Its been an eventful few weeks since my last newsletter/blog post about raw milk. Not only did we change the way our raw milk is sold, we also switched over to once-a-day milking, AND launched our Farm Loyalty program. Read on to see how all these activities are linked together...
As detailed in my February blog post "The Laborious Business of Raw Milk", we calculated that in an average day we were spending approximately 14 hours managing the dairy cow herd, including milking, pasture rotations, equipment and barn cleanup, testing, and handling milk in the store as well as customer-related calls, emails, etc. All this labor investment was not only adding to the cost of producing milk, but also challenging us from a scheduling perspective, requiring two shifts of farmworkers every day to handle both the morning and evening milking operations. As you might expect, nobody wanted to work the evening milking shift so more often than not Anna or I would need to cover it. Needless to say this was not an ideal situation.
We began exploring the idea of once-a-day milking several years ago, but we knew that it would reduce our production from 10% - 30% and decided the loss in production would be too much to bear. But with ongoing staffing challenges over the last two years, we decided it was time to move forward with the change and milk the herd only in the mornings. Two weeks into it and all the farm employees love the new schedule and our newfound ability to spend time on other enterprises and projects besides the dairy operation. Unfortunately, we have lost about 20% of our raw milk production, which is right in the range of what we were expecting.
With less milk to sell, the idea of turning away throngs of hopeful customers waiting in line for raw milk every morning was not a pleasant one. We decided it would be much less burdensome for the majority of customers if we could simply put the available milk for sale online each morning, offering everyone an equal chance at purchasing the milk. If they didn't get any at least they would not be driving out to the farm and waiting in line for an hour or two only to find out we were sold out. The idea seems logical but we are still getting quite a bit of negative feedback from those that were used to coming early, waiting in line for an hour or two, and getting milk. Any change, even for the better, is always going to upset some people that were comfortable with the old ways.
For what its worth, the new system of online ordering for raw milk has been much appreciated by our farm store team. Opening the store without a huge line of customers waiting every morning is much easier to manage, with the new system our guest visits are spread out over the entire day and not crammed into the first hour.
LOYALTY MEMBERS CAN RESERVE RAW MILK
On March 1st we introduced a Loyalty Program in the store, using customer's phone numbers to track purchases and provide rewards. Based on the data thus far about 70% of our customers have signed up for the program, which offers a 5% discount on the next order for signing up, and reward points accumulating with every purchase.
One of the main reasons we decided to introduce a Loyalty program was to reward our best customers with the opportunity to reserve raw milk when they wanted it - without waiting in line or having to scramble to buy it online. As noted in our previous blog post, we don't make money on raw milk due to the high production and labor costs. So we would rather sell it to our loyal customers that consistently purchase other products that we do make some money on, such as grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs.
Of course it will take some time for us to accumulate store purchasing data from the majority of our customer base, but we decided to define the "Sustaining Member Level" as $5,000 in annual purchases from the farm (excluding milk). That works out to be about $100 per week, $200 every two weeks, or just over $400 per month in farm spending.
Farm Loyalty members that are purchasing this amount of product from us will be able to email the farm store at firstname.lastname@example.org and reserve up to 2 gallons of raw milk for any day in the upcoming week, with at least one day advance notice. Just provide your phone number in the email so we can look up your Loyalty account and verify your purchasing history, and which days in the coming week you are available to pickup.
As of today we are two weeks into March, so if you have spent at least $200 in the store or with an online purchase other than raw milk you would qualify to reserve milk. It you do qualify then we will send you a confirmation email with the date and amount of milk reserved for you.
For those who have yet to sign up for our Loyalty Program, you can do so online with this link. Once you register you will receive a 5% off welcome gift on your next purchase in the store, and each purchase will accumulate points toward additional rewards, such as discount coupons, Loyalty member-only events, and the ability to reserve raw milk and other items that are in short supply. Online purchases of any item besides milk will also accumulate loyalty points if you have registered an account and put your phone number on the order form. Unfortunately you cannot redeem Loyalty rewards with online purchases until the new website is launched (hopefully in April).
SUMMER FARM CAMP REGISTRATIONS ARE OPEN
The summer farm camps are back and this year we have scheduled five week-long, morning day camps, based on age. The kids will learn about regenerative farming and tips on raising chickens, cows, and pigs, as well as useful hands-on survival skills as well. The Hot Shots camp, designed for teens 16-18 will also include a campout at our Wisconsin farm location.
We only have room for 14 kids per camp this year, so sign up soon if you are interested. I expect the camps will fill up fast. For more information on the agenda for each camp or to register visit our camps page.
SPRING CHICKEN BUNDLE SALE
We still have a good inventory of whole and cutup chickens in stock, both our regular pasture-raised/organic fed chickens as well as those batches we raised on a corn-free and soy-free diet. Save 20% on 4-packs of chickens and 25% on 10-packs. Purchase online only for store/curbside pickup or home delivery on our pastured poultry page.
FARM STORE UPDATE
With hints of spring popping up, only to be buried under another snow storm, it's hard to say when spring will really arrive. For now we still have a good supply of local root vegetables in the store. Fortunately our hens have picked up production so our egg supply is good, and we have most cuts of beef and pork in stock right now.
NEW - we have pork lard in quart jars that our hog processor has started producing for us. All the fat used comes from our pasture-raised pigs.
We also have a big selection of pork sausages now, including the maple-sage-ginger breakfast links, Farmer's hot breakfast sausage (my fav), fresh and smoked Kielbasa, and a variety of artisan brats made by our friends at Hometown Sausage Kitchen.
We also have a good selection of Easter hams in stock this year, while supplies last.
Our pork Shoulder Roast and Shoulder Steaks are stilll on sale 20% off
NOW HIRING - FARM STORE TEAM
We have an opening for a passionate and energetic individual to help in the Farm Store, ideally 2-3 days per week (15 - 20 hours weekly). Our Farm Store team members participate in every aspect of running the store, including assisting customers, restocking shelves and coolers, answering the phone and emails.
Applicants must be 16 years of age at start of position and able to lift at least 40 lbs. to shoulder height (boxes of eggs, containers of milk), and be able to work a flexible work schedule that would include some mornings, afternoons, weekends and holidays. Compensation based on experience, plus employee discount and food stipends. Please view the full job description on our Employment Opportunities page. Interested candidates should forward resume and letter of interest to email@example.com.
Please follow us on our Instagram Page where Anna tries to post photos and farm updates a few times per week.
Cliff, Anna and the Farm Team