The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful
As most of you know, it has been tricky getting the farm up and going. I think my hubris was that I believed that if I pay someone to work and create something then that would just happen but it seems not so easily. I believe that what I messed up was the need for community, structure and support for those people and for not having that set up I am truly sorry.
Ironically, we are in a new wait and see place where it would seem we, perhaps, have found our farmer by accident and still without as much community and support as would probably be useful.
About two months ago, I received an unusual email asking if I was interested in someone wanting to farm with us. He just wants to keep busy and go back to working the way he did in Sri Lanka but with tea instead of cider apples. After a bit of a process, and things getting lost in translation, Anada arrived at the farm and has been working for 6-weeks and has probably saved all our apples trees; pushing them into being healthier and productive.
Turns out, he has tea plantations at home but, after educating all his children, has decided Canada is the place he wants to be. I have no idea if this will work in the long term; I often naively embrace new opportunities way too quickly. Believe me, I can hear many of you clicking your tongues warning me to be careful and so far I have been. That needs to continue but, to this date, it has been a treat. A hoe; a wheelbarrow and 10 tons of cow manure combined with Anada’s favourite thing about Canada (summer sunlight for 15 hours of work) has been transformative. The initial idea is that the reciprocation is that we could use and sell the products from his farm including white tea; Ceylan cinnamon; cloves; pepper and other spices. The Idea is great but it is early in the relationship but what a treat. That is the good.
And now, the bad. As most of you know, we had 4 weeks of no production from May 11 to June 11th because of the pasteurizer being down and problems getting parts and trades etc. It was demoralizing and humbling in how vulnerable it made me feel, and so scary financially, but then someone suggested I look into the insurance policy we have and suddenly there was hope.
We have a wonderful broker named, Lloyd Walcom, who has been one of the best and kindest humans with whom I have ever interacted. And the insurance did pay for the hard costs of the new equipment - which was so great and appreciated. But when we applied for loss from the inability to produce, that clause didn’t go as well. We were producing $20K of cheese per week to fill markets, justify staff costs and increase inventory with anything over necessary cheese for markets; I was hoping we would receive some portion of the $80K, considering our insurance costs are monthly and pretty substantive, were not waived during the pandemic and I don’t think we have ever taken advantage of any coverage prior to this.
We handed over our online QuickBooks accounts to the forensic accountant they used, so that they could do the analysis in order to speed up the process and save on accounting fees (and also just to be transparent). We don’t have anything to hide; but we have also been in a pandemic for quite a while. When all was said and done, they don’t consider inventory applicable and just looked at sales this year compared to last year (when there were no markets). They decided that because we were proactive and sold out of existing inventory, we actually only took a loss of $4,500. That's in spite of the inventory line for the company having been reduced by $70K. It seems as though, we have weathered the storm and are not deserving of more reciprocation.
I just don’t understand what we have been paying for - it would have been better it seems to have just banked the insurance costs. I don’t understand how corporations, especially co-operatives can just end-up being about the profit instead of about servicing their members. If you have thoughts on this topic, as many of you are smarter and wiser, I welcome being educated; the only favour I ask is: if I have a lineup at market perhaps we talk quickly or by email but have-at-her.
And now for the beautiful! This last Sunday, I had the pleasure of eating late lunch/dinner at the Prune in Stratford. Good friends, Randi and Mike, are cooking there and they are using our cheese on their menu and we thank them for that! The cooking was wonderful. The Kathy Bell service was as usual impeccable and, goodness, what a treat after a year to eat a nice meal out. It was so beautiful.
Please be well; take good care; and the it timer has started for the next blog.
Aanii Ruth, what a wonderful piece of writing and of course a breathe of courage and relief as the story unfold. I love you and Monforte cheese as did my Jerry and many of my neighbours. Love and Gratitude and hello Daniel.
Courage Ruth. I spent the last of my cheese dollars and then some at the Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market on Tuesday. Wednesday friends from Calgary came for dinner (first time we entertained in forever). They devoured your cheese, from the perfectly runny Piacere to my favourite fenugreek water buffalo (aka hedgehog). Your dedication to cheesemaking is greatly appreciated. Their next stop is Stratford. They’re going to look for more Monforte there. You do us proud.
Dear Ruth thank you for committing to this blog. Since moving to Mono Mills i no longer visit the Brick works. I miss the community there and our weekly chats. This is by no means a replacement of live conversation however, it does give me a little bit about Ruth that I love. Miss you and your delicious cheese. Be well As a tea drinker I would love to try some of Anada tea one day.