Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sugar Creek Farm Q&A Interview - Part 3

Make sure you read Part One and Part Two if you haven't already had a chance. It is great that Kelli of Sugar Creek Farm was so willing to share! Remember if you have any questions go ahead and most them and I will pass them on ... oh, and don't forget to check out their farm blog. Kelli posts lots of great pictures and gives great insight into farming and family life on the farm.

The Beginning Farmer - How are you marketing your farms products and how did you get started with your direct marketing?

Sugar Creek Farm - We started out direct marketing because we had 3 finished steers and only needed 1/2 of one to feed our family. So we sold the remainder "on-the-hoof" to friends and co-workers. From there it just grew a little bit every year - we'd pick up a few new customers and raise a few more animals.

We have a listing on Local Harvest, and use our blog for occasional updates. At the beginning of each year we mail a newsletter to our customers with news from the farm and what will be available when in the coming year. The newsletter includes an order form. Otherwise our advertising is word of mouth.

Once we got chickens we made the leap to selling meat retail here at the farm. There are some hoops to jump through in order to be able to do that - insurance, health department, weights & measures, meat inspectors. The hardest part was figuring out who to talk to. Now that everything is in place it's no big deal. Having everything in place made it easy to start selling beef & pork retail, and took the pressure off of having to have every head sold on-the-hoof.

This past summer we decided to try selling at Farmers Market. (A couple more hoops to jump through to do that.) I don't think Matt thought it would amount to anything - he just thought it would get me out of the house a few hours a week :) But in retrospect it may have kept us from giving up this year. It provided cash flow at a time of year when we are usually short and brought us a number of new customers. It will be interesting to see how we do at it next summer, now that we have started to build a name and reputation for ourselves there.

We have one local bulk foods store carrying our beef & pork, Kountry Kupboard in Osage. It's been a challenge to figure out wholesale versus retail pricing, but overall it's been a very positive situation for us because it gets our name out to even more people within the community. Some people are more comfortable purchasing there because it's a Main Street store with set hours. And people feel good about purchasing there because with one purchase they are helping 3 local business - our farm, our local meat locker that does our beef & pork butchering for us, and Kountry Kupboard.

The Beginning Farmer - Which of your products has been the most popular or successful? Why do you think this is?

Sugar Creek Farm - I can't really say that any one thing is more popular than another, considering we sell out of everything! But I think the one that surprised us the most is chickens. They sell like hotcakes, which was a surprise because the price differential between our chickens and grocery store chickens is wider than it is for our other products. People are amazed at the difference in flavor and texture between our free-range chickens and what you get in most grocery stores.

**Today's picture is copywritten image by Kelli Miller of Sugar Creek Farm**

**Remember to check back tomorrow for part four**

4 comments:

Tim said...

Kelli,

You're so right about the state having regulations that govern on farm processing and the sale of meat, yet at the same time have no ability to help farmers to interpret and meet those requirements. I went round and round with the top people at the USDA in Atlanta and the meat inspection department, quoting them the federal exemption that allows for up to 20,000 birds to be processed on farm. The Georgia meat boss replied "that's true, but Georgia has a law that requires every meat product to be inspected". I said, OK, then inspect it. His reply "we don't have the ability to inspect small scale poultry operations." In other words, you have a loophole.

Bottom line, everyone's turning their heads while we set up on farm processing. While we are proceeding determinedly, I think this is where (understandably) most farmers give up. Big Ag just doesn't know what to do with us.

Tim
Nature's Harmony Farm

Ethan Book said...

Tim, good to hear your thoughts also. I like the post today about egg candling and becoming certified ... hopefully that will open some doors!

Randy said...

Tim,
That's the kind of stuff that riles me up. I haven't read it yet, but I think that's the bulk of Joel Salatin's "Everything I Want to do is Illegal".

I don't like the idea that I am operating on the government's capricious good graces by them "looking the other way". It would seem that if a law is unenforceable, then they should explicitly write in exemptions so that honest citizens like us don't have to feel like criminals.

This then begs the question: Do we deregulate (and thus give the Corporate farms oprotunity to further degrade their product and poison consumers), or do we further "regulate" by expanding the language of the law to cover every situation (an impossible task, also excessive regulation leads generally to excessive liability)? How can we play fair by the same rules when there a two different leagues, two different systems and philosophies aiming for similar market segments?

Thanks for the interviews, Ethan. I like hearing the experiences of other "kooks" like us.

sugarcreekfarm said...

Tim,

I can't imagine what setting up for on farm processing would entail. Talk about some red tape. We're just set up for on farm sales. We have a state-inspected beef/pork locker here in town, and a state-inspected poultry processor about 35 minutes away, so that's what we do.

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