The kitchen garden series is one of many small businesses and market organizers including virtual, livestreamed markets as a way to offer goods for sale during the pandemic. Virtual markets help us to stay connected to all of you, our lovely customers, while keeping our communities safe and healthy. Love them or hate them, there are lots of good reasons to shop at virtual markets.
First of all, shopping virtually supports your favorite shops!
The loss of live events during the pandemic has threatened our financial survival. Virtual markets offer another way for you to support the small businesses that you care about. Shopping with us virtually helps strengthen local supply chains and keeps our communities resilient. Whether you purchase or simply browse, virtual markets are an opportunity to see what new items and ideas your favorite small business owners are working on these days.
Scoring one of a kind finds and new products
Lots of creative shops, including my own, are finding virtual markets a fun way to showcase one of kind items not offered regularly. It is similar to how shop owners sometimes have limited edition finds at live events. In my business, I have been using virtual markets to roll out new products for the first time and taking the time to learn from customer feedback about what works and what doesn't.
Customer feedback and interaction
Without the social connection of brick and mortar retail gatherings, we need to find other ways to interact with our customers and clients. Because it's sometimes difficult to engage socially with our customers right now, we are finding ways to use virtual markets to get socially active. During virtual market times, we have our full attention focused on our messages and chats because we want to interact with you! So, please share your thoughts, feedback and ideas. This helps us grow as creative businesses.
Retail stores, booth markets and pop-ups are normally important gathering places that foster social connections, so you can help when you shop our virtual markets instead, send us chat messages, let us know what you think via email, or simply say hello online. For a business such as mine that offers a mission of sustainability alongside fine and elegant goods for your home, I want to know how you are doing right now and how I can help make your world a bit brighter. Next time you see a virtual market, stop by!
I’ve been reluctant to talk about making masks here as all my energy is going to keeping my business running during this global crisis. While I feel it's beneficial that so many small textiles businesses like mine have been able to redirect their resources and provide non-medical grade, reusable cloth masks during this pandemic, the production of masks can place a hefty strain on business owners like myself. In my case, making masks consumed me for two weeks in March, taking my focus away from other production needs of my business during a peak moment of my financial year. It was a time consuming process as I set aside some fabric remnants for mask making, developed a pattern I thought was most functional, and looked at best practices for production and distribution. In early April, it became obvious that positioning the business to survive this pandemic needed my full attention and it was difficult for me to split my time between making fine linen products and making protective face coverings in volume. In order for me to fulfill the many masks requests I had waiting in my inbox and all my other orders, I realized I needed to hire some help. Thankfully, I was able to hire two people I was in touch with before lockdown that are able to safely work from their homes. This small, hard working team has helped me redirect my creative energies back into the rest of my business. I feel good that my business structure is able to provide income to a new crew, to offer our work to others, and to continue to produce sustainable products for your home and kitchen.
Initially, I resisted offering masks for sale on my website because the need for masks is so great that I was only able to fulfill orders for friends and family. Now, I’m able to offer masks more widely because of the newly hired members of my team. The masks we are making are made entirely with remnants from our other products. They are two layers of linen, one layer of cotton shirting, and they tie around the head with eco-friendly cotton ties. Each mask is one of a kind, so we cannot take color request orders, but they all are beautiful, sustainable and practical. Masks are available for a sliding scale of $15 - $18 apiece, but for $21 - $24 (only an extra $6!) we will provide a mask to someone in need free of charge. For now, we are prioritizing free masks to people who are working hard on growing, preparing or distributing food in Philadelphia. It is important to me to place value on the time it takes to manufacture textile products and to recognize the importance of those helping to feed us. Please support our business during this difficult moment and know that when you are ordering a mask, you are helping grow a small, but mighty community.
Although I do not have a direct line of sight to the Kneehigh Flax Field as I gaze out my window while I work, I am already picturing the many potentials of our flax project. This 1/8 acre is the beginning of what we hope will become a much larger farming venture. Inspired by the work of the Rustbelt Fibershed (The Cleveland Project), the Chico Flax Project, and other fiber shed affiliates striving to build a sustainable textile future, we look forward to contributing new knowledge about this traditional industry to others. Among other benefits, we hope that local flax crops could eventually help sequester carbon and help revitalize our local fiber industry. Plus, this first flax field will be our chance to get familiar with the plants and see how they thrive in our locale. We’re excited to learn how the local bees, pollinators, and other beneficial insects take to the flax flowers and help bolster the farm crops. And of course, we look forward to reaping a bountiful harvest!
By this point in your state lockdown, you may be missing social outings like going out to dinner, or to the movies, or, well, anywhere at all. The upside of less cars on the road means improved air quality and less traffic, so your daily walk, run, or bike ride (wearing your mask, please) probably feels a lot quieter and less stressful. I plan car trips more efficiently now by reducing stops to collect supplies in one loop. I am starting to feel I can keep this habit of driving once a week and enjoy the positive environmental impacts, forever!
Knowing the Essentials
We've been forced to examine our needs carefully under new rules of socially isolating. As a consequence of sheltering in place, I've had a great opportunity to notice what's essential to my well being. I can choose what's vital to my mental health and I can use the skills I've gained to re-examine my choices from time to time. I am still looking forward to indulging in many things as soon as it's safe again. I'm also going to let go of some of the things that aren't essential to for good.
Spring is a great time to plant a kitchen garden, quarantine or no quarantine. In most areas right now in the Northern hemisphere, community gardens, nurseries and plant centers are among some of the essential businesses that are able to remain open for shopping during quarantine. Many such garden supply hubs in my community are offering online ordering and curbside pick-up so that we can all stay well and keep growing plants such as vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Here are a few tips to inspire your stay-at-home kitchen garden no matter the size of space.
Have a window ledge?
Plant a tiny herb garden!
Choose the appropriate containers. Make sure your containers will sit well on a ledge, won't get knocked around by pets, and have good drainage. Any container will work! You can choose fancy pots, simple pots, or even make your own pot by drilling or poking holes in the bottom of something the right size for your space. The pot doesn't have to be the main attraction because it's all about those plants! Don't forget to consider a tray underneath your pots to catch water.
Choose a good potting soil mix. There are several varieties out there making great organic mixes. You want something with a good balance of materials. Organic Mechanics and Fox Farm are good brands.
Choose plant starts grown in a nursery if you want immediate plant gratification or go for packets of seeds if you are feeling patient and want to watch sprouts grow. Four herbs that do well inside near a sunny window are oregano, thyme, sage, and dill. Give each plant its own container and remember most herbs like 8 hours of sunlight a day!
Have an outdoor patch of concrete or a small backyard?
Make a milk crate garden.
If you don’t have milk crates lying around, ask a local orchard or co-op or wine store if you can purchase a wooden crate. Line the crate with burlap or gardener's felt. Most local coffee roasters have extra burlap sacks, so ask your roaster if you can get some burlap sacks for pickup curbside!
Line your crate so that the fabric covers the sides and bottom then fill it with garden soil (not potting soil) from your local nursery.
If you have 6 to 8 hours of full sun, you can try growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash! Squash and tomatoes like to climb, so just keep that in mind when you are planning
Plants that like 4 to 6 hours of sun include peas, beets, radishes and beans. Peas and beans are good climbers as well.
If you have a shady spot that only gets 2 to 4 hours of sun, try luscious, low-growing greens like arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, and kale.