We are often asked how we manage to facilitate relationships with so many farmers, while ensuring that we have the right amount of product at the right time without compromising on any of our standards.
First, when we were first getting started we wanted to develop real and lasting farm partnerships. Many restaurants go out to farmers looking to order several hundred pounds of sirloin steaks on a monthly basis, and are even willing to pay a high price and make a big commitment. But farmers that are experts at growing perennial pastures generally don’t also have inventory management, logistics, and customer service as a primary area of interest or expertise – making this type of order a red herring of sorts…one that creates lots of intractable problems for the farmer: What to do with all of the shanks? Ground beef? How to deliver the product and ensure it stays cold?
Instead, we make commitments for whole animals months in advance – and make good on those commitments even when our needs change. We generally don’t work to change hearts and minds of farmers – we find producers who were already operating in ways consistent with our values and affidavit standards and help them to grow their operations. This makes farm visits and ongoing monitoring pretty straightforward – we’re all after the same goals.
Second, Kristen Kilfoyle, our talented Supply Chain Director, is a former apprentice of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, which is on the leading edge of pasture-based programs in the US. Kristen works with our farms to share best practices, monitor performance, and ensure the integrity of our products. Based in New Hampshire, she visits our partner farms on a monthly basis and each of our processors weekly.
Lastly, our model works because of our amazing membership base. The predictability of our share program (combined with some solid forecasting!) allow us to project out demand on a rolling 6-month basis and then coordinate what we anticipate our needs to be with our farms and processors. Our hope is that by connecting communities – our member base to our farm partners – we can create a more stable system of planning and pricing that promotes the long-term viability and financial sustainability of our farms.