Saturday, June 11, 2011

Marketing: Restaurants 101 - Step Four (Making contact)

Last week we talked about the personality of chefs. This week we're going to talk about how to make that first contact with them.

Step Four - Make Contact

You have your hit list, you know the names and back story of your chef, your products are in the right price range. It's time to pick up the phone to make that first call.

Check your restaurant list and see what times they serve meals. A good rule of thumb is to try calling them between 2-3pm. If they serve lunch, the busy hour should be about over and if they serve dinner it will before too much prep time gets underway.  Never call first thing in the morning. Chefs work late and aren't early risers by nature. I never call before 10am, unless specifically requested to do so.

Tell the person who answers the phone who you are and ask them when a good time to talk to Chef Dan (fill in the blank) is.

This is the most intimidating of all the steps. Nobody likes rejection.  As Joel says, "This is why we call traffic lights Stop lights. Because if we didn't mind rejection, we'd call them Go Lights."

But I digress.  Plan your spiel. Be quick, concise and to the point. Tell them who you are, what farm you are with and then proceed to ask them for a good time to send samples.

"Samples? I thought we were trying to sell them our products."

Yes, that's right, samples. Let your product speak for itself.  In the end, it really doesn't matter what you say as much as how well received your product is.

My spiel goes something like this:

Hi, I'm Sheri Salatin with Polyface Farm. We raise pastured poultry, pastured pigs, Salad bar beef, and pastured eggs. We have the world's best product and I would like to know if I can send you a sample package to try it all out. 
Is there any particular product or cut you would be most interested in or may I send you a little of everything? 
When is the best time for me to drop these off? 
I'm in your area on Thursday, can I drop them then?

Some chefs will want you to schedule an appointment and meet with you face-to-face. Others will be fine with receiving your products and then going from there.

Secondly, if you are unable to talk to the chef when you call - this is the most common occurance - ask the person who answers the phone for an email address (or mailing address for some or the best time to catch them) to the chef (be specific on their name). Then send an email with a SHORT, very short paragraph introducing yourself and your farm. Then proceed to say that you saw these items on their menu (list them out) and that you offer these products (list your products) on a consistent basis. Highlight a few other products that you have plenty of and you feel are top quality and then attach a copy of your price list.
End the email with asking permission to send samples. You should not have to scroll to finish out this email. Keep it precise and get to the point. They don't have much time.

Follow up the next week with a phone call and keep calling every week until you get a "NO" or a "Send a sample". The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Do a little jig around the kitchen table and get your samples ready to send out, because half the battle is won.  But it ain't over yet, so just do a little jig.

You can save the full dance for when your product gets featured on the menu. Then it might just be time for a celebratory dinner. Hmm...I wonder which restaurant you should choose? 

Go to it!

Next week, I plan to finish out with maintaining good report with chefs.

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Welcoming Stephen

In February when it was snowy and cold, Michael and I ventured out to the "Rockbridge Grown Good 'n' Friends Annual Potluck Dinner" in Lexington. We met so many like minded people and ate delicious homemade food.  We also connected with a wonderful person from  "James Madison University" who connected us to with their internship program  for students who are interested in working on farms. After  a phone interview with Jennifer Coffman the  University sent someone out to tour  Buxton and then put us on the map as a farm for students to apprentice on. 
Stephen Young arrived last week all the way from Florida. He has never farmed before but you wouldn't know it. He has a great attitude, a curious mind, a generous heart, and a desire to learn and know more. Michael and I are thrilled he found us. Last year he taught English in Paris after finishing college at The University of Chicago. On his second day with us he helped Michael carry a newborn calf from the river field across the swinging bridge. The baby went to previous caretaker, Carl and his wife Norma. It was the first time Stephen experienced a newborn calf.
We  encouraged him to pitch in with  every aspect  on the farm. He cooks! He gardens, and he cleans up after himself! Last week he made incredible homemade spelt biscuits and gravy. He's started his own worm bin, baked  fish he caught in the pond and  the river, he's super independent, creative, and he's terribly  fond of the refreshing  afternoon dips in the river that we live for!  Stephen brings  a youthful, lighthearted, and sweet energy to Buxton.  He's making things a lot easier for us in our first year at Buxton. Things keep getting better and better for Polyface at Buxton just as we intend.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Cooking

Each weeknight, we've been putting out twenty-five plates, cups, forks and spoons - and that can only mean one thing...our interns are here! We love our interns and love to cook for them. Dan has a whole summer of spectacular meals planned and it's been a lot of fun to help him with the prep each day. As with the wedding we catered a few weeks back, I continue to be amazed at just how big we have to scale up each recipe to feed our crew.

We continue to work with the rabbits and maintain the gardens while bagging up produce to be sold in the store. It's the busiest and most fun time of the year!

What is keeping you busy right now?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Organic Veggies vs. Non Organic

I recently started a new farmers market here in town with local wines, foods, plants and yummy baked goods. While there are so many people in the country that have heard of Polyface - there are a surprising amount of local people that have never heard of us! One gentleman in particular has been on my mind. He had never heard of Polyface and wanted to know if we were one of those "organic farms". He patiently listened as I explained to him about our farm and how and why we do the things we do but said he just had one question...."I once ate some vegetables that were organic and they didn't taste any different than regular so I don't know why people pay all that extra money for organic food?" I mustered up my best Joel Salatin voice and began to explain that the word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay. Long story eating "organic" you're not putting all of the pesticides and chemicals in your body. You wouldn't spray your salad with a pesticide while it was on your plate - why would you eat a salad that had been sprayed before it had been harvested? While I know it's hard (and expensive!) here's a few tips to help you decide what foods should be bought organic and which ones you could skip the organic label and still be safe to consume...

If you're concerned about pesticides, choose your produce wisely. Domestically grown fruits and vegetables tend to have lower levels of pesticide residue than do the same imported foods. In addition, produce with thick skins or peels that aren't eaten, such as bananas, citrus fruits and onions, tends to pose less pesticide risk than does skinless or soft-skinned produce, such as strawberries, peaches and pears. You can also peel fruits and vegetables, but keep in mind that peeling generally means losing some fiber and nutrients.

Carrots growing at Polyface!!!
More reasons to shop your local farmers markets! You can talk directly to the grower to find out what was used to grow the produce and/or meats. They will also be more nutritious because they have come straight from the garden and most of the time have been harvested that same day instead of being ripened on trucks and then traveling thousands of miles to sit in the supermarket. And, in my opinion, local organic produce tastes better! Local growers can grow yummy, heirloom varieties that conventional farms cannot because they don't need them to be hearty enough to last for weeks in the stores!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Discussion for Made from Scratch - part 1

The Polyface Farm Chicks' book club are reading Made from Scratch this month and next (June & July).  Jenna Woginrich has promised to drop by at some point during the next two months and join the discussions.  Here is the first discussion question. Even if you haven't started reading the book yet, this one is a great start!


The word "homesteading" often conjures up an image of a bucolic mountain (or valley) home on several acres of arable land, surrounded by a self-sustaining water system, contented farm animals, and a supportive community of fellow farmers.  Yet today's would-be farmer is often a young urban dweller living in a rented home or apartment within a city.

In your opinion is homesteading all or nothing?

What picture comes to your mind when you think of homesteading?

What does your current home place look like now? How could you make it more like a "homestead"?
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