This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Quinn Richards of Farm Punk Salads, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Starting a farm these days is much different that perhaps it used to be. With a competitive marketplace in the Portland Metro area for small scale farming, we at Farm Punk Salads see a couple of things as key to developing a farm. We see identifying and cultivating a niche market, getting specific about the crops we grow, cultivating financial literacy, and building a personality within our brand to make our farm memorable as our main ways to building our business.
We wanted to make a farm that got people excited about eating salad, for it was our experience falling in love with salad that inspired us to focus on salad. Salad has all the things that we love so much. It’s raw and fresh, its quick and easy to make, it is what we are passionate about growing, and pretty much any diet supports eating lots of salad. It felt like the universal thing there was a need for in Portland and something that we could pair with a value-added product to give consumers a whole package. It was because of this that we chose to start a salad specific farm and produce a line of salad dressings.
Before we started our farm, we spent a lot of time thinking about what we might want to grow and how we think we might sell the vegetables. To grow crops is one thing and to sell them is often another. It was in the distance between these two points that we saw was a hang-up point for many small farms. After our time working on another Portland CSA-based farm, we took it as an opportunity to collect feedback from folks. What did they like about their CSA? What would they like to see improved? One of most common things we heard was “But what do I do with it?” or “I just don’t have enough time to cook all of these things.” We saw salad as an opportunity to create a product for people that would be quick and convenient but still support local food. “Let’s be a one-stop-salad-shop,” we thought. Let’s create a CSA that has all the needed ingredients to make a meal without a trip to the store.
Throughout our time with Farm Punk, we have seen soil health as important as financial health. We want to wake up every day and do this work, so in order to do so, we emphasize a business model that pays us a living wage. One way we are working to create financially stability is by generating income year-round through a diversified income source. We saw the dressings as an opportunity to get our products into grocery stores and have the chance to sell to folks who may not want to commit to CSA or do not shop at farmers markets.
In whatever your model may be, it’s important to stand out. What makes you memorable? Why might people want to buy your products? Our products need to stand on their own in quality and flavor without a doubt, but they also need to catch people’s attention. We prioritized getting professional branding before we started the season so that we could make a bold appearance when we entered markets. If our dressing were to be on a shelf with other dressings that are most likely cheaper, what is going to make customers feel inclined to pay more for our products? Visual impact and a clean logo were two things we spent a lot of mental energy on. Creating a farm name that encapsulated our unique approach to farming as well as our more unconventional spirits was something we wanted our farm to have. Risk and reward are two sides of the same coin, and although it can feel uncertain to go out on a limb to name your farm something like Farm Punk, these days you cannot *afford* to fit in.
What is the market really looking for? We think the answer is something that is personable and easy to engage with but new and unique. Just like farmers do not have to fit a certain mold, neither do farm models, and we see creating a product that embodies these two things to be our key to success. By focusing on developing a niche market, creating an easy product to consume, prioritizing financial health, and having strong branding, we hope to successfully build Farm Punk Salads into the future.
Farm Punk Salads is a salad-specific farm who focuses on growing salad greens and lettuce and produces a line of salad dressings. Run by Quinn & Theus, your friendly neighborhood salad punks, at hand scale with no-till and beyond organic practices at Headwaters Incubator Farm, they aim to be your local one-stop-salad-shop. You can find their products at Kenton and Woodlawn Farmers Markets, their home-delivered salad CSA, at New Seasons for their salad dressing, and at farmpunksalads.com.