Every business has their “nut”. That’s the point where “breaking-even” starts transforming into a self-sustaining business. Our nut is 500 active partners. We are at 376 recurring weekly orders.
We have developed 10 very nice drop sites at various times during the day that work for a lot of people and are efficient for our trucks to deliver. It’s no surprise that operating refrigerated trucks three times a week down to Boston as well as picking up from the farms is one of our largest expenses. So, making those runs as efficient as we can is vital.
First, the process. After you order by Sunday at midnight, all orders are printed out by farm early Monday morning. Each farm receives their order by Monday before noon. Tuesday morning, we dispatch our trucks around Vermont to pick these orders up, pay the farmer (scramble like mad when we are shorted items) and then return to our “hub” by mid-afternoon. We then have a crew of pickers come in and sort all these bulk goods into individual bags and totes (those noisy things drivers throw around in the truck!) by pick up site to get ready for the Wednesday 6 am load. All by hand. No bar codes or robotics.
But that’s not all. Your frozen items are kept in a freezer over night and then transferred to its own cooler. Then, before we head south on Wednesday (and Thursday) morning, we stop at Red Hen Bakery to pick up fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Bread is put in coolers to keep them warm in the refrigerated truck. While we are on our way down on Wednesday morning, the pick crew comes back in and picks the Thursday orders that get loaded when the trucks return later that night. Within a few hours, your bag is taken out of the tote, bread and frozen items added and handed to you. From farmer to you within 72 hours. And we puff our chests out a little (ok, a LOT) to say we have not missed a delivery in two years.
The trick is to make those trucks as full as we can because it’s expensive to ship air. We’ve explored and discussed many options; bulk for restaurants, bringing back fish, etc. Many of these ideas are viable, some are not. What we really need to fill more totes with more bags from more partners at our individual pick up sites. At the same time we also need to minimize partners who leave the partnership and empty totes.
We sometimes find ourselves in situations where we spend so much time on our operations that we forget about value added services that we can offer you. And we are working on them; discounted cooking classes, one click weekly meal ingredients with accompanying recipes are at the cusp of fruition, more information about your food/farmers and food and partner events. To do these effectively, we need more partners. To be exact, 124 more.
Getting more partners to join our community and staying for the long term will always be part of our daily lives at Farmers To You. But we do need your help. As the summer season is just around the corner and our partner farmers will have a bounty of goods they are looking to us to sell. We need to get to 500 members by June 1st; from an average of 37 per site to 50 per site. We want to minimize suspensions and increase partnership.
So what can you do?
1) When your local CSA (who we wholeheartedly support)comes on line, please don’t forget about Farmers To You. You may not need more kale, but eggs, meat, grains and more are available from us. We count on each other year round. Consistent demand enables our partner farmers to rebuild a sustainable production system. In this way, we are exactly like a CSA.
2) When vacation time comes and you don’t go out of town, please don’t suspend. Especially with school, it’s out of sight, out of mind with the location. We’re still there, however. The convenience of a pick up at school dismissal time is hard to beat. Let’s work together on this one.
3) Bring friends and spread the word! We offer you and new partners each a $10 referral credit. It benefits everyone. Your local on-line message boards and networks are more valuable than an article in the Boston Globe!
4) Order consistently. We want you to order what you need (being a little adventurous never hurt) and to do it regularly. Our farmers love the consistency and predictability of your ordering.
5) It’s amazing how a little goes a long way. An average increase of $5 per weekly order helps enormously with making up ground for those who suspend for the week.
We want to acknowledge all of you who have already partnered with Farmers To You in a way that provides you with a large percentage of your food needs each week. We thank you and our partner farmers thank you. We understand the enormous effort that it takes to make changes in our daily habits around food.