Rural Vermont has plenty of charms, not the least of which is the self-serve farmstand - there's nothing like an unmanned roadside market with a bucket of money out front to restore your faith in humankind.
Operating in an urban area is a little trickier. Since last winter, John and Lauren Cleary of Lucky Ladies Organic Eggs have stocked a self-serve stand in downtown Burlington. They rely on the honor system - no human interaction is required - to move the goods from their flock of 250. You just grab your eggs from the mini-fridge inside the stand, leave your money, and head home to cook up an omelet or a soufflé.
There's really no other way to get these organic, local ova - unless you're a member of the Intervale Community Farm CSA program. They're not available in stores. Based in the Burlington Intervale, the Clearys used to sell through City Market, but decided they wanted to reach their customers directly. With no middle man, and at $4 a dozen, their method is more profitable per unit, too. The Clearys sell up to 25 cartons a week through the stand, depending on the season.
Unlike their country counterparts, however, they don't advertise its location: You have to call for the coordinates. Lauren says most people who seek out the spot, which is in a fairly private yard, have "already made a conscious decision to buy locally and support local farmers." People with such goals aren't likely to abscond with a carton of eggs. "Sometimes we're a dollar short here and there . . . sometimes there's an extra dollar," she says.
Want a 24/7 source of healthy eggs? Call Lauren or John at 658-5475 to find out the stand's location. And don't worry about finding the fridge empty - since Lauren is usually at home during the day, she's able to restock when the eggs run out. Should it happen, though, a sign at the stand reads, "Please knock if we're empty." Their house is nearby. For a DIY stand, that's some pretty good customer service!