Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The first traces of normality return to Jos...

Update from Norma:

Hello customers,

It is gratifying to know that you have all been missing our vegetables over the past two weeks. We were inundated with orders for today (Tuesday), and to be honest we had some serious problems getting the orders organised and packed up. We processes over 65 orders for customers, including some hotels and Amigo supermarket, and it was virtually impossible to get everything done in the time available. We are still under curfew (from 6pm to 6am) in Jos, and there are roadblocks all over, which cause endless delays in getting around. It normally takes me 30 minutes to get from my house in Jos to the farm, but now it takes more than an hour and a half. I left the house at 6am, and just managed to get home before the 6pm curfew, at which point I had to start writing invoices, which I didn't finish until midnight. There are just not enough working hours in the day to get all of the jobs done.

Several of you ordered flowers, and actually we have quite a few that are good, especially strelitzia. But I was just too busy to have time to pick them (I usually do the flowers myself), so apologies to those of you who ordered and didn't get any. We will try to get ourselves more organized for future orders.

I never appreciated how efficient our work force was until now, when many of them have gone. We are working with half of our staff, plus a few new people who are not familiar with how we work. As a result, we had some problems with the orders -- the women who pick the herbs didn't manage to finish picking in time, so some of you didn't get all the items you ordered. So please bear with us if you didn't get everything you wanted. We are trying to sort things out, but it will take us some time.

In order to make our work load more manageable given the few hours we have to work during the day, we have decided that for the time being we will limit orders to the first 35 customers who place their order. We have already received several orders for this Friday's delivery, so if you want to order, please do so immediately so you can get in under the deadline. If your order is not among the first 35 received, we will let you know and ask if you want it delivered another time. We are sorry to have to to this, but if we continue like this we are likely to cause you a lot of disappointments, and we would rather send a limited number of complete orders rather than a large number of haphazard ones. As soon as things gain a semblance of normality we will go back to our old system.

In addition to trying to get the farm reorganised, we are also trying to cater for our workers who are refugees, who are still not settled and remain traumatized by their experience. Many of you have indicated that you have items for Audu to collect today when he comes to Abuja, and we are all extremely grateful for your generosity. Our customers have been really fantastic. You can't imagine how good we feel when we get so many messages of goodwill and support. And our workers are so appreciative of all of the help you are giving them. We can't thank you enough.

As for the farm, it seems many of our veggies managed quite well without much care, but others of them really suffered. Courgettes especially did not survive well without constant watering, and they are not looking at all good. We have decided to throw away all the plants and start new ones. So we will not have much by way of courgettes for a few weeks. We will let you know when they are ready.

Meanwhile, other crops like fennel, kohlrabi, etc. are looking fantastic and we have good quantities of them. Our broccoli managed to grow giant heads (over a kg each), even in the absence of much water, so we will have some to send you as well.

Lettuces are at all stages of maturity. Some of them got overgrown, especially because of the warm weather that coincided with our absence from the farm, and we have had to throw them away, but there are enough young ones coming up and we should have many varieties available.

Snow peas and sugar snaps also started producing over the past couple of weeks, and although the plants are a bit dry, they are still fruiting, so we will have some of these as well.

We also have plenty of French beans, although our snake beans and purple beans have about finished.

Herbs also survived pretty well, and are reviving now that we have been watering for a week. Most varieties are available.

Cherry tomatoes, amazingly, are still producing. We didn't manage to get the new seedlings planted out before the crisis, but we will do so this week. Meanwhile, we still have some of the old plants that we can pick from. We should have some nice beef tomatoes for next week, and also nice plum. We had a problem over our plum tomatoes: the fellow who has been supplying us evidently participated heavily in the slaughter of our workers in Kuru. We have many eye witnesses who confirmed this. So of course we do not intend to do any business with him anymore and we are watching to see if justice will take its course in his case and that of so many others. However, we have gotten a new supplier who also has very good quality plum tomatoes, so we should be able to get enough for you.

Our pawpaws are ripening again, but passion fruit and rhubarb suffered a lot and we will not have any for a few weeks. Our strawberries also stopped producing due to lack of water, but now that we have started watering daily they are flowering again, and maybe we will have some by the end of next week.

Please consult the order form attached for details of all items available. We will really try to accommodate as many orders as humanly possible, but beyond this there is little we can do until "normality" returns to Jos.

Best wishes,


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