Ryan Sweeney is the owner of Localize Farm, a hydroponic farm that grows herbs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
There's a lot of advice out there for farmers (you can see a bunch of modern farmer tips here) and Ryan's experience has taught him a lot of lessons. One tip that Ryan always gives to new farmers is to understand their distribution model.
Whether you're delivering live towers to your customers or packaging microgreens in smoothie cups, your distribution model deeply influences the financials of your operations.
The logistics surrounding the packaging and delivery of food is just as important a part of the product life cycle as actually growing the crops! New farmers should be completely familiar with how their food will be distributed and the numbers surrounding the process.
Choosing a distribution model
There’s no one-size-fits-all distribution model, since all markets have slightly different opportunities. Farm location, manpower, crop choice, market type, and customer type will all influence the convenience and costs of your distribution model. Choose one that balances the needs of your customer with the needs of your process.
Ryan sells packaged herbs directly to stores without a distributor. This model has worked well for Localize at their size, though the distribution model may evolve as Localize grows. They may take on more accounts and need an account manager or middle man to help them get the produce where it needs to go.
Having a carefully planned distribution model helps you control costs and keep delivery consistent. There are tons of options out there like live sales, prepackaging, and everything in between. Don't be afraid to do something new if it serves your purposes and helps you feed people better!
Like Ryan's model, yours might require some tweaking as you scale and add accounts.
Learning to sell your produce?
Sales can be a daunting task for farmers. Luckily, farmers just like Ryan have already learned to do it and can help show you the ropes. (For example, Kevin Espiritu just gave his three tips to selling microgreens.)
Another place you can get farm training and tips is Upstart University. Upstart U takes a holistic approach to starting a business; it has courses on business planning, securing funding, choosing a market, designing hydroponic and aquaponic systems, managing a farm, and much more.
You can get a free trial today.
What's the biggest lesson learned in your first days of farming?
Share your tip with other farmers in the comments below!