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Good times, bad business models

Hey, I have some language trivia for you. In olden days, when a British family kept a pig, he’d be put in a pen down at the bottom of the garden and fattened all year. Then in the Fall, when the old boy was ready to go, a specialist hog butcher would go from house to house taking care of business. He’d set up out front, and the pig would be “led up the garden path” to his doooooom.

Zo! This weekend was the annual Smallholding Fair at Sissinghurst Castle. They’ve held it for four years now and, though it’s a trek for us, it’s a highlight of our late Summer. I don’t think we’ve missed one.

Technically, a smallholding is an agricultural concern that is bigger than an allotment and smaller than a farm. But really we’re talking middle class people with a vegetable patch and six chickens who love artisanal beers, free chutneys on stinky cheeses and rustic garden furniture made from railroad ties and ploughshares. In other words, us.

This is something we see an awful lot of down here. People whose first career was marketing or engineering or nursing — people who did pretty well for themselves, in other words — who retire to the country at just past their peak and decide to open a little shop. Or weave blankets. Or throw pots. Or raise rare breed hogs. Or brew beer or bake cakes or make soap or forge knives or cane chairs.

And they make absolutely gorgeous stuff…for as long as they can make a go of it. Most of them crash and burn after a year or two. Problem is, they expect to make middle-class money out of old-fashioned working class trades. They charge eye-watering money and still barely manage to cover expenses, let alone what they believe their time is worth. The ones that survive end up modulating their expectations — and working harder than they ever thought possible, back in the days they sat in cubicles.

Anyway, these are our people — in many cases, literally our friends and neighbors — and we love to turn out and pay stupid money for their high class gee-gaws and listen to lectures on the difference between cyder and cider.

There was a fancy beer tent. ‘Nuff said.

August 19, 2013 — 10:30 pm
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