Ever since the pandemic started, there’s been a lot of fear, panic, and worry in the farm space justified in many ways. Businesses have lost about up to 90% of their customer base virtually overnight.
What can we do then? How do we react to this?
I’ve put down a roadmap, a stepladder of sorts, to help you navigate through these trying times. It doesn’t guarantee success, or miraculously sets your business booming overnight, but I’m hoping it would help you get through Covid-19 as a farmer and as a business owner.
1.) Keep Morale Up (3:45)
Our brain is hardwired to focus on negativity. The reality is that the world will still exist after Covid-19. Do you want to be a part of that world? There will be businesses that shut down during Covid-19. Will you let yours be one?
“When you lose hope, everything goes away. There’s no reason to try.”
We can acknowledge the problem and control the damage. But we need to move forward to take what’s left and build out of it.
Where do you want your business to be when Covid-19 passes? Write it down. Give yourself something to work towards.
Reach out to someone who’s been affected by the situation and start collaborating on ideas. You’re going to have to be creative to get through this, and more minds are more creative than one mind.
A lot of farms are geographically dispersed, so there’s no competition. I’ve found that farmers are generally receptive and willing to help out others.
For smaller farms and people who farm as side hustles, you may have to shut down the farm because of government mandates. But that doesn’t mean you have to shut down the business. Read those business books you’ve been putting off. Deep clean. You can do a lot of things with your business that doesn’t require you to spend money or have sales.
It’s not optimal, but at least you’re progressing, advancing your knowledge, perfecting your skills and processes, improving your equipment.
“Don’t concede and sit idle.”
For those who are farming as a side hustle, reassess if this is something you want to do. Covid-19 has presented itself as a hard wall, and you can take this opportunity to think about whether farming is something you really want to do. If it’s not, then it’s okay to move on and change.
If your heart isn’t into it, then it’s not worth doing. Maybe your skills would be better utilized in a different field.
Give yourself a reason to say, ‘I’m moving forward despite what the world has dealt to me.’
2.) Look at Where You’re At Financially (13:45)
We should assess where we’re at today because if the business runs out of money before Covid-19 is over, then it’s over.
We can start with how much cash you have on-hand. So, you have some working capital. What are your carrying costs? Can you pay those costs with the money you have right now? If not, how are you going to pay for it?
If things aren’t necessary, cut it off from your expenses unless you’re in a financially favorable position. And if you have a line of credit, I don’t suggest drawing on that unless there are no other options available.
Records are more important than ever. Do the numbers now in case the government rolls out a plan for small business owners and they ask you to show your numbers.
Tracking your numbers and keeping up with your books will give you a more accurate picture of where you are financially. The books might even show you that it might be hard for you to go out of business unless Covid-19 rolls out for a very, very, very, very long time.
3.) Can You Produce and Sell Some Products? (19:30)
Some areas have imposed restrictions that severely restrict people from selling products. Within the guides of the law, can you get some products out to market so you have some sales? Some are better than none, even if it’s not optimal. You’ll still have costs every month. If you can’t do sales, can you offset some of those costs with something else?
You have to get creative with how you get your products to your customers—go online, look into REKO Rings, use social media to connect to buyers, collaborate with other business owners.
On top of that, research and make sure you’re applying the best food safety practices to keep everyone safe—produce, sell, and deliver products safely.
4.) Restaurants and farmer’s markets have shut down. What do you do? (21:45)
This is a scary situation. Some farms had 90% of sales switched off overnight.
How do you react to that?
You can wait it out until it comes back, which is, frankly, not a good strategy to survive a business. You can try to connect to previous customers and offer home delivery if you have a way of engaging farmer’s market customers. You can think of how you can diversify as quickly as possible to start building a new customer base. Maybe you could partner up with other food establishments to provide pre-made meals.
If you’re a farm that lost most of their sales overnight, go back to step 1. Is this what you want? You have two choices: shut it down or reinvent the business.
Is that something you have the energy for? Or is your heart not into it? If you want to walk away, now is the time. And walking away is okay. You can try something new, something different.
Otherwise, if you answered that you wanted to continue with farming, it then brings us to step 5.
5.) Reinventing & Rebuilding the Business Starting Now. (26:00)
It would be interesting to see the retail landscape post-Covid-19. Walmart has introduced a pick-up service where you order online, and you pick up your stuff curbside. Will this service stay, or will we revert to browsing shelves after the pandemic? Farmer’s markets now mandate you to order online and just come to farmer’s markets for pick-ups, which is personally a lot more convenient.
Will consumer habits change? Think about how your business will have to adapt coming out of Covid-19.
If you only covered a single market that was adversely affected by the pandemic, you’ll realize just how fragile it is. What will you do to make your business more anti-fragile?
Farms who only used to sell to restaurants and farmer’s markets are now scrambling to put up online stores, setting up CSA’s, lining up for farmer’s market pick-ups, starting REKO Rings, and selling to grocers because they’re still open and are having a hard time getting food.
There’s no guarantee that trying out new things will work out a hundred percent, but there’s no harm in trying especially now when we have all this time and we need all these sales.
This is our chance. This is how we come out better.
“We entered Covid-19 as this farm, we exit Covid-19 as that farm that is more resilient and anti-fragile.”
6.) Repairs & Improvement (34:45)
Doing something that works towards progress and maintains hope is better than doing nothing. Where does sitting idle get you? You just stew in your mind about how bad everything is, and then nothing changes.
Be active. If you’re working towards something and you’re making something happen, it gives you some control back.
So many people are affected by this. Some are going to work their asses off to get out of this. Some won’t. Which one are you going to be? Can you out-work people who don’t put in the time?
Work towards something that gives you hope. Work towards progress.
If there’s more than one person involved in your business, now’s the time to cross-train everybody to do everything on the farm. Everybody should be able to do everything. This is anti-fragility principle: everyone should be able to step into any role.
There’s a lot you can do while things are slow if you want to change and become better to make the business stronger.
I don’t know where the world’s going to be at when we come out of Covid-19, but it’s going to be different than when we went in. Your business will look different. So, think of ways to adapt.
“If you can get through this, you’ll emerge knowing you can navigate through almost anything. And that’s a really powerful place to be.”
And while it’s hard right now, some of you will no doubt come out better than when you went into Covid-19—better business model, more anti-fragile, better in every sense of the word. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t difficult during Covid-19. Maybe you just found out about better practices for your farm.
Network. Link up. Get creative. Try a lot of things knowing most of them won’t work. But some of them will, and they’ll work spectacularly.
I’ll try to put out as much material as I can to help you get through this, and I hope your business does well. I hope your business does okay throughout this, and that it gets stronger and better.
Listen to the Episode:
Listen to more episodes of Farm Small Farm Smart
Subscribe to Farm Small Farm Smart in your favorite podcast player:
Focus on what you can control, not on what you can't control. That's what this episode is all about. Coming up for listening to the show today, I'm your host Diego Dai ego. This is a special episode of farm, small farm smart with the way that this whole COVID 19 situation is playing out. I'm trying to adapt the show on the fly.
I'm putting out more episodes than I normally would. And I'm trying to record these things pretty quickly and get a lot of material out there to try and help people. The last episode that I did on the fragility of your business is one example. Today's another example. I'm trying to instill some hope out there, and then I'll have another couple of special interviews coming up, talking about ways to sell product online with the.
Rapidity and fluidity with which the situation is evolving out there in the world as farmers or people involved in the farm space. We have to adapt accordingly. I'm trying to do my part. I hope it helps. Recently I was sitting home when I flipped through Instagram, I read a lot of the comments and it seems like there is a lot of fear, panic worry out there in the farm space, justified in many ways, a lot of farms sales have basically been switched off with restaurants, switching off their stoves in there, businesses lost 90 plus percent of their customer base, more or less overnight.
It sent shock waves throughout the farm community. How can we react to that? How can we deal with that? It's not optimum. Nobody wants to be going through this, but we all are. I'm involved in the farm space in an indirect way. And you guys listening to this are involved in the pharma space in a very direct way.
You're having to deal with that. The restaurant industry is having to deal with it, many businesses. Are facing these problems. The world changed overnight. What are you going to do? I wanted to put together a roadmap process that you could do to navigate through these times. Not something that would ensure success.
There's no miracle cure here. There's no easy fix. There's nothing to get rich quick. There's nothing to make a whole bunch of money on an acre. But they're real steps on how you can process and deal with the situation at hand in try and make the best of it. Yes. Make the best of something that's bad.
This is the hand that you're dealt. You have to play the cards that you're dealt. You don't have to like them. Um, but you have to deal with them in everybody's under the same conditions. So it's not just you. So what can we do? To control what we can control the controllables and not worry so much about those things that we can't control.
We can't switch off COVID-19 we can't turn farmer's markets back on or reopen restaurants. We don't have the power to do that. So what can we do given what we have? I'm going to go through six steps here. I tried to organize these in a way that is like a latter approach. If the first one doesn't get done or doesn't hold true, nothing else matters in the second one and third one, moving up the chain, it's really working your way forward with the base being most important.
The first thing you need to do in times like this times of crisis is keep morale up. It's very easy to pay attention to all the negative news, to pay attention to everything that's not going right in your life. Right now. It's really easy to think about how many customers you've lost. Our brain is hard, wired to focus on negativity.
It's going to differ there. It's just biologically how we are wired. That's been proven in studies. If you focus on everything bad happening, nothing's gonna look right. So how can we work around that? How can we deal with that and keep our morale up? The reason he is the world will exist after COVID-19.
Do you want to be a part of that world? As a business, there will be businesses that go out of business due to COVID-19. Do you want yours to be one or are you going to let yours be one? And there will be businesses that thrive coming out of COVID-19. Do you want your business to be one? Do you want to put your business in a place to be one of those businesses that thrives?
That's the hope when you lose hope, every day thing goes away. There's no reason to try. You have to find something within the old business landscape that you can focus on. That is going to give you hope to get through this crisis. Not false hope. You don't want to cling to something like that. Legitimate hope.
What can you work towards? Instead of focusing on everything that's going wrong, we can definitely acknowledge what's going wrong. We can triage that. We can stop the bleeding, control the damage, but then we have to move forward. We have to take what's left and say, what can we do with the pieces that we have?
How can we build out of that? Establish some hope where your business be when you emerge from this, what do you want your business to be when they lift the barrier of COVID-19? When it all passes, maybe that's an a month. Maybe that's in three months. Maybe that's in six months. What do you want your business to look like a year from now?
When this is all gone? What do you want your business to look like? Have you thought about that? Write it down, give yourself something to work towards. Even if it's just, we will stay solvent throughout this. We will not go away. If you don't establish something to work towards. If you don't give yourself some hope and if you have a crew, if you don't give them something to cling to, and everyone checks out mentally, then everything after this is a void.
You need to focus on what you can do versus what you can do. The majority of the farming community has been affected by this. Is there some way to network together to form support groups of farms, trying to start up online stores? Why not create a little mini mastermind around this farms who lost most of their business, selling to restaurants?
Will can four or five farms get together and brainstorm ideas of what they could do. Are there just, Hey, my life got turned upside down on my farm groups. I would strongly advise you to reach out to someone that has been affected by the situation and start collaborating on ideas. As I go through this list, you're going to realize that a lot of the way that you're going to make it through this is having to get creative.
And many minds are much more creative than one mind or two minds. So the more people you can bring into this, the better, the more ideas that you can test, the better most people are geographically dispersed. So there's not competition here. The farm community, I have found to be very receptive to helping others and sharing and providing assistance.
Reach out form a group. You're not alone in this. There's so many people out there. If you feel isolated, it's going to make it worse. Where if it's a group getting together saying what can we do with what we have that's empowering. I think you should stay active. The smaller farms that startups, that people doing this as a side hustle, the first reaction might be, we can just shut down.
Well, as we'll get into, you might have to shut down production because your government mandates it. But that doesn't mean you have to shut down the business. You can read about business, you can get a better handle of your books. You can set up QuickBooks that you've been putting off for so long. You can deep, clean, you can do different things within your business.
That don't require you spending money and don't require you to have sales. That's not optimum, but at least you are progressing. You're advancing your knowledge. You're perfecting your skills. You're perfecting your process. You're improving your equipment. Don't concede and just sit idle. A lot of times, part of the season, people will be wishing that they could just pause time and catch up and fix stuff.
Well, here's a forced pause. It's not the best in terms of timing. I get that. But life has been paused for many farms. Use that pause to your advantage.
And for some people who were in the startup phase, the side hustle phase, maybe a year or two into this, this is a time where you really need to decide, is this what you want to do? And I don't. Mean that in a bad way. Some people try different things and decide eventually it's not for me. I tried to get into the conference business.
I thought I would be into it after three years. I decided I didn't want to be in that business. I've sold stuff online and realized I didn't want to do that. I've researched other businesses and gone. A fair ways into starting them and realized I didn't want to do that. There's nothing wrong with moving on.
COVID-19 has presented itself as a hard wall that many businesses have just ran into. I don't think there's anything bad about assessing your life and where you're at right now and saying, I don't want to scale this wall. I'm going to go around. I'm going to regroup. I'm going to use this time to. Go in a different direction.
That's not failing and it's okay too. Move away. Move on change. The next few months will be extremely tough in the farm space. If your heart isn't into it, it's not worth doing. Maybe your skills are better utilized in another field. And the way that you can best keep your morale up for yourself mentally as a person for a family.
If you have a family, is by shutting a business down that you're going to consistently be stressing about, and that you don't want to put the effort into to try and figure out how to keep it alive. It also may be not the best business financially in this moment. Might. Be the realization where you say this just hasn't worked.
We have to move on. It's one thing to navigate a crisis with a strong balance sheet. It's another thing to do it when you're not in an advantageous financial position, maybe shutting down, regrouping, paying off debt and starting over sometime in the future. When all the smoke clears with all the lesson, using all the lessons that you've learned is a better move.
Moving on is okay. It's not failing. It's just the change in direction. But if you do want to stay in the game, if you do want to ride this out, if you do want to navigate through it, then put something out there to go for, give yourself some attainable goals that you can actually attain under the guise of COVID-19 and the regulations that we're facing and find a way to make progress as you deem.
Progress to be, give yourself success metrics that you can actually achieve in this environment. Maybe it's just, you go out and you cultivate your beds every day. Something to say, I am moving forward. Despite what the world has dealt to me, you have to change the narrative. Of this is bad for our industry too.
This is what I'm doing to succeed in spite of it, that's going to be on you as a farm owner or farm owners to do that. If you can do that, then we move on to step two. Step two is to say, where are you at financially? This is really a triage that you're going to have to do here because you need to stop bleeding.
If you're in a bad financial position right now, it's only going to get worse. If you're in a good financial position, it's going to probably get less good over the next few months. So what you need to do is assess where are we at today? If you can't survive COVID-19 as a business financially, or as a family, an individual, then nothing else matters beyond this, on this ladder that we're going up.
The business runs out of money before COVID 19 is over. It's over. So let's start. How much cash on hand do we have? How much do we have in the bank? We have some working capital, what are, and then we need to look at what are our carrying costs. If we have no sales month to month, what are we going to have to pay rent utilities, water, those types of things.
What are those expenses? How much can our cash on hand cover? What we're going to have to pay? And then we need to look out a few months and say, what am I going to have to pay? Assuming my production schedule stays intact. If you're a livestock producer, maybe you're going to get a bunch of chicks. Maybe you're going to have to get feed.
Maybe there's going to be some processing in there. Can you pay with that with the cash that you have now, if not, how are you going to pay for it? And if you can't come up with a good way that you're reasonably confident will work in terms of paying for those expenses. You're going to have to do something most likely cancel that order.
How are you going to cover upcoming expenses? If things aren't necessary? All we were gonna get a load of compost. Maybe that's just the kill. We're not getting that. We are going to add a new high tunnel this year. No done. Shut down. All unnecessary spending, unless you're in a very financially favorable position.
If you're in a. Great position financially. And you can say, well, I think we're going to come out of this stronger in the end. We want to expand, we had plans for expanding. We're going to continue with those plans and you're not going to put yourself at too much risk financially to do it. Then do it. One thing I did as I went through all of our books at paper pot and said, what do we have on hand now in terms of cash?
How many purchase orders do I have out there for things like inventory and how does, how do those purchase orders stack up against the cash I have right now? Can I cover all of those purchase orders? And when I did that check, I could say, yes, I can pay for everything I've committed to paying for now. So if more money comes in that can just bolster our savings, I'm going to be very cautious about anything that I'm buying or spending money on going forward.
Because I don't know how long this is going to last. I don't know how it's going to affect our sales being indirectly related to the act of farming. So shutting down unnecessary spending is going to allow you to glide through this in a better position. If you have a line of credit, I wouldn't be drawing going on that unless you absolutely need it.
Like there are no other options of. Other than taking that, because if this drags out and you can't pay off that line of credit, you're going to be in a worst financial position. So be very cautious here. What does the business look like financially? Now? Cash on hand. Compare it against upcoming expenses.
Can you survive records are more important now than ever. If there's some sort of government aid that comes into play for a small business owners for unemployed, for food producers, you're going to want to have books that reflect accurately, what is actually going on. And if those programs get launched, you're going to want to take advantage of those as soon as possible.
So say they unrolled a plan for small business owners in a month. You want to have records ready? So if that day comes ever in the future, you can just submit for these things, knowing the numbers you're going to need for the application. There's no need to try and play, catch up, then do the numbers.
There's no excuse for that. So assess where you're at financially, that might also. Say wow. We're, we're actually pretty good in this. We're not great. We could obviously be better, but we're not going to go under, like I can tell you from looking at our books, it would be real hard for us to go out of business unless COVID-19 stretch out for a very, very, very long time.
We just don't have that much overhead and I've paid for everything that I'm going to need to pay for. That doesn't mean things aren't going to get tight and tough, but we can survive. So when you do this analysis, you get a more accurate feel of where your business is and how much you should be worrying or panicking.
If you're in a really bad financial position, then it comes to triage. What can I do to get out of this? No easy answers there. Step number three. Can you produce and sell some product. There's been a lot of areas that have imposed local restrictions or lockdowns that prohibit, or really severe or severely restrict people from selling product.
You obviously have to abide by whatever the government says. I'm not saying to break the law, but within the guides of the law, Can you get some product out to market? So you have some sales, some sales are obviously better than none, even if they're not optimal, you're going to have costs regardless every month.
Even if you don't do sales, can you offset some of those costs with how do you do that? Sales? How do you get the product to customers? That's where you're going to have to get creative. There's a lot of people going online right now, trying to do online sales. There's these Rico rings that people are starting up on Facebook using social media to connect to buyers.
I'm trying to record some interviews with people who have successful online stores before COVID and stores that are doing really well during COVID to help people out during this crisis. I'm recording those interviews very shortly. I'm trying to turn those as fast as I can on the fly to help you guys out.
Because I realize there's a problem, but if you can produce and sell some products safely, then do it. If you are producing, you definitely want to look into what are the best food safety practices to not be a vector for the spread to keep people from getting sick gloves, hand, washing masks, whatever it may be.
I'm not knowledgeable in that at all. But research that it's not just sell the, sell it, sell and deliver product safely, your local government, some Google searches, the USDA can probably assist in best practices for what you can do. Number four, if you had all restaurants or farmer's market customers and they've shut down, what do you do?
This is a scary situation. This is the fact that a lot of microgreen growers and I imagine it's affected a lot of smaller scale farmers selling to restaurants was great when times are good. Now, when times are bad, it's awful. And a lot of businesses have had 90% of sales switched off overnight. Right?
How do you react to that? Well, one is you just do nothing. Wait it out. See who comes back. Not a good strategy, probably not one. That's going to lead to a surviving business. You can try Brian connects with existing customers and get them product in alternative ways, home delivery or something like that.
If you have a way of engaging your farmer's market customers through Facebook, through Instagram, through emails, whatever it is, if the farmer's market isn't around, how can you provide that farmer's market? I don't want to say experience, but how can you give your farmer's market customer product in a way that works?
If you have restaurant customers it's how can I diversify as fast as I can locally, you're going to have to start building a new customer base. Now maybe you can go. And pair up with some restaurants to provide produce along with pre-made meals or sandwiches or bake shops that just make bread.
Businesses are getting really creative. There's a art place near us, where you would go in normally and you would paint things made out of clay. They would fire them and you take them home. They've created take-home kits. Now you go online, you pick out the item that you had, you pick out the item you want to paint.
They give you some brushes and some paint, you paint it. And some point online, you bring it back. They fire it. That service didn't exist two weeks ago. They weren't even thinking about that two weeks ago. Now they're doing it. I've seen some things on Instagram where a number of local businesses are pairing together to create a community box.
So you might have one restaurant that bakes rolls. You have a farm that supplies, veggies, you have another restaurant that maybe puts in some cheeses or whatever. So maybe you can reach out to some of these restaurants and say, Hey, would you be willing to include this in a box that I'm organizing, take the work off of them.
I'm not saying they're all going to go for it. And I'm not saying that idea is going to work, but doing nothing. If you had all restaurant customers means where are you going to go? You're not going to make progress. So you're going to have to try and get crafty. A savvy restaurant is going to want to do some sales.
Even if they're out of the box, everybody's out of the box thinking now, why wouldn't they do it? They don't have to buy your product. Maybe they can take their product and put it into a box with yours and a customer that's local might want to buy it because now they're getting some of free thing.
Coffee rolls, donuts produce, but you start trying to cultivate a new customer base yesterday. And again, if you are a business that lost most of your sales overnight, and it's devastating to you, you really have to go back to that step. Number one, is this really what I want, do I want to shut it down?
Cause you have two choices. To shut it down or reinvent the business, reinventing the business in this time. And coming out of it will not be easy. It'll be very different than what you've done so far. Is that something that you want to do? Do you have the energy for it or not? Is your heart in this? If not now is the time to walk away and walking away is okay.
You can try something new, you can do something different, shut it down. But if you want to reinvent the business, then we move on. To the next step, step number five re-inventing and rebuilding the business starting. Now, it will be interesting to see how the retail landscape changes post COVID-19 not just for small farms for everybody.
Walmart introduced a pickup service in the recent past, you placed an order online. And then at checkout you say, when you'll go pick it up outside the store, you pull up outside the store. Somebody from Walmart comes out with your stuff. They help you load it in your car. That was a great service that worked well.
It was easy to use and then COVID-19 hit and there are pickup slots available. Walmart is booked solid in India. Out of store pickups. How much of that's going to carry over people who get used to doing this during COVID? Are they going to revert to old habits and want to go back to browsing around Walmart post COVID-19?
Some of them DoorDash, Uber eats, I would imagine are doing decent business. More people are ordering online food. Are they gonna want to do that after. I went to a feed store today and the store is closed to customers. You're not allowed to go in, you can buy stuff, but you can't go and you go to the front and you say, this is what I want.
They go pull it, come back with it and you pay them for it. It's actually kind of nice because I can get just what I want. I'm not browsing forever. I don't have to look for it. And they do most of the work. And there's no charge for that. Do I want to go back to just browsing and picking it out myself later on?
Maybe. So will consumer habits change? It might, if this goes on a long time, think about how your business is going to have to adapt coming out the back. End of COVID-19. You're seeing farmers markets now mandate that orders are placed online and they just go to the farmer's markets to pick up. Honestly, that seems a lot more convenient to me than just walking around for an hour and picking stuff up.
I would much rather just go pick it up and leave. That's just me. A lot of customers probably feel that way, but they were reluctant to do that before. Are they going to continue to want to do that on the back end of this? Should you look to push that on the backend? I would think as a farmer, why not? You want that, you know what you're selling up front.
You pre-bagged, it, it makes inventory a lot easier. So look at some of these trends now that are happening out there. What will the summer world look like post COVID-19? How can you adapt your business to that? What's working well for farms, what's working well for small businesses in terms of online ordering and takeout.
Yeah. Farms who just sold the restaurants or who just sold that farmer's markets are really changing. Now they're trying to set up online stores. They're rushing to start up CSA models. They're having this farmer's market pickups. They're starting to Rico circles, Google it R E K O circle or Rico ring. If you don't know what that is, and they're trying to sell the grocers because grocers are still open now.
In groceries may have problems getting food. I think it's a wake up call for anybody that had a one market stream business model. I only sold at farmer's markets. I only sold the restaurants or the majority of my sales were through one outlet. If you are in an outlet that was adversely affected. Now you realize the fragility of that, which I covered.
In an episode previous to this, what are you going to do to make your business more? Anti-fragile to adapt through all this and to thrive coming out of this. Are you going to look at starting something up, starting an online store through something like Shopify is pretty easy. It doesn't cost much. I don't see a reason why all farms shouldn't look to set that up.
Or having farmer's markets pickups, really trying to push people in. There's no guarantee they're going to work, but there's no harm in trying, especially now that we have all this time and we need all these sales, why not go for it? Yeah. It is another thing to do, but the landscape changing and it has been changing for a while.
Even if we remove COVID-19. Amazon fresh. All these boxes arriving at people's stores. There was going to be competition coming in one way or another for farmer's markets. This is really. I think fast tracked how quick some of you are going to have to evolve. The Amazon fresh is of the world, the boxes arriving at home.
We're sneaking up on everybody. They, you were the frog that got into the water when it was cold. No, it's slowly boiling. You don't realize it where COVID-19 was a VAT of acid and you just got dropped in. Ouch. It hurts. Adapt. Versus a slow adaptation. The meat industry of small farms has really been, I think, hurt by the butcher Box's of the world and they are having to change very quick.
So start thinking about ways that you can rebuild re-invent. This is your chance. This is the opportunity. This is how we come out better. We entered COVID 19 as this farm, we exit COVID 19 as that farm and that farm is more resilient, more anti-fragile in better to take on the world that is coming out of this.
If you don't have a big social media presence, now it's time to step up your game. Because a lot of farms are doing really well selling through social media, making Instagram posts, making Facebook posts, selling to their local groups. This is one advantage of social media that maybe people didn't weigh enough.
It's an easy way to reach. A lot of people get an email list now is when it would be great to have an email list to sell vegetables, to if you need to sell vegetables and people need food. And let's take a second. Let's remove COVID 19 from the situation, and let's look at how our sales models have worked for us.
And let's be honest, how have your sales models who worked for you if you're selling a meat CSA, how has that worked? What, what's the good in that? What's the bad in that? Is there ways to eliminate the bad and dial up the good if you're just selling at a farmer's market? What's good. What's bad. Can you dial that up, really analyze all these models and try and figure out what is working.
What's not, how could we better serve our market, knowing what we've known now about all these models. Maybe you start doing online sales during this whole COVID-19 and your customers love it. And you weren't doing that well, you just made this discovery. The one thing I should have said earlier that I didn't is if you are selling at farmer's markets, when they go full blown, reopening, at some point in the future, do whatever you can to start to get people's email lists.
Hey, just in case we have another situation like COVID-19 would you mind signing up for our email list so we could reach you in times of emergencies? People are going to be real in tuned to this, having that whole recency bias. This thought is going to be in their mind. Start collecting emails ASAP after this, when things go back live.
So if it comes again, we can reach out. People want to eat local food. People want good food. People want food period. They need to connect the people who can provide it. If the system goes down like this. So establish those connections early, before it goes down so everybody can utilize them. When the system does go down, step number six, ties into the staying active approach.
It's what I would call repairs and improvement. Doing something that works towards progress and maintains hope is better than doing nothing. Sitting idle. Where does that get you? You just do in your mind, usually about how bad things are and nothing changes. At least if you're working towards something, it seems like progress.
Even if you zoom out and say, well, we're not even making that much progress. Just the act of I am making this happen. I'm taking these steps, gives you some control back. Because it's situations like COVID-19 that have ripped the control from a lot of us in different parts of our lives. We feel like we are now life takers versus life makers.
You have to stay inside. You have the social distance, you can't go to a restaurant. You can't do all these things. You lose a lot of power. Okay, fine. We've lost all that power. You're forcing me to stay at home at home. That's my domain. You're not taking away my power there. I'm going to do what I can do there to be better.
So many people are affected by this. Some of them will work their ass off and work hard to get out of this. Some will not. Okay. Who are you going to be? Are you going to be the person grinding to get better from this? Or are you going to be the person that just went along for the ride? There will be two distinct groups.
Can you outwork the other people who don't put in the time we will come out of this? There will be a resurgence after this. Economy's always recover. And I'm not, I don't wanna give false hope here and say like, Oh, this is just going to blow over without a big hiccup. This could be bad for the economy for a long time, but the government's going to put a lot of liquidity and money into the system to try and stave that off.
So maybe it's shorter. Maybe it's not, the things will get better. You have to be prepared for that. So work towards something that gives you hope, work towards progress. You're not going to have to spend money doing a lot of this stuff or much money. Money is a critical resource. Right now. Cash is a critical resource for many small businesses.
Credit is a death. Knell. Overspending is a death. Now those are liabilities. So everything here is not going to involve spending much money. There's no excuse not to do it, especially if a lot of businesses are shut down. What else are you doing? If there's more than one person involved in your business, maybe you're husband and wife, maybe your two friends, maybe your partners, maybe it's a father, son.
Maybe it's a mom daughter, whatever it is. If you have employees now as the time to cross, train everybody to do everything on the farm. And in the business, everyone should be able to do everything. Or the people at certain levels need to be able to do everything. If you're a husband and wife and she does all the books and all the hard stuff online, and you're just the grunt in the field, you might want to learn how to do the books, not just for now.
In case somebody gets sick, but for the future, like this is just a basic anti-fragility principle. Everybody should be able to do everything. Anybody should be able to step into any role. I think we get too specialized sometimes, and there's a lot of danger there. So start training people, repair and maintenance, cleaning, process improvement, all things you can do now, deep clean.
Anything and everything that needed on your farm. If you were looking into gap certification or HASSOP certification, upgrading your washroom, cleaning up your washroom, painting surfaces, reorganizing equipment, changing the workflow. W you know, the washroom looks like this. Now it doesn't work. Great. We need to move these shelves around.
We need to replumb this. If you can get those supplies, do it now, while things are slow. Look at all your processes. Are we doing things optimally? Do you have written procedures or SOP standard operating procedures in place for everything that you do? Now's the time to write those? If you're slow, put those things into place.
You can do in-house growth trials. You can try different seeds. You can try different production methods. Oh, we leave this in the germination chamber for this long. Maybe we can cut it down. Now we direct seed at this way. Maybe we can change it this way. If sales are slow and you have beds in the field that are unoccupied, why not make use of them?
That website that you've wanted to update forever? Well, now you can update it. You could do a general reflection on the business over the past year or two. I think some of you may have put this off over the winter, relaxing. Well, do it. Now. What's gone well with the business so far over the past X years, what hasn't gone well now you might have some time to get into this analyze things.
There's a lot you can do when things are slow. If you want to be better, if you are motivated to change. And make the business stronger. You can try and get creative in terms of sales. Are there little things you can do to get some product out there? I think there's going to be a bit of a resurgence in home.
Gardening coming out of all of this. Can you sell plants starts? Maybe you can deliver those. Maybe people don't want to buy food, but they'll buy plants starts on Craigslist. Is that something you could do that you normally wouldn't do? After this again, maybe people are gonna want a garden more. Maybe you can look at doing some garden workshops at your farm to something you would have never considered in the past, but here's a way to get people to come out and participate, post this, to bring community.
They gather to celebrate all of this. I don't know where the world's going to be at when we come out of COVID-19, but it's going to be different than when we went in. And your business is going to have to look different. So think about ways that you can adapt things that you never would have done before.
Like honor system farm sands. Maybe that's a way to go. We'll put some protests out there. Somebody comes and gets it. It's easy, no contact, pretty passive. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of. Government programs out there to help small business. You can do things to prepare.
Now, like I said, do your financials peruse through the current government grants out there? A lot of times, a lot of government grants aren't utilized to their full potential start looking through what grants your state has, the offer. Maybe there's something that applies to your farm, like a high tunnel grant.
Explore that landscape now. You may find programs that you never knew existed, that you could participate in and actually get something for your farm while this is all happening. So six steps you can take towards hope not despair. We're moving forward here. We're moving into the positive light, regardless of what the world looks like.
And I'm not just happy camper here, standing on a soap box saying, Oh, be happy. Don't worry. Yeah. There are a lot of things to worry about. Like the whole last episode was about anti-fragility in your business, but we have to be positive. Also. We'll take care of the negative. Now let's work towards the positive.
Let's stay mentally checked in. Let's be ready to take advantage of the big opportunity that's going to come out of this. And I don't mean that in an exploitive way, when businesses do come back online, there will be less businesses post COVID-19 than there was pre co Fred 19, or the business will be different.
That will there be an opportunity there for farms? And food producers and restaurants like the, yeah, that all restaurants are gone forever. It's just not true. There's going to be massive turn over, but there will be some, if you can get through this, then you'll come out the backend really knowing that you can navigate through OMA anything.
And that's a really powerful place to be. And while it's hard now, for some of you, no doubt. There are many of you that might come out better than when you went into this meaning? Here's what our business looked like before. COVID-19, here's what our business looks like in terms of how it's designed after COVID 19.
And it may be a better design post men pre we were just farmer's market sales before. We had some debt. We weren't thinking about all these fragility issues. Now we're cross trained. We have SLPs we're selling at farmer's markets and online were better post COVID than we were pre COVID. That's not to say that there's not hardship during the COVID period in the middle, but the business in a vacuum looking at either side is better coming out.
That is possible. That's within reach. And it's just a matter of you reaching for it and putting it into place, doing the work. So network link up, get creative, try a whole bunch of things, knowing that most of them won't work, but some of them will, and some of them will work spectacularly. I'm going to continue to put out as much material as I can.
To help you get through this. I wish you the best through this. I hope your business does well. I hope your business does okay. Throughout this. And I hope you as a business owner gets stronger and better throughout this stay safe. Thanks for listening until next time. Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.