Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Andrew's Rocking Chair

This is my friend Andrew Bishop.  He was an important mentor for me when I was in Nova Scotia, and seeing him smiling in this photo just completely warms my heart!  He runs Noggins Corner Farm, a thriving multi-generational family farm and orchards in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.  Initially I met AB through working on his daughter's farm, TapRoot Farms, with Jon.  I was doing a farm office job and not loving it, so when an opportunity came up to do a weekly market with Andrew I was thrilled.  We are totally cut from the same cloth and got along great.  He is the kind of person who can appreciate nearly anything about what a person has to offer, and he immediately recognized my produce marketing skills and passion for being at the front lines of the Farmer's Market selling beautiful fruit and veg to people. 

After a year of doing the Hammonds Plains Farmer's Market weekly for Andrew, I moved over to Noggins full-time and started doing 5 markets a week in a new market van that he had invested in for the position.  My favourite day was always Saturday.  It began at 3:45 am, when I would usually pick Andrew up at his home just down the street from the farm.  We would stop at the farm and load up the few items we needed for display or frozen, and then head into the city (1 hr) always stopping for a coffee halfway in Windsor.  The chats we had on those commutes usually centered on our shared passion: produce marketing and the retail side of farming.  We would come up with strategies for the day (the market was 7 days a week but Saturday was the big day), and upon arrival at the market we would scatter and scarcely talk the rest of the day.  A subtle glance or observation of what he was doing and I could usually read his mind and fill in the required support, and vice versa.  He humored my different stall layouts as we attempted to improve traffic flow, eventually coming up with a great functional space.  He would have me build special feature displays and was usually impressed with the result, and if he wasn't would mash in and fix what I had done so it was what he was picturing, if he deemed that to be a better move. 

There's very few people in life that you can work with in that manner-- communicating so easily that you barely need to speak-- and Andrew is one of them I was fortunate to work with for just over 6 months.  Jon is another, and so it was my #1 man and other life goals that eventually led me to decide that the move back to Manitoba was necessary, though Andrew also inspired the move as I watched how critical the multi-generational aspect of his farm really was.  When Andrew took control of his farm, he moved it into the farm market buying-from-other-producers realm, which made Noggins become known as the purveyor of all the best of the valley.  Prior to that, they had grown apples and veggies but were limited by their own capacity to produce.  By purchasing from other farms, not only did they have a near endless supply, but they could also expand their offering to include wholesale, which is now a huge part of the business.  It's a long story and I may not have it all quite right, as this farm has been in operation since 1760, and I believe AB is the 4th or 5th generation.  They have just expanded to another city location and built an amazing new market and warehouse facility, which I know is Andrew's gift to his future generations running the farm.  He worked his way up with less-than-ideal facilities, and so as the farm transitions to the next generation (his daughters), they are off and running with a state of the art facility.

Man, does that family know how to work!  His daughter Carolyn is also an inspiration to me, especially as I become a mother myself.  My most memorable image of her is in her office, counting cash and doing payables with brand new baby Kate on her breast.  You can be a mother and all life does not need to come to a halt, it just takes creative juggling!

At any rate, AB and I still keep in touch, usually by text message, but also the occasional phone call.  He is thrilled to see us doing so well and promises to visit sometime next year.  In the meantime, he was always telling me about this rocking chair.  In his family, the rocking chair is a symbol of the older generation stepping aside and making way for the younger generation to take over.  The rocking chair is a reminder to slow down, and enters the picture with the grandchildren.  By taking the time to do the grandfatherly/motherly role of rocking the grandchildren to sleep, the older generation really comes full circle in their role on the farm.  Andrew thought I should set the boundaries for the relationship as soon as we arrived in Manitoba, by getting a rocking chair and having that be the first item to go into our new house.  That was 2 years ago, and we still hadn't gotten around to getting one. 

Lo and behold, 4 days before I gave birth to Myrah, I got a call from Andrew's other friend in Manitoba, who said she had something to deliver to me.  She showed up, all the way from Portage (1 hr away) with a BEAUTIFUL rocking chair for me.  She had picked it out as per Andrew's specific instructions and driven out of her way all that way just to get it to me in time before the baby arrived.  It is beautiful, Amish made and cherry wood, and now has a special place at Mom and Dad's house, where the majority of the rocking will take place-- when Jon and I come over to work in the fields at Mom's and Grandma or Grandpa get to babysit for a while.  Eventually it will move to my house, but for now that makes the most sense. 

It's already gotten some use!
Grandpa Paul in the rocking chair

And check this out: 31 years apart!

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