Carrot Cashflow: Driving Online Sales Through Networking (CC20)

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Episode Summary

When you’re a new farm business selling a niche product, the first place you’ll probably think to sell to would be at a farmer’s market. There’s no doubt that farmer’s markets area great way to network with potential customers and other growers in your area. But if you have a full-time job while raising a family, and you don’t want to sacrifice your weekends for farmer’s markets, where do you sell to then?

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow, we’re talking to growers Dan and Hilary Papuchis of Hildan Produce to share how they started selling their microgreens outside of the farmer’s market in order to make the business fit into their lifestyle.

Today’s Guest: Dan & Hilary Papuchis

Dan and Hilary Papuchis are the farming couple behind Hildan Produce, selling microgreens to both retail and restaurant customers. Using LocalLine to back up their current business model, they are able to balance the business, a job, and raising a family.

Relevant Links


            Hildan Produce

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow:

  • Diego introduces the episode’s guest, Dan and Hilary Papuchis (00:35)
  • Arriving at which business model to roll with (01:49)
  • Marketing health benefits to sell produce (03:15)
  • Using LocalLine to sell produce online (06:17)
  • Planning and managing produce inventory (08:01)
  • What Dan and Hilary’s daily listings look like (09:47)
  • Delivering what the customers want (10:40)
  • Noticing the customers’ weekly ordering pattern (12:31)
  • How Dan and Hilary built their core customer base as a new business selling a niche product (13:43)
  • The split between retail customers and wholesale customers (17:33)
    • Where to find the average retail customer (18:27)
  • How Dan and Hilary handle their microgreens deliveries (20:52)
  • How harvesting is scheduled in line with Thursday and Friday deliveries (22:13)
  • Sales for freshness and shelf life (23:08)
  • Adding on product on top of microgreens (23:50)
  • Has social media helped in promoting sales? (25:32)
  • Microgreen awareness and customer education (28:40)
    • It’s as simple as offering a free sample (29:56)
  • Encouragement to ahead and start selling online (30:41)

Check Out My Book: Ready Farmer One: The Farmers’ Guide to Create, Design, and Market an Online Farm Store (2022) by Diego Footer & Nina Galle

Subscribe to Carrot Cashflow in your favorite podcast player:

iTunes | Spotify

CC19 - Cole Jones

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Carrot cash flow profitable farm business starts here. Thinking about selling online, how do you choose an online store provider? That's what we're talking about in this one coming up.

[00:00:31] Welcome to carrot cash flow. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. In this episode, I'm joined by Cole Jones, the founder and CEO of LocalLine LocalLine is a service provider that helps farmers, food hubs, and farmers markets sell food online. In this episode, Cole's gonna talk about what to look for when searching for an online sales provider for your farm.

[00:00:58] There are more and more companies out there doing this. Which one do you choose? What features do you look for and what types of questions should you ask of those companies before you sign up with them? So let's get into it selecting the right online store with Cole Jones.

[00:01:19] Cole Jones: Sure. Yeah. Hi, my name is Cole Jones. I'm the founder and the CEO at LocalLine. I started LocalLine out of my university dorm room, the classic university startup. So to speak. In 2015 LocalLine is an eCommerce application for family farmers for food hubs and for farmer's markets. So what we do is we build features that help a farmer sell their products online, organize their back office and frankly just run more profitable businesses.

[00:01:52] Diego Footer: If we go back to that 2015 timeframe, do you remember the moment when you conceptualized the idea of all right, I'm gonna make an eCommerce platform for farms. What was the catalyst for that?

[00:02:06] Cole Jones: It was funny. Like the eCommerce was a means to an end for us. We never thought that that was the be all end, all solution. And it actually took us a little while to land on the model where we wanted to work on empowering the farmer to sell better themselves, as opposed to us trying to sell for them. That was the earliest version was a marketplace where we were trying to connect them to chefs, actually.

[00:02:34] The big one for us that got us interested in this space, we did research on food systems. Uh, very obviously, you find that, you know, being a small family farm is challenging. Specifically, we had this thesis that farmers markets were probably not that profitable for the farmer. And we wanted to figure out if you could build a better way for folks to get their products in market.

[00:03:01] And so we just met with a lot of farmers in our own community. We live, I live in a you know, dense agricultural area and drove around and met with farmers. And you would be amazed how many farmers we sat down with and said, we want to build something better than a farmer's market. And they would say, okay, one second and they'd run outta the kitchen and they'd go back to their office, and they'd grab a bunch of things and they'd come back and they'd literally just flop open the books.

[00:03:28] Boom. All right. Here's what works. Here's what doesn't work. It was amazing. And so we just got to be a sponge and we got to take in all this information and take in these various opinions of these farmers. It kind of all kept telling us the same. . And so through those conversations, it became apparent that some folks wanna sell to different kinds of customers in different ways. And we thought that eCommerce software could help them do that.

[00:03:55] Diego Footer: Yeah. At that time, did you think, okay, there's obviously a need here. There's a hole in the marketplace. There's a market in that hole. So we could, if we build this, we think people will sell. It was it let's just build the best platform we can because we know there's need to get it out there?

[00:04:12] Cole Jones: Yeah, pretty much. I mean like, like LocalLine�s product development philosophy has basically just been, go talk to our customers about what they. Try to apply our own sprinkle of innovation to it, and then, and then get it out to the world as quickly as possible. And so because we had started as a marketplace for chefs originally.

[00:04:36] Some of the early functionality for us was geared towards how do you help the farmer sell wholesale. And how do you digitize those B2B transactions? Because many of them were phone calls and text messages. Quickly, that snowballed into how do you help the farmer sell direct to the family? Because the margins are better when you are able to sell what that retail price, the sale price is lower.

[00:04:59] Comes with its own unique challenges, but the concept around, how do I expand my audience? How do I get eyeballs? You know, on my products was the same. So we thought that, yeah, let's, let's build the, the right system that works for perishables. There's a lot of eCommerce applications that work for like consumables or like wearables, right?

[00:05:19] Like t-shirts or things like this, but perishables just, its. Unique animal. So we thought we could build features and we thought that it would, frankly, we just thought it would help. Like we were just trying to help these farmers be more successful. It's still what we're trying to do, actually. Yeah.

[00:05:34] Diego Footer: And here we are 2021 talking about this six years after you started work on it in the past six years, I'm sure you've seen a lot of�

[00:05:43] Software and services type companies within the farm space, start up and go away from companies that have that model, like you originally talked about. We're gonna be a marketplace farmers, come on and, and we'll try and connect you with the consumer to crop planning software to other platforms. Why is it, do you think there's so much turnover in this space when it seems to be.

[00:06:09] Kind of a Virgin space compared to let's say the fitness industry or something like that, or, or games where it's more well established. There's so many companies out there serving these niches with farming. There's not a lot of companies. Why don't the ones that come about, stay around?

[00:06:30] Cole Jones: I mean, I think that there's a lot of reasons. I think that you could probably bucket them into a few main categories.

[00:06:39] There are a lot of startup companies that romanticize the idea of launching this technology in this non-IT digitized industry, taking it by storm, using a bunch of capital grow, grow, grow, and have this wonderful exit. And it can happen. You read about. But my opinion, as I've spent more time in our space is I do believe that there are a lot of companies that come out of the gate too quickly.

[00:07:13] And they mistake some early traction and some early customers for perfect product market fit. And those two things are very different. And I think that's one thing that I'm thankful that we were able to do at LocalLine in the early days was exercise some patients. And understand, take the time to understand the nuances of what it is to build a commerce application for a livestock farmer or for a, a produce grower or for a food hub or for a farmer's market.

[00:07:46] It's a very interconnected supply chain and, and network. And it was very important for us to make sure that we had mapped that properly and done it properly. I, so I, I, I think that in general, You wanna be careful that you are from a fundamental core level, understanding the problems of your customer, providing a need to have not a nice to have.

[00:08:11] I think there's a lot of nice to haves in agriculture. And so I'm not sure. Yeah, that might be, that might affect the longevity of some of these companies. I think the other thing that we've done well is just stay really close to our customer. We talk to them every single day. We care deeply about the features that they want and what they think we should build.

[00:08:34] We've never been people that just like go away and code for 12 or 18 months and bring it to the market and hope we got it right. I it's always been a very iterative process for us. We've always been a sales first and customer first organization. And because of that, I just think that we've been able to build some pretty strong relationships with our customers.

[00:08:56] They drive us other customers. It goes from word of mouth. So, it's something fancy. It's just, you know, a customer you think you can help and then get completely obsessed over helping them until you feel like you've got it right.

[00:09:10] Diego Footer: How do you balance that pressure of expanding the platform adding features? I'm sure you get a lot of requests. Hey, it would be nice if you had this, it'd be nice if you had this. And one option is to throw a bunch of capital, throw a bunch of bodies on it and just code it all and then maybe it doesn't work or it doesn't function how it should, or you know, it just doesn't fit the whole platform.

[00:09:37] When you look at where you want to go in improving what you have, how do you view, you know, incremental improvement?

[00:09:49] Cole Jones: It's really difficult to design it really well. And so the first thing that I do personally is just hire people that are way smarter than me, that have spent their time and their careers thinking about these systems and how you build completeness, but not bloat and how you, you build for scale. I think�

[00:10:09] That's a fine line. And I'm really fortunate that, you know, we've got a team of engineers and developers and designers that enjoy thinking very deeply about exactly what you've just said. What is the right scope to add and, and what is not the things that you say no to are just as important.

[00:10:27] You don't know exactly who you are and what you do on day one of your company. You probably don't even know that on day 365, but. Through the journey, it becomes clear where you can draw lines in the sand. And LocalLine has become good at that. We know we're really good at A, B and C, and we want to focus on that, and we know that there are features and things that are outside of our scope today.

[00:10:55] And we might look to partners. We might just say no. We have those discussions as they come. And the lines in the sand are always changing is the company develops LocalLine may decide something outside the scope today. It's not outside the scope next year or the year after that. So it's a bit of a moving goal post, but I think as long as you know, what's important and you've got people that understand how to design these systems you know, you should be pretty well protected from any kind of bloat, something like that.

[00:11:23] Diego Footer: Yeah. I think that's an important point, cuz just from working on the book, talking with different farmers, there is a lot of pressure in, in many businesses to be an all in one solution. Like we're gonna provide everything for everyone. And the more you do, the more complexity you introduce.

[00:11:41] And the more chance there is that, you know, small bumps can upset all that complexity. And I've heard this when people, farmers talk about different software platforms. So I like it, but I think they're trying to do too much, you know, they wanna offer everything all in one and, you know, it's, it's like that old a edge, if you're great at everything, or if you're good at everything, you're great at nothing.

[00:12:04] How, how do you as a business. Reel yourself in and say, okay, this is who we are. This is what we do. And while we see opportunity in this other ocean over here, that's not where we are yet. We need to stay here. Yeah.

[00:12:19] Cole Jones: Yeah. The, the shiny object syndrome is real. I mean, I'll tell you, I'm the first person that likes to sit back with the team and get carried away and, and talk about these hail Mary ideas.

[00:12:31] We should do this. We should do this. Oh my gosh. What if we did that? And it's fun. It's romantic. It's like, you know, man, there's so much value that you can add and so many things you can do. And I think we can do everything we have ambitions to do, but you know, the timing is what's most important here.

[00:12:46] It's not the list of ideas, but I think it's when you choose to take them on that matters. I think that for us, what's been helpful is getting really clear on why we do what we do. This is to help that young farmer, family farmer secure their future as an independent entrepreneur. . And so if what we believe there's an opportunity in front of us, if it relates directly to that, a lot of it for us is around the commerce, how they organize their products, how they sell their products, how they pack efficiently, how they find new customers, how they retain good customers is extremely important.

[00:13:29] And so things that tend to fit into that bucket, we feel like we're qualified to build for, we feel like we're qualified to talk about and to... And so those are things that we feel like we should take on, but if there's something that sits outside of that scope, and that would be a distraction as fun as it is, we write it down.

[00:13:48] We put it in our fun ideas folder. We bring it up at, you know, the next monthly Friday hangout session. And we talk about it. Uh, but you have to be patient and you have to be, I think, pretty practical with these things on when you take.

[00:14:03] Diego Footer: With all these different platforms out there in the e-commerce space from, from the mega huge ones, the, the Shopifys to the smaller players that are within the farm space.

[00:14:17] Like when you seek out any product, there's always things you're gonna look at there's features and benefits. And, and sometimes it's the frontline features that people get attracted to like oh, you know, I can easily text my customers or I can collect an email list. And sometimes it's like, second layer features that aren't as, as sexy, like.

[00:14:39] Reliability rating our uptime on our service, our customer service response time, our respect for customer privacy, that people don't initially look at those things. They don't think about them. They, they maybe chase more billboardy type material. I, if you look at the landscape that's out there and let's just focus on say the smaller players now versus the bigger players. How do you differentiate between companies like yours and others?

[00:15:07] Cole Jones: It's really. Validating that there's more and more folks that are, that are in our space. Um, it would be somewhat concerning if there were not, because I would question, have I missed something, does no one else see this you know, opportunity right.

[00:15:23] To, to build a good business. And so, so, you know, I think that it's important that there's other players in the, in the space. Um, I'm friends with many of them and they're wonderful people. For LocalLine, as I maybe mentioned earlier, if the, the, the first question that you asked was like, why eCommerce.

[00:15:42] For us, it was always a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. And I do think that that's an important distinction for how we think about our company versus how we see some of the other folks in our space acting. I'm not sure. An eCommerce storefront that has some features for the farm is the silver bullet that is needed.

[00:16:04] So to speak, to really unleash the power of local food and dramatically increase its accessibility. Uh, I, that feels unlikely to me based on what we've seen. Local land started with eCommerce because when we surveyed the farmers in our community and when we looked more broadly, as we got to know farmers across the C.

[00:16:26] It was pretty clear that most of them were not digitized and a precursor to connecting the food system and unlocking the accessibility. The commercial accessibility of local food was digitization. And so it was very important that we had an application that could help digitize many, many, many farms so that we can help.

[00:16:50] Connect together and work together to us. That's the unlock. And that's why we offer the food hub platform and the farmer's market platform and all our, the other folks in our space do not. Um, you know, I think that there's a lot of connecting the food system that is now to be done. That is now going to start.

[00:17:12] How do you help these farmers plug into networks of other farmers? How do you help them plug into. Hubs and markets, how do you help them connect B2B and B2C depending on who they sell to. And it felt like first digitization is like the foundation, and then you can start to build on top of that. And so over time, The Venn diagram, the overlap of similarities, I think between LocalLine and some of the other folks in our space probably look more different.

[00:17:47] There's less and less overlap over time. But when everyone's starting our businesses, our space is still new. I mean, right. We were kind of early, right. This is like a five year old maybe ish industry. Yeah. Everybody's gotta build a base set of features. There's just features that farms need to operate successfully.

[00:18:05] And so everybody starts building these features, and it feels like people are building the same features, but you know, it's fine. I think what matters more importantly is like, what do these companies, what does our company look like in five years versus others and like, you know, which network do you wanna be a part of?

[00:18:22] Diego Footer: And where do you see LocalLine fitting in, in that greater path to increased local food resilience? And this is something I know, just from talking to you offline, like, like you're really passionate about in this. Yeah. How does an eCommerce platform evolve to help grow this?

[00:18:45] Cole Jones: What eCommerce does, and our team thinks a lot about this, so what e-commerce does is it allows the farm to go direct. We know this, okay. Whether it's direct to a restaurant grocery, a family people ask what's important about going direct everything everything's D to seat these days, which is good. What it does for the farmer is in many cases for the first time it enables them.

[00:19:13] To be a price maker instead of a price taker, the agricultural industry, the commodities industry that has been designed in north America over the last 80 a hundred years largely Has the farmer at the end of the totem pole, whatever the, the, the, the metaphor is. And they're a price taker. They don't have as much opportunity to really tell their story, to differentiate their product.

[00:19:46] The world has tried to make food seem like it's all the same. The tomato is a tomato is a tomato. And as a result, the farmer gives pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure through the supply chain. And they're largely a price taker. They don't have the same opportunity to dictate what they grow, why they grow it, how they grow it, how they price it, who they sell it to.

[00:20:06] They're part of the cog of a bigger machine eCommerce on the other hand is takes the handcuffs off that gives you the opportunity to be a price maker. You can choose what to grow, why you grow it, how you grow it, how you sell it to whom you sell. and that's freedom. It's work. is the, the, the sort of double edged sword, but it's freedom that most of those farmers did not have before.

[00:20:31] And so LocalLine uh, for, for us, for the future. What we spend time thinking about is let's first recognize that aggregation is important in, in the food system. The food supply chain tends to get aggregated as it makes its way to the consumer, right? To the end eater. Um, how do you design an application that is decentralized multi node network that provides the farmer opportunity for aggregation, for collaboration, for community, so that they can get help as they get their product to market.

[00:21:07] But that gives them the opportunity to continue to be the price maker versus the price. Interesting thing to think about. We believe that technology and community through those farmers, through the customers at LocalLine is the best way to have a shot at that future. So we wanna build features aside from just eCommerce, that help farmers connect with that broader supply chain, whether they wanna find new buyers, whether they wanna find.

[00:21:37] A delivery partner, whether they want to start co-marketing and selling with a neighbor. I do think that you need that collaboration. It feels like technology is the right way to help make that happen.

[00:21:50] Diego Footer: Yeah, it's interesting. It's one of those. The co-op model is the way I think small farms play in the big food landscape. You know, I've talked to growers growing thousands of acres of lettuce, and very familiar with how they deal into the big distribution system that shows up in the big box stores. Well, if you're a small farm, how do you get into a big box store? You have to band with other small farms. To become a larger entity, which the big box stores will even look at or consider dealing with.

[00:22:21] And they know a classic example of that is organic valley here in the states. They started as farmers that banded together around, I believe, dairy and came together, announced a billion dollar company. That's a, co-op made up of its members and that. Totally possible. I think for a lot of farms to go out and do that, but that's kind of a daunting task of like, Hey, all these farms are gonna come together to be a co-op it it's, you know, we're all trying to run our own businesses at the same time.

[00:22:51] Now we're gonna run in this second aggregation business on the side where the aggregation model. Where you have a platform and you can come together and aggregate suddenly now. Okay. Well, we don't have to build necessarily a huge business. We can aggregate on this platform. All our farms sell into this platform, and then we can all promote this greater platform.

[00:23:11] Might not get you into a big box store, but it might get you into local chains, regional chains, that type of thing. And, and I, I love that model. And we've talked to farmers who. Have came together as a hub to do that through like an online farmer's market through just single players. You know, one person says, Hey, I wanna be the hub manager.

[00:23:32] I'm gonna go buy from all these farms. I'm gonna sell it out to the public. I'll promote it. And you know, LocalLines provided the software to enable these farms to plug in their inventory and do that. Is that, is that the direction here? Like, am I reading this right? Is you, you guys give. Small farms, a place to come together to potentially reach a larger audience.

[00:23:55] Cole Jones: I think that's it. That that has to be it. And the small farm can come to LocalLine and they can choose to sell on their own. This is a big part of what we do today. They can have their own website or their own, pardon me on store, on their website. They have their website through LocalLine or to somebody else, and they can sell to their own customers, run their own CSA, you know, what have you, but the unlock.

[00:24:19] Is removing the friction from the supply chain and the friction today, as a result of like lack of communication, difficult to like coordinate with neighbors, difficult to understand who's out there, who's buying and what quantities, why. How do I get a piece of that? And it's just simple communication workflows that I feel like we're uniquely positioned to help remove.

[00:24:42] So if we can remove the friction from the supply chain, we can do exactly as you're suggesting, I think that we can create an environment for the farm to come in and pick multiple directions. If they'd like. They can have their own. They can go through a co-op, they can go through a hub, they can go through a distributor, they can go direct.

[00:24:59] I think that giving them that optionality is extremely important. And I think that there's really important work to be done to now bring in other parts of the demand in the ecosystem. How do we help? Uh, like we said, make local food accessible. And being able to use a technology to buy from many farms instead of having to go buy from one, buy from one, buy from one, buy from one, buy from one, you gotta find them it's completely different.

[00:25:23] So I, I think what you're saying is is correct. And that's certainly what we get excited about building a local. Yeah.

[00:25:30] Diego Footer: And I realize this question might be redundant, but I wanna get this message clear. A lot of people think platforms like yours. For where I can list my own stuff. I set up a store. I can sell the product I raise.

[00:25:44] What other potential is there on the platform to go beyond just selling your own product? Like what if I'm a farmer today? I'm saying, okay. I know a lot of other farmers, they're not online. I am with my store, man, I could help them out. What potential is there?

[00:26:03] Cole Jones: So there's a few different ways that I think you could capitalize on the network. The foundation of digitization that LocalLine is building. I'll give one concrete example that we've seen recently. There was an employee of LocalLine actually, who worked with our company for a couple of years, wonderful young lady and who left LocalLine? I don't know when 18 months ago, a couple years ago, whatever it might have been to go do a farm.

[00:26:30] Very passionate about space. I've watched all these other farmers do it. I talk to them. Okay. I'm in. I'm going to do. And so she goes out and she uses LocalLine and she has her farm and she goes, and does it, and does well, you know, very likable personality, but I think runs into the same challenges that any farm trying to go at themselves runs in.

[00:26:48] It's really hard. There's a minimum viable scale that you need to get to in order to feel like you've got any opportunity to breathe. Right? I got my head above water now. Okay. I can start thinking more proactively and making decisions as opposed to being reactive all the time. And so she knew LocalLine had the hub product.

[00:27:06] She basically went out and she got 40 farms in her area to all take their, they were all using LocalLine anyway, take their listings, fire them into an aggregate hub. They put a brand on it, and she effectively now has a space. And she facilitates the sales between these 40 farms and all of the consum.

[00:27:26] They go direct to family, right? So direct to family all of the consumers in their area, in Southwestern, Ontario in Canada that buy from them. And so she's actually created a job for herself. She's created a career building a marketplace on top of LocalLine. And we hope that lots of other people come and do this.

[00:27:45] If you wanted to build a food waste application on top of LocalLine and find excess product and deliver to the consumer, that popular thing these days. Typically, you'd have to go out, and you'd have to find all the farmers in your area and call them and build relationships and start from scratch. But if you come to LocalLine with a couple of clicks, you can find the farmer's area and the inventory that they.

[00:28:04] And so we actually can make it much easier, looks like this to come and build applications on top of LocalLine. There's lots of farmers that need help with sales and marketing. And so this is a really good example of a young, you know, girl who was extremely passionate and extremely talented. Um, you know, about agriculture and about farming said, you know what?

[00:28:23] I don't need to do this myself. There's lots of people that are doing a wonderful job at this in my community at growing different products, but I can help 'em. And so she's created just through our software this aggregate hub for them to come and transact. So that's, that's one example. Um, and I think that that's a good example of the power of, you know, being able to have a platform that isn't just a singular e-commerce application, but that can bring these different farms together and provide sales channels for them.

[00:28:51] Diego Footer: Can you say the name of her hub for reference, if people wanted to go look?

[00:28:55] Cole Jones: Yeah, absolutely. It's called Eat Local Huron. So eat local Huron, H U R O N. And I think it's eat local here uh, don't quote me on that, but if you just Google it, it'll come up. Uh, her name is Courtney one wonderful, wonderful person you know, really important for for, for her community. So she's doing a great job.

[00:29:16] Diego Footer: Yeah. That's the cool thing about a lot of these, what you can do now through the power of a platform is. You could get into farming and say, you know, I wanted to participate in this movement. I think that's why a lot of people get into farming, but then they find like, well, maybe the growing side of things isn't for me, like, I'm just not the best at it.

[00:29:35] So traditionally, if you couldn't grow well, now you either gotta be a farm manager where you're, you're hiring staff in to do the growing, or you can. Be a Courtney and aggregate other farms together and use your passion for wanting to participate in the food movement to move it ahead. I love the food waste idea.

[00:29:53] I mean, so many farms have overstock and things that they can't sell where you could just be like, Hey, you know, plug in your inventory here once a week at this time. And you become the, you know, Waste wholesaler in your community. It's got its own kind of unique pitch and all this other stuff might have gone to the landfill or wherever it ends up, buy it here or distribute it however you want.

[00:30:16] So yeah, it, it gives optionality, I think, to an industry and to people where before it was. The only way I can reach my customers typically is through a farmer's market or door knocking or something like that. And it sounds crazy in a world where we have huge retailers that send us something overnight, but this sector just hasn't caught up to that.

[00:30:41] Cole Jones: Yeah. It's um, You know, I think it, I think it gives a direction for other people to pour their energy into the ecosystem. Local line, never thought we, we are not silly enough to believe that all of a sudden we are these like, you know, night and shining our, wearing a Cape showing up to like, Save the local food system like that is the dumbest thing.

[00:31:04] One could possibly believe to be true. It it's going to take a meaningful effort and meaningful energy from many people. And thank thankfully, there's a lot of people that care deeply about this. And so what we do similar to pulling the friction out of the supply chain is like, Can you create an environment where other people that care about this can find an opportunity to apply their energy to it.

[00:31:27] And it doesn't necessarily have to mean starting your own farm. It can be helping them. Um, and so the more things that we can do like that, the more the, the community that we can have to support it, I think the better chance. That there is a success and in turn, it's good for LocalLine. Like it, it, it, it's always a little bit of a cycle.

[00:31:48] Diego Footer: If you zoom out and look at the local food landscape, you're gonna see a few things. One is you're seeing companies that look to do what you guys initially. P potentially we're considering doing, Hey, becoming a marketplace, and they'll do the branding, marketing for a big business, whether that's meat or produce and they'll try and just acquire customers.

[00:32:10] So they become marketers and, and aggregators, nothing wrong with that. It's great. And many farmers sell to them. On the other side, you have smaller farmers who are out there trying to, just to sell to the general public direct to consumer. What would you say to this? Th there, you can make a case, like all the stuff we're talking about, like, it's great.

[00:32:30] You could do it, but what about you? You should do it, or you have to do it given the way that the landscape's evolving with bigger players becoming more important in local food system, does a small farm, if they wanna have a long life, have to, in some way, participate in this online revolution?

[00:32:56] Cole Jones: I mean, you definitely don't have a choice to get online if you want to do well at this. I don't know if there's many folks that would necessarily refute that. If you can run a successful business without being connected to your customers digitally today, it's only a matter of time, unfortunately for better or for worse, whatever you believe. It's not a stoppable movement.

[00:33:21] There's not really a logical human that would bet against the digitization of industry today, or at least that would be an extremely difficult argument to make. I think that� It's gonna be really interesting to watch what happens with, I think the future of the future of agriculture, particularly in America, what farmers choose to grow 50 years from now.

[00:33:46] A lot of the corn that's grown is for feed, but if everything is lab grown meat, then maybe there's less of a need for that. Do they start growing mung beans and sprouts for lab grown meat or do they decide, you know what, there's important infrastructures of commerce that have been built now, like LocalLine.

[00:34:05] And now all of a sudden, even as a larger operation, I can see an opportunity to grow that product and get plugged into that network and plugged into that community. Whereas I maybe didn't have to do that before. We're not exactly sure. We don't pretend to know exactly what the future looks like there�

[00:34:20] But I do think that there's much broader applicabilities for an infrastructure of trade, like LocalLine, outside of just the small family farm, I think there's meaningful ripple effects for other farms and what they might choose to grow in the future once you can prove that the model works.

[00:34:42] Diego Footer: It kind of forces the farmer to have a different skill set as well. If you think about the farmer's market model, which has been the, the dominant model in the space for a very long time. Realistically from a marketing standpoint, from the farmer's view, it's easy. You don't have to do anything you show up.

[00:34:59] And the farmer's market has brought customers to you. There's obviously work that goes involved, but you're not responsible for getting the customers to the market. You catch their attention once they're there. When you shift online, whether that's to a hub. Or an individual store suddenly, now you have to be the person responsible for getting out there and telling your story, you know, through, through just growing LocalLine and building a loyal customer base�

[00:35:30] What have you found has worked from your side of being able to get a minimum viable number of customers, a critical mass of customers to keep the business going and growing? What's worked in terms of telling the story, communicating who you are, building the super fans, if you will?

[00:35:52] Cole Jones: In the early days, it was two things. That's a great question. In the early days, it was just Herculean effort. And a lot of just hard work to go call a bunch of farmers to go become customers or go visit them. It was nothing special, and I don't think that needs to be anything special. Yyou're not putting a man on the moon here.

[00:36:14] This is like, I have important, you know, if you're the farmer, I have great quality products. I'm doing this for an important reason. People need to eat seven days a week, three times a day for most of us go find customers. Go go, go. What, what's your minimum threshold? And then go do it. So in the early days for us, it was very much, same is like, okay, how do we go get like a hundred farmers, you know, on this thing?

[00:36:39] And the other thing that we thought about in the early days a lot was how do you de-risk it? So we didn't necessarily think so much about like, you know, How does this thing, like take off to the moon or whatever? A lot of it was like, why would this not work? And what can we do today to chip away at those risks?

[00:36:58] How can we, de-risk this idea, this platform? And that was an important, I think it was a very helpful way to, it was a mentor of mine actually that taught me that framework. And I think that that was a really important way to think about the business, because you don't have to feel like you have to have it all figured out on day one.

[00:37:16] You have to be all things to all people. You have to have your, all your marketing and your sales and your material and your process. And you'd be an expert at it. Pick the thing that you feel like is the biggest reason why it doesn't work today. And then just go fix that and then pick that next thing and then just go fix that.

[00:37:28] And then over time, you end up with the complete, and that's what we've done at LocalLine. Like we've done a lot of work to make it very easy for farmers to do that work of marketing and selling direct to their own customers. We provide them�we built a marketing in a year for a year booklet. Every newsletter, a farm needs to send pre-written you just add your name and add some details. You're good to go.

[00:37:49] Every Instagram post, every tweet, every Facebook link, every brochure, anything that you would need for free on our website, Anybody can go download it. We've got minimum order calculators. We've got delivery cost calculators. We've got eBooks. We've got, you know, anything that they would need, I think to cut down on the amount of time that's required for them to get these materials together and to get out to customers.

[00:38:18] So there's lots that we can do as well. Like it, it is work. Don't get me wrong, but I don't wanna make it seem like it's A hundred times more work than waking up at four in the morning and packing up the van and driving down to the market and sitting out there in the rain and selling half your product and then coming back home and losing a day on the farm.

[00:38:38] It's probably not, you know, it's work, but the market's work everything's work. So, you know, pick the work, and hopefully LocalLine could find ways to, you know, make it easy for them.

[00:38:50] Diego Footer: Sure. You know, using the crystal ball you don't have, if you can look ahead 10 years, where do you see local food or where, where do you wanna see local food?

[00:39:06] Cole Jones: It's sounds silly. I wanna make I want young people to view agriculture as a viable career option where they can run a successful small business. I want it to be sexy. I think it's really important. I think it's really important for community. I think it's really important for health. I think it's really important for society, for economics, for the environment. For me, personally.

[00:39:34] And I've been drinking the Koolaid for a while. So there, who knows how distorted it is, but. But it checks a lot of boxes for me personally, I think just where I wanna spend my time as a human being and apply my energy and the kind of people that I wanna work with and the kind of good that I think that it can do for society.

[00:39:52] So I want it to be viable. I want you to be able to be a young person. I want you to be able to plug into a digital network like LocalLine and grow whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want, and be able to make a living at it. And have it as a career, provide for your family and build a life around it.

[00:40:12] I think it's can be a wonderful lifestyle. It's hard, no doubt. Everything's hard, you know, choose your hard. So I don't know. I think that that would just be a really, really important thing for the world that we can show off that works and that there's opportunities for you to play in markets.

[00:40:30] Where you can build a good business and build a good life doing it. For LocalLine, I'd love to see it in other countries. This is just the�for me, I feel just very blessed to have kind of like stumbled into this opportunity and to be able to work with these farmers. We have a pretty significant wait list of farmers around the world that want access to LocalLine.

[00:40:53] So I would really love the opportunity to try. You know, there's lots of there's there's, don't get me wrong. There's lots of work left to be done in north America. And it's not like that's not our focus. It is, but there's a lot of farmers out there in the world that I think could really benefit from this. And it would just be a fun life experience for me to have the opportunity to try to, you know, get to them.

[00:41:17] Diego Footer: Yeah. I love the idea of it for people that wanna learn more about what you have to offer, download some of those free resources, what's the best place to go?

[00:41:25] Cole Jones: Yeah, So the word local and then line. So two Ls in the middle um, that's our website, it's sort of the central hub of content and contact information. Um, read about our product. You can sign up for free trial. You can find all our resources. Find our team. Our phone number is, is on there. You can call us at any time. Obviously, we, we love nothing more than talking to farmers.

[00:41:51] Diego Footer: There you have at Cole Jones of LocalLine. If you wanna learn more about the services that LocalLine has to offer, check them out at I've also linked to them below. If you wanna learn more about choosing the right online store, we have a whole chapter on that in our. Ready farmer one. Ready farmer. One is the farmer's guide to sales and marketing from learning how to sell online, to creating a unique selling proposition for your products to marketing your products on social media, to email management, that book covers it all.

[00:42:29] That book is your step by step guide to getting started with sales and marketing on a farm, you can learn more about that or buy it directly on Amazon. Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope you enjoyed it, but more importantly, I hope you do something with the information in this episode to make a more profitable farm business.

[00:42:54] I'm Diego. And until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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