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For free or for sale?  RSS feed

 
Jordon Thompson
Posts: 12
Location: Southeast, Zone 7
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My wife and I have lots and lots of extra food at certain times of the year. We preserve it, feed it to the ducks, etc, but we still have so much left! Since we are so close with our friends/family/neighbors, they all feel comfortable enough with us to come and take all of the food they want. But I started to politely tell people that we're not going to give away our food, but sell it. One of our acquaintances/neighbors was pretty offended when I told him that and told us that we're selfish for not giving away our extra food to people for free. We're stuck in the middle of feeling a bit "greedy" for not just giving our extra apples away but also saying, "hey, we've worked pretty dang hard and put a lot of hours into this." Having lots of friends/family/neighbors, we are weirdly afraid that our potential generosity could wipe us clean every year. So I ask you, and I can take criticism, is it wrong for us to not let our friends/family/neighbors come and take all the apples and tomatoes they want? Or are we being greedy? I hate to have to choose one or the other, but sometimes we're feeling extra generous and decide to give it away, but then other people hear about that and then feel like we're choosing favorites. There's no way to win!

FYI we didn't start our forest garden as a business venture and have no plans to bring in most of our income from it.
 
Ryan A Miller
Posts: 24
Location: Southern California (God Help Us)
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It seems to me that the determining factor in your neighbor's/acquaintances/friend's anger or resentment lies in HOW you explain why you can't give food away for free anymore. Maybe start with setting limits on the amount of free stuff they can have so that there is enough for everyone? And any more they want, you request that they buy it? Tell them you can sell it at a market for $2.00/lb and you are being a great neighbor by selling it at 50 cents / lb. to them. It's not a black or white thing, but I think your neighbors have no right to be upset or angry - it is YOUR work / effort / land, after all.

I would personally cut off the neighbor that gave you attitude, you don't want to encourage that type of animosity by giving into it and going back to giving him free stuff.
 
Kris Minto
Posts: 137
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
2
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I only occasionally give some free stuff to my family, friends and neighbour because I have found that most did not appreciate the hard work that when into growing that food.
Over the years I found most individual expect things or services to be free if you don't make a living on it. Because of this I become tired of spending countless hours and not getting anything in returned except people excepting me to continue doing it for free. I often found out that those individual ended up paying a "professional" 2 or 3 times what I had initial asked for.
 
Kim Hill
Posts: 78
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I would offer the neighbor the opportunity to work for the food instead of buying it. In this way he/she has the opportunity to see how much work goes into growing, harvesting, cleaning, processing etc the food. I plan on doing a work share type thing next year with my apples for those who cannot afford to purchase the apples (or do not want to pay). They will pick pound for pound what they leave, for example, pick and keep 10 pounds but pick and leave 10 pounds for sale as well. You will find out quickly if you just have a greedy neighbor or one in need. Kim
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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They will pick pound for pound what they leave

I like that approach.
I have seen it used on Craig's List: pick a bucket of berries for yourself, AND pick one for me.

Makes people more appreciative for what they receive.
They don't feel as if you 'owe' them something.

That word "free" has a very powerful hold on many people.


 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6786
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I sell what I produce and I sell things that are wild harvested. I can't imagine giving it away to strangers or to casual acquaintances. If something is likely to go to waste, it is given away. Marketable products are sold. I always like to charge what the market will bear.

 My time is worth money. It's generally worth more than beggars are willing to pay.

A few years ago, a guy asked if I was giving away building products that were sitting in piles with clearly visible prices written on scrap plywood. He knew about the stuff, because of "Demolition Sale" signs posted at the road. After being informed that everything was for sale, he returned at the end of the day, to steal.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2587
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I give away about half of the vegetables that I grow... I give to the elderly, who have been dear friends to my family for generations. I give to childhood friends who take an interest in my welfare, by doing things like turning off my irrigation water when the latches burst apart, or chasing stray cows out of my fields. I give food to the lady that cooks lunch for me a few times per week. I give food to the lady that saves her empty glass jars for me. I give food to the other farmer's at market when I am growing different crops than they are growing. I give food to the food pantry. I give food to the staff at the farmer's market as a form of social lube. I give goat food to the lady that raises the goats that I eat. I give chicken food to my egg farmer. I give food to the lady that raises the rabbits and chickens that I eat. I give food to people in the community that I know are struggling to make ends meet. I give food to the little old Asian ladies as soon as I see them at the farmer's market as a way of bribing them to not haggle with me so fiercely. I give away an abundance of free samples. I give food to the people that help me pick or plant. I give food to my support network: To those people that help me to be a better farmer or human. I give vegetable to the little old lady that bakes cookies for me. I give food to the lady that is candidly honest with me about how my vegetables taste. I value her opinion immensely. The common thread among all the people that I give food to is that they are giving something back to me that I value more than the food. They are supporting me either physically, mentally, or emotionally. If anyone can't measure up to living in a gifting economy, then I stop gifting to them.

I don't give much food to people that drive fancy cars, or that live in mansions, or that wear $500 suits. I don't give any food to people that act like I owe them something, or that presume that it is my duty to feed them.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 981
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Good for you Joseph!

I too give food to others within my close community family. But it's difficult to call it "free" because within the community network things and services are constantly being exchanged. Recently I've been given a five gallon bucket of sunflower seeds, another bucket full of limes, a bag of lilokoi, several avocados, a branch of sweet bay and another of keffer lime, enough comquats to make a pint of marmalade, assistance with erecting a dog kennel and a large shade tent, some winter clothing and a new pair of boots (to mail to the Ants), and the offer to scrap and repair my driveway. During the same period I've given away to not necessarily the same group of people, a wide assortment of garden excess, some monthly flea preventative, a loaf of homemade bread, and the use of my iron mangle so that some friends can create hand printed t shirts. Things get exchanged without cash changing hands nor records being kept. People with excess just give to people in need.

I routinely give free food to the senior center and expect nothing in exchange but lovely conversation. I've also given to families/individuals in temporary difficult situations.

Now it's a different story with freeloader types. Because I run the community garden I am frequently approached for free food by total strangers....or hippy neighbors. These people are not part of an exchange system, but rather just sponges. They take but do not give. I don't play their game. If they want food from the garden then they need to contribute something. They can come help out for 3 hours then share in that day's harvest. Or they can bring buckets of manure, weeds, rocks, or dirt in exchange for bags of surplus produce. Funny thing, they have never, never taken me up on the offer. They ask repeatedly for free food but have never worked or given anything to get it. Yes, I draw the line with freeloader types.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1556
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I think the big thing to note here is the difference between "giving" and "taking." So many people have posted about giving, and it is wonderful to give! When you're the one giving, you're the one in control of the situation--you chose what you have that is extra or that you want to bless others with, and whom you want to bless with what. And, such giving also creates cycles of more giving. You give your eggs to your neighbor one day, and another day they decide to give you some elk meat or to saw some timber for you.

This kind of giving, I think, is very healthy and wonderful if you are able to do it.

But, when I read your post, Jordan, I don't see "giving," I see neighbors "taking." When people start taking, they often start taking advantage, too. The neighbor who is offended by you not letting them take food seems to be someone who wants to have control of your resources. This may not be the healthiest relationship .

I see a lot of good ideas by others on how to break the news to them, or to have them compensate you in return so it's not just a one-sided taking relationship. One other thing you could do would be to say--forthrightly--that finances are tight and you are trying to sell your food so as to make ends meet. Or, if finances are not tight, you could say that you are trying to get away from your desk job as you work so many hours in your garden. You could even mention how much you've spent on seeds and soil and hours worked--Gardening is not cheep, and while you love doing it, you can't justify it if you can't afford it.

Now, talking about finances may not be the best way to break the news in every situation, or with every person. But, for some people, just being upfront about the cost and your finances may be the best way to help them understand.

I think there will always be people--commonly called "freeloaders"--that no matter what you say or do, will be mad that they aren't getting what they think they "deserve" or are used to having. I hope none of your friends or neighbors are like this, but you might just have some people that will never be happy that you stopped letting them take whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

I'm really glad you posted your story. I had not really thought about the repercussions of letting people take what they want--we're still struggling to grow enough for ourselves, let alone have excess.
 
Heather Davis
Posts: 37
Location: Southern California
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My parents have a communal organic garden and invite 12-15 people to join them in gardening all summer (mid-coast Maine). Each person contributes to the cost of buying seeds, tools, etc. They all contribute to the work of planting, soil amending, tending and harvesting. My dad writes a list of what needs to be done on a board and members come and go as they please but generally work in the garden for a few hours every Saturday for the Spring, Summer and Fall. Dad teaches the newbies and there are several multi generational families that garden together so there are some kids learning as well. It is a great way to share the costs and the work. My mom really enjoys the social aspect and Dad loves being able to grow as much as he can manage with help and not see anything go to waste. They preserve excess by freezing, drying or canning. They have chickens and send some of the spoils to one of the members who keeps several pigs. This system has worked well for them for about 10 years so far.

I love the idea of pick a pound, leave a pound idea for harvest time. What a great idea. I have a telescoping fruit picker and have been picking the fruit on trees that are overhanging parking lots (here in the city) that is too high for others to reach. I think if I see fruit in someone's yard that is too high to reach, I'll offer my fruit picking services as an exchange. It's avocado season and the fruit is often very high up in the tree.
 
Laura Johnson
Posts: 38
Location: Georgia, USA
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You are selfish! How about they are lazy, greedy and feel entitled!
Years ago I lived in town and had a big garden. I gave away the over abundance of tomatoes and squash. I had a big 10 day show coming up (i was a manufacture's rep) and asked the neighbors to go pick the garden and keep the produce. Needed to keep it producing. Nobody picked anything! They loved the fresh produce , but did not want to exert any energy to even harvest it.
Cured me! I started taking things to various charity things that fed people, Battered Woman, Promise Place etc. Then the neighbors started telling me how much they used to enjoy the fresh produce. Too bad.
So, you can either donate and take a write off. Or put up a little Farm Stand with small baskets and a sign " tomatoes $3.00" etc with a little lidded box for the money. You might need to salt it - a empty basket and $3:00 in the box - to get them started.
I have seen various places that do this. People are usually honest. If not, a sign explaining that a lot of love and hard work and some money for seed etc, go into these organic tomatoes. Little guilt trip for the dishonest and greedy.
 
Jordon Thompson
Posts: 12
Location: Southeast, Zone 7
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Thanks for the advice everyone! We decided that 1) we are going to tell people we are selling the fruits/veggies because of the work we've put into them, 2) they can get them at a huge discount or maybe even free if they help us with the harvesting or any other chores, and 3) we want to always be generous so there may be times when we give it away and expect nothing in return, and the certain freeloading neighbors and family members that don't get included in on that and get mad at us for it (mainly the people who have the actual physical ability to work for it themselves) will just have to deal with it, I guess.
 
Ryan A Miller
Posts: 24
Location: Southern California (God Help Us)
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Jordon Thompson wrote:[they will] just have to deal with it, I guess.
They have no other choice. And what they don't know won't hurt them lol!
 
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