North Country Creamery - talking with a customer at the market

Speaking with a customer at the farmers market.

This year we took a multi-prong approach to marketing. I was striving toward an ideal that we would sell most of our products through a CSA. We managed to serve around a dozen members locally, and twenty-eight members through Juniper Hill Farms’ Farmigo share (a CSA service managed completely online). The local CSA operated like a pre-paid credit system where the members start off with a “Small Share” or “Large Share” balance, receiving extra credit toward their balance in exchange for their pre-payment, and we track their purchases on a weekly basis. Members can pick up at the Farmstore or the Farmers Markets. This year we tracked balances on paper and sent out email notices, but would like to find an affordable swipe card system in the future, where members can check their balance at any given time.

Speaking of the Farmstore: yes, this dairy farm came with a proper Farmstore. Actually the previous owners used to run it as a café and cheese shop. Our neighbors and friends, Mace Chasm Farm, have turned the kitchen into a butcher shop, legal and official with a 20C commercial kitchen and retail license.

North Country Creamery - taking a wholesale order during a slow day at the market

Taking a wholesale order during a slow day at the market for North Country Creamery.

Last week we had our first event at the Farmstore: Pulled Pork Dinner and Cider Pressing. It drew in about 50 guests, and a local newspaper reporter, without spending very much time at all on publicity. The creamery contribution was macaroni and cheese and feta salad. We are having our next event on Oct. 11, encouraging people to check out our new Farmstore and hang out with us for dinner.

Another avenue to pull people in to the store is that it’s in the process of becoming a Wholeshare pick-up site. Wholeshare is an online buying club that accesses regional local and organic foods as well as bulk goods. The website takes very little, if any, cut for providing the service, so it’s as close to buying directly from the distributor as most of us can get.

North Country Creamery - fingerling super hero

Fingerling super hero! (AKA, a slow day at the farmers market.)

As much as we’d like to sell it all straight from the store, we attending three markets per week through the summer. We’re stopping two this month, but will continue attending the Saranac Lake through December. I had a lot more fun selling at the markets than I’d predicted! It was somewhat disappointing when the markets were slow since it took so much time and energy to attend—except that on slow days vendors got to sit around the picnic tables and catch up with each other… or play wiffle ball, or make a Potato Super Hero (photos included).

Though I had fun at the markets, my partner and I recognized that they took up a lot of time. We’re knee-deep in the process of marketing a Dairy Delivery CSA to tag onto existing vegetable CSAs. It will work in a similar way to the Farmigo shares we sold this year: members can choose between a cheese share (will rotate between fresh and aged cheeses) or yogurt share (members can choose plain or flavored).

North Country Creamery - talking with customers at the marketEach week’s share is only $5, about equal to wholesale prices. Each additional share per household is only $4, offering incentive to buy multiple shares. We figured that we would need to sell between 500-800 shares to stop attending farmers markets. It would behoove us to know exactly how much to produce each week, so the trade-off is one day of deliveries to guaranteed customers verses three days of delivering to potential customers… then we might have time to get our friends together to play wiffle ball on the weekend! I wonder how long it will take us to meet our goal.

Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.

Comments
2 Responses to “Bootstrap @ North Country Creamery – developing a marketing plan”
  1. Ashlee,
    Thanks for mentioning us here (you came up on my Google Alerts). It looks like I’m going to be looping up into your neck of the woods in the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep you and Googin posted.
    Peace and Love,
    Dan

  2. Claire Mondrake says:

    I love the yoghurt CSA idea! I wish I were in your area…

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