Jokes aside, it was intense. As the photos from this time of year always throw up reminders, I thought I’d share a few of our lockdown memories, 3 years on – for us and the business.
We’d only taken on the business at the end of 2018, so were very much in the early stag of the learning curve in the Spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit. We were also in the middle of re-liming our tiny cottage (that’s a story for another time, but definitely added to the stress!). We were packing the boxes in what is essentially a shed at the end of our garden – good from a lockdown point of view but nowhere near big enough to manage more customers! There was a lot of head-scratching and tea drinking, and in fact we started our coffee drinking habit at this time which is still now a calming ritual for us.
We felt like we were on a rollercoaster that was totally out of control but we knew we had to just keep on going as there were so many people relying on us.
- Enquiries for veg boxes went through the roof – We had 100+ enquiries for boxes, from all over the place, in the space of about a week and did our best to reply to every single one. They included many from adult children living overseas/ elsewhere and wanting help for their elderly parents. Although it sounds great we had so many potential customers, we weren’t set up to take on so many in such a short time, especially during the Hungry Gap. Many enquiries were for people living well outside our delivery area too.
- Organic North, our wholesaler, were struggling – Their whole business was turned on its head overnight as so many of their restaurant / cafe/ shop customers had to close or drastically change how they did things. Chris spent hours on the phone to other businesses sharing how we do things (looking back, we’d only being going 18 months so styill learning ourselves!) to help them to suddenly change to doing veg box deliveries, which in turn helped Organic North avoid losing as many customers.
- We were anxious ourselves – we felt anxiety for our own families, none of whom live locally. And then we were also worried about being able to get in enough produce for our boxes and being able to deliver- the big concern was what would happen if Chris couldn’t deliver the boxes (I didn’t know the delivery rounds and had been staying at home with our young child).
- We felt so responsible – not just for our family, but for all our customers and all the new people we were speaking to and trying to help. Chris also had a constant fear in the early days (when noone really knew how the virus was transmitted) that he was going to be the source of bringing Covid to someone’s house who was shielding. If you were a box customer then, you’ll remember he even decanted the veg into a new box at each house, and used gloves when opening gates and doors! Seems crazy now to think of it.
The flipside is that we were so grateful that we had a business that could support so many people during this time, with something so very basic to life and health as fresh vegetables. We know from emails and messages that for many who were shielding/living on their own, that Chris was the only person they might see (through the window) for a whole week and his smile or wave meant so much. And working outside meant we were very low risk to others (once we knew it was air-borne). We also had the opportunity a bit later on to open up the shop (although we only served through the door-way to start with!). So many things to be grateful for but this time 3 years ago I’m not sure we were feeling that!
This is the email we sent out in March 2020 – gives you a flavour of what was going on at that time for us:
‘Hoping this finds you all well and coping ok with all the stress and uncertainty. We felt it was important to send you an update given how quickly things have changed even in the past day. Any questions or concerns please let us know. We will do whatever we can to help.
Our wholesalers have told us they are doing everything they can to maintain uninterrupted supply of veg despite European lock-downs. Our intention is to continue to get you veg, even if we only deliver boxes of potatoes and carrots. It’s imperative that we continue to support our wholesalers at this time, and in turn we are hoping that our customers continue to support us.
If we have to stop the business and self-isolate we will give you as much notice as possible, but hoping that Rosie may be able to cover for us if that’s the case. We’ll keep you updated.
To reduce the virus risk for everyone, we won’t be handing you your box at the door. Chris will either leave your box in the normal spot, or, if he normally hands it to you, will leave it on your doorstep for you to pick up once he’s gone. He will avoid using doorbells for obvious reasons. Obviously he can still give you a smile and wave so if you feel in need of one of those keep an eye out for him! 🙂
We don’t have many customers who still pay cash, but will be using hand gel after we touch any cash on the delivery round.
I’m probably going to do a few more of the deliveries over the coming weeks too, so if your box gets left in a slightly different place than normal then my apologies and you’ll know why! – Chris has given me instructions but I may forget.
We’re enforcing strict hygiene measures but please also as always make sure you wash veg before using it, especially if it’s not being cooked.
We would ask that hands are washed before and after touching boxes. Most importantly, if any of you do come down with the virus, it’s imperative that you let us know so we don’t reuse the box.
Finally, we are trying to remain calm in what is a a very un-calm world. A few suggestions we have whether you’re self-isolating or not:
1. Try limiting the amount of media you consume regarding the corona virus (we don’t have a TV so this is bit easier for us). You need to know the headlines but you don’t need to hear all the stories and discussion. Go for a walk, get in the garden, listen to an audio book instead.
2. Meditate. Seriously if you’ve never tried it give it a go.There’s a great online site called Headspace – https://www.headspace.com/meditation/10-minute-meditation
3. It’s still important to exercise. Schedule a regular walk and don’t take your phone.
4. Technology is our friend at times like this (can’t believe I’m writing that). We can learn, connect, share. But social media unlikely to do more than increase your anxiety. Do a course, face-time or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages and reminisce rather than talk about what’s happening now.
Any other ideas, send them through and I can share. We are still planning to start our blog on the website where we can tell you more about what we’re doing with EYG and how we grow using no dig methods, as guessing that might be interesting for some of you.’
Feels like a lifetime ago now, but still interesting to look back and reflect. As a business we would be in a much better situation now if there was a lockdown than we were then!