Is Farm-to-Fork Regional Model Dead?
IS THE REGIONAL FOOD MODEL DEAD?
In light of Polyface's recent announcement to launch nationwide shipping, this is the question many farmers and ranchers are rightfully asking.
After all, if celebrity farmer Joel Salatin can't build a business in his regional area, what chance do the rest of us have? It's easy to have those thoughts, but I think we’re missing the point here.
Nationwide shipping is NOT what grows your business, only your influence will grow your business.
As a brand new business, the only customers you might have are your close friends and family. Why? Because those are the only people you have built enough influence to inspire to take action. If you want to grow your customer base outside of that, you will need to take the time to develop the right pieces to influence buying decisions from others.
So, how do you grow your influence? Well, it’s a lot more simple than you might think. In fact, I can summarize it in one statement: ‘Give your customer what they want.’
At a high level, all industries are born by meeting some sort of customer demand.
The customer we are targeting at Seven Sons Farms wants to build trust and a connection with their food source. They also seem to really appreciate it when the food source they trust is also really convenient to buy from.
Some of our biggest wins as a company have come from treating our customers like kings & queens, and by focusing on making doing business with our farm as convenient as possible.
Our customers are used to simply going to the grocery store, which is quite a transition from paying a high upfront deposit, filling out a confusing cut-sheet and then driving to the processor to pick-up their order.
We have found that every time we offer the service of convenience, our customers have rewarded us for it. But convenience alone has not been the only contributor to our growth.
After all, if convenience was all our customer cared about, they would still be going straight to the supermarket or a lower cost delivery service.
The other piece that has contributed to our growth comes down to the trust and relationship our customers have with our business. People want to buy from people they know, like and trust.
To build that relationship with our customers, we have focused on creating content around our story using email marketing and social media. We share behind the scenes videos and images of our production, explain what we do, what makes it different, and why that matters to them.
It’s this story that's received better by a local consumer and is a definite contributor to the growth in our regional area.
Case-in-point, at Seven Sons we opened west coast distribution to serve our customers and friends who moved that way. Since we’ve launched, we’ve shipped only 30 orders.
Meanwhile, our regional online business grew by a million dollars in revenue last year and we're pushing another million dollars in growth this year.
The family farm still has a huge unfair advantage when targeting and influencing consumers in their region, because it’s so much easier for the story to resonate.
So, is the regional farm model dead? Our revenue trends say it’s not, and the success we’re seeing from our innovative GrazeCart clients say it’s not.
Joel Salatin is leveraging the influence he has with shipping, which I think is great because the entire industry will benefit from his experience. Why? Because farms like Polyface, 5Marys, & Seven Sons exemplify what they're doing.
Personally, I don’t believe we have a scarcity problem.
There are plenty of customers, we just have to get better at understanding what they want and give it to them.
We are seeing incredible accomplishments by farms in our GrazeCart community who have this same belief and every year I become increasingly optimistic for the family farm.
It's why we've developed tools/features in GrazeCart to empower small farms with the technology needed to make regional shipping possible.
If you're serious about creating a shipping program I'm giving you free access to 'The Perishable Shippers Toolkit', which is an in-depth resource guide we created for our Profit Platform students.
We didn't hold back, this guide has it all from packaging, coolants, carrier partners, & more.