Like many family farmers, Derek Brandow makes ends meet with a day job.
“I expect that I will be able to slowly ease out of this into what I want to do which is farming,” he said.
A year ago, after being inspired by the ecological ideals of noted farmer and lecturer Joel Salatin, Brandow, along with his wife, started pasture-raising poultry on five acres in Eugene, OR, and called it Our Family Farm.
“It started as an experiment for us,” Brandow said. “We just thought this is so good. We need to do this.”
The Brandows began by borrowing enough money from friends and family to support 80 chickens for eight weeks. They measured their success based on whether or not they were able to sell their chickens before butchering them.
“It worked so we decided to do it again and in another eight weeks we sold everything,” Brandow said. “We started with nothing, not a penny, and ended our season last year with money in the bank and the loans from our families paid off.”
In order to keep growing and meet this year’s goal of selling 2,000 birds (up from last year’s 400-bird harvest) Brandow knew that he would need to utilize any marketing power he could muster. So he joined FoodHub.
While scanning the site Brandow happened upon Know Thy Food, a buying club out of Portland.
“I saw them on the site, did a little bit of research and noticed they were working with some farmers to buy chicken,” Brandow said. “I reached out to them via FoodHub and they said they were growing and interested in getting more providers. Basically I made a cold call and it worked out great.”
Recently, Brandow sent the club some birds to try out. According to Know Thy Food Food’s founder Rebecca Andersson, the four to five pound birds are just the right size for satisfying a family at the dinner table and a good fit for their growing membership.
“We have 482 members right now, including both buyers and sellers, and have tripled our membership within the last year,” said Andersson.
“We have quite a bit of buying power,” she said. “It’s pretty incredible when we all get together. Last year we bought 3,000 pounds of tomatoes from just one producer. On a typical week we serve 60 to 80 families that come together to get their farm direct goods. We have members who don’t even go to the grocery store because we have access to everything.”
In the next year Brandow plans on increasing his marketing efforts even more. Currently, the farm has a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts and will continue using FoodHub to make local food connections.
“This process of gathering information, even with people who are other poultry producers, is really important,” Brandow said. “I’ve used the different search tools on the site to see who is doing what and how they’re doing it and I’ll do specific searches for markets or grocery stores or restaurants and buying clubs and scan people’s profiles. FoodHub is nice because it broadens our market with just a click here and click there. The alternative is pounding the pavement and handing out business cards.”
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