Case Study 1: Vegetables, Preserves and Baking


About the farm

Carrie started her veggie, fruit and egg farm business from a hobby-farming background. She and her husband quit their day jobs once they had enough money to buy the property and to have a small nest egg for security. She started up in 1995, and has expanded her garden area to over an acre with the help of her many apprentices. There’s a lot more room to expand on the 30-acre property, but she’s content with slow growth.

The bulk of her produce is sold right on her rural property. She stocks a beautiful farm shop with her produce and eggs, along with preserves made with her fruit, and baking from the outdoor wood-fired oven on the property. The farm has a very welcoming energy to it, and there is a relaxed confidence that comes from hard working people thriving in their element.

Farm Marketing

Carrie’s beautiful, high-quality food, and her lovely rural setting are big draws for customers even though she is located on an isolated stretch of road. She makes a point of being very consistent with her farm stand hours, and she goes to great lengths to ensure a regular supply of seasonal produce for her customers. She’s afraid to advertise in case she gets overwhelmed with the wrong kind of customers. She is content with the word-of-mouth advertising that she gets from her regulars, and with the occasional feature in a conservation-themed magazine or the neighbourhood newsletters.

Carrie feels strongly that her food needs to be affordable, so she keeps this in mind when pricing her products. She feels satisfied with the prices she is able to charge, and she feels no competition from other growers in the area. She has some apprentices that are returning for a second season on the farm who are keen to earn an income for themselves from the farm. To this end, they are going to do additional marketing off the farm at area farmers’ markets and restaurants.

Seasonal workload

Carrie works full-time year round, but with a much heavier workload in the summer. Her peak times are July, August, and September, and her low times are December and January.

Limitations

Carrie feels that the on-farm marketing helps keep her sheltered from a lot of legal and logistical barriers. She has the freedom on her property to run her business to suit her lifestyle. She has a neighbour who complains about traffic on the road, which is annoying, but she feels that she is protected by law because she is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and farm stands are a permitted land use. Another minor barrier is water shortage if she were to expand much more, but because she is in a high rainfall area, she feels there are options for her to solve this problem.

Farm Finances

Carrie’s gross farm receipts total about $70,000 per year and she nets approximately $30,000. Her biggest expenses are animal feed and fuel for her vehicle. She feels satisfied with her income, and feels that the only barriers for increasing her earnings are her stamina and her willingness to take on more. She feels that she hasn’t maximized her earning potential because she could be better organized, but considering all the things she has going, that would be a tall order. From an outsider’s view, the farm runs like a well-oiled machine.

Assets

The property came with several outbuildings, including a barn with a cooler room that has been put to good use. Another valuable asset is plenty of housing for apprentices. They have a tractor with a tiller attachment that cost about $18,000. They have four greenhouses?ranging from 20 feet in length to 100 feet, altogether worth about $15,000. They’ve invested at least $3,000 in irrigation and $2,000 in deer fencing for the farm. There is also a lumber mill on the property that is an important source of building materials for farm projects.

Why this business works

Carrie is in her element, growing food, preserving and baking for her community. She enjoys her rural lifestyle with her family, and she has created a much-needed neighbourhood space for people to drop in, stay for coffee and a muffin, and leave with their week’s worth of vegetables and baking. She has started small, done her job very well, and is now reaping the rewards of her conscientious marketing efforts.

 

written by Robin Tunnicliffe, edited by Barbara Joughin