I have farmed 280 acres without chemicals since 1980. I raise corn, oats and alfalfa on our family farm. In 1985, I started direct marketing our all natural beef, pork and chicken to individuals and health food stores. Presently I distribute our meat product between Ames, IA and Chicago, IL.
Other cooperating producers include:
– Jim and Elly Fink, Vinton, IA – they farm 40 acres organically and raise corn, oats, and alfalfa hay. Their livestock include chickens, hogs and 18 beef cattle. They started marketing organic meats in 1999 at the farmer’s market in Waterloo, IA. They have been farming organically since 1995.
– Jeff Manders, Bellevue, IA and Dave Wolf, Duragno, IA – Jeff and Dave, of Tri-State Specialty Meats, started marketing their ostrich meat in 1998 to local distributors and restaurants. They raise almost all of their birds from their own breeding stock. Their ostriches are kept in large open lots. Care is taken to give the ostriches plenty of room and they do not use any drugs or antibiotics. They presently market 50 ostriches per year nationwide.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Our project goals were to educate consumers about specialty meats and their health benefits. Our other goal was to research different local markets and their benefits and problems.
Our project seemed destined to be a project of change from the start. First, the Sycamore Street Market never became a reality, as it appeared to be tied up in the political process. By this time, we had a good group of producers working together and we did not want to lose this group. We went ahead with a business plan to target local farmer’s markets and to set up a website. On April 20, 1999, I was involved in an accident with my truck. Due to the accident, I was unable to have any input into the project until June. By then the other producers were busy with fieldwork and had lost interest in the project. Jim and Elly Fink, who had joined our producer group after the project was started, were still committed to proceeding with the project. Our first task was to join a local farmer’s market in downtown Waterloo, IA. I have listed the benefits and problems with the market.
– Inexpensive way of selling your product
– Excellent way to educate consumers
– One on one sampling of your product
– Excellent way to educate whole families
– Good way to build customer base for year-round selling
– Some markets do not allow meat to be sold
– Need equipment to keep meat cold
– Customers at market need to return home to store product
– May upset some business people in town
The first thing we did when we wanted to sell at the farmer’s market was to contact the local health department to gain permission to sell our product. The health department came and inspected to see that all requirements were being followed at this particular market we did encounter a problem when someone complained anonymously to the health department because we were handing our samples. The Market Master helped us to mediate this problem and we were able to continue to give out samples.
Our first year at the farmer’s market did not produce a large volume of sales since it takes consumers a period of time to get use to buying meat at a farmer’s market. Our efforts did provide us with a customer base to sell to year round.
Another marketing idea that Jim and Elly Fink discovered was to provide meat to members of a Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA). CSA members are used to buying direct from the producers and welcome the opportunity to purchase meat also. A producer can deliver many meat orders to one location with a minimum amount of time involved.
The SARE grant enabled us to from a group of producers and gain experience working together to market our meats. We formed a S-Corporation and named it Northeast Iowa Specialty Meats. As a company we developed a year round business, delivering to the customer base we had established from the contacts at the Farmer’s Markets and the CSA. We are also developing a web site to supply the demand for specialty meats that already exists in other parts of the country.
– Jim Fredrick, RC&D Coordinator – provided guidance at the very beginning of our project.
– Susan Chizek, UNI SBCD – Susan worked through the business plan with us. She also helped to identify potential markets.
– Candy Welch Streed, SSM Coordinator – Candy worked with us by organizing producer meetings, provided contacts with the farmer’s market, and provided business names to design the logo and banner.
– Mark Linda, Black Hawk Co. Health Department – Mark helped us meet requirements in order to sell at the farmer’s market.
The outreach part of the SARE project has been the most challenging of all the parts. During the project we attended 5 meetings with our displays. Most of the contacts were producers looking for ideas to do direct marketing from their farm. One of the outreach ideas was to develop a pamphlet to inform a large number of consumers about buying locally produced food. The pamphlet would need to give the consumers the resources to know how to locate local food supplies. With the outreach portion of the grant, I know proceeded to contract with Artists Etcetera, Inc. of Glenview, Illinois. They knew the needs of consumers because they were already purchasing local food for themselves and were able to relate directly to the project. As a result we have a very informative and useful pamphlet that educates as well as gives directions for consumers to proceed in locating a local supply of food. The pamphlet is also designed to enable a food producer to stamp their name directly on the pamphlet and us as an inexpensive promotional tool.
The additional money we are requesting will be to finish and mail the pamphlet out to consumer organizations. In turn they can pass the pamphlet on to their members to use as a handout at conferences and meetings.