[Market-farming] Farm Stand Stories, Build it and they will Come?

Rick Williams mrfarm at frontiernet.net
Sun Jan 19 18:07:30 EST 2003


Lynn Wigglesworth wrote:
> Do you sell quarter/half cattle or individual cuts? How much trouble
> is it to get licensed for selling individual cuts (I know they have to be
> USDA butchered, weighed, cryovaced, etc.)?

Hi Lynn,

Good to here from you. Have not seen you posting as much as you used to.

Our web site gives a lot of the details, including our farm background etc.
The prices page will show everything from halves/split halves to packages
and even individual cuts.

They do not have to be USDA inspected, but would need state licensed
processing. We only have WI inspected local processors in our area. Also,
there are different levels of processors and only one close by has the HACCP
level to allow them to process and return the meat to the farmer for resale.
Many of the smallest cannot do this, but can do the processing for a half or
split half to a specific customer by name. This has to be determined prior
to processing. And if you can not get all portions sold, you can not have
the processing done and sell the remaining portion by the cut or even as a
split half, etc.

They do not have to even be weighed here. They can be, however, we purchased
a relatively inexpensive digital scale for that purpose. One of the nice
things about modern technology as even a high quality Toledo-Mettler digital
electronic are under $400 for handling a weight of 30 lbs. It calculates
selling price when you punch in the per pound weight as well as allowing the
entry of tare weight. We have a tare weight calculated by the state
inspector of the farm and placed in our license of .33 oz.

We are unable to get things cryovaced by our processor. I understand that
the double wrapped are very good though and beef can keep for a year if
necessary with the inner plastic wrap and then the impregnated plastic paper
outer wrap. I do not like to have inventory much older than 90 days but we
sometimes have a problem moving all cuts fast enough.

The paper wrap makes for a homey, old time appearing product that seems to
be well accepted by most. Even the coop that we sell to finds this fine and
their other products, such as lamb, are similar wrapped.

> I live on the main route to a
> campground popular with the rich and retired...the people with the
> Winnebagos that cost more than my farm. I'm thinking there's got to be a
> farm stand opportunity here for selling individual cuts of pasture-raised
> beef or lamb chops (these animals currently go to the sale barn). And of
> course the fresh salads and veggies to go along with it.

We have not had hardly any people stop by to buy produce or beef. It seems
hard to beleive considering all the talk about people seeking out farms to
buy direct from etc. Some people at farmers markets have mentioned to us how
lucky we are to have the products that people are looking for. But it is
mostly talk. Nowadays people very rarely will make a trip out to a farm or
even stop when driving by. I know that my neighbor, who used to sell many
thousands of dollars of produce from his former large garden, did quite well
about a dozen years ago. About $7000 worth of sales the first year he tried
it. Every year after that the sales kept declining until it was less than
$2000 and he gave up on doing it.

We work pretty hard to grow and market our produce at Farmer's Market and
still only have a gross of around $1500. That includes off-farm sales as
well. We would never do it if it wasn't for the meat marketing in addition
to that.

We have direct marketed now for just over two years from the farm with our
brochures and former "Grass-Fed Beef" sign. We did get a couple of people
who stopped over the first year and a half due to the sign, but that is
about it. We now have the fancier "Misty Ridge Farm" sign with the ability
to add and subtract sub signs. We have maybe had a customer or two that
stopped because of that sign since this past autumn.

Most of our customers come from the Farmer's Market or the brochures we
place in strategic locations. We have now distributed  about 400 brochures
in the last year or so by checking and replacing a "pocket" holder with
usually 5 brochures at a time. Then just add brochures if less than 5
remain. Most of the time when we check there is only one or two still in the
pocket.

That is why we are going to give delivery a tryout for $50 or more purchase.
Even getting a few new customers or having older customers who won't drive
40 miles to the farm for their meat order a package seems worth it. We MUST
keep the inventory fresh and some cuts have to be lost that get too old.

It may be unfortunate that we will wind up delivering to many of the
customers who stop by though but it is a chance we are going to take. We
only have a short list of people who we think might consider delivery. Last
fall we ran a special for Christmas with NO response at all. So that tells
you that the great majority of people don't find it in their interest to buy
off the farm. It is too convenient to go to the local grocery store.

By the way, what is the oldest that you beef folks will sell a stored
package?

On another list, I got razzed pretty good by at least one person for using
pour-on and they felt that we are losing 50% of our customers because we do
that. Have any others found that they dramatically increased sales when they
went with what used to be called organic?

Sincerely,

Rick Williams
Misty Ridge Farm
Direct marketed dairy beef and produce
(also dairy heifers and beef stockers)
Viroqua, WI

www.mistyridgefarm.com




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