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Posts Tagged ‘Redland Organics’

Still have a few more posts about the Small Farms Conference. There was a lot going on, but I focused on attending sessions where members of Redland Organics were presenting (or if there was a focus on local food systems). Here’s notes from Margie Pikarsky’s presentation on marketing.

Diversify! was Margie’s main theme, as in don’t put all your eggs in one basket. She raises various fruits and vegetables and animals (eggs) and also sells merchandise (tote bags and cookbooks).

Providers. Redland Organics CSA got started because of diversifying. Margie told the story of how Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms originally started the CSA. She was growing only a few things, and Margie was growing a few other things, and combined they were a good variety for their customers. From there, Redland Organics grew as other organic or non-spray/natural growers were included. Currently there are eight providers within a 160 mile radius. Membership in the CSA grew from 40 in the first season (2002-2003) and topped at 450 shares this past season.

Crops. Margie started with avocados and greens, but now gets more money per square foot from vegetables. She recommends growing something unique that would appeal to the public. For her it’s heirloom tomatoes, and usually she raises around 30 different varieties. Diversify also means to interplant crops, such as tomatoes with mustard greens, or a short crop with a second crop.

Seasonal offerings. In summer there are eggs and fruit for sale — mangos, avocados, passion fruit, jakfruit — depending on whatever is available from various local sources. Emails are sent out to customers and payments are made online. Customers pick up at the farm or one other site in the city. Margie doesn’t grow vegetables in summer but plants a cover crop instead, such as black eyed peas. During the winter CSA season, her crew picks to order on Thursday, and additional deliveries start coming in. The CSA boxes are packed on Friday. Saturday morning the shares go out by truck to various drop off points in town for customer pick up.

Labor. Bee Heaven Farm relies on volunteers from WWOOF and occasional interns. Margie tries to get seasonal people who will stay for at least a couple months. The work crew is small, about 6 to 8 people, and is intensely managed. Everything is handwork, only Margie uses the tractor and other machinery. She pays somebody local year round to pull weeds and gather eggs.

Various sources of income.
The CSA brings in 75 percent, and farmers market 15 percent. The other 10 percent comes from avocados, honey, tomato starts, greens, workshops, eggs, value added products, and other products (totes, cookbooks).

Direct marketing. Redland Organics has space at the South Florida Farmers Market in Pinecrest, and at the peak of the season added a large table devoted to heirloom tomatoes. Last two seasons Margie sold avocados to Whole Foods. Participating in select events and festivals is also a good way to get exposure.

Agritourism. Bee Heaven Farm is open to the public twice a year. Farm Day is in winter and started as a small potluck. Last season it grew to 200 people attending. A small market is offered on the side. There’s also the end-of-season Gleaning Day, also a potluck, then customers go through the rows to pick the last of the season. Mothers Day brunch with tables set under the trees was a new event, featuring local food prepared by the chefs of Mise en Place.

Workshops. A series of four cooking workshops were offered last winter. Margie teamed up with chefs Adri Garcia and Rachel O’Kaine of Mise en Place, who used all local ingredients except for flour, sugar, salt and oil. The tamale workshop was hands on, and participants picked and shucked corn, and shaped their own tamals. When Margie needed to cull roosters she held a chicken processing workshop. Participants watched her process the first bird, then did their own and got to take it home. Margie said that people do want to know more and connect with their food, and these interactive workshops help them connect.

Value added. Other diversity is through dried fruits (mango, banana etc.) and tomatoes. Tip: Margie uses a venison dryer from Cabela’s. She also makes various spice rubs that include her herbs.

Currently Margie and a couple other growers in RO are working with their local county commissioner to allow on-farm food processing and commercial kitchens. The state laws allows this, but county zoning ordinances do not. A change in zoning would also allow for B&Bs, which would have to be located on an active farm (unless it was a historically designated building), and would have to follow certain restaurant kitchen requirements. Language for this change in zoning is being drafted now and will come up for a vote in fall.

Download the Powerpoint slide show and the handout from this session.

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