The door has writing on it advertising this week's inventory. When I walk in, I know the person working at the checkout. There's only one person needed to manage the store. "No eggs from The Old Home Place?" "No, sorry, we sold out, but they should be delivering another batch on Thursday."
Coolers, like the ones you see in mom and pop diners with bottled sodas in them, line the sides of the room. Metal hardware store style shelves stand in the middle with goods from brands I've never heard of nor seen in a big store. The shelves don't go up especially high.
There aren't any big displays. The items aren't jam packed next to one another. Instead of 20 different variants of each item, there are only a few. Sometimes only one.
As I move to assess the meat in a stand up cooler, I see the chicken in Zip Loc bags with a small label that looks like it came from a home printer. I begin to realize that this chicken was raised on a small farm, by a small family producer, trying to do things the DIY way. Short supply chain. Farmer -> store.
I've asked about many of the farms the store sources from. Most of the time I get answers like the one I most recently received about the ground turkey. "Those turkeys are the healthiest turkeys you'd ever see. Those farmers look after them better than people treat their spoiled pets. Their farm is about an hour and a half away, to the southwest."
Every time I've asked if the farms allow visitors, I have been answered with something along the lines of, "Sure. They prefer weekday mornings. Would you like their number?"
Finding More Info
A few years ago, I took a picture of a pack of the Kielbasa we bought from the little store. The name of the farm is on the package. It includes their address and a website to visit to learn more.
I can look them up on google. I can check out their website. I can drive by their farm, the address is on the label. I can call them and schedule a visit. The pictures on their website look just like I'd imagine a farm to look. Animals on an open plot. A small shelter for when they get enough sun. The reviews on google give them 5 stars.
Here's a carton of eggs we bought.
The little store's website tells me a bit more about the The Old Home Place:
"The Old Home Place is run by Henry and his 7 children, located in Amish country just over the Michigan border. Henry provides us with free range/pastured eggs that are non-GMO, as well as ground chicken and beef. His cows roam on pasture, eating only grass. All work is done by hand, as there is no electricity, no phones, cars, tv, video games or air conditioning."
Small Orange Stickers
The little store is small - only two rooms with a dividing wall in the middle. Small orange stickers tell me the prices. I know how to pronounce all of the words on the ingredients list. Quite a few packages look like they've been designed by the tech savvy in the family on Microsoft Word. The store offers things like CSA (community supported agriculture).
The little store seems more like what my great-great grandparents would have bought their groceries from that a chain supermarket. I know the store owner. The store owner knows the farmer. The person at the checkout knows my name. I feel safe. The limited selection allows the employee to give the background of each product. I bring something different to the counter and the employee tells me its one of their favorites. I have a better idea of what my purchase is doing to the farmer and community. The farmers seem more like neighbors and I feel like I am treating them more neighborly.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan - 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?'.... Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.' Luke 10:36