Monday, December 10, 2012

A Diversified Farm

Tacopocalypse's Market Set-Up
I have always known that I wanted a diversified farm with many different enterprises. Diversification is important to me because of the benefits that the farm can receive through having a variety of things working together on the land. In just four years we have already seen healing on the land from our multi-species rotational grazing and woodlot raised pigs. Besides the benefits to the land there are also great things about having multiple enterprises when it comes to the pocket book. One family can only purchase so much pork ... but if we can also offer them chicken, eggs, lamb, and beef then we don't need as many customers. Not that we don't want many customers, but rather that we want to be able to have close farm relationships with our customers.

Lately though I have been thinking about farm diversification when it comes to marketing as well. Currently we sell whole/half hogs directly to customers, at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, individual cuts through pick-up locations, and from time-to-time online through the Iowa Food Coop. The one thing that I have stayed away from is wholesale to stores or restaurants. Part of the reason that I've stayed away from that is that I've always been adamant about keeping all of the sales dollars in my pocket. But, the other reason is that I just haven't found the right fit.

In some ways my thinking has changed though as I think about adding diversification to the marketing. One of the benefits of having a number of enterprises is that if one has a slow year than the others can help keep things going. In some ways the same could be said about a diverse number of marketing outlets. Even though we may be losing some sales dollars by selling to a store or restaurant there can be some benefits.

A couple things that come to my mind right away are the ability to have our product in front of a different set of faces and with extra sales comes the need to scale up a bit which may help out in our other marketing efforts. It has been my experience that by having our products available to more people it benefits all of the other marketing examples. For example we have had customers who purchase from us online through the Iowa Food Coop begin purchasing whole and half hogs from us and sometimes even continuing purchasing select individual cuts. Plus, there are things we could add to the operation if we had more sales that would help in every aspect of certain enterprises.

With all of that in mind I'm beginning to explore some opportunities and moving forward with at least one "strategic relationship" (that seems like a good phrase). There have been chefs in the past interested in working with us on our woodlot raised heritage pork, but in each case it just wasn't something that would work out on the farms end. Now we've found a partner in Tacopocalypse that seems like it is going to work with us on many levels. They are a very popular vendor at the same market we attend (we are across the street from each other) and they also sell at two locations along with the catering side of the business. The thing that is going to make it work this time is that they are willing to use so much of the hog and not leave us stuck with other things to sell. But, more on Tacopacalypse later ...

All of this of course is part of the bigger puzzle that is the farm. It's our job to make sure that all of the pieces fit together as they should and nothing is left with a ragged edge. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with various marketing opportunities if you have any!


Kelli said...

I'll be interested in hearing more about how this develops. Maybe I can hook up our one restaurant account with yours for ideas on how to use more of the hog!

Ethan Book said...

I am pretty excited about this ... especially since it seems like it won't create a burden of "extra" meat that I have to try and market!

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