How one farmer went from new kid on the block to selling his entire crop
A year ago FoodHub Member Pete Mulligan, owner of Bull Run Cider in Forest Grove, OR, didn’t know anything about kiwis. What he did know what was apples. And after developing his skills for the past three years as a home brewer he was making plans to break into the cider business. Kiwis were not part of the plan. All that changed when an elderly landowner approached Mulligan about managing their two-and-a-half acre kiwi orchard that had been in operation in the Hillsboro, OR, area for the past 26 years.
Mulligan agreed to take on the job and after bringing the orchard to harvest was confronted with another challenge: How to sell the fruit.
“We were concerned because we didn’t know how to market the fruit,” Mulligan said. “We thought we were going to have to knock on doors all over the place just to start getting the word out.”
Instead, while browsing Facebook one day, he found FoodHub.
“I sent out about 11 emails and made a handful of connections and was able to sell everything rather quickly,” he said. “With sales, most of the time, its boots on the ground. FoodHub allowed us to not have to work the phones or put boots on the ground and connect with a lot of people very quickly.”
Not only was Mulligan selling a product he had never marketed before, he was also working with an entirely new clientele: schools. His newly burgeoning client list included Centennial School District in Portland, Tigard-Tualatin School District in Tigard, OR, and Lake Oswego School District in Lake Oswego, OR.
As the Food Services Director for Lake Oswego School District, Marcie Christiansen has been focusing on purchasing more local products for her cafeteria for the past couple years. Now, she spends as much as 40 percent of her budget in the local food marketplace including blueberries that she found by using FoodHub last year.
“I go on FoodHub whenever I get an email,” she said. “I don’t know where the kiwis come from that I usually purchase – I purchased kiwi from Pete because he was a local grower. Getting product to my schools when I purchase from a local farmer can be hard because I don’t have an in-house delivery service, but Pete was kind enough to take it to all of the schools in my district. It worked out really well.”
“That was a lot of work,” Pete said of making the deliveries to the Lake Oswego schools, “but we were able to leverage FoodHub to save time and expedite other parts of process. There’s no tool I’m aware of in the marketplace that can do that that’s so interactive.”
However, said Mulligan, FoodHub’s interactive features only go so far without any attention from the actual user: When he was actively marketing his kiwis Mulligan was spending as much as five hours per week laying the groundwork for his eventual connections by looking up buyer information, making phones calls, adding and updating information on his profile and utilizing the marketplace.
“Make it easier to do business with you by listing as much as you can about your product and your business in your profile,” he said when asked what he would recommend to other sellers seeking success. “Make your profile work for your customer. For example, we included information on how to store and handle kiwis.”
Now, while still in the process of expanding his cider business, Mulligan is looking at FoodHub not only for the kiwis he plans to sell next year, but for other products as well.
“FoodHub is advancing food grown and harvested locally,” he said. “It literally connects the dots and gives you a very clear picture of what it offers. And it’s not just a one way tool for sellers – it saves a headache for buyers too. As a new business FoodHub has given us hope and an opportunity to sell other products. Not just kiwi, and not just to schools.”