Ralph and Lisa Turner are organic farmers who launched Laughing Stock Farm back in 1996 on one-fifth of an acre in Freeport, Maine. After much hard work and trial and error, the Turners were able to make their farm a success, building a steady customer base and garnering 12-and-a-half more acres.

“Our quality produce coupled with your commitment to purchasing fresh local vegetables has built our business into a sustainable family-owned farm that will be able to serve you for years to come,” states their website.

All was going well until the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, which changed everything for the Turners and their farm. As suppliers to Portland area restaurants were forced to close, it was looking like the Laughing Stock Farm was not going to make it. The Turners had lost their main source of income, leaving them only with eight overflowing greenhouses plus 10 tons of veggies in cold storage of supply, and zero demand.

Zero sales meant zero cash flow to the family, making a loss seem like an inevitably and breaking even virtually impossible. However, the Turners happen to be trained engineers, so instead of giving up, they came up with a Plan B.

The Turners decided to open up a farm stand at which they sold pre-bagged produce at $3 a pop, sending word out about it via their company newsletter.

“We bagged up stuff as if we were going to have maybe 10 people a day come,” Lisa explained to The New York Times. “We sent it out to probably 450 email addresses—and then people just started sharing it and sharing it and sharing it. The first day it was like, wow, that was a lot of people… The eggs were flying out of here… We went through 130 dozen eggs in two and a half days. It was insane.”

Once the farm stand began to take off, Lisa called the local beef farmer and set up a delivery. She found that customers were craving steak so much that the initial 40-pound delivery never even made it to the freezer!

Most surprising of all was the fact that customers began leaving tips in the hopes of supporting the Turners and their farm. Lisa even compared what happened to the climactic scene in Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, when a parade of thankful townspeople show up to shower George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) with enough money to stop his family company from going under.

Though the Turners did not make a large profit, they were at least able to keep themselves financially in the black. They also have plans to pivot their business in the coming year by opening a farm store.

In the end, Lisa is grateful for the support she and her husband received from both friends and strangers alike.

“There’s a lot to be thankful for,” Lisa said. “And it’s an antidote to fear.”

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