Christmas in the Country: A Sweetlife Farm Tradition

Whoa. Interesting internal conflict happening, as a mixture of thoughts mingle inside my head. On one hand I am repulsed by holiday shopping ads coming from every possible communication avenue, mixed between news of wars, poverty and doomsday economic projections. On the other, we have worked for months creating our own products (https://www NULL.sweetlifefarm NULL.com/) to sell to people like me during the holidays.

Smokehouse

Smoked Gift Set

Bob and I make things-handmade, functional products using ingredients we grow or source using careful social and environmental criteria. Things we use (and eat) daily, give away to  loved ones and sell to others at local and online venues. The labor involved is mostly unpaid: us. Since since moving here a year ago, my mom has made a huge contribution wrapping and labeling much of what we make for sale at Sweetlife Farm. Our friend Saul works with/for us a half day a week during the busy garden months, and our teenage neighbor Rachael and almost-teenage friend Aiden earned summer spending money by pitching in a few hours here and there. Occasionally other friends come over to help get through some of the repetitive tasks while we catch up on each others’ news. We are gearing up for holiday shoppers. My guess is that we are a pretty typical snapshot of the average cottage business endeavor.

Seven Bainbridge friends will volunteer several hours of their time to help us during Christmas in the Country this coming weekend. We actually clear away furniture from the living room and dining room of our house to make room for additional artisan vendors. Three extra family members and two friends will also come from out of town to literally camp out with us and pull off the logistics of welcoming about a thousand people to our place over a three day weekend. It’s kind of like a grown up dorm party. People sleep in all available beds and couches, and cram into the library/office along with piled up furniture to eat meals and relax between event days. We work hard, and laugh and play after hours.

As we prepare for Christmas in the Country (http://www NULL.christmasinthecountry NULL.info/thetour NULL.html), the annual event where people tour multiple island venues to shop for holiday gifts made by others like us, I wonder how in the world we are noticed or ever sell a thing. Our potential customer is bombarded by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in addition to the mind numbing number of holiday shopping ads, all competing for the almighty buck. Businesses now send tempting texts and tweets to lure customers out of midnight lines waiting for doors to open on the deals of the season. This coming weekend on Bainbridge Island alone, there will be a whopping 19 potential stops on the combined Christmas in the Country (http://www NULL.christmasinthecountry NULL.info/thetour NULL.html) and Studio Tours (http://www NULL.bistudiotour NULL.com/), plus downtown merchants vying for local business.

Internal conflict diminishes when I think about the process used to get to the goal. Gratification is satisfaction felt following hard work and  joy felt from connections  forged with family, friends and neighbors along the way. On one hand, with lots of loving help and support, Sweetlife Farm provides “alternative” gift options that make a statement much different from big-box-off-the-shelf options. On the other, the process provides us the best gift of all: the opportunity to experience fulfillment and give thanks for non-material “things,” like family, community, place.  Thanks, Bob, Mom, Kathy, Mark, Mary Ellen, John, Kelly, Rachael, Aiden, Shelby, Deirdre, Zoe, Patty, Martha, Alison, Nick, Andrew and Saul. Thank you, our many wonderful customers, for sharing it with us. We know you have more choices than you can count, and we value you all the more for your patronage.

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