Following the theme of posed-but-still-kind-of-Strangers pictures...
Before Wednesday I had never heard of "Peppermint Jim" Crosby. He was a vendor at the Allen Street Farmers Market in Lansing, Michigan where I volunteer, and after talking to him a bit I bought some minty essential oils from him as well as some delicious mint-chocolate toffee [sounds weird, but it's not]. And then I went back to work.
A while later, another volunteer was asking people if they'd been to visit "the mint guy," because he was in danger of losing his farm and was trying to sell as much of the oils as possible. Being the food-, farm- and agriculturally-minded student that I am, I immediately went back to talk to him.
Why he didn't tell me the first time what was going on, I'm not sure. I think maybe he could tell that I was going to buy something regardless, and didn't need to guilt me into a purchase. At any rate, I asked and he told me his story of owning a 4th-generation farm, the longest operating mint farm in the United States. From the sounds of it, he and his sister, co-owners since their father passed away, got involved in a bad lending deal and are now in danger of losing the farm because of it.
The thing that made me mad was that the lender, Greenstone Farm Credit
, is threatening to confiscate all the bottles of mint oils, effectively disabling them from being able to pay off their debts. Due to all the interest Peppermint Jim's plight has generated, he thinks they could easily pay it all back if only they had the chance. It seems like this is all coming to a head at once, and after all, he's a farmer, not a politician or celebrity or anything else.
The farm in question is in St. Johns, Michigan, about 25 minutes from where I live. I'm sure that, were it to be sold, it would become a subdivision or other such blight on the land. Maybe a Super Walmart or something.
Now that I've made what has got to be the longest post ever in Strangers history, I'll leave you with a link to the Get Mint
website as well as an article that just ran in a local
newspaper. I'm not trying to guilt anyone into buying anything, but this kind of thing is happening to so many small-scale farmers nowadays that it's important, I think, to be aware not only of the people but of the choices we make when we purchase things, and especially when we purchase things that need to be grown or raised by a farmer.
I talked to Peppermint Jim for probably at least an hour. When I asked him if I could take his picture, he seemed to be genuinely taken aback. I'm sure this isn't at all the kind of life he envisioned for himself, but he may end up doing a lot to further the cause of small-scale farming and local agriculture. So for now, he gets to be a web celebrity— but keep in mind that, without a farm, he won't be able to do what he really loves. And while I don't know if he still qualifies as a Stranger, it was one of those one-minute-he-was-the-next-he-wasn't kind of things. And I know there are a lot of Strangers out there facing similar fates right now.