Carrot Cashflow: Jesse Way & Meghan Brandenburg – Dropping the Farmers Market (CC07)

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Episode Summary

If you’re a farmer doing farmer’s markets, then there’s a high chance that your Saturdays are all blocked out for the entire season. What if there was a way to get your Saturdays back while also guaranteeing sales every week?

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow, Jesse Way and Meghan Brandenburg of Milky Way Farm in Ontario, Canada talk about how opening up an online farm store has not just improved their farm business but their quality of life as well.

Today’s Guest: Jesse Way & Meghan Brandenburg

Jesse Way and Meghan Brandenburg are the farmers behind Milky Way Farm in Ontario, Canada. Following a regenerative approach to growing food, Jesse and Meghan focus their farming efforts on season extension to be able to offer fresh, local produce to their markets all year round.

Relevant Links

            Milky Way Farm – Website | Instagram

            Milky Way Online Store

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow:

  • Diego introduces the episode’s guest, Jesse Way & Meghan Brandenburg (00:40)
  • Jesse and Meghan’s thoughts on CSA vs farmer’s market sales (03:17)
    • Complementary sales outlets (03:44)
  • From full market farm vision to online farm store (06:32)
  • The catalyst to push the farming business online (07:53)
  • Initial worries and challenges of moving sales purely online (09:25)
    • Learning selling platforms as they went along (09:50)
    • More virtual back-and-forth with customers (10:25)
  • Managing inventory when selling online (12:37)
    • Inventory guessing and refunding customers (15:33)
  • Tying in available produce with opening the online store (16:14)
  • Limited online store access works fine with sales (18:24)
  • Scarcity and a sense of urgency to purchase produce early (20:00)
  • Higher average sale per customer in the online store (23:45)
  • How Jesse and Meghan list their products on their online store (27:06)
  • Having many different vegetables to draw more customers in (30:09)
  • The importance of ensuring a great customer experience (31:40)
  • Milky Way’s biggest source of attracting new customers (32:49)
  • How selling produce on an online store improved Jesse’s quality of life (33:58)
  • Jesse and Meghan’s thoughts on selling solely online as a new farmer (37:02)
  • There’s no reason not to add on an online store (38:51)

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CC07 - Jesse Way & Meghan Brandenburg

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Carrot Cashflow. Profitable farm businesses start here. Today, we're talking to two farmers that traded their Saturday at the farmer's market for a free Saturday at home when they moved their farm store online.

[00:00:31] Welcome to carrot cashflow. I'm your host, Diego, DIEGO. In today's episode of carrot cashflow, I'm talking to farmers, Jesse Way and Megan Brandenburg, like many of you, Jesse and Megan started their farming journey at the farmer's market. It helped them build the customer base and see what people in their area liked. But like all farmer's markets, it came with a downside, the big one being, it took up all of Saturday.

[00:01:00] Given that huge time commitment, they set out to find a better solution. And what they did was they designed, created, and built an online farm store that gave them their Saturdays back. Through their online farm store, customers were able to place their orders directly from home and then pick them up at a convenient pickup location in town.

[00:01:22] The online store has been a huge game changer for Jesse and Megan, and it's gave them their Saturdays back. If you want to learn more about creating, building, and marketing an online farm store, check out my new book, Ready Farmer One.

[00:01:37] The book has been a huge amount of work. And along with my coauthor, Nina Galle, we've worked on it for the past a year to give farmers a practical, how to guide, to set up and market an online farm store. We cover everything from how to choose an online store provider, to how to handle orders and fulfillment to marketing tips, tricks and techniques.

[00:02:04] The future of local food is online. If you don't have an online store, you won't be able to participate in that future. And you'll be leaving a lot on the table. Get started selling online today with our brand new book, Ready Farmer One available on Amazon. Now let's get into the interview with Jesse way in Megan Brandenburg.

[00:02:32] Jesse Way: So, we're a small scale, a one and a half acre of vegetables on a four and a half acre farm in Southwestern Ontario. We focus and specialize on over winter production.

[00:02:47] Diego Footer: Jesse way. And Megan, Brandon Berg on the advantages of selling online full year

[00:02:52] Jesse Way: for your production and

[00:02:54] Diego Footer: Jesse and Megan and

[00:02:57] Jesse Way: check them out.

[00:02:59] Diego Footer: And we got to start selling our mind and get your bang house. Check out our brand new tactical greens,

[00:03:06] Jesse Way: ready farmer now Ascension. And so that's kind of our, a niche, I guess, in our area is trying to provide for our customers year-round.

[00:03:17] Diego Footer: Starting out as new farmers with your own farm, what were your thoughts on farmer's market sales versus CSA sales?

[00:03:29] Meghan Brandenburg: For me when I started out, I just did a CSA, and it's kind of risky to jump in that way, because you're kind of committing to people who have, who you are obligated to provide vegetables for through the season. It worked out for me, but I think the market and the CSA combination went really well together because.

[00:03:53] The CSA you know, you can, you're looking to provide your 10 or 12 items per week of a certain variety. You want to mix and match for your customers, but you often have surplus of certain items that you don't want to just push onto your CSA members. They might not need 11 zucchini that week or something.

[00:04:14] So you don't want to overdo it. And the market allows you a spot for that excess product. Like you might. A bumper crop of lettuce has that week. You know, the market provides an outlet for those. But on the other hand, if you're only selling at market, you might bring $2,000 worth of product one week, and it's a slow week and you come back with more than half of that back again.

[00:04:41] So that's the downside of the market. And the CSA is kind of a guaranteed sale each week. So I think they do work really well together if you can do them both and they kind of can balance each other out in that way. And that's kind of what we were thinking when we started as well to just have that guaranteed sales of the CSA is we weren't sure what the market would provide for us, but then a place to bring excess product when you have it and potentially make more sales if the market turns out to be very busy.

[00:05:17] Jesse Way: We originally went to the downtown farmer's market in the city of Kitchener. So that was our, when we started the farm, that was our primarily primary sales outlet was the downtown Kitchener farmer's market. And so that is how we designed our business was largely based on a combination of farmer's market and our CSA.

[00:05:40] So the CSA in our first year before we went all online was a smaller proportion of our, of our sales and revenue. And the market was our primary sales outlet. And we had decided when building our farm like Megan and I had both previously farmed for several years before we created a Milky way farm together.

[00:06:00] And the farm that Megan had managed before was a similar like market plus CSA. And that was the kind of what we were planning on doing. I think. Yeah. Our first year when we started the farm or like the marketing side was our biggest uncertainty because Megan had a lot of experience growing. So we were fairly confident in our ability to grow a wide variety of, of things, but how much we could sell, we weren't sure, but we did kind of luck out in that the kitchen and market worked out well for us before it closed, and we went online.

[00:06:32] Diego Footer: With all your experience working on farms over the years, did you ever envision a day where the whole farm sales model would be online?

[00:06:44] Jesse Way: No, we definitely envisioned this being a market farm, like being a farmer's market farm. And that was the, the primary vision. That's how we designed the farm. That's what we thought would be our sales outlet. That's kind of how we anticipated our, our lifestyle would be Saturdays at the farmer's market. So, yeah, it was like a lot of things with the, with COVID it's really changed what your expectations or what what you can foresee for the future.

[00:07:14] But we wouldn't have, I wouldn't have guessed now. And, and the fact that it's actually. Like improved. I would say the business has was definitely not when, when it first hit and we had to go online, it wasn't feel, it didn't feel like, oh, this is going to be this is guaranteed to be better, but now looking back, it's kind of crazy how it, it has for us.

[00:07:33] We've been very fortunate in that we're some of the few that have. You know, we've been well we've, we've kind of benefited from how some of the shifts in, in and things have gone in that the, the Verizon more people seem to be looking for local food and then they were kind of forced to do it online, so we just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

[00:07:54] Diego Footer: What was the catalyst to going online? Was it purely COVID necessity? Hey, this is closed. We got to do something?

[00:08:00] Jesse Way: Yeah, I guess at that, at that point in March, we were, we had already planted our like greenhouse tomatoes and peppers and everything.

[00:08:08] And we did have kind of like a week notice and that the, when the local, like when the Ontario government announced all the lockdowns, the market was still open the very next day, but it was very well understood that it would probably be closed the following week. And then it was like, I think on Tuesday they fixed.

[00:08:24] told us that it would be closed. And by Wednesday, Megan had an online store up and running, and we knew that we had a strong customer base built up that was going to still be seeking out our produce, especially with when the pandemic hits and like the grocery stores there's all the concern about food shortages or people stocking up on items.

[00:08:45] And so the week that that for that one Saturday where the kind of like people were realizing that something big was about to happen, everybody was very interested in like, how can we continue to buy your produce? And so we kind of just like that one set the last Saturday that the market was open.

[00:09:02] I was kind of like, well, just follow our website, we'll make postings and let you know. So we did know that there was a lot of people who still were going to be wanting and needing vegetables. And so we had, we were in a, I would say in a good position there that we knew we would still have a customer base.

[00:09:17] It was just a matter of like, what is the best way of getting and connecting with those customers without our primary means of the market?

[00:09:25] Diego Footer: When you first went online, again, like we got to ignore the COVID side. And were there any worries around just selling online that part of it never even regardless of platform, like we, we were used to selling physically in person now or selling online. Sure, that came with some challenges, just different things to wrap your head around.

[00:09:49] Meghan Brandenburg: Definitely. Yeah. More to learn just about the platforms. How exactly that works and what's expected of us. but that first week we kind of just jumped in and learned it as best we could, chose one way to go. And we kind of, we tried to keep it simple.

[00:10:12] So if people are purchasing through our online store, through the retail side of the store, it's all through credit card, paid as they check out. So we just keep it really simple that way.

[00:10:25] Jesse Way: One of the main differences definitely is like customer interaction where it used to be at market. If customers had questions or at our CSA pickup like CSA members, whether they're like mostly, they were picking up at the farm and the market customers, they would just ask us questions directly and you would just have verbal conversations.

[00:10:44] Whereas now there's a lot more like email correspondence. And I'm just like the communication aspect of communicating with customers has changed. So that was one big difference just in like the amount of time was now being spent at the back end, like at home, when you're trying to be on the farm, you're also doing customer interaction.

[00:11:06] Whereas it used to be just primarily at the marketplace, like on the Saturday at market. So it's nice that you can just, you can deal with it from home, but it is, it adds a kind of another dynamic that you, we didn't have before the online store. So it's nice that you can just, you can deal with it from home, but it is, it adds a kind of another dynamic that you, we didn't have before the online.

[00:11:27] Meghan Brandenburg: Yeah, it was a pretty big difference initially. In terms of the actual market day, and Jessie would have had to wake up at three 30 in the morning and have a 14 hour exhausting day to do the market compared to leaving home around eight 30. And having a much shorter day and guaranteeing that the product was already sold.

[00:11:59] So that stress that you go with, okay, we're bringing a lot. I'm not sure hope it's not wasted, all of that was kind of removed. There were a few additional we had to do take an inventory of our crops days ahead and try and guess how many peas were in that pea bed. And there are certain things that are add a little extra complication or a learning curve for sure.

[00:12:25] But that took a little while to sort of figure out. And after that point, we'd spend say an improvement overall, for sure.

[00:12:37] Diego Footer: How much of a challenge has selling online been when it comes to I'll say field management, in terms of inventory, Megan, you mentioned that earlier, having to do that, is it, is it a lot different than running a farmer's market booth where you pick what you pick?

[00:12:56] You kind of have some idea of what's in the field, but when you're selling online, I mean, you need to know if you have 50 bunches of this or a hundred bunches of this because it's a big difference. If you listed at a hundred, you only had 50, you're in trouble. So from that, the technical farm management side, how different has it been managing inventory?

[00:13:20] Meghan Brandenburg: It is quite different. And I think it does take a few years of experience just observing growth in the field at different times of the year as well, because the rate of growth changes so drastically in the summer to the fall and spring. And you know, you might get a hailstorm. You predicted you have a hundred bags of spinach, but you get a hailstorm in between the time when you counted that.

[00:13:46] And when you need to harvest, and that crop might not be salvageable. So there are definitely considerations there. We've been pretty. Pretty lucky. We try to be a little conservative with our guesses. And then if we do have extra, we can donate to the food bank or just like Jesse said, fill the bags a bit fuller, give them a little more abundance if we had more than we expected.

[00:14:14] but it does take, it is a steep learning curve. And it does take a lot of, I would say years of, of observation and in, in the field to know, and also pests, pests can come in and, or they're just lurking under the soil. So you think you have 50 bunches of radishes, but when you pull them up, they're not quite what you expect. Yeah, so that is something to consider for sure.

[00:14:43] Jesse Way: It is kind of is it's a whole new task that you didn't have to do. Cause now Megan on Monday afternoon is like doing a whole farm walk inventory, whereas beforehand, yeah, it was just like more closer to market or harvest day. You just, how many are ready?

[00:15:00] Harvest what's ready kind of thing. And. Yeah, I would say, yeah, the experience, I think comes a big cause like Megan has more experience than I do. And so she is better at knowing the, like, as she mentioned, like Monday to Friday, we'd make our inventory on Monday harvest on Friday in April, you make a guess it's very different than right now in mid-June.

[00:15:21] And it definitely takes some time to be able to, to figure that out. And it's yeah, I don't know. It�s a learning curve. That's why she does. She does it more so than I do.

[00:15:33] Meghan Brandenburg: We have occasionally had to refund people. We didn't have the zucchini cows that we expected because we had some cool nights, and they didn't size up like without but usually people are pretty forgiving of that kind of thing. It's just one item out of there that 14, they put in their basket, they're pretty forgiving.

[00:15:55] Jesse Way: Yeah. And you get like the ma where you can refund them, or we just tell them next week, we can give you that item and you can kind of work it out. And when you do make those mistakes, it kind of like pushes you to be better at predicting. So it doesn't happen again. So then it doesn't happen that frequently.

[00:16:14] Diego Footer: How does that inventory in the field tie into how you decided on when your store was open?

[00:16:25] Meghan Brandenburg: Well, for us this year, we, again, tried to simplify even further from last year. Last year we had. We had to do inventory twice a week. We had to open the store twice a week and then harvest twice a week for our local versus the kitchen or the Waterloo residents. This year we do the inventory one time opened the store for our CSA members.

[00:16:55] On Tuesday and our retail members on Wednesday. So the CSA members get first choice of all of our items that week. And then whatever's remaining in the store. The retail members can access. and this for us that gives us Thursday and Friday to complete the harvest. So typically we harvest everything on Friday and pack it up.

[00:17:21] To bring to them on Saturdays, but if it's a really hot week and you know, Friday's going to be 33 degrees, we can do a little bit of pre harvesting early Thursday morning or split it up just to make sure that we have enough time to do what we need to do if it's a really big week. So we realized that we, yeah, we, we need to have kind of two-day harvest zone to make sure that we're able to do everything without overworking ourselves on the Friday.

[00:17:56] Diego Footer: Okay. So you guys inventory Monday, then you open the store for CSA Tuesday. They can buy Tuesday and Wednesday. It closes Wednesday at midnight. Retail customers have just Wednesday to buy, then it's closed. So now you you've, you knew what you estimated, what you thought you had.

[00:18:14] You've have some sort of sales going against that hopefully lasts then which thought then you pack it all up, and it's then ready for pickup or delivery. Do you think that in one day to retail sales for some farms might be like, really? But I guess that's a farmer's market, right? Like farmer's markets are one day� If you left it open, throwing this out there Thursday and Friday plus Wednesday, do you think you'd see a big bump in sales or do you think just limiting it forces people to buy?

[00:18:44] Meghan Brandenburg: Yeah, last year, we did have it open for retail sales two days, Wednesday and Thursday, and looking at our numbers like local line, we could look at the reports of the sales per day. It was, I would say 96%, Wednesday between 9:00 AM when we opened the store and like 6:00 PM. And then Thursday, maybe three or four sales.

[00:19:11] It was really not much happening on Thursdays at all. So we realized like people don't really need that second day. I know a lot of people have occasionally contacted us if they're doing shift work and their shifts overlap with the time our store is open and they just can't quite make it work.

[00:19:31] So we've made occasional exceptions for them putting in like an order out of hours, that's past hours, time for them if they need to, but just looking at those numbers, like, it really became apparent that every, we would send out the email Wednesday morning with our, the link to the store that week. And yeah, like I said, almost a hundred percent of our orders would come in just on that first day.

[00:19:59] Diego Footer: Yeah, is part of that stock, like, are you out of stocking on items? So people know now, like, Hey, there's scarcity here, so I need to buy Wednesday, but not just Wednesday. I need to, by Wednesday early?

[00:20:11] Jesse Way: That is a hundred percent the case. Yeah. Like cherry, like cherry tomatoes, peppers, like the items that we have in limited quantity, but are high. Hi, popularity items definitely sell out fast. And so people have yeah, they've they have changed their purchasing habits in order to try to get their orders in as quickly as possible in order to try to get that most, the most variety possible because items do run out quickly.

[00:20:42] And so that does happen, but that's kind of why we have the two-day system in that our CSA customers get the priority day. And the idea is that we try to have enough abundance of everything that the CSA customers don't have to worry about getting the orders in immediately. And that it's there. Then there's just maybe a little bit of like cherry tomatoes.

[00:21:04] I think we'd like for cherry tomato pints leftover for retail, but everybody who is a CSA member did have access on the first day. Whereas last year, our cherry tomatoes were selling out even before all our CSA members had access to them. So that, that is something we're still working on is like how to have the right balance, the right balance of like abundance to CSA members who get priority access.

[00:21:29] 'cause I do, we have CSA customers who tell us, they like, sorry, like they set alarms to make sure that they are ordering exactly at 9:00 AM so that they, they were, they were, they remember to make sure they're ordering right away. And so that does happen, but that's kind of why we have the two day system in that our CSA customers get the priority day.

[00:21:52] And the idea is that we try to have enough abundance of everything that the CSA customers don't have to worry about getting their orders in immediately. And that it's there. Then there's just maybe a little bit of like cherry tomatoes. I think we'd like four cherry tomato pints leftover for retail, but everybody who is a CSA member did have access on the first day.

[00:22:12] Whereas last year, our cherry tomatoes were selling out even before all our CSA members had access to them. So that was that is something we're still working on is like how to have the right balance, the right balance of like abundance to CSA members who get priority access. Because I do, we have CSA customers who tell us they like.

[00:22:34] So like they set alarms to make sure that they are ordering exactly at 9:00 AM so that they, they were, they were, they remember to make sure they're ordering right away.

[00:22:47] Diego Footer: And it's already sold. Right. Like somebody, they just come in to take it.

[00:22:51] Jesse Way: I think that's one of the best. Yeah. That's by far, like, it's hard to like, explain that to people of like, just how great that is, because at the end of the day on a Saturday now I come home, and I literally have zero extra produce in the truck.

[00:23:03] So you don't have to worry about putting it away, what you're going to do with it. Are you going to try to find another sales outlet? Is the quality good enough to hold over? Or what what's going on is just we have our list on harvest day, we harvest what we need, plus a few extras to donate and then for ourselves and our employees and we just, we ha we harvest exactly what we need and yeah, a hundred percent of it is already sold.

[00:23:26] So that, that is like a, it's just a huge, time-saver not only in the. You don't have as much wasted produce, but you're also just not spending that time, like setting it up at market, taking it down at market, dealing with an afterwards, let alone all the time you put into growing it and harvesting it. So, yeah, it's definitely a much more efficient system.

[00:23:45] Average sale per customer is also increased. So I got market where you'd have customers shopping around more from many different vendors. Now it seems that many of the customers that have come and stayed with us from market are now just primarily shopping from us. And so we're selling more items, whereas like per person, whereas we may have sold like just salad mix or some fresh greens to somebody and they'd buy their root crops.

[00:24:10] Now they're just, it seems like they're buying it all from us or cause our, yeah, the average like sale per transaction per customer is higher, which is, which is nice. Cause then you need fewer customers to support the revenue that you need to take in.

[00:24:24] Meghan Brandenburg: And a lot of them too, they, they have mentioned that they would go to market and something would be sold out or they weren't sure if they could get what they need from us.

[00:24:33] So they might not come and just go to the grocery store. But when they can shop ahead and guarantee you they're going to get the carrots and the beets and lettuce and the broccoli, everything they need that week from us, or ahead of time, then it, it just makes it easier for them to buy everything they need.

[00:24:52] Jesse Way: And plan ahead for the week. Cause they already they've purchased it and they know that it's going to be there when they pick it up on Saturday per person.

[00:24:54] Whereas we may have sold like just salad mix or some fresh greens to somebody and they'd buy their root crops elsewhere. Now they're just, it seems like they're buying it all from us or cause our, yeah, the average like sale per transaction per customer is higher, which is it, which is nice �cause then you need fewer customers to support the revenue that you need to take in.

[00:25:20] Meghan Brandenburg: And a lot of them too, they, they have mentioned that they would go to market and something would be sold out or they weren't sure if they could get what they need from us. So they might not come and just go to the groceries.

[00:25:32] But when they can shop ahead and guarantee you they're going to get the carrots and the beets and lettuce and the broccoli, everything they need that week from us, or ahead of time, then it, it just makes it easier for them to buy

[00:25:46] Jesse Way: everything they need and plan ahead for the week. Cause they already they've purchased it and they know that it's going to be there when they pick it up on Saturday.

[00:25:55] I think total customer numbers isn't that much higher. I think a lot of our, we have increased sales, but it's largely due to that higher sales per customer because we, right now we're at like 120, 130 customers a week. So it's not like a huge number, but the average sale is like almost $40 versus that market.

[00:26:16] You might get like a handful of $40 customers, whereas most of them were spending like 15, $20. So, the number of customers hasn't changed by that much, but definitely the sales to each customer is better. So it's like now that we have like a loyal customer base, it seems we. I dunno, we don't have to put a whole lot of time into trying to find new customers.

[00:26:40] It just seems they now find us. And we kind of are at a pretty steady, steady number of decreases in the winter when our availability decreases when we have less variety. But it stays consistent throughout the summer months. And yeah, I don't know the, the, the total number of customers. I don't think it's that much different. It more falls back to their they're spending. They're buying more of their produce from us.

[00:27:06] Diego Footer: What about in terms of just like product choices? Have you found anything around let's say carrots, you can get a, a half kilo bag, a kilo bag, a five kilo bag have you found a sweet spot of like, okay, here's the choices or there's people do bundled pricing. It's one at this it's two for this for you when it comes to, okay. We're growing this crop. What's your thought process behind, this is how that's going to go on the site as an item for sale?

[00:27:38] Meghan Brandenburg: Yeah. Also to simplify, to keep the units very basic and straightforward, we don't do by the pound because in the picking and packing end of that, that gets very complicated.

[00:27:51] And also just for how customers understand what they're ordering, we kind of do bunch sizes. So one bunch of carrots. And in the winter, it's a large bag or a small bag and we kind of list what that weight is, but we�

[00:28:06] Jesse Way: Yeah, it's all standardized standardized units on our part and that it's bunches or like set weight.

[00:28:14] So we'll do like salad mixes. We just do two sizes. We do a large size and an extra large size. And each one has a guaranteed minimum weight. So, and we do, and this offers us flexibility in that we have a guarantee. We usually have a guaranteed minimum weight, not a, like a set weight week to week. So we'll have lettuce mix for example is either 165 grams or for a large bag or one pound for an extra large bag.

[00:28:42] But in the summertime, when we have an abundance of lettuce mix, often the bags are larger than that. And they'd get better value in that. They're getting more of that product when it's coming from outside. And we have an abundance of lettuce to put in there versus in the winter, when it's coming from the greenhouse, then we're more kind of like strict to sticking to that minimum weight just because we don't have as much available.

[00:29:04] So that gives us the flexibility of, oh, we have a lot of lettuce. Let's give them more lettuce, but they don't have to make a decision of do I need, like, which size do I buy? They're still just buying a standard size. They're just having to get more when it's abundant and then from like bunches, it's the same.

[00:29:20] Like our bunch sizes may vary from early spring to the mid summer. Like a kale bunch will get bigger, but it's still just it's still listed as a bunch and that keeps it simpler for us to harvest and to pack. And from the customer standpoint is just, there's a kale bunch or there's a different option.

[00:29:39] Like there's not multiple sizes and we don't do like two for something. it's not like one price at this item. And then two becomes a new price. If we have an abundance of something we can just through the online store, you can just put it on sale and you can have it like one week something's on sale by X percentage.

[00:29:58] And then the next week, you can just set it back to its standard price if your abundance changes again. So yeah, I guess the, the main theme there is just like simplified again, like simplified options. And then what we can do to try to really make the sale is have as many different vegetables available at any time of the year.

[00:30:17] And that's what's going to draw in more different people because some people, yeah, cause some people are looking maybe for one item or like a few different items and then we happen to have you in more. So that increases. There's like what they buy from us or they go to the online store and we don't, if we don't have what they're looking for, then they say, ah, I can get that somewhere else and I'll get everything else at that other place too.

[00:30:38] So I think for us, it's like once they get to the store, our job is to try to have as many different items available to them as possible. And that's what we'll try to convince them to, to make the purchase.

[00:30:50] Meghan Brandenburg: Yeah, that's true about the variety. I think if people, if you're a new grower and you're selling online, move to online sales, if you only have two things available, it's going to be a hard sell because that person has to drive all the way to your pickup spot to pick up when one bag of lettuce and a bunch of beets or something.

[00:31:10] And if you can have as many options available as possible, they're more likely to actually make that purchase and come back and look the next week.

[00:31:18] Jesse Way: Yeah. Because they might want your salad mix, but they then need to buy everything somewhere else. And that adds a layer of inconvenience. I think that maybe is a, is a hurdle versus if you can have a one-stop shop then that that increases the likelihood that they are going to make the purchase of the, the item that they really want.

[00:31:40] Diego Footer: How important has it been to make a good customer experience or a great customer experience?

[00:31:48] Jesse Way: Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to just like the pickup location and the convenience of that and the time window in that like most, like we kind of mimic our pickup window as if it is a market in that it's Saturday morning.

[00:32:04] Is when you when we have the pickup, we know when we've, and then we're also quite conveniently located, like our on-farm pickup. We're on a main highway. We're just minutes from town where there's like, we're on a, like a paved road, but just outside of the city. So we're not that far to get to for a lot of people.

[00:32:21] And that again, adds to the convenience level and that they're not, they don't have to travel very far to, to get to. and then we offer delivery too. So for those who can't pick up, we do do delivery. And that gets those customers who are locations aren't convenient to them. And our deliveries are a small fraction, like probably less than 10% of our sales per week, per week or deliveries, which makes it convenient in that most sales are just through our two pickup locations.

[00:32:49] Diego Footer: What's your biggest source now of attracting new customers in?

[00:32:54] Jesse Way: Word of mouth combination of word of mouth of our preexisting customers and people who are coming to that pickup location for other reasons, like usually they're going to the cafe.

[00:33:06] Or a lot of them are just like, they went for a walk or a bike on this trail. They saw this kind of like activity going on, so they stopped in to see what's going on and then they just ask what we're selling and what we're, how to buy our product. And then either you give, I give them a card, or they take a picture of our sign with our details.

[00:33:23] And then some of them end up going to the website and deciding that that's what they want to buy some stuff from us. And others may just ask about it and take some awhile before they actually make their first purchase. But at this point, when I asked new customers, when I see them, it's either my friend or neighbor told me about it or.

[00:33:43] Oh, I was here picking up coffee and I saw you guys. So they just saw us at that location and that's like convenient to them, whether they live in the neighborhood or they're going to go to the cafe anyways. So those two would be the primary new sales outlets.

[00:33:58] Diego Footer: Can you describe what life is like now on Saturdays and weekends for you? You know, as a dad in three 30. Am I hear that 14 hours a day. That's long. Now it's drastically different. Can you just talk about what that means for you? Not, not as a farm business, but just as an actual person, right? Like, because businesses are run by people, but as a person, you have a partner, you have a family. What does that mean to you now to not have to get up that early and spend all that time away?

[00:34:35] Jesse Way: Quality of life has improved. Definitely. Now I just wake up at a normal time. Usually not always, but sometimes like our son, we have a two and a half year old, so sometimes he's awake and I actually see him before I go.

[00:34:50] Or I get back and I'm not just absolutely exhausted so we can actually like hang out and on Sundays, I'm not just wiped like LA when we were at market, like Sundays were basically like a write-off for me, because Saturday was so exhausting after Friday, which was already tiring as a harvest day. And so Sundays, I was kind of just usual solvers, just like recovery day.

[00:35:11] So yeah, now I have more energy and it's nice �cause you come home and you can actually still hang out with your family and feel like you have energy to do so. And just like now I wake up kind of at a regular time, even on Saturdays versus used to be that I had this one day that I was waking up at three 30 in the morning. And then yeah, I was just kinda like exhausted for a couple of days afterwards.

[00:35:35] Quality of life has improved. Definitely. Now I just wake up at a normal time. usually. Not always, but sometimes like our son, we have a two and a half year old, so sometimes he's awakened. I actually see him before I go.

[00:35:50] or I get back and I'm not just absolutely exhausted so we can actually like, hang out and on Sundays, I'm not just wiped like LA when we were at market, like Sundays were basically like a write-off for me, because Saturday. Was so exhausting after Friday, which was already tiring as a harvest day. And so Sundays, I was kind of just useless almost just like recovery day.

[00:36:11] So yeah, now I have more energy and it's nice. Cause you come home and you can actually still hang out with your family and feel like you have energy to do so. And just like now I wake up kind of at a regular time, even on Saturdays versus used to be that I had this one day that I was waking up at three 30 in the morning.

[00:36:30] And then yeah, it was just kinda like exhausted for a couple of days afterwards. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That that's yeah, just the sheer thing of it. And when you're harvesting, like you're harvesting something someone's already bought not being like, oh, we're bringing more of this item in my hope itself.

[00:36:47] It's just every, like every step along the way is more guaranteed, which then lets you to focus less on like the worries of how much you're going to make each week and more on just like making sure you're providing a quality product each week.

[00:37:02] Diego Footer: What are your thoughts on if you were a new farm solely selling online?

[00:37:10] Jesse Way: I think that would, I do think that it would be tough to be a new farm and just jump into solely farming online because such a large percentage of our customer base came from the market in that the market was. Very important. I think to us in like gaining traction in our, in the city that we were selling in, and then those customers with COVID shifted to just our like pickup location instead of being at the market.

[00:37:37] And I think the market gives you that that visibility. And so I think though, but like having, if you have good pickup location partners, whether it be at the farm or elsewhere in the city, I think. I dunno. I think it it's worth, it's worth having it at least as an aspect of your business. If it not like for us, it's our PR it's our only outlet is through online, but I think making an online storefront in combination with being at a market or something, if I were to do it over again, that's how.

[00:38:08] How I would do it and allow customers to pre-purchase and have some guaranteed sales and maybe have the market as your pickup place in that you would still be able to make additional sales, but you're trying to build that like guaranteed sale outlet. I dunno, I find it. Yeah. I think we kind of lucked out in timing of being at market for a year before transitioning online. And I think just solely going online would make it tough to make awareness, like build.

[00:38:34] Meghan Brandenburg: The other side of that is now people are used to looking, shopping for food online because of this past year experience everyone's had, they're more likely to be comfortable trying it out, trying out a new farm

[00:38:51] Diego Footer: Well, it almost sounds like if you're going to do a market, you might as well do an online store to like there's no reason not to.

[00:38:59] Jesse Way: Yeah. I just think that's absolutely true. I don't see why you, I don't see any reason not to, for sure.

[00:39:03] Meghan Brandenburg: For even if the market is your pickup location, primarily people order their food online ahead of time and just pick it up from you at the market. You're there. Getting�gaining the exposure from all the other foot traffic and they might then see you and then pre-order from you the next week and as a convenience, and I think it's a good combination to start out that way.

[00:39:26] Jesse Way: But it's also, yeah. Having an online store with social media now, like you can reach a lot more people than some people just are never going to be market customers.

[00:39:35] A lot of people, most people do shop online. So I think the percentage of people who shop online is higher than the percentage of people who go to markets and therefore. It's worth somehow gaining, getting into that online marketplace �cause it's been workings.

[00:39:53] Diego Footer: You have it Jessie way. And Megan, Brandon Berg on the advantages of selling online and getting your Saturday back.

[00:40:00] If you want to learn more about Jesse and Megan and everything that they're doing on their farm check. Using the link below. And if you want to start selling online and get your Saturday back, check out our brand new practical, how to guide ready? Farmer one, the book now available on Amazon. Thanks for listening to this episode.

[00:40:21] 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. I'm Diego. And until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.

 

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