What does an organic veg box scheme have to do with growing the fanbase for your art?
Not a lot, you might imagine. But bear with me while I explain.
The stories of Riverford Farm
When I started spending more time in the UK, one of the things I really wanted to do was subscribe to an organic box scheme.
If you're not familiar with the concept, a box scheme is a weekly delivery of seasonal veg from the organic farm that grows it.
(No picking and choosing, you have to learn to make something edible and enjoyable out of whatever comes. But that’s another blogpost.)
The nice thing about box schemes, apart from the fact that you get a delicious box of organic veg, is that they’re local. As a customer, you get to do your bit to support a small farm in the face of the Montsanto-led giants.
Since I joined the Riverford box scheme, I’ve started to feel I have a real connection to the farm and the people who work it. And the veg on my plate has started to feel like it has a real life of its own, totally unlike the faceless produce in the supermarket.
So what has all this got to do with cultivating collectors? Or building your base of true fans?
The answer is story.
My box doesn’t just contain veg. Each week it comes with a one sheet newsletter containing recipe suggestions for the veg in the box, along with an update about what’s going on on the farm.
So the newsletter is 50% useful and 50% story.
The story of the real people behind Riverford farm.
Their struggles and successes. And how they turn into the veg that’s in my box. Or isn’t.
Not always a happy ending
Last week's newsletter story was about the artichokes that weren’t in the box despite how promising they’d looked just a couple of newsletters previously.
I won’t go into the agricultural why’s and wherefore’s, but suffice it to say that the story was moving.
I felt for that farmer and his unhappy crop and I wanted to reach out and say so. (So I sent him a Facebook message.)
Hearing that everything doesn’t always go to plan didn’t take away the faith I had in the farm.
In fact it had the opposite effect.
I feel more loyal than ever towards the box scheme, to the farm, and to the people who work there.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve always assumed that people just don’t want to hear about anything other than success stories. That I need to be writing uplifting and empowering stuff 100% of the time.
But maybe that’s just intimidating? As if I was living this perfect, productive and creative life all the time. (Laughs hysterically.)
When Clive of Riverford Farm told his story about the failed artichokes, I realised how much power there is in an honest story that isn’t about success.
When we share the nitty gritty behind our art, we become real, breathing people in the eyes of our readers.
The result is they feel closer to you. They feel they know you. They start to care.
Caring gives people a warm, fuzzy feeling!
The reason there’s so much buzz these days about telling your story is that it really does work.
Big brands know this. That’s why Apple started highlighting emotive stories of the indie developers behind some of the apps on their App Store.
And while, in the hands of Mega Corp, it can be an excuse for yet more hype, for creatives it’s a gift. Because we do have genuinely interesting stories to tell.
How to find where your stories are hiding
But I don’t have any interesting stories, I hear you say.
But I'm sure you do:
And a hundred more.
Where your every day life and your art life intersect, is where your stories are.
You may not recognise them at first because they won’t be like any one else’s stories.
That’s because they’re yours. And they’re important.
What story will you share this week?
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