Friday, September 24, 2010
(Here is a picture of a our baby corn. For many of our products, we grow a traditional full size variety and a smaller single serving size variety. This year we experimented with baby corn but the results were somewhat startling.)
As we get into September, the insect pressure on sweet corn is intense. The unusually warm summer created an opportunity for a third generation of corn borers. The second generation of corn earworms are peaking. Science has certainly provided many solutions for these pests, Unfortunately the organic solutions are not 100% effective.
So that left us with a problem. We had really great tasting sweet corn. But too many ears had a bonus bug.
Rather than discarding the ears as unmarketable and heaving them into the compost pile, we significantly dropped the price and clearly communicated the problem to our customers. There were three distinct reactions.
About 25% did not care at all. They wanted sweet corn, they knew from experience we had sweet corn, and a bug was nothing but proof we dont use harsh sprays.
About 50% cared a little bit. They were more interested in bargain prices than worrying about bugs.
About 25% cared very much. They tactfully but without any doubt passed.
At the time, we thought this was a good compromise; our short term goal was to avoid wasting otherwise perfectly fine food.
But, now that we have thought about that compromise a great deal more, perhaps that solution contradicted our long term goal of establishing a brand and continuously improving quality standards.
(Here is a picture of our market stand at Lake Farmpark Farmer's Market. OK the truth is I wanted to take a picture of our stand after it was setup but before the market opened. Customers arrived early then I remembered to take the picture only after I was done cleaning up. However this image captures the essence of how we feel after market. Lonely but fun to drive home with an empty truck / trailer!)
Its also fun to learn the various personalities of our customers. Some customers insist on inspecting each and every item to ensure it meets their criteria. These customers have different but specific preferences for ripeness, size, etc. We happily ask a few questions to assist the selection process: when will you prepare it, how will you prepare it, etc.
Other customers have no such preferences. They allow us to choose and they usually explain why: "I trust you". The implication is these customers trust our experience and knowledge to pick the best for them. We honor this sense of trust.
But all customers, whether they explicitly say so or not, trust us. They trust our production techniques. They trust our commitment to healthy, safe food. We honor this sense of trust too.