Before I even saw the big “British Columbia - Certified Organic” sign, I noticed a smaller sign as we were slowing down to pull into the driveway. It read: “Plant Sale.” Next to it was a long yellow placard that said “strawberries” in bold black handwritten print.
Selling fresh produce (in harvest season) and sprouted plants (in planting season) is a huge part of this small town organic farm's business model. People taking the scenic route up the eastern coast of Vancouver Island will often stop for a freshly grown snack. And locals who want to plant a home veggie garden know this is the place to buy their starts.
Yesterday after we finished work, I was moseying around the property experimenting with an old black and white film camera. A mini-van pulled up, then moments later another car, and four people got out and started perusing the plants. I wondered who would help these potential customers, since one host was away for the day and the other was up the field tilling a row. I was worried they'd forgotten to train me...
Then I saw the money jar. It's an old plastic peanut jar with a handwritten label. There were a dozen or so small bills stuffed through the slit in the top. This whole daily farmstand thing is run on the honor system. And I immediately thought of the naive neighbors on Halloween who get tired of answering the door and leave a bowl of candy with a sign that says, “please take only one.”
But this honor system actually works. I asked our hosts about it at dinner last night, and they only had good things to say about it. It was started a decade or so ago and manned by the elderly mother of one of our hosts. She knitted socks and hats for sale and chatted with customers as she took cash and made change. She has since deceased, so the honor system was institued five years ago. And every time there's been fear something may have been stolen, a check shows up in the mail with a note saying, “sorry, didn't have enough cash on me.”
I've written before and alluded to the generosity of gardeners, and our tendency to pay it forward. Here it is again. And every time I see it, a bit of my hope for humanity is restored.