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The New Normal in Barnyard Retail

April 5, 2020
2019 Calf

Check out Carole’s daily video posts from the farm.

Time is now defined as the "before" and "after" days. Remember when a trip to the supermarket was routine? You could pop into your car, walk through crowded supermarket aisles, breathe the same air as fellow shoppers, and checkout without fear? Friends, that was just a few weeks ago!

Now you have to suit up with gloves, maybe a mask, walk with sanitizer ready to disinfect doorknobs, railings, faucets, and even your face. Handshaking and hugging are out. Even elbow bumps put us too close together. A cough or a sneeze is cause for panic. NewYorkers are eyed with suspicion. (But that's not new; after all, isn't that where the NY Yankees live?)

Speaking of baseball, what's happened to sports? I tuned into ESPN and got nothing. Maybe rather than people-sports, ESPN could invent alternative games like cow-pie bingo. Set up a camera in a pasture and have viewers bet on which cow will poo first, second, third, and so on. That might be more fun than watching the numbers of the infected zoom up.

Hopefully, the rate of new infections will soon go down. Eventually, life will return to normal, but will we ever want to go entirely back to "before"? For example, online ordering for our little farm store has increased by 1,000 percent. Check my math: We went from two to over sixty orders a week, and while we hate the reason for it, we have to love the boost our little grass-fed beef business is getting. Requests are received by phone or through our online store. Store workers Marianne and Craig fill the order, and the customers drive to the farm for "curbside" pickup, or we deliver to their homes or meet them at pickup location. A few people drive to the farm, knock on the door, give us their orders, and we bring the meat out to them. Customers are welcome in the store but must disinfect first, wear gloves, and practice social-distancing.

It's like Amazon without the cross-country truckers, or Omaha steaks without Omaha, or ButcherBox, except that ours is New Hampshire meat; not shipped from Australia.

Except for the threat-of-COVID-19 part, I like this new model, and so do some other retailers. A pharmacy worker told me, while we were waiting in line (6 feet apart), that her store also does curbside delivery. Just think: no searching the aisles for baby aspirin or wipes; no lugging a sleeping 30-pounder through a store; no parent-child unpleasantness in the candy aisle; no hunting for a salesperson to help; no waiting in line at checkout. This could be habit-forming.

Who knows? When this terrible "after" time is over – and it will end – we may have re-invented how we shop locally. In any case, I'm not giving up on cow-pie bingo. My cows have been training for it all their lives.

Check out Carole’s daily video posts from the farm.

Carole Soule

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