“We didn’t find what we were looking for,” said Arthur Rowanberry, pleased, “but haven’t we seen some fine country!”
- Wendell Berry
I need to announce a few upcoming changes here at Cress Spring Bakery. I've been at this for 23 years, and although this bakery life has been rich and rewarding in so many ways, financially has not been one of them. Baking has never been lucrative...we work long hours for low pay, and I knew that going in. But with continued expansion in our product line, the addition of a pizza restaurant, and constant employee turnover for the last few years, I've become spread dangerously thin. I'm deeply exhausted and overwhelmed and sliding deeper into debt every year. I can’t do it anymore. I need to regain some balance in my life and move closer to financial security as I grow older. After a winter of serious number crunching and soul searching, I’ve made some decisions.
The first one many of you have already seen on facebook. I’m in the process of selling our pizza wagon, and we will not be opening for pizza this year. The days of pizza on the farm are coming to a close. We’ve enjoyed some magical evenings, fantastic live music, and some pretty good pizza, but turning our bakery into a restaurant every week had been filled with challenges. The stress of unpredictable weather and staff turnover has taken its toll, and the infrastructure of our farm has been strained by the influx of people here. Maintaining our driveway and parking lots has become a constant challenge in the face of what has become routine flooding. Much of our pizza lawn consists of my next door neighbor’s septic mound, and it’s showing signs of serious wear and tear. We’ve had a great run, but it’s time for us to move on.
The second decision has been harder to come to. I’ve been working through a lot of scenarios, trying to figure out if there was a scale at which the bakery would be simpler and more profitable. It’s been a demoralizing process, really hard to see a clear way forward. My plan for now, which will take effect when we go back outside, is to scale way back on our product line, do most of the production myself on Thursdays and Fridays, and sell only at the market on the square. I want to return to our roots, simplify everything, strip overhead down to a minimum, and spend my time baking instead of working in the office. In all the number crunching I've done, this was the only scenario that made any kind of financial sense, primarily because it will allow me to work somewhere else for more money a couple days a week.
We will return to the Dane County Farmers Market on the square on Saturday, April 13. We will not be selling at the westside market this year. Although we will probably still sell at the Dane County winter market, I don't anticipate offering home delivery after this season.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and thanks, as always, for continuing to eat the stuff we make.
Jeff Ford Cress Spring Bakery