Once you’ve met that special someone…or maybe they aren’t that special just yet. Once you’ve met someone, how do you know they will be a good fit for your farming operation or farm dream? You date them! Whether it’s a future spouse candidate, a possible employee, customers or vendors, a trial run is always a good idea.
Let’s talk about customers. We direct market all of our farm products. We have no minimum amount or number of products a person has to buy. I will sell you just one chicken! Why do we do that? Because we want you to try us out, see if you like us, our farm and our products, before you make a big commitment (like a whole hog). This year we started a Meat CSA where shareholders receive 10lbs or 20lbs of our pastured meat per month. There are three, six and twelve month shares available. By far, the three month share was the most popular. Why? Because they want to try it first. Will it be the best fit for everyone? Probably not. But giving customers flexibility in their choices is an excellent way to earn their trust and loyalty.
How does this work with vendors? Don’t buy all of your products from one place. I buy poultry packaging supplies from two different vendors because both have specific products that I need and in quantities that I use. Don’t be afraid to spread your business around in your local community as well. Supporting your local small business owners builds community and keeps our hard-earned money local. Take the time to price shop. We needed two upright, frost-free freezers this year. I checked at the big-box-store 50 miles away. Then I called our local (7 miles away) hardware store. Our local store and neighbor, could get them for $40 cheaper, delivered to our little town! You better believe we spent that money locally. And even if he would have been higher, we would have bought from him. Make sure you do your research. Don’t just take one guy’s (or gal’s) word for it. There have been many times that we’ve asked someone who “should know” and been told “Well, you can’t do that.” or “You have to do it this way.” There’s more than one way to skin a cat, my friends, and I’m interested in the low-input, working-with-nature method. My least favorite word is “no”, I don’t accept it. Make sure you keep both eyes (and ears) open when getting advice, particularly from someone who is trying to sell you something!
When it comes to employees or business partners, a dating period is also important. You’re going to be working side-by-side with this person (or people) to accomplish your dream, heal the land, provide for your family, and continue (or start) a legacy. Who you choose as your co-laborers is very important! Agreeing to a pre-determined trial period is a way to see if this partnership will work for both parties. During that period, make sure you are working together as much as possible. And hope that something goes wrong! I’m not kidding. Adversity is the best way to see a person’s true colors and dedication to the partnership. Will they lose their temper or calmly assess the situation? Blame someone else or accept responsibility? How do they solve problems? How do they work when they are tired, sore or crabby? And remember, they are watching your actions as well! Witnessing these things first-hand before making a long-term commitment to an employee or business partner can alleviate a lot of headaches and stress in the future.
I’ve saved the best for last. Spouses. If you’re single, or even if you’re married, tune in tomorrow when I’ll talk about the importance of spouses in the farming family!
Day 4 Homework: What are some ways you can “date” the people involved in your farm business?