How does that conversation come about?
A lot of the Amish community, or at least a good chunk—
They’re not farming in a shitty way to begin with.
They’re not. A lot of these places, they have 20 plus acres anyway. They have ample enough land to do things the right way. Just like anything else, there’s always gonna be bad seeds, some that don’t give a shit. They’re gonna do whatever the hell they want to. I know Amish guys who have 50 acres of GMO corn. 100 acres of GMO soybeans. I’m not trying to talk shit on Amish people—I love Amish people. You have to be willing to pick out the people that you would prefer to have do things for you. It’s as long as we’re on the same page, let’s move forward. I’ve had two hour conversations with young Amish guys that have four acres they want to farm with me and I’ll meet with them with seed catalogs and be like, let’s do this, this, this and this.
Our farm has always been known as the farm that does really oddball stuff. At our actual physical farm, I try to do all that stuff so that I’m not putting the pressure on someone else to grow something that might fail. That’s always a possibility in farming, whether it’s disease or bugs, or whatever. You’re up against Mother Nature, so anything can happen.
So, you’re expanding your reach with this network while also—
But I’m also giving them a week-in, week-out source of income. We’re fair with the price that we give to them and I never pressure them into like, you have to give it to me at this price. 90% of the time, I like them to set the price because I want them to feel good about the price they’re getting. Then my price that I charge the restaurants is dictated by the price I’ve been offered. We’ll discuss prices. The guy who has been growing zucchini and bell peppers for me for the last six years, the first week they’re coming in, he’ll call me and say,
I was thinking, what about this for this year, and I’m like, oh, that works for me. Alright.
Sometimes, I say, I think we can get a little more for that item—let’s be right here at this price.
And then if it’s a couple weeks in and they’re not selling, then I’ll either say something or, often they’ll say I can come down on my price, let’s try to move something.
That’s the other thing—the grower doesn’t want to get stuck with it. I never force any of them into an uncomfortable situation. I hate the fact that there are guys who swindle the Amish. Off the top of my head, I know three farms who had people come in last year from New York and New Jersey—probably wholesalers—they said, if you grow four acres of this, I’ll buy everything that you produce all season long. And because Amish and Mennonites are very trusting, they’ll say, ok.
Then I get a phone call, I have four acres of…this guy only came the first week and I can’t get a hold of him. So these guys come in and they’ll buy a bunch that first week and that’s it. Then the farmer is stuck with nowhere to go with it. And that’s four acres where he could have grown something else. Corn for livestock or alfalfa. It can happen to anyone who is trying to make ends meet—so any small farm across the country—who has someone approach them and says, you can grow this and I’ll pay you this much per box per week.
And these farmers know that you have a lot of customers in Philly and the surrounding area.
Right off the bat, before anyone starts growing for me, I tell them what we do is kind of unique compared to your average wholesaler selling to grocery stores or whatever. They can usually tell you I can move exactly this amount per week.
I can’t give that to you, I tell them. What we do is different. I can’t guarantee that we need this much this week. If it’s not ordered, I don’t have a sale for it. And I only run down [to Philly] once a week, so it’s trickier that way.
Have you ever thought of linking up with anyone else for overflow?
No. You mean another distributor?
Specialty purveyors or small grocery stores.
No. I like just dealing with chefs. I mean, we do sell to Fair Food Farmstand, Green Aisle, and Milk and Honey, but that’s not our target. I have deep roots with those guys, but our target market is restaurants. I like being known as a farmer who sells specifically to chefs. We don’t do farmers markets, we don’t sell to the public.
What about delivering more than once a week?
We farm a good bit of ground. Our butcher only has x amount of days to get his work done. Grinding beef. He does custom stuff for us, like bangers or sausages made to recipes provided by customers. Plus, he’s also breaking down 2-3 sides of beef just for Thursday delivery. On top of that, we need to be able to weed our fields, to be able to plant stuff. It doesn’t work to do it more than one day a week. It’s different when you’re a farmer and a distributor. If there was a fleet of trucks that would come in and pick up stuff and deliver it, I could probably do two to three deliveries a week. But, we pick everything Wednesday and pack it to order and deliver it on Thursday. All the guys that farm are truck drivers.
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