Wow, what a ride it’s been since the 3rd weekend in March!! I don’t usually open the farm stand until Memorial Day weekend, and then it’s usually pretty slow until the 4th of July weekend. What an exception this year was!!
On a whim, I decided to bake during the initial stay at home order, and it proved to be a good decision. Not only did I have sales that sustained me over those months, but I finally got a good base of local customers, something that seemed to be missing over the years. I can’t tell you how many local people told me, “I’ve driven by for years but never stopped”…..well thank you for stopping, your purchases have allowed me the life up here I’ve always wanted!!!
I’ve also had the good fortune to meet both local and seasonal customers that have told me they’ve been customers for years. It was such a crazy, busy season, by mid-July I didn’t know if I was coming or going, but I do know that I met some really fantastic, and caring people. Some of you, and my regulars, saw me a little stressed out at times, and their words of encouragement made all the difference to me that day! (have I mentioned that I’m a one woman show?)
My original intent for Red Gate Farm was to be solely focused on the garden, and occasionally bake a few cookies or muffins. Well, over the years as the garden performed or didn’t, I realized to get a little money coming in, I needed to add SOMETHING else, and so came the evolution of baked goods at my farm stand. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and feeding people, but never imagined I’d morph into a bakery with a garden on the side. I do hope to change that next year and get more focused on the garden, but in the meantime, the baking pays the bulk of my bills.
This summer I also ran the Airbnb apartment above the garage where my mom used to stay when she visited. That takes some time, depending on how many flips there are in a week, and there’s always a TON of laundry each week, as EVERYTHING gets washed between guests. (the shower curtain liners also get thrown away) In any event, it was the busiest summer I’ve ever had and now I’m reflecting on that.
Since the fall of 2014, I’ve spent the bulk of my fall/winter/springs in the Detroit area working. I was so fortunate to have a company that allowed me to occasionally work remotely, but they also allowed me to have summers off to work at the farm. That was key for me to establish what I call my building blocks: fencing, greenhouse, irrigation, the garage, garage apartment, my home office (she shed), etc. I knew that if I could get to a point someday where I could financially support myself in Maple City, I wouldn’t be able to afford much, so I put the building blocks in place before I left the auto industry. Some days I REALLY wish I had stayed a bit longer and updated the house, but right now I’m so happy to be up here that doesn’t matter.
One last reflection – when I say I had a crazy, busy summer, let me put that in perspective for you……Last year I had the best sales for my farm business (Back to Basics MI, LLC) EVER. This year, sales are more than 3 times last years sales!!! My Airbnb rentals are up 26%, and that’s with extra days blocked before and after rentals due to Covid. Granted I was open at the farm stand earlier this year, but to do 3 times what I did last year is just phenomenal. I hope it continues at some pace between now and Christmas as I am so grateful to be at home and not down in the Detroit area.
Thanks to everyone if you’ve read this far – I’ve had a few days off and am finally catching up on a lot of things I let go during the summer. I got married last week, I’m trying to downsize and make room for my wonderful hubby to bring some things over so that we can officially live together, and I’m getting ready for a garage sale. So, the craziness isn’t AS intense, but it’s always busy here. I’m so grateful for your patronage this year, and in the past, and thank you all for helping me to live the life I’ve imagined!
Andria Metrakos Bufka