2020 has been a rough year. It was unpredictable, scary and unsettling but with 2021 just around the corner we decided to take a look back at 2020 and know that we are thankful and blessed.
At the beginning of 2020, we were excited and ready for the new year. Our motto that we came up with for what we do at the farm was “Wellness Simplified” and we tried to stick with that theme all year long. We decided that we were going to make the biggest step forward for the farm since originally opening. We were finally going to build our new store. The plan had been our intention for years, but at the beginning of the year we decided to go for it and took out a loan to make it happen. A couple weeks later, the talk of COVID and a pandemic started. We weren’t really sure what to do at first so we just waited to see.
After a couple weeks, it was obvious that the whole world had changed with lock downs, quarantines, social distancing and viruses were the epicenter of the world. This was really bad timing for us (and for everyone!) because of the new store project, spring plant season, planning for our 10th annual Memorial Day festival and the start of our Whole Living Year 1 & Whole Living Year 2 classes. We ended up having to completely cancel Whole Living classes for 2020. It was a VERY hard decision, but in the end it was the right thing to do especially because our classes are so hands-on. We had to put the safety of the class participants first. Our 10th annual Farm & Herb Festival on Memorial Day was also canceled. We had some really big plans for the Memorial Day festival and we were disappointed that it had to be canceled too.
Along with having to cancel classes & events, we decided to put our entire shopping experience online to keep our staff and customers safe using contactless pick-ups. Sky created an online site for all of our products and we had a few quirks to work out but once we did it all went relatively well. This system was in place March to June. We can not thank our customers enough that stuck with us through that transition and continued to support us! It was and still kind of is a scary time for small businesses and the support that you all gave us was immeasurable! Thank you!
The one positive part to having the store closed was that the transition to the new store went much smoother than we were originally anticipating. The new shed building that we ordered got delayed because of COVID but then we finally got the building at the beginning of May. Only the outside was done. Rob and Justin completely built the inside, including adding power, walls, flooring, ceiling, painting and more. They had a bit of a hard time getting materials but in the end it looks amazing. We purchased new fridges and freezers which was also a huge upgrade. One of the best parts of the new store is that we have AC and heat!
Once Rob and Justin were done working on the inside, the transition between the two stores had to happen. Lots of organizing, inventorying and products to be placed. It was fun though to see it all come together from our ideas and rough sketches. We also had three times the amount of space to fill so we found some more local, unique and FGF approved products to add to the new store. Krista and Sky take a lot of time and research to find new products for the store. We want everything in the store to be items we would use and like to support a Whole Living lifestyle. We have very high standards and wanted everything in the store to have a cohesive theme. The store is a cross between a herb shop, specialty grocery and a gift shop. We wanted a store that fit our “Wellness Simplified” motto of local & nutritious food along with herbal & wellness products to make it a one stop shop. The Market on the Farm & Gift Shop is full of a little bit of everything!
As the new store was getting it’s final touches Rob, Dylan (Rob & Krista’s son) and Dan (Rob’s brother) moved the old blue store up into the side yard. We plan to convert that building into our new drying shed for herbs.
The new store opened in June and the response was great! We are still open Thursday-Sunday 9am-5pm year round. If you haven’t made it out to the new store yet we invite you stop by it really is a whole new experience. The retail plant area also got a bit of a makeover this year, featuring new sun shades so you can easily have a picnic or a break from the sun in a nice shaded area. Many of our customers took advantage of this new shaded outdoor seating to meet up with friends and visit in an outside COVID safe environment.
Another fun addition to the farm this year was the creation of our LOVE sign. It was also in the works in for early spring but got postponed. During the summer, a local artist Philippe from Our Numinous Nature came down and designed/illustrated the sign for us. Rob made the letters out of wood and Philippe painted them. We went with a herb theme (who would have guessed lol). The sign is now at the top of the driveway and is a great place for a photo op at the farm. We love to see your photos with the sign, make sure you tag us @forrestgreenfarm! While Philippe was here he also interviewed Rob & Krista for his podcast, Our Numinous Nature. You can find their interview here.
During all this, even while the farm was closed, Krista kept up with the plant sales, the gardens and harvesting & drying herbs. She even added in a cut flower garden for people to pick their own bouquets thinking that this would be the perfect activity for such a depressing summer. It was quite popular and we are planing to continue it next spring and summer adding in even more areas of cut flowers. It is a great way to get out of the house for a safe outdoors socially distanced activity with your family and friends. Keep an eye out for updates on the cut flowers closer to spring.
All of the farm animals did well this year. The pigs, cows and chickens are all good. Bailey the donkey is still enjoying his time with the cows. Theo, the barn cat, loves the summer and hates the most recent cold, he is a summer baby for sure. The livestock guardian dogs- Cupcake, Delilah, Kona and Buddy are all still protecting the farm and the livestock faithfully. Coyotes have been lurking on the edges and we are so thankful for the dedication from these working dogs! Buddy was our newest addition this year. He is now almost a year old and still has that puppy energy causing daily chaos 🙂
One major hardship for 2020 was that at the beginning of the pandemic the meat processors became slammed with business from small to large farms and people wanting personal meat butchered. This caused a big backup in the state for getting meat processed by a USDA inspected facility. There are only five USDA Inspected facilities in the VA. We have to get our pork and beef processed at a USDA inspected facility to be able to legally sell the meat by the cut. The earliest appointment we could get for our pigs to be processed was Dec. 29th… the pigs have been ready for months. Unfortunately, there are no appointments available at all for 2021. So our pork and beef production might have to change for the foreseeable future. Rob will focus 2021 on building up our cattle herd for future demand. Don’t worry, Rob raised extra meat chickens this year so we should be stocked on those through the winter. We can legally process the chickens on the farm so we did not have any troubles with that this year, thank goodness!
We also had a few struggles harvesting and drying our herb crops this year. Our summer was full of rain and then very humid HOT weather. Not all the herbs like that kind of weather especially the inches of rain at a time. We did the best we could, harvested the crops we needed to but all the rain definitely made the process a little more tedious. One thing we learned is to never give up. Our persistence paid off and we were able to dry great quality herbs for our teas and seasonings.
Another very exciting thing that happened for Rahm family was that their daughter Shanah got married at the farm on October 31 (full moon and Halloween was always Shanah’s dream). We weren’t quite sure how it would all work, but with good planning and extra safety measures they made it happen! It was a beautiful day. With the wedding being held in front of the barn, it got a bit of a makeover… new red paint.
All though the year has been crazy, we just wanted to give an update and say thank you. We could not have done this year without all of you. Your support and loyalty to the farm has not gone unnoticed. Even for those of you who mail ordered or liked/followed/shared/tagged the farm in your social media it all helps and is appreciated. We had some big goals for 2020 and honestly we got through most of our list. Our list for 2021 is always expanding and changing and we can’t wait to share more with you soon. Who knows what we will come up with next 😉 Hint, hint, if anyone has any playground equipment that is still in good condition and safe that they want to get rid of please contact us. We want to set up an outside play area for kids to get a chance to safely play outdoors during COVID and beyond. Donations also welcome.
Make sure you keep an eye out on our Facebook and Instagram for new and daily happenings at the farm. Our Whole Living Lifestyle Blog is also a great source for articles and recipes. One of Krista and Sky’s resolutions for this year is to try and blog more (we say this every year but we will try!). We will have some cool stuff happening at the farm this summer, as COVID allows. Stay safe and healthy! Happy New Year, Rob, Krista & Sky