Polyface Farm originated on a worn-out piece of land that the Salatin family purchased in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in 1961. A gullied rockpile supporting occasional weeds, off-farm income paid the mortgage the first decade and paved the way for experiments in soil building, composting, direct marketing and mobile infrastructure in the second decade. Sept. 24, 1982 Joel Salatin, who was only 4 years old when his parents purchased the farm, returned full-time to try to make a living on the land. He and his wife, Teresa added their youthful enthusiasm, creativity, and labor to create a thriving pasture-based livestock operation.
Realizing early on that small farmers could not compete in the low-margin commodity game, the farm began marketing directly to families, restaurants and institutions with a branded product line: Salad Bar Beef, Pigaerator Pork, Pastured Poultry and other items.
Today, the farm services 4,000 families in urban neighborhood drop points, 50 restaurants, collaborates with other artisanal farmers in their region for distribution efficiencies, and ships nationwide. The Polyface team is now 20 full-time folks who push out nearly $3 million in sales per year. The full marketing package includes farm tour, events, information and outreach to generate loyalty and buzz.
This two-day workshop will include the following topics:
Importance: Why direct market? We've all heard about the notorious "middle man" that makes the profit; instead of grumbling about that, let's become one. Wearing the hats of producer, processor, marketer, and distributor enables small farmers to capture all of the retail dollar instead of a tiny percentage (average 9 percent). Furthermore, the non-production income is less subject to the vagaries of weather, price, pestilence, and disease.
Branding: Discover your soul. What is your business? What makes you tick? What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? What do you do better than anyone else? This is your hallmark identity.
Messaging: It's all about the customer. Figure out the fantasy or need you can supply, and then hammer away at that core idea in all your social media, fliers, and other reach outs.
Collaboration: Realize that marketing is the plan and sales is the execution. If sales is not your cup of tea, bring on a collaborator, commission based, to make those calls and knock on doors. The person that makes the sale owns the customer. One-stop shops work so ally with other food crafters in your area to complement your own offerings. Making your customers dependent on you and enabling them to buy more from you at each transaction leverages the customer base.
Customers: Who do you want to target for your market? Farmers' markets, on-farm stores, food trucks, neighborhood drop points, shipping and other venues all offer retail interfaces. Restaurants are wholesale but offer huge exposure you can leverage.
Identify your tribe and then use samples, messaging, loyalty programs and other outreach options to communicate.
Pricing: How do you set prices? This is one of the biggest conundrums of direct marketing. Farmers tend to underprice because we're frugal. Remember the value is what the market says it is, not what you'd be willing to pay for something. If 10 percent of your customers aren't complaining about the price, you're too low. Price pointing is an entire science.
Bundling: How you package, the size of your offering, how much processing you do and other considerations all have a bearing on market attractiveness and price points. Some products lend themselves to higher margins; pairing them with low margin products can make a big difference in moving all the inventory and hitting the product presentation sweet spot.
Distribution: How will you get your product to the customer? Distribution logistics and supporting software have completely disrupted this space, offering more options to small scale businesses. Be sure to keep an honest accounting of these costs so the farm does not subsidize the distribution.
Sheri Salatin is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and enjoys working the land along side her husband, Daniel.
Sheri was influential in getting the buying clubs up and running and now oversees 25 drop locations throughout Virginia and Maryland with over 3,000 families. The buying clubs are nurtured under her direct oversight and she is the go-to person for all questions about marketing to metropolitan areas.
Through real life experiences, Sheri has honed her skills and shares some of the best ways to approach and sell to some of the top chefs in the world.
Polyface services more than 4,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products through relationship marketing.
In July 2014, Sheri launched a website called Eager Farmer - Connecting experience, education and enthusiasm in farming. The site is a world-wide online help wanted for farmers to find interns, apprentices, land. employees and farm managers. For land owners to find someone to manage their farm or teach them to farm. And for wannabe farmers to find a place to get the experience they need to launch their own farming endeavors.
Today Sheri spends her days juggling marketing, website maintenance, blogging, motherhood, and farming. At thirty-four, Sheri is married to husband Daniel and has two sons Travis and Andrew and one daughter Lauryn.
Joel Salatin, 62, calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don't like him call him a bio-terrorist, Typhoid Mary, charlatan, and starvation advocate.
With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multi-generational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world. He's as comfortable moving cows in a pasture as addressing CEOs in a Wall Street business conference.
His wide-ranging topics include nitty-gritty how-to for profitable regenerative farming as well as cultural philosophy like orthodoxy vs. heresy. A wordsmith and master communicator, he moves audiences from laughs one minute to tears the next, from frustration to hopefulness. Often receiving standing ovations, he prefers the word performance rather than presentation to describe his lectures. His favorite activity?-Q&A. "I love the interaction," he says.
He co-owns, with his family, Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. Featured in the New York Times bestseller Omnivore's Dilemma and award-winning documentary Food Inc., the farm services more than 5,000 families, 50 restaurants, 10 retail outlets, and a farmers' market with salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry, and forestry products. When he's not on the road speaking, he's at home on the farm, keeping the callouses on his hands and dirt under his fingernails, mentoring young people, inspiring visitors, and promoting local, regenerative food and farming systems.
Salatin is the editor of The Stockman Grass Farmer, granddaddy catalyst for the grass farming movement. He writes the Pitchfork Pulpit column for Mother Earth News, as well as numerous guest articles for ACRES USA and other publications. A frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts targeting preppers, homesteaders, and foodies, Salatin's practical, can-do solutions tied to passionate soliloquies for sustainability offer everyone food for thought and plans for action.
Mixing mischievous humor with hard-hitting information, Salatin both entertains and moves people. Seldom using a power-point and often speaking from an outline scribbled in a yellow legal pad, he depends on theatrics, style, and compelling content to hold attention and defend innovative positions. The rare combination of prophet and practitioner makes him both a must-read and must-hear in a time desperate for integrity leadership and example.
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He has authored 12 books:
- PASTURED POULTRY PROFITS: Net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 Acres
- SALAD BAR BEEF
- YOU CAN FARM: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
- FAMILY FRIENDLY FARMING: A Multi-Generational Home-Based Business Testament
- HOLY COWS AND HOG HEAVEN: The Food Buyer's Guide to Farm Friendly Food, is an attempt to bring producers and patrons together in mutual understanding and appreciation
- EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO IS ILLEGAL: War stories from the local food front.
- THE SHEER ECSTASY OF BEING A LUNATIC FARMER
- FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
- FIELDS OF FARMERS: Interning, Mentoring, Starting, Continuing
- THE MARVELOUS PIGNESS OF PIGS: Nurturing and caring for all God's Creation
- YOUR SUCCESSFUL FARM BUSINESS: Production, Profit, Pleasure
- PATRICK'S GREAT GRASS ADVENTURE With Greg the Grass Farmer, a children's book illustrated by daughter, Rachel Salatin