyle, I failed to bring adequate lights for the partially lit outdoors setting, and had folks standing in the dark while we huddled around the single flashlight needed to see turkey weight and determine price.  But we did manage to set up a mini-market that year, and despite cold fingers, squinting eyes and generally wondering why our lack of electricity seemed to follow us even to the well-supplied city, we felt that we were moving up, and possibly giving folks an experience to remember fondly.


2012 was the first big Thanksgiving Market at Greenstar’s The Space in which I learned most of my lessons.  We set up in more style with 5+ other vendors, but I retained my paranoia about keeping our turkeys for distribution in a cooler until received by their owners.  It was 50F out in 2012, so we were generously allowed into Greenstar’s warehouse cooler, but this required all turkey customers to leave the illuminated and fun Thanksgiving Market, walk down a dark alley and meet me in a cooler where I had long since stopped being able to handle individual bills. 



So… come 2013… we moved again due to construction at Greenstar’s The Space and due to our burgeoning relationship with John Gutteridge and his new project at Pressbay Alley on Green Street near Ithaca’s public library.  We encouraged folks to come to this market instead of the farm because the Market featured over 10 vendors and was set up like an actual farmer’s market- good lighting, individual stall-like tables, and good cold temps for the turks.  It was 32F out, and I still struggled with bills and the keyboard on my computer, but I think most folks thought we were kinda organized.

In sum… the sandpits that follow me in relation to distributing turkeys are light, heat, refrigeration, dexterity, which are not as easily achieved if you yourself continue to forget their combined importance and forgo their exact combination in your own life.  We are learning, and have even achieved some of these refinements in our own home… a bit o’ off grid power to the yurt—light—and a nice DC 50 W freezer in the basement.  In five years, we’ve achieved some basics that in any other time of my life I walked right into when renting a house.  I mention this largely for its hilarity to me—and I hope to you—because of the necessary/unnecessary struggles it entails, as a barometer for the changes we’ve made and those to come, and as a thank you to those customers from 2010 and 2011 who came back to see us get a little saner/less sketchy each year.   Please stick with us in 2014 as we continue to acknowledge what makes us comfortable and more able to accomplish our larger goals (seeing exact weights and being able to handle money throughout notwithstanding).