How strange and stressful the night has been. Yesterday we received news from our provincial government that the emergency state was extended until May 19 giving a firm short term playing field for us. But after they took one more breath they changed the landscape yet again by announcing that hardware stores and all garden centres were allowed to be open for customers to browse not just strictly curbside pickup or delivery as the previous weeks announcement had declared. This news caused us to plunge into despair. We have never experienced the kind of sustained pressure that we have this spring. Each day from late February on has brought increasingly alarming news about a crisis that affected us all no matter where we lived. Some of us had to hunker down and experience the stress of living a secluded life with limited social interaction, maybe laid off from a job and increasing uncertainty about what the next year, month, week,day would bring. Some of us have had to try and adapt our businesses to survive what could sometimes seem like an imaginary threat…but it isn’t. So each day you would plan out how you might proceed to try and navigate this increasingly treacherous and changing landscape. We are used to having to plan and try to implement those plans, sometimes short term, sometimes right, sometimes wrong but normally having some reasonable foundation of economic and social conditions. So to be told that our plans of the past 6 weeks to set up online sales and curbside pickup as confirmed as the right choice by the provincial government last week was not good enough was a blow. We now had to start setting up to allow browsing of our greenhouses and ad hoc purchasing as well if we wanted to stay competitive. But that is literally not possible in this short time frame. We have hired a new crew of people to help to prepare and deliver orders to customers. They have been working diligently over the past couple of weeks setting up our systems and preparing orders. The response by customers has been beyond our wildest dreams. Enough to allow us for the first time in two months to have an almost secure feeling extended beyond 3 days….we were doing he right thing, we could execute this, and people wanted it, and were supporting us with their orders. But we don’t have enough time, people and resources to set up to do both.
So at 2:30 this morning my phone rang. This is not a totally uncommon event given that we have a biomass heating system and if any glitches occur we get an alarm and have to go and attend to it. It was however an exceptional alarm because we have not had one in the middle of the night for the past 2 months as we coped with this crisis. It is almost like the machine was doing it’s part, recognizing that it was a time to try and reduce stress and one more thing could be the straw. Of course it is not really as simple as that because Alex was keeping that machine running and anticipating each challenge before it occurred so maybe it was a partnership of the two. At any rate it is like it had a limit to the stresses it could handle and finally broke down. The fix was not difficult and as usual simply involved putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with the job. But because I was awake I noticed Maggie. At 2:21am Maggie placed an order. It was not a large order, a few impatiens, some vines and a perennial phlox. Maybe she is an essential worker that had just got off work at midnight and for some reason still had the energy to dream about planting a garden. I can’t know but what I do know is that Maggie was supporting us and our decision to take online orders and offer curbside pickup. So while the machines and people here were saying please give us a break Maggie was saying ok thank you and could you get these few things for me and by the way I am so glad I could take this brief respite from my life and dream of growing something beautiful?
So this spring has been completely different and we have had the added stress of simply survival. Everyone has had that stress and we have all made changes and sacrifices to try and ensure that survival not just of ourselves but of others as well. It is a grand social contract that seems to be working. The playbook may have been thin but perhaps we had/have something in us that allows us to know what the right thing is….not just for us.
So I hope we are right in believing that people will make it possible for us to continue this model of online ordering and curbside pickup. Like all good farmers we will continue to put one foot in front of the other and believe that next year will be better!
As the late great John Prine said “it’s a half an inch of water and you think your gonna drown…….that’s the way the world goes round”