Late Spring Update
Had things gone differently last year, we would be making the first deliveries of the season right about now. The farm would be buzzing with activity and my mind would be tied to the task of growing and harvesting acres of vegetables. But now the fields and buildings are quiet and my mind has wandered far from farming.
Angel and I continue to work on the appearance of the farm. We've painted interior walls and trim, cleaned out the basement and worked on the grounds. Much of the debris that is a natural part of a working farm has been carted away. Now I can honestly say that during my tenure here the charms of the Johannes Yoder Homestead have never been more evident.
Since the property went on the market in April, we have averaged about one showing per week. Ther are a few interested parties, but no one has yet made a serious offer. The house's signal strength is also its greatest problem. Most of the structure is not much changed from the time of George Washington's Inaugural Address. Charming and historic to be sure, but not as convenient and comfortable as most modern folk require. It seems we are awaiting someone who appreciates authenticity enough to live in it.
Our realtor continues to place advertisements in publications ranging from Maine Antique Digest to an upscale Chester County country living publication. Our second open house is scheduled for Sunday, June 17.
Since we have no income to speak of, I've begun to consider going back to work in higher education. Before trying to make my mark with Tomatoes and Pak Choi, I worked as a faculty member and as an academic administrator in a variety of roles. I've updated my resume, applied for one job and am making inquiries about others. If I could land a good enough job, I might be able to refinance the farm and reimburse shareholders out of our equity. That would allow us to stay here as long as I could keep working and afford us the chance to sell the farm according to our own timetable. However, I imagine it's more likely that we will sell the farm before I find a suitable job.
An Update on the Selling of the Farm
Since the beginning of April, at least ten parties have visited the farm with our realtor. So far, no one has made an offer, but interest runs high. Angel and I continue to work on the place -- cleaning, painting and patching. We have put many of our belongings in storage and the old place is becoming more livable by the day. There is much less mud and confusion than usual. We are trying to enjoy the homestead as much as possible before we leave.
Ned, one of our workers from last year, stayed with us over the winter to help on house projects and has now found a job with a neighbor who wants to try to grow vegetables organically. It's odd to talk with him about agricultural matters as we focus on something completely different.
The experience of losing the farm is being softened by my growing awareness of the opportunities for study and reflection which will soon be available to me. A decade of independence has changed the former college administrator who started Covered Bridge Produce into the kind of person he always wanted to be. It is gratifying to find that one actually embodies the values he used to espouse.
The link in my last post has been broken for at least a week or two. I updated it today and it's now working.
FARM FOR SALE
I received an email from our realtor with a link to the page describing our farm. This page won't appear in most searches now, because we are not showing the house until April 1st. Angel and I are trying to make a formerly working farm presentable to the gentle folk searching for a country retreat.
If you are interested, feel free to visit the MLS Listing
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
There is plenty of news to communicate on this first day of spring, 2007. It seems best to start with the bad. The warm weather we enjoyed well into winter accelerated the growth of the crops we sowed and covered last fall in hopes of getting early spring harvests. They grew to maturity not too long after our last delivery in the middle of November. There will be no early spring harvest and no further deliveries. Our Hail Mary pass having sailed out of bounds, the game is over for Covered Bridge Produce.
By Christmas, we realized the gravity of our situation and began taking the steps necessary to sell the farm. We started the troublesome process of making our old farmhouse a bit more appealing to prospective buyers. We've been packing the stuff that accumulates in two decades of country living and will soon start moving some of it into a self-storage unit. We are making repairs that we couldn't find time for before, and will soon give this old place a scrubbing that will move it closer toward mainstream expectations about cleanliness. Last week, we listed the house with the GMAC Premier Real Estate Network in Wyomissing. Our realtor, Emily Diener, told me that she has set up a web page featuring the house, but I can't find it. When I can, I'll post the link here. The first showing of the property is scheduled for April 1st. We have selected Monday, May 14th as the tentative date for the auction of some of our household goods, furniture, vehicles and farm equipment. This late afternoon affair will be held at the farm and is open to the public.
On a happier note, we were finally able to complete the sale of our development rights to the County. We got enough cash to survive for a while with no income and have insured that the farm cannot be subdivided for building lots. Also, Oley Township recently passed a historic preservation ordinance which will prevent any grossly inappropriate remuddling of our grand old home. We are trying to maintain the organic certification of the farm in case a new owner would like to try his or her hand at organic agriculture.
The asking price for our farm (suggested by our realtor, not us) is about $200,000 more than all of our debt -- mortgage, obligations to shareholders, family loans and cost of the sale. Therefore, it seems likely that we should not have a problem making the refunds we owe. Of course, we don't know how long it will take to sell the farm. In any case, we cannot move before June. However, should the farm sell quickly, we would be able to mail refund checks early this summer.
Once we have completed the essential cosmetic work on the house and grounds, we will send a mailing to all shareholders to verify addresses and refund amounts. When you receive this mailing, please complete the simple form it contains and return it to us. Your cooperation will expedite a potentiallty complicated process. Because of shared shares and delayed starting dates for some shareholders, not all checks will be for the same amount. Preparing and mailing over 600 checks will be quite a project.
There is still more to say that might interest some of our subscribers. I will spread out the remaining news over the next few posts. Thank you for your patience as we work to bring the story of Covered Bridge Produce to a close.