Check out our interview with Elizabeth Rodgers of Glory Ridge Farm about how their commitment to quality products and relationship with the aggregator Mid Ohio Valley Edibles (MOVE) has helped them grow their local meat business.
1) What happened? Tell me about finding a market for your specialty meats. What markets have you considered? Why did you decide to work with MOVE and sell through them? Has working with an aggregator increased your sales?
Being new to the “market scene” I wasn’t sure exactly where to start. I recently started to list my products on the Internet using a new website to help get the word out. VC2 helped find a graphic designer to create my website and funded that. Without their help I would still be struggling.
I am also selling my products through the Spencer Farmer’s Market in Roane County, WV, direct to consumers. I like selling there because I can spend time talking to people as to why our meat is better quality. Health is a concern of mine and for my family. We keep as healthy as possible to be able to maintain a better quality of life on our farm.
Initially, I decided to work with MOVE because of the people. MOVE Coordinator Karen Hawk has been a joy to work with. She is easy going, helpful and very professional. It’s nice working with someone who listens as to why you want your product out there – a person who really cares.
Not having a lot of experience working with an aggregator, I am quite happy working with them. I find it helpful for someone to be able to help me get my thoughts out there and bring everything together – Karen does that through her role as coordinator.
I am very pleased to say that my sales have increased, since I began selling my products through MOVE.
2) Why was it important? MOVE recently formed some new buyer partnerships with Johnny’s Meat Market in Charleston and The Purple Onion at Capitol Market. Coordinator Karen Hawk is continuing to forge new buyer relationships in urban markets. How is this benefiting your business, as a small specialty meat producer?
I wanted to get my products out to the public but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I think MOVE can help me with this measure. They can get me the exposure I need for people to know I am here. It is difficult for a small farmer to get into a market that seems to be saturated with certain products. Let’s face it people do have to eat. So the supply is out there, but not all products are raised like I do it-without GMO’s and no antibiotics or hormones, etc. Our animals are born and raised here in the USA as well as humanely produced. We use a processor who uses extreme care in putting down our animals to keep them stress free as well as humanely slaughtered. This is especially important to a small producer. We hand raised most of our animals as well as putting a lot of time and effort into them. People, today, are not only concerned about their health but also how the animals are treated from birth to market. The time, care and patience we put in are reflected in our product, and people see and taste it.
We have something a little different to offer to retailers like Johnny’s Meat Market. If their customers want meat that is humanely raised and processed, chemical and hormone free, etc. then we can provide that. MOVE is the entity that helps producers like us fill that niche in the market, by helping get our products into places like Johnny’s.
3) What’s happening next? Do you plan to continue working with MOVE to help sell your specialty meats and goods? Will you consider scaling up or expanding your operation to meet the growing demand for local meats in urban markets? What are some of your goals for 2015?
I like working with MOVE and find it beneficial to work with each other. They help me find the markets and we work together to find the customer that is looking for us. I’m not sure if we will expand our operation. It seems that it expands without us even doing anything. We started out with five sheep a couple of years ago and now are up to over two dozen. I believe God has something to do with this. I would like to expand my markets to include more people who are really looking for a better product. I would also like to add some new additions to my product line – such as sausages. It would be nice to experiment with different types of products as time allows.
4) Do you have any additional points to add? What would you like to tell other producers who are looking for new market opportunities – would you encourage others to explore the aggregator model? Why or why not?
I would like people to know that we work hard. As I write this it is -17° with the wind factor. We have to go out in bitter cold to keep the animals fed and watered. I am not complaining, but people don’t realize that there is a lot of work behind the scenes going on. We travel about 10 hours round trip to go out of our way to get NON-GMO feed for our animals. We believe it’s healthy for us and also for them. So, our beliefs drive our practices, and hopefully our practices benefit our customers in terms of the quality, flavor profile, and health of the products that we offer
I would have to say to other producers that working with an aggregator could be quite beneficial to both them and the aggregator. The aggregator has the ability to help open doors that might have been difficult for the farm producer to open. I’m not a real good sales person and I really don’t have to be – the aggregator does that for me. I just have to have the best product I can offer.