I just love getting my weekly news from Jack Schultz! Because I grew up in rural Minnesota I think I can identify with this story!
From Moo to You!
There is an old joke in agriculture, “How do you make a million dollars in agriculture?” “You start with $5 million!”
George Shetler was like a lot of small farmers. He was going broke slowly. In the 20 year period from 1974 to 1994 almost 400 farms/week went bankrupt. Shetler would have probably gone down that path if he hadn’t made a shift from commodity production to niche marketing. Shetler was a dairy farmer, 25 miles from Traverse City, MI, who milked 40 cows. He was a small fry in an industry that was dominated by giants. To survive he had to do something radically different.
In 1995 he surveyed local food retailers to see if there was a market for his grass fed milk. He wrote out a one page business plan which included one infamous line: “Pray!!” He built a micro-creamery out of used equipment and started delivering his own milk. Today he has 38 cows and sells 1,300 gallons of milk and dairy products twice a week to 50 stores in the region. His delivery truck has a set of Texas longhorns bolted to the roof of the cab, which is painted as you would expect in a black-and-white Holstein pattern. The slogan on the side of the truck, “From Moo to You.” Shetler has seven employees and has quadrupled his revenues. Two of his oldest sons have moved back to the farm. Instead of throwing in the towel George Shetler’s goal now is, “to have something here for the grandkids.”
Shetler is a great example of an entrepreneur farmer. By developing niches, a farmer can differentiate and develop a brandable product that commands higher prices and better margins than commodity markets. Many rural communities are dependent on agriculture or can trace their beginnings to a strong farming economy. If you’re surrounded by agriculture and you think that farming is not a part of your local economic development efforts, think again. Take a good look at your farmers – they are by nature, risk takers and innovators, the exact skills a good entrepreneur needs. Are you inspiring and supporting your entrepreneur farmers? Think of how you can bolster your economy with an industry that already exists in your community; if only you were looking at it through different eyes!
Read more of Jack’s rural wisdom at www.boomtowninstitute.com