Craft shows are a lot like cocktail parties for me. I’m the awkward gal in the corner nursing a white wine spritzer, desperately hoping there is another Shepherdess with manure on her shoe to talk to. I go because I think I should and I might be missing out if I don’t.
Not only am I shy in social situations, but I have a secret inner moral struggle. I live a fairly simple life on the farm. I promote slow and simple living because I truly believe in the value of it. I don’t need a lot of things and what I have doesn’t need to be fancy. How then, do I reconcile being a seller of things?
When I lost my corporate job four years ago, I decided to make the farm my work for several reasons. I was 50 and the last of a generation that gave their life to one company, not an impressive resumé filler in the current market. In the week I had been out of work, I rediscovered my smile, joy, and perspective. I spent time sitting in the pasture with the sheep, lounging with our big white dog in the hay, and thinking deeply about what was next. I had degrees in Equestrian Science, Technical Theatre and Counseling, and years of HR experience, none of which made me feel passionate. If you’ve read my bio, you’ve heard the next part, but I’ll tell it again. I was making a batch of soap, in pursuit of a great shampoo bar. I remember thinking about how I’d never have to buy another plastic bottle of shampoo again. Right then and there, I realized that this WAS the next thing! I could save the world one shampoo bar at a time, have an excuse to have (more) goats, and sit in the pasture anytime I wanted to. I had started selling at farmers markets the spring before and the conversations I was having about good old fashioned soap were exciting. I was talking to strangers and sharing the stories of my products. It didn’t feel like selling, it felt like coffee with a friend.
That’s it for me. It comes down to passion and purpose. That sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you ask me about my sheep at a show, I’ll light up and talk your ear off. Totally unrehearsed, I will grab a scarf from the display and tell you about Fran and Sir, my favorite sheep who I lost tragically one winter but spun their fiber to make the scarf. If you pick up a soap to sniff, I’ll share about India, who milked through last winter, getting a break from being pregnant to provide milk for our family and our soap. I’m especially passionate about wool and its place as a sustainable, natural fiber. I want everyone to know that it is soft and warm, even when wet, and that it’s renewable and compostable.
I’m thrilled that the farm stories and goods allow me to connect with a community of people, especially if they don’t live the farm life. I love being a resource to new small holding farmers and livestock owners, and I’m honored to provide soap and lotion to folks who are looking for honest, simple alternatives. Top on my purpose priority list is to teach heritage skills (spinning, weaving, felting, soap making…) so that those ways are not lost or forgotten. Along the way I hope to encourage fiber enthusiasts with sheep stories, weaving classes, and beautiful yarn and weavings.
Maybe it’s a mindset change. Sharing the things I’m passionate about feels better and gives me a purpose past the commerce even when the bottom line is putting hay in front of the animals, dinner on the table and paying the mortgage.
Wow, long winded today! I should get back to farm things- today I’m getting the emergency birthing kit together for lambs and kids who should start arriving in about a month.
P.S. If you run into me at that cocktail party (or more likely an artisan show), mention the goats and sheep. I’ll be forever grateful