Monday, March 14, 2011
Farm Customers ...
Over the past 12 months I have marketed Crooked Gap Farm products online through The Iowa Food Coop, Facebook, Twitter, the Crooked Gap Farm website, e-mail lists, on farm, word-of-mouth, and of course a season at a farmer's market. Some of those methods have been very successful for the farm (especially considering the small-scale that the farm is at now) and others have been great learning experiences for the future. Without a doubt though I would say that each one as been an important part of the my farm marketing education.
In this coming year I see more of the same for marketing with two (hopefully) major exceptions. First of all I'm hoping that this year will see a move to a bigger and potentially more profitable market (even if only on an eight week probationary level). I've sent in the application for the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market and now I'm just awaiting the reply. I'm also looking at the possibility of a Thursday evening market in Des Moines as well, but I need to do a bit more research on that one (if anyone has any experiences with it I'd love to hear them). The nice thing about the farmer's market is that it gives me a chance to tell the story and talk to a lot of people ... it's a game of numbers ... the more people I can talk to at the booth the more product I can sell.
But, I'm also hoping to see an expansion of those "on farm" or word of mouth sales. Specifically I'm talking about more sales of whole and half animals such as lamb, pork, and poultry. It is these types of sales that I'm most interested in making and working towards in my marketing. Not because I don't like the other methods or those types of interaction, but rather I think that the sales of wholes and halves gives the consumers and farmers greater interaction. I know I've heard Tim and Liz Young of Nature's Harmony Farm talk about it before, but a customer farmer relationship like this seems like it could be very (or even most) sustainable.
My question then is this ... how many customers do you need to make the farm financially, emotionally, and physically sustainable. Of course these customers would need to be committed to the farm and buying in bulk (and have a freezer), but if they were how many would you need. I thinking a family that throughout the year could buy a half or whole hog, a half of beef (remember I have small cows), a lamb, a few chickens, a turkey, some eggs, and maybe even overflow from the garden. If there was a family of four or five and they were doing something like that spread though out the year how many customers do you think you would need?
Just an interesting question to think about ... at least it is for me ;)