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The Honor System

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

When I first moved to the rural area where I live, I was astonished at all of the tiny roadside stands proclaiming "honor system." Usually, they are private gardens or small farms, and they put produce out for passers by to take. Customers put their money in a cash box, generally an old tin or coffee can with a slot cut in the lid. Just the other day, I stopped at my favorite farmstand to buy some corn. It's never just getting corn, it's hearing about how the growing season is going, what tastes best right now, the crazy thing that New Yorker said last week....all of that, plus some corn. The farmer was just delivering it to the stand, direct from his fields. "Am I too early?" I asked. "No," he replied, but even if I'm not here you can always take what you want on the honor system."

The honor system seems to work for everyone up here, no matter your political views, your income, and what you believe. No matter our affiliations, we are neighbors, and we all live here together. We respect and hold each accountable for our least when it comes to the honor system. "You know, all these years and I've never had trouble with people taking from me," the farmer tells me. "Every once in awhile, someone doesn't pay, but it doesn't happen that often. The cash box hasn't been stolen. It must be all the cameras I have up around here," and he laughs, and I'm not sure whether he's serious or not about the cameras, but I doubt it.

It makes me really glad that this still works for him. It makes me feel secure and hopeful that even if we can't agree on many things, the honor system will continue to endure in rural America.

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