The new model for local food distribution in Northern Ontario

Located just outside Sudbury in Northern Ontario, Click Fork, an innovative new food hub is serving their community with fresh, local food in a place where it can be difficult to access. Click Fork is composed of three farms: Dalew Farms, Field Good Farms and Kipling Ridge Farms, and they sell a variety of products, including beef, poultry, produce, and grains!

Chantal and her family at Dalew Farms!

One door closes…

The farmers first met each other more than 10 years ago when they were supplying a local retail store, Eat Local Sudbury. The store provided a sales channel for nearby farmers to sell their products. The store was crucially important for the Sudbury community as it provided a central access point for fresh, local food. In Northern Ontario, access to local food is not always easy, since the farmland and urban areas are so spread out, making logistics expensive.

Unfortunately, in March 2018, Eat Local Sudbury closed its doors. With the loss of an important sales channel, the farmers began looking for a new alternative that would allow them to sell their complimentary products to a wide audience, in a way that worked for their individual businesses.

Isabelle, Ryan and their daughter at Field Good Farms!

Another one opens!

After several meetings, Chantal from Dalew Farms suggested providing their customers with an online platform after having success with her own Local Line store for her individual customers. She wanted a one-stop shop, where everyone’s customers would be able to shop and order their favourite products direct from the farmers – online. After connecting with Local Line founder, Cole, and discussing options, this became a reality. Click Fork, the online food hub, was born!

James and his family at Kipling Ridge Farms!

Oh, just check us out – online!

Since launching their online store, Click Fork has been a growing success. The online store allows customers to browse through products, sort by product type and by farmers, and then order from whoever they want! Additionally, the platform allows the hub to track all incoming orders, send invoices, generate picklists, and plan weekly distribution! Customer newsletters and pick up scheduling have all become automatic, which collectively saves the farmers hours of work each week.

Chantal from Dalew Farms says

“The logistics of a food hub are tricky! Everyone plays a different role in the operation of Click Fork. We all have our strengths, so it’s really great that the online platform gives everyone access to the tools they need to carry out their roles.”

Looking back, since Click Fork launched in July 2018, the online hub has accomplished its goal of providing a new sales channel to the farmers (they have over 250 customers!), and increasing access to local food for Sudbury residents. The farms are no longer limited by the number of customers that would physically shop at the Eat Local Sudbury store, and have been able to reach new audiences.

Moving forward

After a successful first year, the goal for Click Fork’s future is to increase available inventory and continue to grow their customer base. They also hope to increase the variety of products to service a larger diversity of shoppers.

“People say farmers are behind, but that’s not true. We’re right there with them – online!” – Chantal, Dalew Farms


We are so happy we were able to host the first online food hub in the area and play a role increasing access to local food in the Northern Ontario region. Want to learn more? Check out Click Fork for yourself!

Success Story: Thousand Hills Ranch

Located in Morden, Manitoba, a two-hour drive from Winnipeg, Thousand Hills Ranch is a family farm producing grass-fed beef and lamb. Thousand Hills Ranch works alongside their animals using holistic and regenerative farming practices to replenish their land and produce the best quality product.

Dean, a life long farmer, and Tiina, a city gal, married in 2007, after which they established the name Thousand Hills Ranch and began to direct market grass-fed beef in their community, eventually adding grass-fed lamb, wool, and body care products.

The Broken Record

Initially, like everyone, Tiina was promoting her products at farmers’ markets and taking orders through phone calls and emails. As their inventory increased, so did their orders, and Tiina found herself struggling to communicate effectively with customers.

Sharing photos and product information on Facebook was ok, but it was only working for those customers actively visiting their page. Tiina still didn’t have a good way to uniformly communicate with all their customers to share information, updates, and exciting news. As a result, when it came to generating new business, Tiina was ALWAYS pitching. Some days she felt like a broken record repeating her pitch multiple different times to customers asking the same things.

Killing 2 Birds with 1 Stone

Meanwhile, Thousand Hills Ranch and a small group of local producers were running a food buying club with the use of an online survey order form. The group wanted to expand their reach and remove the ‘exclusiveness’ associated with a buying club. One of the other farmers in the club  recommended Local Line, so Thousand Hills Ranch decided to come check us out! Ultimately, Tiina decided to use Local Line for both the online food market and their own orders.

Since starting with Local Line in September 2018, Local Line has saved Tiina hours each week on communicating with their customers. She loves their online store as it does the selling for her. Images, product descriptions, and product categories enable new buyers to take a look at what’s available without Tiina having to constantly repeat herself. On top of that, the real time inventory updates and automated order reminder emails takes the work out of manually communicating updates to products and inventory.

“The biggest benefit I found by using Local Line was how easy it is now to communicate! Updating and communicating changes to our inventory has become effortless. Furthermore, when I want to promote Thousand Hills Ranch to new customers, I can just give them a link to our online store and they can explore for themselves!”

Looking back, Tiina can’t imagine a time when she was doing all her inventory and customer communications without Local Line. We’re so happy she found the system she needs! Make sure you go check out Thousand Hills Ranch by their online store!

Success Story: Stone Horse Farm

Located 15 minutes south of Barrie, in Innisfil Ontario, Stone Horse Farm is a small scale, family-owned, pasture-raised livestock business. Lisa and her family produce chicken, pork, and rabbits on land that was first farmed in 1880. All the animals are raised with the highest possible attention to detail, with the goal of providing a natural diet and life for them and in turn, providing customers with the highest quality meats.

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Lisa and her family started Stone Horse Farm in 2003. Over the past 15 years, they have been slowly growing their brand, mostly by selling at the century farm and local farmers’ markets.

By mid-2018, the growing popularity for Stone Horse products started to create just as many problems as opportunities. Lisa started to experience the frustrations of tracking orders from multiple sources. Various communication channels combined with fluctuating inventory created order errors, and Lisa found that half the time customers would reach out to order, she didn’t have what they were asking for in inventory.

Before Local Line: The Dark Ages

Before using Local Line, Lisa would receive orders from her facebook page, messenger, email, phone call, and text. During the day, each time she received an order, she would manually type them into an online notebook. Later that evening she would again manually copy them over into a spreadsheet. As you can imagine, this multi-step process was time-consuming and error prone.

After a couple months of these errors repeating themselves, Lisa started to think about better solutions. She needed a way to lighten the load, track and communicate her inventory with customers, and automatically generate picklists. Thankfully, that was the time that her Local Line sales rep reached out, wondering if there was a way we could help Stone Horse Farms!

Introducing Local Line, my personal assistant!

Now that Lisa’s been up and running on Local Line for over six months, she considers Local Line her personal sales assistant. We asked her what Local Line does for her and she said,

“Well…Local Line does everything for me! I tell customers it is my personal secretary and encourage them to use the embedded store on my website. Now, all of my orders are clearly listed for me before I ship animals to the butcher. I can be sure to have the custom work detailed before they need it, which simplifies my logistics and helps me manage customer expectations.”

For Lisa, the biggest benefit of Local Line has been saving her time and keeping her organized. And now that she’s back in control of her orders, Lisa is going to focus on increasing her inventory. As she scales up, she’ll use her Local Line account as a marketing tool to help drive new business.

We’ve loved being able to play a small part in all the success at Stone Horse Farm, and we’ll be with Lisa every step of the way as she continues her journey!


If you want to see all the great things Stone Horse Farms has to offer, check out their online store!

Putting Customers First: River Bell Market Garden

Located in Dresden, Ontario, Joe and Eraina Grootenboer grow organic produce for over 130 customers on their 20 acre farm, River Bell Market Garden.

Before Local Line, River Bell Market Garden provided a weekly CSA membership service where they supplied and delivered, seasonal produce boxes to their customers. Looking for a new business model, they wanted to transition to selling to individual customers through an online store. This is when they found Local Line.

“Surprisingly more affordable than I expected, Local Line’s software made it possible for our company to take a giant leap forward in providing customer satisfaction.” – Joe, River Bell Market Garden

Putting Customers First: River Bell Market Garden

Treating customers as individuals

Every customer is different. Trying to be generic to fit every type of customer, Joe and Eraina, were finding that sometimes the fixed boxes didn’t fit the needs of everyone. Making the switch to an online store, they were concerned that by giving customers more freedom, there would be a higher chance of having lower sales per customers compared to the CSA model. However, this was not the case – customers are placing larger orders and getting exactly what they want.

“Local Line allows me to treat everyone as individuals, not as one bulk group. No other businesses like us are able to offer the same variety or customer service now that I have this tool to help me. The customers are very appreciative and excited about the change, placing larger and larger orders and signing up their friends.” – Joe, River Bell Market Garden

In addition to offering customers more variety per order, in the case of an order mix up, Joe is able to work with that customer individually, by easily finding their individual order and customer information on Local Line and offering new product or a refund. This is impossible to do with a series of lists. Providing great customer service is essential for growing a business.

Room for growth

Currently servicing 130+ customers, River Bell Market Garden is excited for growth in their future. Customers have the ability to shop on their store, place their own orders and have that information immediately passed on to the farm. The ease and simplicity of managing so many customers on one system, makes them confident that they can easily grow their business without worry.

Putting Customers First: River Bell Market Garden

Planning for the future

Providing personalized orders for their customers has helped them learn what their customers want and at what quantities they want it. Local Line’s reporting and analytics helps them track all of their order data to help them know what their customers are looking for and how to plan for the future.

“The online shopping platform is the most important part, of course, but the customer accounting and reporting is essential for planning and distilling data for the near future and for next season.” – Joe, River Bell Market Garden

Joe and Eraina can now feel confident growing their business using Local Line.  They are reaching more customers and continuing to sustain healthy relationships with current ones. Curious to see what they’re producing? Check out their Local Line store here.

“I appreciate the support of their system – they understand the importance of my customers’ experience with the system and are a real team with me in continually improving upon that.” – Joe, River Bell Market Garden

Offering pricing for variable weighted products: Spray Creek Ranch

Far from their roots of Northern California, BC ranchers Tristan and Aubyn Banwell are passionate about raising livestock to benefit the health of people and the environment.  Using tools such as management intensive grazing, permaculture, holistic management and agroecology, these farmers produce BC Certified Organic products that will make you feel good about eating it.

Spray Creek Ranch is home to many different livestock including cattle, chickens, turkeys and pigs. All these animals work harmoniously together to regenerate the fields and ensure diverse and healthy pastures in the future.

Operating in their fifth season, they’ve seen tremendous growth but were starting to feel the pains of growing their business.

Too many orders, no way to keep track

Spray Creek Ranch’s main sales channel was farmers’ markets. But to ensure sales and that they had the right product available, they would ask repeat customers to pre-order. Aubyn was overwhelmed with orders through email, phone, in person and social media. Keeping track of it all manually meant mixed up or missed orders.

They knew they had to get efficient and fast.

Going paperless

Aubyn and Tristan knew they wanted an online system that could provide one central hub to receive orders, manage inventory and get paid. No more scrambling through different spreadsheets and notebooks, it had to have everything you need in one place.

After looking through various online ecommerce platforms, there was one thing everyone was missing the ability for pricing for variable weighted products!

Unlike produce or packaged foods, meat is different. Different individual animals have varying weights and sizes; therefore it is next to impossible to create one fixed unit for each product. A pricing tool for variable weighted products is necessary to give the customer correct prices for what they bought.

Local Line, mimics the in person farmers’ market experience with a software platform created specifically for food suppliers and farms. No more scrambling through different spreadsheets and notebooks, “it has everything we need in one place!” says Aubyn.

Spray Creek Ranch was able to create an online shop that included the ability to show an average price to customer at order, then actually weigh the product at purchase, and adjust the price accordingly. The updated prices and weights then show up on the final invoice to customer so that they are aware of what they are getting. 

“As a small farm, we don’t want to offer the average price per cut to our customers – there is too much variability, all our animals are different. We needed flexibility built into our system. Pricing for variable weighted products allows us to charge customers for exactly what they actually receive. Local line allows us to show customers both the price per pound and average price per unit, so they know what to expect, and then we just adjust the final invoice based on the actual weight of each product we pack.  Local Line makes this process easy!” – Aubyn, Spray Creek Ranch.

Implementing successful (and profitable) co-delivery in livestock farming

As we have been discussing, in the earlier parts to this co-delivery series, as a food supplier, your most important cost is distribution. It’s the difference between a profitable and unprofitable operation.

In part one of this series, we talked about the importance of co-delivery and why it needs to be implemented and in part two, we looked at the parameters of shipping food and how to properly implement co-delivery into your business.


As a small supplier, you can’t do it all yourself, and sometimes you get caught between a rock and a hard place. You know you need new customers to grow your business, BUT shipping to new customers is so expensive!

So, how do you find the right balance and keep a healthy margin?

Last year, three Local Line suppliers were all working on their own independent distribution plans: Vibrant Farms, Arrowhead Meats and 5 Chicks and A Farmer. Once they connected through the Local Line marketplace, they were able to combine delivery routes, increase efficiency, dramatically lower distribution costs, and ship to new customers.

What does it look like for them?

Shipping company – Arrowhead Meats

Shipping frequency – Every other Saturday

Transportation – Non-refrigerated delivery truck

Pricing – Farms are billed after delivery by Arrowhead Meats (shipping company) for their orders based on weight and size of boxes.

Conditions – The customers must be home to accept the delivery.

Schedule

Thursday:

6:00-8:00 PM – All orders for shipping need to be in to Arrowhead Meats

Friday:

6:00-8:00 PM – Customers are given delivery schedule to ensure they are present for delivery.

Saturday:

5:00 AM – All products are taken out of the freezer and put into insulated packs.

7:00 AM Arrowhead Meats truck hits the road from Listowel, ON. Picks up orders from Vibrant Farms and 5 Chicks and a Farmer, just outside of Waterloo, ON.

7:30 AM – Delivery starts for the day making customer stops in Hamilton, Oakville, Toronto, and Markham before turning around and heading back to Arrowhead Meats.

A successful co-delivery system is based on an understanding between farmer, driver, and customer. When communication is frequent and expectations are clear and realistic, you can create a well-oiled co-delivery machine!

What have been the benefits of co-delivery to their businesses?

“Co-delivery makes our distribution more efficient. If we can get the truck as full as possible for the driver, we can deliver to more locations and everyone wins.” Luke, Arrowhead Meats

Efficient distribution

The new co-delivery program allowed Arrowhead Meats to fill their truck. Sounds simple but this is not always the case for farms. Often transport vehicles are left 50% empty; therefore transporting the products of other local food suppliers allows Arrowhead Meats to be methodical when delivering. Co-delivering also allows the driver to hit as many locations on one route.  The route optimization tool in the Local Line platform ensures they see decreased fuel costs and more efficient schedules for their drivers.

Reach more customers

The ability to provide shipping to a larger area due to co-delivery, allows 5 Chicks and A Farmer and Vibrant Farms reach a larger customer base as Arrowhead Meats already provided shipping to the GTA.

“Co-delivery has allowed us to reach more customers. We didn’t have the staff to be able to offer delivery services, therefore having the ability to share the cost is very helpful.”  Kathryn, Vibrant Farms

Ensuring PRODUCT quality control

This form of distribution allows you to work with people who know the industry. When using an outside distributor, sometimes they are unaware of how to properly store your products and how to manage direct to customer deliveries. If you’re not careful, this can lead to lost product. Luke from Arrowhead Meats explained that he once used an outside distributor, and at the end of the day the meat was returned to the farm barely covered in plastic and completely un-thawed because a customer was not there to answer.

What are the challenges of implementing co-delivery?

1. Temperature controls

When co-delivering meat products, you must maintain a consistent temperature during transportation. This can be a challenge on hot summer days, especially if each farmer is delivering to different customers. Each stop adds up, so you need to monitor your products condition carefully. That said, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Arrowhead Meats simply ships the products already frozen, and packages them with insulated boxes.

2. Insufficient orders

The challenge for Vibrant Farms and 5 Chicks and A Farmer is ensuring that enough orders are placed during each order period to make shipping financially feasible. The fewer the orders being shipped, the more expensive it is to ship per box. To help them with this, they followed some tips on how to increase your order intakes.

Any tips for farmers and food suppliers looking to start co-delivering?

  • Start small – This allows you to scale your business and make sure the key things are working. Start with one vehicle and less frequent delivery trips. See how that goes and think about growing.
  • Work with like-minded people/businesses – Working with farmers nearby who deliver similar type products will allow for the best partnerships. The people you are working with will understand the challenges of shipping your product and will make doing business easier.
  • Consider parameters of food shipping – Always keep in mind the three parameters of shipping food products: timeframe for optimal freshness, temperature control, and compatibility of shipping partners.
  • Beginner? Find a farmer that is already shipping – If you are just starting out to offer delivery for your business, look for a farm that has been shipping for a while and see if you can add your products to their vehicle. Delivery takes a lot of time, and requires employees to be able to execute; therefore use your time more effectively at the beginning.

For Arrowhead Meats, Vibrant Farms, and 5 Chicks and A Farmer, their businesses are much better off now that they’ve found each other! This kind of partnership allows for local food to reach more customers and make it more feasible for food producers to do so.

Managing Outsized Demand: Top Shelf Collection

Today’s food producers are constantly competing for shelf space. Products need to be clearly differentiated to stand out and so does their branding.

Josh Lines from Sarnia saw the gap on Ontario’s hot sauce shelf. Sure, there are a variety of brands with mashed up hot peppers in vinegar, but they all lacked substance and none of them had nutritional value. This gap in the market quickly turned into Josh’s opportunity, and Top Shelf Collection was born.

Josh uses all-natural ingredients to ensure the product has the freshest, boldest flavour. Then, he uses Canadian honey, not refined sugar, to add a slight sweet touch to his hot sauces.

Josh has worked in the food industry his entire career, bartending at the local pub. If you know anything about bartenders, then you know they’re fun, chatty and extremely likeable. So it should be no surprise that as a bartender of Sarnia’s local watering hole, he pretty much knows the whole town. Because of this, Top Shelf’s beginning success started in Sarnia when local businesses showed their support by stocking Front Street Heat on their retail shelves and enhancing menus (and the Canadian Caesar) across town.

It was no surprise that Top Shelf sauces didn’t stay a secret for long. Front Street Heat’s quality ingredients and catchy branding caught the interest of neighbouring restaurants and retailers in other cities, who were making room on their top shelf for this hot Canadian condiment.


The Problem All Food Suppliers Actually Want

Top Shelf premium hot sauce gained demand faster than anticipated. He had a website but no formal ordering or delivery process for his customers. And because Josh is always thinking forward, he knew he wanted to launch two partner programs to selected customers which includes an awesome handcrafted wooden display shelf, menu and social media collaborations and discounted pricing. He had all the right ideas, just no platform to bring them to life.

Local Line or Life Line?

Josh saw immediate value in Local Line’s easy-to-use platform.

“The team at Local Line has simplified our challenges and organized what was unorganized. Through incredible hands on customer service, they helped put our business on track during a difficult period of product growth. Truly a life line for a small but growing business.” Josh, Top Shelf Collection


Here are a few examples of how Josh uses Local Line for his rapidly growing business:

Pricing Catalogs

  • Josh got immediate value with Local Line’s unique private pricing catalogs that can be geared specifically to his different and ever-growing customer list.
  • Once he quickly and efficiently uploaded his products (2L jugs and 296 ml bottles), he created catalogs for his retail, wholesale and partner customers. He then added his customers into his Local Line account, assigned them to appropriate catalogs, and sent invites to their inboxes.

Marketing

  • Josh took advantage of Local Lines web services, and gave his website a fresh look. He also took his Local Line store and embedded it right on his website so that his customers were only seeing the Top Shelf brand when they were ordering. Everyone from small independents to Metro stores across Ontario are able to place their orders directly on the Top Shelf website. This kind of ordering experience is critical, because it enables both consumers and his wholesale customers to order directly from his website, enforcing a consistent brand and experience.

The nice thing about Local Line is that the platform is built to grow with your business. This means Josh has new services available to him that become important the more momentum his brand gains.

With no plans to slow down anytime soon, Josh knows Local Line has his back and can grow with his business.

How We Built the Flanagan Market

If you’re in the food & hospitality industry in Ontario, you probably know Flanagan Foodservice. Flanagan’s is Canada’s largest family-owned foodservice distributor, serving restaurants, institutions, and bakeries since 1977. Their story is one of service, quality, integrity, and hard work.

Today, Flanagan’s serves more than 6,000 customers across Ontario. They have three warehouses, more than 500 employees, a fleet of 80+ trucks, and list well over 10,000 products. Still, even with their Ontario-wide distribution, world-class team, and award-winning products, Flanagan’s needed to improve in one difficult area: local.

For mid-large foodservice distributors, supplying fresh local food is difficult. Logistics are complicated, as is vendor management and product pricing. For this reason, foodservice distributors tend to avoid local food procurement, but what happens when customers start to demand local food? Local food is more popular than ever but it’s basically impossible for foodservice distributors to list. For Flanagan’s, they knew the traditional model of foodservice distribution was not going to work, so they sought us out, and we built them the Flanagan Market.

The idea for the Flanagan Market started in early 2017 as a way to figure out how Flanagan’s could list all the local food their customers were asking them for. They were already listing more than 400 Ontario products in their Our Ontario program which was a good start, but they were still missing the unique, niche, and diverse selection of products their customers were hungry for.

We were able to help Flanagan’s in three ways:

Discovery

The first thing we had to do was determine whether the products being sold by Local Line suppliers were a fit for what Flanagan’s needed, but with customers like Top Shelf CollectionFull of Beans, and Artisan Farms, it didn’t take us long to know that our suppliers and their products were a fit!

We built a “discover” tab in the platform so that Flanagan’s could stay up to date on which suppliers and products were available to them, and they could start conversations with anyone they wanted.

 Discover local suppliers in your area Discover local suppliers in your area

Currently, Flanagan’s has been able to find and list over 1,000 Ontario food products from three dozen Ontario suppliers, effectively more than tripling their local food offering.

Ordering

Once we knew how to identify and onboard suppliers, we had to figure out how Flanagan’s customers would order. We couldn’t list the products in the traditional Flanagan’s catalog because the products weren’t being scanned, stored, and shipped from the Flanagan’s warehouse. In most cases, we thought a drop-ship approach would be the best. So, we took Local Line’s already award-winning e-commerce module, modified it, and made it usable by Flanagan’s. Now, it lists all the local products in one online store, accessible by any customer 24/7.

Distribution

The main reason foodservice distributors haven’t been able to make local food work is because of distribution, so it was clear to us from the beginning that we couldn’t just warehouse products and ship them with normal Flanagan orders. Margins would be too tight, logistics would be complicated to manage, and as a result, customers would probably end up unhappy.

After conducting an analysis of customer geographies and supplier shipping options, we determined that most Local Line suppliers already ship to the major cities Flanagan’s customers are in. We also built the technology so that customers couldn’t place orders from a supplier who doesn’t deliver to them.

To make the products more accessible, over the span of two months we built out a network of third-party distributors to help ship products in hard to reach areas. Today, we work with Flanagan Market suppliers to find the right shipping partner and get them set up to ship Ontario-wide, just like Flanagan’s.

There were many other details that went into building out the Flanagan Market including invoicing, quality assurance, ensuring food safety, and commissions. All of these, however, were details in relation to the fundamental questions about how to list and distribute products. Once the model, technology, and suppliers were in place, we launched the Flanagan Market on May 29th, 2017. Today, over 400 customers are on the platform (and growing)!

Small Business, Big Impact: Vibrant Farms

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.

Serving Customers

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.

Mastering the Juggling Act: Dalew Farms

They say one of the hardest jobs in the world is being a full-time parent. Now try looking after 4 youngsters, holding down a full-time job, and running a successful farm. Our friends, Chantal and Dave Lewington have mastered this juggling act!

When Dalew Farms first opened for business 14 years ago, the intention was to raise and sell lamb to folks in their community. But when their customers tasted the “Dalew Difference”, demand struck and so did their product variety. Today, Dalew Farms has pasture-raised lamb, cattle, and goats, all of which are grass fed & non-GMO. To keep up with rising demand, Chantal took their branding to new heights by creating a website and focusing on customer relationships.

Managing Never Ending Tasks

Early on Chantal and Dave quickly realized that the good comes with the bad when you’re a small business owner – especially on the farm. The upside for them was obvious: starting a family farm was a great way to expose their kids to new experiences and work together to help feed their community. However, when tasks pile up, it’s not always easy to find someone you can rely on to help you with your day-to-day. This is where Local Line helps!

Easy Integration with Current Website

Previously, Chantal was using Farmigo to track her website sales but still struggled with keeping on top of her inventory and coordinating delivery dates with her customers. Chantal wanted to fix this but didn’t want to rebrand her business and create a whole new website.

Enter Local Line.

With Local Line, Chantal could integrate her new online store to her existing website and gain all the inventory and delivery functionality she needed. This made it easy for her customers to place orders and for her to accept payments.

“The software is easier to use, simpler, and straightforward. It runs itself when I’m doing other things and I like the way it appears on my website; it looks very professional. To top it all off – the integration was very easy!” Chantal, Dalew Farms

Attracting New Customers

To help Chantal increase her order volumes and customer base, she’s been using Local Line’s catalog feature to reach out to new wholesalers. All she does is built a new catalog, customize it, and share it. This makes it easy for her new and existing customers to see a list of her available products with accurate pricing, inventory, and delivery info.