Text of a presentation by Mark Trealout of Kawarth Ecological Growers at New Markets for Local Agriculture, January 16, 2008, Bloomfield., Prince Edward County.
When we started Grassroot Organics in 2002, our ethic was to source everything as locally as possible this included inputs and sales. The great side benefit of sourcing all your inputs locally is you get to know your neighbours when you are battering for fertilizer, seeds, straw and hay. You get to know your neighbours doing that. It’s a great benefit.
In 2005, we were still at it and still trying to do the local sales. We were willing to take a loss for the first year. We had to supplement our farm income by still working off the farm. I went down to part-time in 2005 and Laura was off on maternity leave.
At the end of 2005 again we were having left over produce at the end of the farmers’ market. We still had all this produce left over and looking at our neighbours we realized they were in the same position.
We decided we needed to try something new. So in 2006 we kept our production levels basically the same and we launched Kawartha Ecological Growers. As opposed to focusing on the markets in the Kawartha Lakes, we focused on the Toronto markets, just over 100 km away from us, still fairy local. I feel we took a step backwards as we were trying to be as local as possible, but when you think about the 100-mile-diet is still fairly local
After four years of struggling we recognized Toronto was our ideal market. We were in the same situation as our neighbours. We didn’t have enough local market. We were too small of a scale to make a trip to Toronto worthwhile. Laura and I both stuck working off the farm. Karwartha Ecological Growers was launched make trips to Toronto worthwhile.
Year 1 business model 2006 was a matter of gaining trust with our neighbours. We first went from farm to farm and bought their goods out right, then marked them up and sold them in Toronto. We were using a borrowed pick up truck. We were making two trips down a week one to the markets and one to restaurants. The original idea was the buy neighbours product mark it up to cover costs of going to Toronto and anything we sold with our own Grassroot Organics was profit.
In the first year we turned a profit on Grassroot Organics and also turned a profit on our brand new business. After taking the lumps with Grassroot Organics we were told have to be prepared to take a loss.
Make a profit with a new business in the first year I was thinking I am onto something there.
In 2007, we were gaining trust from growers and some of growers were growing items just for us. They helped us with logistics, so instead of us going from farm to farm they sent up a centre location. Four farms in one general area would come together and we would just go and pick produce up.
When we deal with restaurants we were dealing on a net thirty basis. If we dropped something off they would pay us within 30 days. The farmers were willing to go on a net 30-day payment system as well. That was huge help.
In 2007 we out grew our truck and bough a nice new Dodge cargo van for deliver. I make three trips to Toronto and we started selling meats there.
Now Kawartha Ecological Growers is the primary purchaser for most of the growers in the area those ecologically friendly organic growers. Every grower plans to expand and we will have four trips a week with produce boxes, the restaurants, and the farmers’ markets. Leasing two refrigerated trucks one for meats and one for vegetables
They projected gross sales for 2008 is $750,00. For year one gross sales were $150,000 and in year two $300,000
Haworth Ecogical Growers retain 25 cents/dollar.
Evolution in 2008 is putting products on online. Growers can go online themselves and post what they have that day and the chefs can on line and order.