On our first foray into the farm-to-table realm, Jenn and I decided to pitch Republic, a successful restaurant local to our home office. We wanted the owners, Chef Ed Aloise and his wife, Claudia, to let us capture their story; animate their mission, demonstrate their transparency and unwavering commitment to local sustainability.
Simply put, we wanted to actually witness the relationship between the restaurant and its vendors. Sure, we’ve all heard of farm-to-table, but how many of us know what it actually looks like? Jenn and I sure didn’t. So, we decided to find out. And find out we did, following what we would soon appreciate as a truly serendipitous moment. After a last minute cancellation by another farmer, Republic’s manager, Pete Macone, saved the day with a pinch-hitter farmer – Jeff Conrad of Riverslea Farm in Epping, NH.
I made a frantic, “We’re back on!” call to Eddie Frateschi, our videographer, who sprung to action. The next morning, despite a socked-in gray rain, Pete, Jenn, and I met Eddie in the driveway of Riverslea. Jeff was waiting for us and, as he would say, “the rest is history.”
Part of our history lesson involved learning a few pragmatic farmer phrases, not the least of which we would only understand after Jeff warned Jenn and me, “you have nipples on your knees.” Eager to somehow compensate Jeff for his generosity of time, expertise, and all around encouraging spirit, Jenn and I were quick with our offer to pitch in around the farm. Jeff took us up on it and we quickly found ourselves feeding more than the farm or restaurant’s marketing needs…
It’s no wonder where the expression came from when you look at these lambs – triplets, which Jeff explained wouldn’t survive without intervention. Two of them most likely would have, but that third lamb would be forgotten or unable to compete for prime mammary real estate. That’s where the bottles – and two clueless broads with the best of intentions – come into play. Turns out, someone at Riverslea has to feed these triplets four times a day. A delightful task to the uninitiated, until you realize that these babies mean business and, on the subject of business, there are no fewer than a thousand other tasks and challenges required to run a farm like Riverslea.
We unexpectedly witnessed one such challenge. On our tour of Riverslea, we learned the different purposes of various sheltered pens on the farm. Eddie got footage and photos of lambs that had been born ahead of our arrival that day, along with “older” lambs born the night before. Jeff explained how the animals were housed, based on their age, or condition. In one pen, one-year old ewes are gathered together, ready to give birth at just about any moment. One of them was already well into that moment when we arrived, but the going wasn’t good. The lamb was prolapsed and we watched Jeff’s concern and on-the-spot problem solving to save both mama and baby.
Another expression we heard that day, resonating in the landscape, the threat of coyotes, the new lives exploring the farm, and, ultimately, the ewe and her struggling baby, was simply, “It’s Mother Nature.” Jovial and kind-hearted, Jeff returned to that farm-bred pragmatism in the face of the farm’s challenges and harsh realities. His brand, his authenticity, isn’t replicable. He is an original, braving a livelihood that is so much more than a job. Jeff knows his brand and recognizes that “You’ve gotta love this life. You gotta love it because there’s no big win.”
The “Big Win”
There’s no question that Jeff loves his life at Riverslea, no matter how often the wins come along, no matter how small. Jenn and I left Riverslea confident that we are well on our way to creating a professional life we love, which is why we are so determined to do whatever we can for our clients and support their goals. Nurturing our relationships with our clients, supporting their victories feeds our ambitions and strengthens our resolve in the face of challenges.
So, what’s your brand’s big win?