Running this place full-time pretty much requires Joanna and I to be active and working most of the time. This makes dealing with illness difficult, because there are many tasks and projects that just can’t be put off when someone gets sick. We have to go to market or we don’t make money. We have to harvest when items are ready or we don’t have anything to sell (or items not good enough to sell). We have to plant when conditions are right, and so on.
When one person is sick, or out of town, or otherwise indisposed, it’s generally manageable. But if both of us are sick, it gets really difficult, and we have to make some tough decisions. We’ve been facing those decisions recently.
When Joanna got home from her trip to a family wedding last week, she brought with her a nasty cold that almost immediately sidelined her from a lot of work. We were worried about last week’s market, because I had a hint of soreness in my throat on Friday morning. That created a difficult decision: Do we miss a week of market sales and lose much of the produce and income, or do we risk spreading a cold to our customers? We realized that harvesting some items was necessary no matter what, and I felt fine for the remainder of the day on Friday and for market. By Saturday night, however, I was on the way down. The rest of this week, we’ve both been struggling with this harsh cold that is taking longer to move through than we’re used to. The arrival of first frosts, and the impending hard frost this weekend, makes this even more difficult because there are lots of projects to get done before that happens even though we’re both out of it. Joanna’s currently on the way back up, but I’ve been in rough shape for days.
We’re looking ahead to this weekend’s market and the impending difficult choices. We don’t want to make customers sick by harvesting, handling, and selling product while we’re sick, but that Saturday market is our primary source of income and produce can’t just be put back on the shelf until next week. It’s even worse this week because we’ve been talking up October 10 for weeks as the date we’d start bringing things like soup beans and fresh-ground cornmeal. Those last items can be stored for later, but we’re running out of market days and still have plenty of fresh greens, turnips, and more ready this week. We’re going to have to decide whether we’re well enough by Friday morning.
The real point here is not this one week’s concern; it’s the larger scope of running any small business like this in which the sales opportunities are limited and the owners’ health is key. I’m sure it’s true of many types of setups, but it really hits hard with small farms, and it’s something for customers to keep in mind when they’re used to the same familiar faces at market every weekend. It’s one of the trade offs of being self-employed, and we hope this is a rare occurrence (it’s the first time in three years we’ve both been sick enough at the same time to endanger market), but it’s still a real problem when it arises.