The holiday season has passed and the new year has begun. We spent a lot of time in hibernation over the past couple of weeks. Our main jobs have been to keep everything as warm and watered as possible. What a long spell of sub-zero weather! A stretch that we certainly haven’t seen in several years. It’s one of those times when it forces a farmer to slow his pace reflect on the past and prepare for the future.
Like most small businesses we have been pouring through year-end data looking at the whole picture of the 2017 season and making preparations for the new season. Going into our 12th season on the farm in many ways it seems as though surely we have a clear and concise picture of what needs to happen. But the reality is that 2017 was a really tough year. We chose to drop farmers markets all together and that created an urgency to replace that cash flow. By season’s end we did replace the income and came out of the year with an overall revenue growth. The biggest challenge is always the early season sales and cash flow when our costs are the highest.
Wholesale is growing
Through the year Local Link LLC, (our wholesale distribution wing) saw excellent growth and that gives us great confidence rolling into 2018. We started that company in March of 2017 with a goal of selling $200,000 in the first year, at the end of December we were at $226,000 is gross revenue through the company’s first 9 month’s. Zach Morris is our outside salesman/delivery driver and has really found a niche where he excels, bringing in more that 40 new locations this year! In the past, we have typically sold to 20-30 restaurants each year, this year we invoiced 76!
Competing in an increasingly online marketplace
Our 2017 CSA program saw positive growth from 2016. 2016 membership was at 200 while 2017 grew to 325 member households. This is an area where we are continuing to find ways to grow the business and reach more people. Our capacity at our current scale seems to be somewhere in the 600-700 member range. Although our goal for 2018 is 400 members I do believe we can reach more of the masses with the new program we launched this past fall.
You will probably not hear us talking about CSA much from here on out as we will be marketing the program more as an online local food store with the opportunity to pre-pay for food to both save money and support the farm. It is a hard decision to stray a bit from the CSA model after 9 years. But the reality of our current food system, the ease at which people have access to food and the competition from large distributors delivering food to people’s doorsteps means that we must innovate to stay both relevant and profitable. We see lots of opportunity for the future of our distribution model, from corporate wellness programs to home delivery.
Welcome to the 2018 Silverthorn Farm Season! It’s gonna be a great one.
Our winter greens – as you may expect – have had a bit of a rough time this past month. They’re all still alive, but not really actively growing at this point. It will be a few more weeks before that begins again. Storage crops are holding up quite well. We did have some losses in our large cooler where the outside edges of bulk bins froze, but for the most part we are in pretty good shape. Look for a couple deliveries this month from us. We will probably take February and March off from deliveries as we ramp up greenhouse and production work to get ready for the spring madness that will be here before you know it!