Farming is hard, but it’s even harder to treat a farm as a business, and this is why I believe that farmers need to collaborate with each other rather than competing.
Actually, the farming is the best part.
I can spend all day outside, and when I come in I feel satisfied, if tired. I can measure what I’ve accomplished and take pride in it all. I also love being my own boss. I know I’m responsible for everything that goes right (ok, and everything that goes wrong and all the things I break – which is lots – just ask Kevin… ).
The HARD part is the marketing. The business end of farming. No one talks about how hard it is to make a living as a farmer. A farmer needs to make enough sales to keep the farm running (AND be profitable!).
After all, what’s the point in raising pigs (I have a lot of pigs… ) if I can’t sell the pork?
I’ve tried several farmer’s markets. Farmer’s markets have many problems. Some have rules that increase competition and discourage collaboration between farmers.
For example, one market is a “producer’s market.” This means that the market allows vendors to sell only products which they produced. That means that I cannot voluntarily share a booth with another vendor so that we can take turns staffing it so that neither of us has to spend EVERY Saturday at the market (markets are not always profitable anyhow and sharing the labor with another farmer seems like a good plan to me). Anyway, the producer cannot sell someone else’s goods. Period.
Other markets refuse to assign booth space. This means that our farm plays musical chairs and has at times been forced to share booth space with other vendors. I’m told that the solution to this is to show up at 0500 (to claim my spot) for a small, rather unprofitable market, that officially opens at 0730! Again – this fosters a spirit of competition and not collaboration. I’m pretty sure that sitting there for an extra 3 hours is not going to pay off in any way…
On another occasion the other meat vendor present complained that my booth was too close to theirs and demanded to have me moved (true story!).
Some days at the markets are good (but never great around here!) and other days they just aren’t worth the time it took to drive there.
I could go on, but I think you have the point. Farmer’s markets are not always an ideal sales venue.
This isn’t to say that we will not be attending markets this year, we will, but we will be trying different markets! More on that later…
My point is that I’m not the only farmer suffering from these dilemmas. I am however, one of the few who is taking the time to research other sales venues, build a great website and offer a delivery route. I believe that the customers are out there!
And, Chuck Wagon Delivery seems to be a hit.
I believe that our Chuck Wagon Delivery can help other farms to market their goods as well. I’ve already proven this through a huge sale of nearly 700 pounds of ground beef for a neighbor, sales of honey from Cow Creek Farm and through collaboration with Moses Mill Farm and Abbott’s Farm Suppliers.
I believe that our customers will benefit from the larger variety that we can offer through collaboration with other area farmers.
This is teamwork and it feels good!
With that in mind I am proud to tell you what we have already added the following products to the online store:
Local Honey from Cow Creek Farm in Nathalie, VA
Certified Organic Pastured Eggs from Southern Meadows Farm in Nathalie, VA
And Coming Soon:
Watch for future blog posts telling you more about these other farms! I plan to write a piece about each of them soon!