Name: Taryn Marcus

Age: 30

Title: Owner

Company: Sheepscot General Store and Farm, Whitefield

About: A farm, general store and cafe

Website: www.sheepscotgeneral.com

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

The minimum wage increase is going to be difficult for us. We’re going to have to increase prices on some items, and it’s hard to compete with big box stores and bigger businesses. We’re a general store. We try to provide for the surrounding communities, so we have the essentials — eggs, bread, milk, groceries. And we’re trying to do something a little bit different. We try to buy in from the local area, so we have local milk, cheeses and eggs. It’s all nutrient-dense, and we’re trying to pump money back into the local areas.

We did then numbers for last year, and we paid back thousands of dollars into a 15-mile radius. If we weren’t here, that wouldn’t happen. We are employing 15 people year-round and it’s huge. We have five full-time employees and 1- part-time year-round. We do stay open all year and pay salaries and pride ourselves in being good employers in our area.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you?

Just keep going. That’s from Gloria Varney of Nezinscot Farm in Turner. She was one of my mentors early on. We (Marcus and her husband Ben Marcus) started the store and the farm seven years ago, and we didn’t have any business experience. We pretty much made every mistake in the book. Seven years later, we feel like we know something.

How do you foster creativity in yourself?

We try to work with a lot of local artists. I went to art school, and this store is an interpretation of an art project. When I was at the end of my school, I was doing a lot of food-is-art, creating a space. That was a lot of what I was into, creating space as a sculpture. This (store) is a concrete application. The idea of creating this space is my art and the things that go in it — the open mic nights and art shows and selling local artisans’ goods and creating beautiful food — that’s all part of it.

What is your biggest fear?

My fear is the financials. Staying financially viable and trying to be accessible to everyone in the community (is important.) I’ve been talking about my fears to people in the community, and it helps a lot. We work really hard. Being so young and starting the business so young, we have been able to put everything into it. Doing it at such a young age has been such a catalyst. When I am working in the store all day I see 100 different faces. Interfacing with the customers is the biggest inspiration.

How do you navigate changing market conditions?

We’re always paying attention to what’s going on and what the future will bring. We always have to keep evolving and be in a constant state of change. If you get too set in a routine, that’s where you start losing. You have to keep evolving to what the marketplace is. Everything that affects peoples’ pocketbooks in the area affects us.

In the beginning, we were going to do pick-your-own strawberries. It brings people through the door and onto the farm. We struggled with whether to do it organic, but we decided to even though there was another farm that offered them in Palermo. They stopped last year or the year before. Now we’re the only organic you-pick. Organic is much harder. There’s more risk of crop failure, and you have to do hand weeding because you can’t use herbicide. (But) now we have people driving from three hours away for our strawberries. People discover us through that. It’s paying off for us.

America is facing a health crisis and people are realizing that what they eat does matter. You can pay now for higher quality of food or you can pay it later in medical bills. But more Americans are realizing how expensive medical care is and if you take care of your health now it can pay off.

We’re hoping to be a resource for our community in providing nutrient-dense, healthier food options. I’m hoping we’ll play a part in the future, even as an educational resource.

Five Questions is a new feature in Central Maine Sunday. If you are a local business and would like to be featured, contact reporter Jessica Lowell at [email protected]