We own 160 acres and rent 140 more. All acreage has been certified organic. We organic milk from 20 cows now increasing to 45. We used to raise 1600 hogs, but have decreased to about 60 and will increase as we get more customers. We are growing about 60 acres of organic soybeans for export. The pork is not sold as organic. Our son who is 20 is interested in coming back to the farm.
PROJECT DESCTIPTION AND RESULTS
In the past year we have looked at, studies or considered 32 distinctively different methods of marketing products from sustainable farms. Following are some of the ones that have developed.
Today Farm On Wheels sells beef, pork, chicken and eggs. We will be adding turkey and lamb soon. All products are naturally raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics, meat and bone meal and pesticides. Green grass grazing of animals improves CLA, Beta carotene, Omega 3. Consumers look for yellow fat as proof.
We sell at Northfield, Faribault, (Rochester, Owatonna, very limited day selling) and St. Paul. A strong clear package that makes the product visible is very important for good sales. We sold $42,000 in cuts our first year and expect to double sales next year by increasing our sites and days selling.
In experimenting with 17 lockers, packaging materials, artisan ship reputation and price with lockers during the year we have now chosen 1 processor, with some sausage products at another. He has the consistent attractive product. Sausage, curing and presentation is average. Price is lowest for processing and being able to get locker dates.
This year we will add some convenience products, box orders (will make affordable for most family’s) and delivery. We have added poultry, eggs, turkey, lamb and Organic Valley dairy products. We sell milk to Organic Valley, CROPP co-op.
We discovered in taste comparisons Jersey and Berkshire taste better. We also discovered feeds changes the flavor of meat.
We are placing the display freezer in small co-op stores were offer brochures to CSA’s and buying clubs. During the year we have developed many alternatives to market livestock and at this point we sell everything we produce and will have to substantially increase livestock numbers to keep up with demand. This will give income opportunity to our son, who has come back to the farm to work. The livestock will increase fertility for the Organic Farm. We will be able to offer our customers’ products from our farm and other sustainable farms like chicken, lamb, turkey, etc.
FARM TO FAMILY: We started out as members of Omega Coop the founders talked about a coop store, delivery or some other avenue of selling something to customers. They wanted to do product research and consumer research. When opportunity came to sell products through the Minnesota Food Association, they wanted to continue research and apply for grants. There was now a serious difference in goal of the members so several of us split and formed an Association: Farm to Family. We are now planning to sell other producer’s products. For example I could add Buffalo, maple syrup, lamb and sheep cheese. Someone else could add our pork or beef. Someone who wants to do home delivery can sell from a list that includes product form 18 different farms. Farms offer a list of market ready products weight and price. Seller keeps percentage of sale price. Producer is responsible for quality and shelf life. The Minnesota Food Association provided Farm to Family with meat, dairy, grain, eggs, vegetable and syrup, honey orders to be delivered to low income families in the Faribault area. I helped coordinate the delivery of pork, beef, chicken, buffalo, lamb, goat the different grain products, like flour, cereal, soup, whole grains, beans, bread mixes etc. I helped with transporting products to the drop site and distribute the products.
MINNESOTA FOOD ASSOCIATION: has teamed up with several organizations to promote a program called “FAITH”. The plan is that many farms could sell every imaginable consumer product to the program and deliver it to central warehouse where it will be delivered to food shelves around the state. This has meant having to provide planning, information, and political contacts.
FARMING WITH NATURE: is a group of South East Minnesota hog farmers helped by Land Stewardship Project. I have contributed considerable time and the name Farming with Nature. Principle operation is to offer a boxed pork package to customers. Customer’s targets are membership of organizations that want to support sustainable farming. Cooper member deliver hogs on a rotating schedule of 5 hogs to butcher. We are now expanding to include beef and other products. We are now delivering to deli and restaurants and a mail order company. Looking at bring products to grocery stores. If we increase livestock numbers greater than we need for our direct meat sales extra animals could be sold to the following company’s or brands: Valley of farms, Berkshire Gold, Niemans Ranch, Cohlmans Meats. These groups require applications and certification and membership. A larger herd will allow us to pick animals that make a more consistent product. We have studied these programs and requirements. Farming with Nature has come up with its own standards for production that are sustainable. Production methods require bedding and humane treatment of animals and access to outdoors.
Farm on Wheels, when we sell cuts, people sometimes request the box deals or live purchases of animals for ½ or wholes, by saying yes to everything the buyer wants we will increase volume of profit.
Our son attends private school. There is a script money program for fundraising. If Farm on Wheels was on that list we could give 9% to the school. Designate 1 day a week that we would be in town the buyer could support sustainable farming and their school. We hope to be on that business list soon.
MIDWEST FOOD ALLIANCE: while working with IATP I made connections with groups working on the Midwest Food Alliance. I have traveled to Europe and while there saw how they promoted sustainable types of farms by using seals that have a certification process that could identify and certify farms that meet ecological, energy, environment, humane treatment of animals, safe food concerns, healthy communities. We are aligning with Oregon’s program The Food Alliance.
I am on the Board and serve as Treasure of a co-op formed for the year around indoor market at the St. Paul Farmers Market. In the next three years a new outdoor market will be built that includes an Indoor market that would be open 7 days a week. Ideas include: commercial kitchen, processing rooms for value added products, a deli, vendor spaces for individuals to sell their own products; we are in the beginning steps for the indoor market.
STANDING ROCK COOP: is in Northfield it is going to supply local growers with a place to sell their products. I have been working with them to supply products form our farm and the products from producers I have been working with. This co-op looks very promising.
In summary, this project has helped us focus on developing and investigating alternatives to conventional farming and markets, we have discovered an abundance of opportunities, the difficulty is choosing one that fits our life style and family.
Farm on Wheels: will continue to secure name. we are now setting up for more livestock in Swedish style winter housing, maximize grazing, maximize organic, breeding to Berkshire and Jersey, improving Logos and brochures, making cooperative agreements with other farmers to background or purchase feeder stock. Simplify marketing, one price, common locker, boxes and list of cuts to avoid confusion. Investigate LLC does it fit? Continue planning Collective store Idea, coop, franchise, Association, what tool fits? Build freezer room so we can increase volume and schedule to convenience of butcher and bringing producer products to a local start point for delivery.
Speaking engagements where I talked about marketing under Farm on Wheels and the SARE grant: April 6, 1999, spoke at Carlton College in Northfield to students on knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced. April 11, 1999 had a booth at Hamline University local farm festival, April 17, 1999 a booth at Northfield food festival, April 18, 1999 I hosted a Women in Sustainable Agriculture meeting at my house and viewed the trailer subject was group marketing. May 8, 1999 Carlton College Marketing Sustainable Ag, July 6, 1999 “Farm to Fork” in Adams and July 21, 1999 in Rochester MN was one of many speakers talking about marketing food as a group directly to the consumer together. September 18, 1999 spoke at Clean Water Meeting in the Cities was one of the farmers on the panel talking about marketing directly to the consumer, November 11, 1999 spoke in LeRoy Evangelical Church marketing together and the benefits to producer and consumer, December 14, 1999 spoke at a Land Stewardship Project meeting in St. Charles discussing marketing to the consumer 1 of the panel. March 11, 2000 was main speaker at Cannon River Sustainable Farming Association Meeting brought trailer for viewing talked about costs of starting marketing and marketing as a group. June 22, 2000 MN history Center on panel consumer buying direct from farmer, October 3 and 5, 2000 Carlton College groups of 20 each day came to our farm to talk about food systems and how to purchase food directly from farmers. October 29, 2000 Carlton College Food where it comes from how to find food direct from the farmer.
Education and training: Madison WI July 28-30, 1999 $120 Marketing Sustainable Ag, November 19, 2000 Nebraska DARE Marketing Conference, St. Cloud Marketing Conference $80, February 5, 2000, February 22-25, 2000 Food Alliance Oregon, September 17, 2000 Sustainable Farming Association Production working together. I attended the above conferences to educate myself.