Saturday, May 28, 2011

A busy week

We've had a busy week here over at Briarmoore. We helped some friends process their chickens on Tuesday. Thursday morning we processed our chickens, and in the afternoon we cut them up and packaged them. Friday we returned to Polyface to finish cutting up and packaging the rest of our birds. Today I will be busy busy busy cleaning my house! With all the farm work picking up pace, my house has been neglected... lots of dust, clutter, etc. I'll be happy when I'm all caught up with the laundry!

I'm also preparing for our two interns to arrive on Sunday and Monday. Their names are Chris and Bob, and we're very excited for their arrival! I'll be the chef this summer, preparing dinner for my family plus Chris and Bob all week long. We're really looking forward to getting to know these two men and imparting what knowledge we have to them.

We will process again on Monday, do cut ups again on Tuesday, and then won't be processing for another two weeks. It's a fun job for me because it's a joy to spend time with family and friends, be outdoors, and make money! However, I wouldn't want to process chickens all the time-- so I'm very grateful for our two week break.

Other than processing, things are going well. We've got 6 litters of rabbits right now, sweet little things! The garden is growing lots of beautiful veggies and herbs, including a thistle plant that's nearly up to my shoulders! (But I'm short!) Even though I'm new at gardening, I think I'm in love. It's so peaceful to work in the garden, and so rewarding to see things grow. It seems there are a lot of life lessons to learn from gardening!

I hope you're having a good week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Marketing: Restaurants 101 - Step Two (Menu/pricing)

Last week, we created a hit list with all the restaurants in your area.  This week, we are going to look at that list and see which restaurants will look at your product.

Step Two - Compare products and pricing.
Cost is a big deal to restaurants (and all the rest of us) especially in this day and age. One way to never have to apologize for your price is to wisely choose your market.

So this week, we are going to pull the menus on those targeted restaurants.

Make a list of all of the products that you currently have in plenty.  These are the products that you have a nice big weekly supply of. We started with eggs. (The reason that we had lots and lots of eggs with no market is another story for another day)

Put your price next to all of your products - you might already have this and if you don't, now is a good time to go ahead and develop a restaurant price list for your farm. You're going to want to have this on hand for later.

Now take that list of your farm products and compare it with the restaurant's menu.
You want to make sure that your pricing for this particular place is inline with theirs.  For instance, if one of your plentiful products is filet mignon (don't we wish?) and you charge $25/lb for it. The restaurant has this cut on the menu for $13, you're not going to be selling any filet to them.  However, if they have a nice burger on the menu for $10 and your ground beef is $5/lb, you might just have a winner!

A good rule of thumb is that food cost could be 20-30% of the plate cost - this includes veggies.

The other big thing to check is what meals they serve.  A full service restaurant will have need of many more products than one that serves only dinner.

But don't pick up that phone yet, there is still more to come before you make that first contact.

See you next week with step three.

Any questions or comments?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Buying Club Load-up

The Polyface Buying Club is a unique and successful system of serving customers. Customers place their orders online through the Buying Club website. We receive their orders, weigh, process, and pack them (referred to as "load-up"), and the orders stored in the freezer. On a designated day, they are delivered to a drop site where customers meet our Polyface driver, Richard Morris, to pick up their order.

Many people make the Polyface Buying Club a success, from accounting, answering emails, product inventory, organizing the website, and distribution. I work specifically on freezer inventory and organization. We deliver to a drop site every five weeks, and because of the number of drop sites, there are two load-ups per week.

I thought it would be fun to share with you specifically how we put together a load-up. It's kind of like "behind-the-scenes" to getting product to our customers!

This week we were blessed with a visit from apprentice Eric Barth's family. Laura, the oldest daughter in their family, was gracious and photographed Eric and I as we did our work. She helped out a great deal during load-up when we were short-staffed, too!

So, here is our day:

The walk-in fridge and freezer:

Eric and I bundle up in our winter coats and gloves, although it's already a warm morning. We gather boxes and head into the chilly freezer (notice the temperature!).

The amounts of each product needed for the day's load-up are printed on a sheet, known as the pick sheet. I read off the amounts, Eric counts and organizes the meat in boxes, and I check it off.

I keep the pen's ink from freezing by keeping it in my mouth....

Besides the walk-in freezer, we also have two reefer units that we converted into more freezer space. Eric drives the truck around and we load-up more meat for load-up.

note: no, eggs are not in our freezer. :)
We sometimes use egg boxes to store meat.

The truck load is unloaded at the sales building.

This is our packing room. We store coolers for load-ups here, and we process orders here as well. Once the cuts of meat are counted and boxed up, Eric and I haul them into the packing room.

Jackie manages and processes the orders for the load-up. We couldn't do it without her! :)

She calls out each individual order, and Eric and I gather, weigh, and pack the meat in coolers.

We have had anywhere from 40-160 orders per load-up.

Once all of the orders are processed and packed, they are stored in the walk-in freezer.

On the morning of the delivery, the apprentices load the coolers onto the bus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ode to a Salad Spinner

Salad greens, spinach, and head lettuce are growing like crazy in the Polyface garden right now, which means Dan and I have been washing pounds and pounds of greens lately. It's made me realize just how much I prize that trusty kitchen companion, the Salad Spinner. I didn't have one growing up, and I always dreaded when my mom asked me to make a salad for dinner. All that agony with drying each leaf by hand...all those piles of dish towels. But now, I'm able to get those greens washed and dried in a flash and bagged up to be sold in our farm store. (Oh, and Mom? I'd be willing to make you a salad too, with no complaints!)

All this has got me thinking, readers - what is YOUR favorite kitchen gadget? Which one inspires you to cook or reminds you that being in the kitchen is fun?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Discussions for The Dirty Life (Question #11)

This is the final discussion question for The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball. Feel free to go back and visit past discussions at your leisure. Link to these are at the bottom of this post.

Question #11
Kristin write that there are types of marriages: the comfortable kind and the fiery kind. 
Do you agree?

Further discussions:
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