[Market-farming] wholesale questions

Richard Stewart rstewart at zoomtown.com
Fri Jun 17 07:24:13 EDT 2011


Use Email and the KISS method.

I have three facets of sale to our business, market (we do one ourselves and another is done by a garden group "representing us"), chefs, and retailers.

Retailers we work out specific things and they simply contact us when they need more.  This system works well for the non-parishables we do (honey and cornmeal).  It gets a bit trickier when it comes to fresh greens and we have to plan those sales out (because they are usually large orders) a week in advance.  That is done via email or phone.

With our chefs we get into a system that is pretty much like yours.  We send out an availability listing on Sunday.  We deliver on Thursday.  Its done via email.  The have a two day window to order.  They email back the orders which then get entered into a spread sheet.  I send the bulk numbers to Kate, our garden manager and she plans the harvest.  I print two invoices for each order one is the farm's copy and the checklist and the other is the customer's copy that stays clean.  Once harvested everything is delivered at once.  I plan my route out carefully so I save money in delivery costs.  During the winter because we have such a small number of things available we deliver on Wednesday the same day as our market and compress a whole lot of business into a single "hell day".

All we do is email and we have smart phones.  I am developing a cheap wi-fi system for our produce handling and garden area for smart phone use and am trying to see how I can integrate a print system into it so I am not tied to the office.  I should be able to do all of this in the field.

You can do the retailers just like the chefs and we do this with two small scale retailers that are more like upscale delis than markets.  I try to avoid dealing with REALLY large companies, but we do have the Hilton and Hyatt and Whole Foods Market and they are cumbersome.  They each have their own PO system and different requirements for invoicing and the like and will not fit into any specific system other than theirs.  One actually takes my availability list, enters it into their system sends it to India who then generates and tracks a PO which is then emailed to me as an HTML file.  I have to include both a PO AND an invoice number even though the PO number is specific to that order.

Email/Phone, Spreadsheet/Invoice.  Keep It Simple Stupid.  I have been playing around with all those online ordering systems and they add work.  In the end they are either A) a waste of tax payer money or B) will cost you money to do what really needs to be done and do it in a fashion that fits everyone's needs more or less and non one's in specific.

The question I think, is how you manipulate and handle the data on your end.  We are still changing from a static behind the desk system to a more fluid in the field office.  It is also essential to be able to track raw data in terms of what is ordered over a year from each customer.  That all comes down to spreadsheets and proper data entry at the time of ordering.  That is nothing but Excel or Pages (for us Mac users).

Hope that helps.

Richard Stewart
Carriage House Farm
North Bend, Ohio

An Ohio Century Farm Est. 1855

(513) 967-1106
rstewart at zoomtown.com

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