MODEL POLYFACE PATRONS
We have tons of model patrons, a few rotten ones, and some who aspire to model status. To eliminate guesswork, here are the characteristics of a model Polyface patron (by the way, these are the ones we really love . . . hint, hint):
1. We’re all learning. Polyface is not only on the cutting edge of ecological production models; we are also pioneering efficient re-localization of the entire food system. What does it look like? Right now, nobody knows. And although we know more now than we did a couple of years ago, we are still on a steep learning curve—all of us. A mere three years ago we were handwriting all invoices, using a hand calculator to add everything, and shuffling invoices to alphabetize them by hand. We’ve come a long way, baby. But we aren’t there yet, and a model Polyface patron understands that innovation is bumpy. Thanks for appreciating the bumps, forgiving the bumps, and helping us to a smoother ride in the future.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the fact that when you place an order, the computer gives you a phony invoice. We have spent days researching, talking with the best consultants we can find, and cannot get software that offers an order blank without giving a dollar amount at the bottom. We have thought about charging by the piece, but that cheats either you or us—every single item will be off a few cents to several dollars. Besides, meat has always been sold by the pound. And we don’t have cookie-cutter sameness among our similar items. And so we have an order blank that gives you a phony bottom line. Yes, it’s frustrating. But what we’re trying to create, together, is brand new in our culture. Hang in there. If we can hang in there, somebody will offer an order blank that doesn’t force a money total. It can’t be that hard. But our culture doesn’t have enough Polyfaces to generate a big enough demand for some nerd to figure out how to do it. So here we are. Ain’t life grand?
2. Seasonality and inventory flow. Polyface is not a warehouse. If we suddenly have a demand for 100 extra pork chops, we don’t call up Smithfield and order 100 more pork chops. The pork chops we can offer today were purchased on little piggies at least 6 months ago. We’ve been moving these pigs around on pasture, in the woods, feeding them, checking the spark on their electric fence every day, and finally loading them for the rendezvous with the abattoir. One of the best things any patron can do is look at the inventory with delight at what we have available, realizing that the best way to help us is to utilize what we have, not stress about what we don’t have. Eggs cycle with the season depending on day-length, chicken age, and heat/cold extremes. The greatest help any patron can be is to happily patronize what we have. That’s the way to get connected to your ecological umbilical, and to appreciate that Polyface is a real farm and not a warehouse.
3. Stay positive. While this is related a bit to the point above, it goes beyond to the big picture. Polyface food will not hurt you. The recent salmonella recall of eggs, and now the baby formula recall for beetles causing gastrointestinal problems in children point out the damage caused by industrial food. And while we may not have every item you want, in the big scheme of things, what we have is healthful, nutrient dense, transparent, and pathogen-free. In the big scheme of things, many interests would like to criminalize Polyface food, and deny you the right to any of it. We’ve been called bio-terrorists because of our pastured chickens. Industrial food interests even demonize compost as fertilizer, claiming it is impure, unsafe, and unsterile. Since when is the soil sterile? Or our digestive tracts? Model patrons realize that in the final analysis, you are helping to keep afloat an entire alternative and healing food system. And that’s cause for celebration even if New York Strip steaks are flashing a “Sold Out” sign on the order form.
4. Packaging. The kind of fancy four-color labeling, shrink wrap sophisticated high-tech packaging common in supermarkets requires multi-million dollar equipment that Polyface cannot afford. We’re not too hyped up about the outside; we’re pretty excited about what’s inside. That’s why we put our boneless skinless breasts in a bag—why fill the landfill with trays and packaging when a simple bag will do? We use pulp egg cartons, and even illegal recycled ones, for the same reason. Often the sexier the wrapping, the more disappointing the product. If you want something with staying power, forget about the fancy packaging. This includes how it’s cut and displayed. We can’t offer every nuance that the industry, with its millions of widgets, offers. We try to hit a happy medium and hope our model patrons will keep the big picture in mind.
5. Risk. Every choice involves risk. Sometimes you like the choice, and other times you don’t. Believe it or not, some people just try to get free food by buying from farmers, eating most of it, then complaining about the product and hoping the farmer will reimburse all their money. This is actually a racket. This is why Polyface does not offer a satisfaction money back guarantee—we’ve encountered too many people who actually play the system with small operations who can ill afford to carry people who game the goodwill in order to get free food. Model patrons know that venturing into new territory requires some forgiveness. Tastes, textures, new recipes, different products—it’s all risky but exhilarating.
6. Domestic culinary arts. Never has a culture spent so much remodeling and gadgetizing kitchens, but been more lost as to where the kitchen is or how to use it. Model Polyface patrons are more excited about discovering culinary arts and developing food preparation skills than average Americans are about knowing the latest body piercing activities of Hollywood celebrities. Polyface is a farm. We can’t cook it, bread it, cellophane pack it, and microwave-ready it. This integrity food system requires farmers and eaters to hold hands, to meet halfway, and heal together. The less processed any food item, the cheaper it is. Leveraging your own food prep savvy pays huge economic dividends on the food budget. Nobody needs to buy breakfast cereal: buy the raw ingredients and make your own. Homemade granola—yum. Learn to cut out a chicken breast. Make your own burger patties. The more you try, the more skillful you’ll be, the more efficient you’ll become, and the more your family will love you.
7. Restocking fee appreciation. This is not a penalty. We consider it respect insurance. When Polyface receives your order, puts the order together, prints off the invoice, verifies it through our checks and balances, puts the order back into the walk-in freezer overnight, loads it into the delivery bus the next morning, and brings it to your drop point, we’ve invested a huge amount in that package. For someone not to pick it up is equivalent to going into a restaurant, ordering a meal, and then getting up and leaving right before the meal is put on the table. Would any restaurant allow me to escape without paying for the meal? Of course not. I placed an order. They did the work, cooked it, brought it to me. When someone doesn’t show up, we have to bring that order home and restock it. We can’t hold that order in the freezer for an alternative pickup. Can you imagine the logistical nightmare of holding umpteen packages in the walk-in for future do-overs? When we bring those items home, the only way we can keep up with them is to put them back in their inventory bins immediately. Otherwise, they get lost, misplaced, broken up, whatever. We don’t have mountains of storage space with bar coded robots to go around and keep up with a hundred odds and ends. Anyone who has a meltdown crisis, we’re happy to forgive the restocking fee. But if it’s for anything besides a car wreck or death in the family, a model Polyface patron happily pays the restocking fee in deference to the inconvenience and real time cost this creates.
8. Wealthy farmers. Yes, we thought that would get your attention. At Polyface, we want wealthy patrons. We like folks who have enough money in their checking accounts to pay for groceries. We like folks who own computers. We like folks who have a cooler. Model Polyface patrons also want farmers to be wealthy. At least to make a good living. The stereotypical redneck hillbilly D-student farmer relegates stewardship of our food system, soil, air, and water to the nitwits of society. We can never change the food system until the best and brightest find romance and reward in this foundational agrarian vocation. And anyone who thinks farmers don’t deserve to live as well as any urban upper middle class family disrespects the very essence of their dinner and the landscape their children will inherit. At Polyface, we go to great lengths to be frugal, to be efficient, and to be economical. But we do not apologize for the self-respect and personal pride in due compensation for a job well done. And model Polyface patrons envision a day when their farmers can drive cars like their patrons.
We will be announcing the pick up dates for 2011 sometime in February.
For those of you requesting a drop at your home, please email Sheri at the beginning of January.
Flavor Magazine presents the local artisanal food scene in the greater Virginia/Washington D.C. area. It is an independent magazine, slick, professional, and in need of support. Joel writes a column in each issue titled: Rebel With a Cause. The publisher, Melissa Harris, and the editor, Jennifer Seidel, have given Joel almost carte-blanche freedom to take on the entrenched food establishment. One recent column taking on the charge that we are food elitists was recommended by Michael Pollan’s (Omnivore’s Dilemma) tweet and yielded 4,000 hits in the first day. If you want to stay abreast not only of Joel’s latest brouhaha but of all the significant local food happenings in the region, this is the magazine. It has been given free for two years with upfront capital and advertising, but now is going to a subscription format. Subscribe today.
hint: This would make a great Christmas gift for your favorite foodie!
Everyone interested in preserving food freedom of choice should join The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). Polyface has already had to use their membership legal services three times in just two years. The harassment from food police, acting on industrial paradigms and foolish paranoia, is becoming more and more oppressive. We have not won this war by a long shot. American society is moving fast toward eliminating personal food freedom. When we don’t own our own persons, we don’t have many freedoms left. Against this great food police pushback, the FTCLDF stands courageously protecting each of us in these unsettling times. Join now.
I will be going through the newsletter subscriber list this winter. If you have not placed at least 2 orders with us this year, I will be removing you from our list.
I will send you an email to let you know that I have removed you from the list.
Click on the Manage your Subscription link at the bottom of this email or any of the newsletter/pick up reminder emails. Check to make sure that your email address is correct. Uncheck any of the mailing lists that you do not want to receive anymore and hit Submit. This should get you all set. You can unsubscribe or change your email the same way.
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