Dean and Linda Ova own and operate a diversified grain farm south of Pingree, North Dakota. The total operation consists of approximately 3000 acres of cropland, owned and rented, producing a variety of crops. Dean was raised on this farm and over the last 30 years raised crops to include hard red spring wheat, hard amber drum, barley, canola, soybeans, oil and confectionary sunflowers, rye, flax and buckwheat.
The Bigg Dogg Cuisine part of the operation consists of two acres of vegetable gardens. Linda, the owner, grows tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a wide variety of herbs to be used in the food manufacturing business. The business kitchen is attached to the house but has an outside entrance. The kitchen is small but very efficient.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The main objective in getting this grant was to improve the products I already have, develop new products, and increase sales and/or profits.
One of the first steps I did was to rename some of the items to be more fitting to North Dakota and for the short term, Lewis and Clark. I was able to design and have new labels developed for my entire line of products. This really made a difference in the appearance. It’s now fresh and clean and very distinct.
I attended two marketing seminars. One of them was extremely informative. Darrel Solberg of South Dakota was enthusiastic and informative. After the seminar, I revised my product list to include an order form, ran ads in papers throughout the state, bought magnetic calendars and pens with my name and number on them, and printed up various signs and flyers.
I was able to increase production in my gardens by increasing the actual size and number of gardens, implementing a better watering system, and by researching and incorporating companion planting for bigger yields. In a small space of 30 feet by 100 feet I was able to raise enough roma tomatoes for all of my Bigg Blast Salsa for the entire fall and winter season. I was even able to sell tomatoes when my production was done. I grew almost all of the peppers that I needed for salsas and pepper jellies. I developed two new gardens, one for peppers and one for berries that are just getting started. I was very excited by the amount and quality of what was produced in my gardens.
I tested several new recipes and as of the 2005 season will have at least four new products.
Because of this grant, I was able to hire several part time employees. Most of them were in high school (I’m a high school teacher). One of the students was my daughter. It’s rewarding to see these young people get excited about helping and selling. Some are even talking about how they can start their own business. Without the grant, I wouldn’t have been able to hire these people. I would have had to work a lot harder and still wouldn’t have been able to sell as much as we did when we all worked together.
I sent several key products to be tested at Washington State University. I check pH levels with my own equipment at home and was pleased to see that the levels from the university came back very close to mine.
I had originally planned to expand my market to other states and still may, but I’m finding that I am as busy as I can handle just working in the North Dakota marketing area. I have so many return customers and this year my sales were up by 20%.
I visited with store and business owners and explained my products. I gave out samples of my pickled eggs to bars and have taken on five new accounts. This is an increase of 166%. I was pleased with the number of customers I got and I’m confident that I will be getting more.
In February of 2004 I attended the National Fiery Food Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was a valuable experience. I was able to observe the trends in the fiery food industry and was excited to see that my products are of the same quality and originality as many of the national companies. I gained both ideas and confidence through that trip.
My results were better than I expected. It has also given me the momentum to continue with further testing and expansion.
From this grant, I learned that I have a viable business and can be very competitive in the market. I learned that by doing a lot of research and planning plus having some funds to work with, I can make positive changes in my business. If I wouldn’t have gotten this grant, I doubt if I could have given my products their new look, my garden would still be producing a lot less than what I need, and I wouldn’t have been able to hire extra people. I probably would have gone out of business. This grant gave me the push I needed and I would recommend it to anyone. I would tell other producers that there can be funds out there and it’s well worth taking the time to rethink their operations and try to expand or improve.
The economic impact was an increased profit for me and my family. It also provided income for the part time employees.
The positive impact on the environment was the gardens were more efficient. The mulching conserved water and the companion planting improved quantity and quality of the produce. The companion planting also helped control insects and disease in the vegetables and plants without extensive use of insecticides and herbicides.
Positive social impact was demonstrated by keeping me and my part time employees working in our farming community, rather than having to seek employment elsewhere.
I told others about my project by discussing it with other Pride of Dakota members. I used the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcases as a way to increase awareness of my company to the public. I printed new signs for the individual products to attract more people. I set out many, many samples for customers to taste. I trained my employees to be eager and knowledgeable of the business and products.