A farming family’s business has collapsed. Then the neighbors arrived.

RALPH In a span of about four hours on a day in March, 75% of our activity dropped to zero. So our first step was to panic. It was the first step.

These spring sales are income. For cash flow, we need income from restaurants until spring to buy seeds, fertilizer, soil, get labor, to grow everything and prepare the fields and all that. So it wasn’t just that we couldn’t sell the product we had in the greenhouses.

Lisa You have already spent all the money to grow things. Your money is gone. You spent that money. The only thing you have to do is harvest, wash and take it to someone and get paid. You have done the hardest part.

RALPH Lisa and I are both engineers by training, and we’ve always had the philosophy that bad news is good data, because once you have the data, you can start solving the problem. It was different because the news was so bad that we didn’t even know how to start thinking about solving the problem.

Lisa It was definitely like, you’re all alone here, kid. You didn’t expect the government to step in with PPP loans like it has. It was like, you’re going to figure out what you’re going to do. No one can solve this problem.

They decided to open a stand at the farm to sell at least a small part of their surplus production. They put vegetables in plastic bags for $3 and spread the word to people who had subscribed to the CSA Farm, or Community Supported Agriculture, newsletter.

Lisa We packed stuff like we were going to have maybe 10 people a day.

We sent it out to probably 450 email addresses and then people started sharing it, sharing it, and sharing it. The first day was like, wow, it was so busy. And I had to reload stuff that I didn’t really expect.

Eggs were flying out of here – we had some sort of egg stash. We went through 130 dozen eggs in two and a half days. It was crazy.

I called a friend who has a beef farm. And I said, we do this – what’s your minimum delivery? Just bring me some stuff. She said, yeah, we can bring 40 pounds. I never put it in the freezer. I never got the price. People would take it out of the box and say, how much does it cost? I had to look at the bill and figure out what I was going to charge. It was nothing we had imagined. It was the craziest thing we have ever seen.

It was so amazing you couldn’t process it. It really felt like people were coming and throwing money at you. There were people who came in and were just like, yeah, here, keep the change. I’ll take a $3 bag and give you a $10 bill, keep the change.

There were a gazillion people.

She compared it to the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which a small-town community rallies around a struggling banker, raising enough money to help pay off a loan.

Lisa It was like when they threw money at Jimmy Stewart. There were people who came, just wanting to help. It was many of our customers and friends. And it was also a lot of people we had never met. People like small farms, you know.

RALPH We didn’t throw anything away. It’s just balanced.

They will start 2021 with a fully stocked farm shop, selling their own crops, as well as meat, milk and cheese from other local farms.

Lisa It’s a great story for a Christmas letter.

RALPH But that’s really not where I’m at. Where I am is what is happening now.

You know, I’d like to say, it can’t get any worse than this year. But, you know, unfortunately, it could always be worse. So we really don’t know what’s going to happen. Like I said, head down, butt up, push forward.

Lisa But of all the Christmases I’ve had, this is the one that most needs to be filled with hope. There is much to be grateful for. And it’s an antidote to fear.

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