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You are "innovator customers"

  • , by Jacob Wolki
  • 5 min reading time
You are "innovator customers"

I gave a presentation at "Wormfest" in March. It was a group of almost 200 larger scale farmers who were there to learn about biological inputs. Open minded and progressive farmers, who value soil health but are pragmatic about the need for their business to operate profitably. (AKA "SUSTAINABLE")

I gave a presentation at "Wormfest" in March. It was a group of almost 200 larger scale farmers who were there to learn about biological inputs. Open minded and progressive farmers, who value soil health but are pragmatic about the need for their business to operate profitably. (AKA "SUSTAINABLE")

In my presentation I told Wolki Farm’s origin story and what the journey has been. I’m starting to view Wolki Farm as more of a sales/logistics/supply business than a farm business, which is how I presented it.
We love and prioritise our farming, and are continuously focused on expanding our numbers of livestock and land, but this framing has been helpful to give direction and help strategise business growth and development.

During my presentation I asked the farmers some questions that I frequently get asked to see how much of a finger they had on the pulse of consumers. Do they get the same questions that I get? Do they know what customers are asking for?
"Who here has ever been asked if they use mRNA vaccines on their animals?"
Crickets - no one had. Then the room started murmuring and finally someone yelled out "What's mRNA?!".

The majority of the room had never heard of it. (?)

Similarly, no one had heard about people transitioning to a chemical free meat based diet and having amazing health outcomes.
When I got home I couldn't stop thinking about this. I did a Facebook live to discuss this with my community and I put forward the idea that my role in the industry is shifting. I like doing lives off the cuff, and thinking out loud with my tribe. It’s honest, transparent, and a great way to develop thoughts.

I get so much consumer feedback, maybe I can serve the industry by translating and communicating it back in.

The live video I did got some criticisms. I wasn’t nuanced enough, I didn’t paint the whole picture, I was misrepresenting the industry, etc.
I realised that "Regenerative Agriculture" and "Direct to Market" farmers are tech industry innovator equivalents.

This is another powerful framing tool.

Our position (Wolki Farm, maybe you too?) is to be space innovators. Our customers are innovators. Cutting edge consumers with the most progressive and forward thinking demands.

Our communities concerns about their diet, health and inputs and not representative of the broader public - they are first.

We are on the journey with them, challenging their thoughts & our own. All in an attempt to improve our farming models and our business.

Probably our customer base is 2.5% of consumers. This 2.5% of the population is people who would understand and value what we are trying to achieve with chemical free, natural farming. But we can’t reach 2.5% people of people, we have an immature supply chain and we don’t have the convenience of big box stores.

On Sunday a lady called me upset about her experience in my 24/7 butchery. The door got stuck and it took her a minute to figure out how to exit. She called me and complained that it was hot in there (AC unit broke), the door was unsatisfactory, the app was hard to use, while she was in store her ice-cream in the car defrosted - etc etc. You get the point.

I replied to her that if the butchery wasn't too her liking she could purchase via our website for free local delivery, or visit Cafe Musette to access the range there, open 7 days in central Albury, or go to Almar Organics in South Albury, open 6 days.

All options were unsatisfactory - “too hard”. She said she was willing to pay for our produce as she believed in the production values but it was far too inconvenient to access.

She is more right than wrong, although our knee jerk reaction would be to point out the flaws in her thinking. She's the consumer holding the cash and she gets to call the shots on how to spend it.

So, considering the segment of the market that will pay for our food if we communicate its value is under 2.5% of consumer, and our supply chain, inventory and sales models are clunky and hard at best - what chance do we have to "make it"?

It's powerful framing & a needed reality check. We need to be focusing on making consumer access easier, clearer communicated, faster.
Sure, we can hobble along doing farm gate sales preaching the "local food" message. But the reality is that we will never capture a meaningful amount of market which means we will never get a meaningful amount of animals and land under our management style which is the ultimate goal for regen ag.
The local food system heel digging desperation to hold onto farm gates and farmers markets will unfortunately lead to burnout or brokiedom.
We need to hit minimum viable scale, and to do that we need to offer at least minimum acceptable access.

PS, we just added 800 postcodes to wolkifarm.com.au, now servicing every state in Australia.
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