Organic food is more than a 4 billion dollar industry in Canada, but it’s really only gained mainstream popularity in the last 15 years. Before that, organic food was niche and for farmers, the business case for going organic wasn’t as strong. That didn’t stop Dennis Baer, owner of Vibrant Farms from becoming certified organic more than 30 years ago. Back then, becoming organic was not a popular decision but he wanted to feed his children natural, wholesome food.
Today, more than 30 years later, Vibrant Farms continues to serve the Waterloo Region community with grass-fed, certified organic meat. After 30 years they’ve generated a big local following, and today they use social media as a way to keep in touch with customers. About 6 months ago, Vibrant Farms began searching for a more modern way to serve customers. Historically, they’d take orders via email, text, and phone calls, then they would enter invoices, accept e-transfers, and schedule pick-ups/drop-offs with customers. Their popularity was growing so quickly they needed a more sustainable process but didn’t want to lose their personal relationship with customers.
As Vibrant Farms got started with Local Line they realized it had everything that they needed; from an online store to custom price lists, from CRM to invoicing and online payments, and even inventory and email scheduling. Since launching their Local Line store, Vibrant Farms is processing 2 new orders per day and has expanded their delivery areas to serve customers in new markets.
Vibrant Farms serves hundreds of household consumers. They have multiple pick-up and drop-off locations spread across the region. Kathryn Little-McEwin, Business Manager at Vibrant Farms says,
“I like to think about where our customers are. Where are they hanging out? Where are they going? Where can I reach them in one place?”
This kind of thinking led Vibrant Farms to partner with leading naturopathic clinics and Crossfit gyms around the city, knowing that many people going there are health conscious and looking for organic meats. Today, when customers order from the Vibrant Farms online store they can select their preferred pick-up locations to accept their order. For Vibrant Farms, pick-up locations are an economical way to get products to customers, because they couldn’t deliver them all door-to-door.
They also serve wholesale customers like local restaurants. One of the reasons they love Local Line is because they can simply create a new price list and delivery schedule for their restaurants, but still track one inventory set. This eliminates manual entry time and helps process orders faster.
We asked Kathryn how farmers should go about getting new customers. Her response:
“You have to think outside of the box. Who should I be partnering with? Who should I be marketing our products to, and thinking about different ways to reach those people”
Getting Distribution Right
A couple of months ago, Vibrant Farms wanted to break into the Toronto market. They had served a small number of customers there in the past but logistical challenges prevented it from taking off. Thankfully, Vibrant Farms was able to partner up with Arrowhead Meats, another Local Line supplier who delivers beef into Toronto each week. Vibrant Farms and Arrowhead, along with a third Local Line customer, 5 Chicks and a Farmer, were able to organize a collaborative delivery system that enables Vibrant Farms to leverage pick-up locations in Toronto and serve new customers. In their first week alone, Vibrant Farms got three new customers! Without the Local Line network, Vibrant Farms wouldn’t have been able to access the Toronto market and process new orders.
Let’s get Social!
When it comes to social media, being active and integrating yourself into the online community has also proven to be a major aspect of Vibrant Farms’ success. Sharing the link to their Local Line store, offering Black Friday specials and doing pop-up shops are a few examples of how Vibrant Farms has used social media to leverage new sales and find new customers. You want your products to be as accessible as possible. Currently, there are more channels than ever where you can promote your business, all of which have a relatively low (if any) barrier to entry. So what are you waiting for? Create that twitter account, share that link on Facebook, post photos of your products and farming operations! You don’t have to share your entire life, but share aspects of it that consumers these days want to see. Pictures of you feeding the animals, finished products, your beautiful property, etc. If you need assistance with this, we can help!
The Bottom Line
As we move into 2018, Vibrant Farms now has a sustainable method of growth. They’re serving customers while serving themselves. Life is easier for customers and for them, and they’ve found a way to increase their distribution to start scaling their business.
A couple of weeks ago, we sat down with Kathryn at Vibrant Farms for Episode 1 of our podcast series, “Stories from the Barn”.
Click here to listen.