We did not realize in the early weeks of March 2020 how our lives at our small farm would be impacted by Covid. I had visited Hong Kong and China during the SARS epidemic in the early 2000’s and I was not concerned at the initial news of 2020. The first week of March seemed to be on course like the previous three years. We were projecting to exceed our three-year average of one thousand yearly farm visitors and our two stores in town were doing very well. We were on a roll!
Then the lock downs around the world began. The tourists and many residents began to leave, and all our reservations dried up. Our store at The Opal Mine had to close and the traffic at Mercado Sano was down to a trickle. We quickly realized that our simple objective (to have a business based on olive products which covered related costs and at the very least break even) which had been easily achieved for the last three years would no longer be attainable.
Restaurants and businesses in SMA began to close and many people were losing their jobs. We could see the concern in the eyes of our staff. We needed to take immediate action. Our first step was to calm down the staff. We informed them that they would have full employment for the next four weeks while we develop plan on how to face the crisis.
Over the next several weeks we evaluated the situation and quickly made some observations and arrived at certain conclusions.
Covid would be with be with us for a long time and will change our life and habits.
We could no longer use our main residence as a visitor’s venue.
We did not want to let our staff go. They had been loyal to us for more than twenty years and we now had to be loyal to them.
We are making good quality products.
We had to take care of 1800 olive trees, many gardens, two houses and Susan and I were not capable of handling this task.
After COVID people might be more prone to visit the countryside with ample space to social distance and enjoy a day out of the city.
Tourists would not return soon and SMA would begin to reopen before the end of the year
A good number of expats would stay and face the crisis in SMA.
We decided to adapt and prepare for this new environment.
We would keep out entire staff working full time,
Focus on the support we had from our remaining local customers
Prepare a plan that would help all of us prepare for a new world.
During the last twelve months we have executed many tasks. So, what have we achieved so far?
We refocused our staff into
Learning and following new Covid safety protocols including UV sanitation of both public and private spaces
Cultivating new vegetable gardens to serve not only visitors but also themselves and us. We added garlic, shallots and white cannellini beans to our many other vegetable crops
Building a visitor’s center by converting our nearly 2-acre equestrian area into something useful. So far, we have added a new pressing and processing room, a store and a kitchen to service a one thousand square foot dining veranda. Ample separate toilet facilities for both men and women have been added
Substantially upgrading our cottage to entice more frequent visitors. Adding bathrooms to all the bedrooms is the goal. So far one has been added bringing the total number of baths to three and during the course of 2021 more remodeling will take place.
We developed new products,
Ginger infused extra virgin olive oil,
Extra Virgin olive oil infused with turmeric, ginger and cardamom (we call it Asian Blend),
Liquid and solid castile soaps,
Created a chutney line with three new chutneys from our fruit so in adding to our apple chutney we have pear, plum and loquat (níspero). These are produced from organic fruits grown on our farm
Developed a line of juices so in addition to apple cider we now have guava, pear and pomegranate
An olive oil, chocolate, hazel nut spread
An olive oil and bee’s wax-based lip balm
We developed a myriad of new recipes prepared by our staff which range from curing salmon (lox) to making Puerto Rican Mallorca bread and even New York style bagels!
·We are modifying our packaging
Our lotions are now in squeezable tubes
We are experimenting with vacuum packing our olives and tapenade
The crisis has made our dark bottles too expensive. In order to keep our current pricing, we are switching from an imported dark bottle to a Mexican-made clear bottle. However, we are creating a wraparound label to better protect the oil.
We eliminated our buffet style family dining to ensure greater safety and developed a new menu which allows for individual choice.
We decided to create the premier store in SMA selling locally made olive oil, and olive related products. We closed the store at Mercado Sano and focused on the expansion of our store at The Opal Mine.
Summary to date.
·We have reopened safely. We began a dramatic comeback both at the farm and our store.
We and our senior staff have had our two doses of the vaccine
People are returning to visit our farm
We also focused ourselves into a mindset of nutrition and exercise
What is next!!!
Well… we are learning to make wine. Stay tuned!!
Were now planning the landscaping of the new area
More walking, more nutrition
Making many friends
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