David Stoltzfus, of Dutch Meadows Organics in Paradise, PA, has no Internet access, yet is carefully packing a shipper full of beef that will be picked up this week from his farm and shipped to a Virginia lady who purchased it online at homegrowncow.com.
Sean Graese runs shipping operations at Northstar Bison, in Northern Wisconsin, one of the most well-known and successful bison ranches and a family-run meat processing plant. Just like Stoltzfus, he’s also packing up several orders for customers. Although the Graeses have a successful online business, they also list and sell their products through Home Grown Cow – America’s first national farmers’ market that is totally free for meat, poultry and cheese producers to list, sell, and (if they wish) ship their products.
Every small-scale farmer knows that while our farmers’ markets are increasingly popular, and a valuable way to reach local markets, it’s an enormous amount of work to organize, pack, unpack, transport, set up, re-pack, re-transport, and unpack unsold product for a physical farmers’ market. Not to mention the fact that there are fees to participate and many have long waiting lists. Previously, Dutch Meadows Organics’ sales were limited to on-farm and the Wyomissing Market which Dave attends three days a week to sell his organic pastured pork, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken and turkey. Now, with Home Grown Cow, he can sell and ship anywhere in the nation.
“It’s so easy – all I have to do is come up with my package ideas and wholesale prices, and Home Grown Cow takes care of the rest. They call to let us know that there’s an order, and the next thing we know, the Fed-Ex guy is driving it off to a customer we would never have found without Home Grown Cow. We’ve even sold to local people who just like the convenience of ordering online.”
Home Grown Cow began three years ago with help from a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. Entrepreneurs John and Karen Aikman, and their partners Dom Lindars, and Cliff Bryant, wanted to create a way to match farmers and ranchers up with the rapidly growing market of hungry eaters and folks concerned about exactly where the food on their table comes from and how it was raised. In addition to choice and transparency, Home Grown Cow adds a level of convenience for those who lack the time, inclination, or are not conveniently located to visit a physical farmers’ market but want farm-direct products.
How Does It Work?
Home Grown Cow is very simple to use. It works a lot like Amazon Marketplace or Etsy, except that there are no subscription fees. Here are the easy steps for getting started:
- Sign up your farm or ranch
Sign up as a Farm, Dairy, Co-operative, or Butcher (any or all that apply) and complete a profile about your farm and products, identifying any farm practices, philosophies, certifications or associations that apply. You can choose to deliver locally, have customers pick up the orders, ship products, or any combination of the three.
- List your products
List your products with prices, weights, and availability dates or lead times. List anything from a pack of pork chops to a side of beef. The site automatically adds on Home Grown Cow’s service fee (15% of the retail price paid by the customer) and the farmer is paid whatever is entered as the desired “Farm Price”. The products appear on the farm profile, and in search results at www.homegrowncow.com where customers browse and make purchases just like they would on any other site.
- Accept orders
After an order is submitted, a link to it is sent to you at your home/farm/ranch. You might also receive a phone call from Home Grown Cow alerting you to a waiting order. Once reviewed, the order can be accepted, rejected, or modified (if there are availability issues). Home Grown Cow only charges the customer – who pays in-full, up-front, and by credit card – when the order is accepted. That way if something is sold out, or a price is incorrect, the customer isn’t charged and the farmer can gracefully bow out. Orders for farms without Internet access can be handled over the phone and/or by fax.
- Prepare orders for pick-up/delivery
For shipping orders, Home Grown Cow calculates and charges the shipping cost and the farmers’ packaging fee. All the farmer has to do is print out the shipping label, prepare the order appropriately for 2-day shipping and have it ready for pick-up. Farm delivery and customer pick-up are alternatives. While not required, Home Grown Cow also sells Cow Cubes, their own space-saving, affordable, and effective packaging solution, specially designed for shipping frozen product.
- Get Paid
After the customer has been in possession of their order 24 hours, the order becomes payable and a check is scheduled to the farm within two weeks.
Home Grown Cow Benefits to You
- It’s Free! – There is no cost at all to farms for listing or selling.
- No Web Site Required – Home Grown Cow can literally be your web site.
- It Complements Existing Web Sites: You can link to your Home Grown Cow profile as the store part of your own site rather than deal with merchant banks and e-Commerce design headaches.
- No Shipping Headaches: Home Grown Cow takes care of everything from discounted door-to-door shipping, working with carriers, calculating or collecting shipping fees, or calling for pick-ups.
- No Collections Worries – Customers pay in-full, up front at the time the farmer accepts the order, so there are no concerns about not being paid.
While Home Grown Cow welcomes all American farms, the market has developed with a strong focus on sustainability and traditional farming methods, with a special popularity for grass-fed and pasture-raised products. As consumers become more concerned about the true meaning – or lack thereof – of myriad marketing claims in a confusing marketplace they want access to food they can trust. Home Grown Cow gives them that access, choice and transparency and lets them choose exactly what ends up on their table and how it was raised.