With about fifty percent of their sales going through one farmers market in a mid-sized city, Katie and Hans had a lot to say about how they make that work, from the details of their display and market stand setup, their digital checkout system and the value its data brings to their farming operation, and their farmers market magic sauce – the passion Katie has to connect with their customers. Katie digs into the nuts and bolts of how she connects with customers at farmers market and through social media.
Hans started growing vegetables at his family’s operation in 2009, while he and Katie both lived in the city; over several years, Hans made the transition to full-time farming, and then Katie followed, and then they moved out to the farm. Hans and Katie share how they knew it was time to make the various transitions, how they prepared to make the changes, and how they’ve divided up the responsibilities on the farm. Hans and Katie also provide an honest look at the challenges of farming together, and of bringing a spouse into the operation.
We also dig into the shipping relationships that help PrairiErth Farm reach into the Chicagoland market, how they’ve mechanized their operation to retain and attract good help, and how they’ve changed and continue to improve their employee management practices.
I’m also excited to share that Hans and Katie were selected as the 2017 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year, an award that recognizes organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach.
BCS America: BCS two-wheel tractors are versatile, maneuverable in tight spaces, light-weight for less compaction, and easy to maintain and repair on farm. Gear-driven and built to last for decades of dependable service on your farm or market garden.
Farmers Web: Making it simple for farms, farm cooperatives, and local food artisans to streamline working with wholesale buyers. Lessening the administrative work that comes with each order helps producers create a more successful relationship with their buyers and can help them work with more buyers overall.
Quotes from the Show
[Hans] I'm not the one that's connecting with customers. I don't think that's my forte, and it's just a lot better coming from Katie because she knows how to connect with the people that are buying our produce.
[Katie] I don't want my stand to look like everybody else's stand because our stand becomes our personal brand, it's our trademark. I want people, when they come into my stand and they purchase a bunch of kale, to go home and really love that kale and I want them to remember to come back to me and but it again.
[Katie] It was very difficult to go from Hans and I spending eight, nine hours apart and then coming together in the evening to talk about our day, to spending 12, 14 hours together constantly and determining who was "the boss." We're still trying to figure that out actually.
[Katie] When you work in a corporate environment, every procedure, every system is beta tested. You're set up so it's really hard to fail. At the farm, that's not the case.
[Hans] Keeping tabs on people at crucial time increments is important. There's time to correct it before something really goes awry.
[Hans] That's what makes us such a good team: I'm able to do what I'm good at and Katie's able to connect with customers and do what she's good at and work with me on things. Not necessarily together but we're both using our strengths and making the farm a better place.
PrairiErth uses the Square payments system on iPads for a farmers market cash register. Katie says, “We download the app and they send you a free chip reader. We just use the iPad instead of an iPhone and we bought a stand on Amazon. It was cheaper and we could use some older iPads that we didn't mind getting too wet/dirty.”
Hans is loving the Carolina Greenhouses Speedy Seeder - I loved mine, and I was just talking to another grower who feels like the extra features built into this vacuum seeder make it well worth the extra expense.
We talked about the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, which I used to codirect.
Hans mentioned the Hydraweeder for managing weeds that get ahead of them in transplanted crops.
Hans and Katie use CoolBots throughout their cooling operations, including as part of their farmers market trailer.
The cool racks that Hans and Katie use to transport their transplants – I love this simple solution: