Another Farmer Decides to Quit!
This week a farmer friend told me about a direct market farm in N. Alabama that has decided to quit! The farm, DSR Farms in Danville started 6-years ago and based on photos from their website and FB were hard workers, doing a lot of the right things, and making a positive difference in their local markets.
Initial communication suggested the decision goes back to the 2020 pandemic stress caused by big processors who shut their plants - leaving consumers desperate to find meat.
Thursday, they hosted a podcast and listed the following factors as key to their decision:
- more money working for someone else (he used to do heavy metal work)
- raising feed cost
- ran out of working capital
- change in consumer behavior
- more competition
- wants a better quality of life (travel, more spontaneous, more money)
- work life balance
I have never meet these folks. But, I was very impressed with how well they cared for the land and animals from the pictures. It takes a lot of hard work to "get it done"!
So, why did they decide to quit? From their list my top pick would be "change in consumer behavior". This affects working capital and when you are out of money it ends.
That is why I am convinced that IF local farms are going to survive (I can name a good handful that have quit in the last 10 years) AND if new folks are going to start farming to provide food to their local communities, THEN
customers will need to support them through the good and bad. Even when it is not convenient!
Let's face it - Farming is hard work and requires long hours. There is always something to do leaving little time for travel, dinner with friends, etc.
Many who start farming have left a job that paid more and had benefits - and they left the job when they clocked out for the day.
I once thought all customers were important. However, the fact is about 20% of our customers are responsible for 80% of our sales. These are the folks who are serious about eating healthy and are conscientious about how their food is raised. They order monthly (or buy bulk half/whole animals) in quantities that become a part of many of their families meals.
The other 80% include a lot of combinations. Some are first time buyers that are checking us out - which is good. Some are folks that are doing all they can do to stretch out a dollar and afford to buy what they can.
Last Spring when meat & eggs were short in grocery stores we got a lot of new business as did other direct market farms. There was a lot of discussion if the trend would last or fizzle when the store shelves were restocked.
For our farm it has been mixed. Some have become a part of the 20% mentioned above while the majority went back to buying at grocery stores and supporting the production model that left them stranded and in a panic.
Obviously, we need/want more customers like the 20%! They are the ones that help us get through the dips in sales.
And, we are looking for a way to "reward" the customers that help carry the load with us. Not only financially, but when the next "pandemic" hits and grocery store shelves are empty we want to be able to take care of our "regular" customers first vs. panic buyers that don't stick around.
DSR Farms (and this young couple) were part of the solution. It saddens me to see them quit.
As always, we thank you for rewarding our hard work with your trust and support.