Michele Cook — A few years ago, I did something crazy. I quit my nearly six figure job to start a small farm. My husband lovingly called it “the hippie plan”. Basically, I would have laying hens, milk goats for soap, and a large garden. I would hawk my wares at the local farmer’s market and supplement my income through my writing talents. And it worked! Until it didn’t. This is the short story of what I learned.
I started with 13 laying hens and by the end of summer I was consistently getting a dozen eggs a day. Each Saturday I showed up at the farmer’s market with my cooler full of beautiful brown eggs and in just a few hours I was sold out. I felt like the queen. I thought of all the naysayers as I proudly handed over carton after carton of my fresh farm eggs in exchange for cold hard cash. Then, autumn arrived.
The End of the Farmer’s Market Season
In my part of the world, the farmer’s market closes at the end of September. The excitement I felt selling my eggs was blown away on a chilly fall breeze. The chickens however, didn’t realize I had no customers and the continued pumping out eggs, dozen after dozen which began to pile up in my kitchen. I had eggs everywhere! When my husband went to visit family out of state, I sent him with 17 dozen eggs.
“What am I going to do with all these eggs?” He asked as I loaded a cooler.
“Give them to your Mom, her friends, heck give them to a guy standing on the corner. Just don’t come home with any eggs” was my only response.
My Biggest Mistake
As the day’s got shorter, the hens slowed down a little bit. They never stopped laying but they gave me a minute to breathe and take a hard look at my budding egg business. Where did all those hungry customers go after the farmer’s market closed? Did they hibernate along with the bears?
I brought my problems to one of my best advisers, my dad. The first question he asked me made me hang my head in shame “Did you put anything on the egg cartons so people could call you to get more?”
Doh. “Uh, no dad, I didn’t.”
I had failed to give all of those potential return customers a way to contact me.
Finding My Egg Customers (Again)
After a month or so of slow egg production from the girls and some rethinking on my part I was ready to start selling again. I started on my personal Facebook page and then put an ad on our local Facebook yard sale page. The response was slow, but eventually my customers returned and once again I was consistently selling eggs.
This time with a branded “contact me” sticker.
Michele Cook is a farmer, author, and communications specialist for the National Federation of Press Women. She raises chickens, goats, and vegetables on her small farm in the beautiful Alleghany mountains of Virginia. If she is not outside caring for her farm you can find her curled up in a chair with her nose stuck in a good book. You can find her at www.toesinthedirt.com