Today I have to pay tribute to a group of people that I owe so very much to.
My original intent was to let this milestone pass in silence. Not because I don't have strong feelings about it, because I do. But because it's "business", and we aren't supposed to be affected by "business" because, well...it's just "business". The band plays on, the sun rises tomorrow, the show must go on, etc., etc., etc.
I also didn't want any tribute to sound like a eulogy, because no one died. And I suck at goodbyes, but I'm not saying goodbye to anyone, so I don't have to worry about that little issue at this point, either. The deck is just being reshuffled, the cards are being redealt. But everyone is still in the game.
Last night brought the final dinner service at the Sheppard Mansion restaurant, in Hanover. After more than 6 years of providing a dining experience that most of the diners in this area never even knew existed before, the restaurant is closing for good.
So it's well past time for me to say a few thank yous and pay tribute to the folks who made Sheppard Mansion what it was.
First, thank you to Chef Andy Little. Thank you for taking that phone call from a frustrated farmer some 5 years ago, a farmer who was looking for a new way to operate. Thank you for saying "Yes" when asked to buy a whole, heritage breed pig, thereby beginning MY farm-to-table career. Thank you for neatly embroidering "Reserved for Rettland Farm" on the coattails of your Chef's whites, because that is where I've been comfortably sitting for these 5 years. Whether it is mentions in The Washington Post, countless promotions on your blog, shout-outs on TV morning shows, or simply listing Rettland Farm on so many menus, you've taken me along for the ride. I am eternally grateful for this. Thank you.
Thank you to Karen and the house staff. You folks are the front line for all of us in the rear, telling the stories of our products, making the sale to the folks paying the checks that we all depend on. I have certainly gained an appreciation of how important you folks are to our collective success. And Karen, thanks for keeping Andy sane. And as sociable as you possibly could.
Lastly, thank you to Kathy and Heather. Like Chef Andy, you have both been so willing to support local farms in general, and my farm in particular. Thank you for backing the concept of farm-to-table with dollars, a feat that CAN NOT be easy, given that: F2T is in it's infancy; that there are so many absurdly cheap, albeit poor quality, alternatives; or that the economy in which we ALL have existed through the last 6 years is the worst in 80 years. As a group, the enlightened foodies of the world clamor about chic it is to support small farms and local food, but it is another thing entirely to put your money where your mouth is and actually DO it. You have, and I hope you feel nothing but pride in what Sheppard Mansion has accomplished in the last 6 years. I am eager to continue to supply The Carriage House Market as it carries on the joint missions of "Eat Like You Live Here" and "Local is Luxury" for the loyal customer base that you have built in this area.
Best of luck to you all. I hope to be a part of the next chapter of your careers, whatever or wherever that may be.
And thanks again.