We were vacationing at the beach last week when we heard the news, via Twitter, that Smith Creamery in Mount Hermon had suffered a devastating explosion at its processing plant.
My son, Michael, who is one of Smith’s biggest fans and devoted customers, was incredulous and deeply saddened, though relieved, as we all were, that no one was injured in the accident.
“When will they be back at the (Red Stick) Farmers Market?” Michael asked.
I told him we didn’t know but that it would be a while.
“But where will we get our Smith Creamery chocolate milk?” he asked, as the reality slowly sunk in.
“We won’t be able to get it until they are able to rebuild,” I told him.
“You have to call them, Mom, and check on them,” he said. “They’re our friends.”
The Smith Creamery folks have that effect on the thousands of customers who know them from the Red Stick Farmers Market, where they sell their wonderful milk, eggs and dairy products each week.
They are real people who make the business of dairy farming come to life for children and adults alike, customers who feel a connection to the Smiths even though they don’t really know them.
Sandra Smith, who owns the creamery with her husband Warren Smith, is a smiling face each week under the dairy’s tent, which she shares with her helper, Bob Gunther, who always has a friendly word or a story to share. (Warren Smith heads to New Orleans on Saturday mornings to work the table at the Crescent City Farmers Market).
Over the years, they have cultivated a following that is based as much on the quality of their product as on the personal connections they have made with their customers, the old-fashioned way - one-on-one.
“There is a bond between farmers and farmers market customers that is really unbelievable,” said Copper Alvarez, director of the Red Stick Farmers Market.
“But with the Smith Creamery folks, it is a love beyond measure, really, because of the outgoing way they always encourage young children to come see them,” she said. “I think everyone who is really a faithful shopper is feeling the pain as much as if it was happening to their own family. “
That “love beyond measure” was demonstrated at last week’s market, where more than $3,500 was collected from customers, who also signed cards to let them know the community is pulling for them and wishing them the best.
A special collection table will be set up again this Saturday at the market, on the corner of Main and North streets, where the Smiths always parked their truck.
The Red Stick Farmers Market will also be accepting donations online for the next few weeks.
So often we bemoan the loss of locally owned businesses and family farmers in this age of global competitiveness and big-box stores.
Smith Creamery is a local business that has touched people in communities along the I-10/I-12 corridor in positive and meaningful ways. Let’s show them how much we appreciate them, because we need them back.
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