Fresh produce will be for sale this Saturday

You’ve asked for it. We’ve got it. Lee’s Produce will be here this Saturday to display and sell fresh produce at the farm.

We’ve been working with Lee’s for years. They were the first farm where we ever picked up produce. If you’ve been here for a tour and heard the story about how we received two five gallon buckets that very first day, the blonde lady in the picture above is who I received it from. (Hi Lynn!)

We’ve always enjoyed a special relationship with Lee’s and when we wanted to have someone out to offer fresh produce, Lee’s is who we called. The picture above is from our open barn day in May. With our pet the piggy event this Saturday (which will be smaller, I promise!) we are having Lee’s back out.

For our regulars, that means you can get a taste of what we have coming in the future with fresh produce for sale here at the farm (yes we’ve heard you!). We aren’t quite there yet on doing it full time, but the success of days like tomorrow is how we judge what we are doing next so if you want your produce and meat in the same place, stop by and do a bit of shopping.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

It’s getting piggy in here

This Saturday we are having a free pig holding/petting event. What is a free pig holding event you ask? I’m glad you did, because I asked SWMBO the same thing.

It seems at our open barn day event that there were two never ending lines. One to get into the store, and one to hold a piglet with Grandma.

Grandma and the baby piglet. There was a steady line all day to see and hold the piglet.
Grandma and the baby piglet. There was a steady line all day to see and hold the piglet.

As an aside, those same little piglets are actually grown up now and leaving the farm Friday to go to go to a new farm.

Piglets in the barn ready to be sold
Piglets, ready to go to another farm

But good news, we have lots of new little piglets on the ground born two weeks ago.

Our best momma with her new piglets
Our best momma with her new piglets

And just this past Sunday.

Large black mom with piglets
Large black mom with piglets

And in our batch of piglets from two weeks ago, we actually have two runts. So of course my girls (SWMBO, The Princess, and Wildflower) got involved in that.

One of our runts, napping with the Princess after getting a belly full of food
One of our runts, napping with the Princess after getting a belly full of food

The way it works with runts is that they cannot get access to food (momma’s milk) because their brothers and sisters are pushing them away getting their own food. Because they don’t eat, they don’t grow while everyone else does. Because they don’t grow, they get pushed more and more away until eventually they die. We pulled one real runt, and one that was on the way to being the runt into the house this past Sunday and have been giving them TLC ever since.

SWMBO and Tammy feeding the runt piglets
SWMBO and Tammy feeding the runt piglets

First thing in the morning the piglets get fed which involves a syringe and a bowl, baby food, pet milk, and a mess. There is much screaming from the piglets while they are carried from inside the house to the planter outside by our house. Once they hit the ground all is forgiven and it’s feeding time. The all black piglet got the hang of things very quickly and is eating right out of the bowl now. The striped piglet is the one that was weaker and we are still having to feed her from a syringe, often holding her and getting forcing her to eat.

It’s been touch and go with the striped one for a few days but as of yesterday she seems to be finally gaining body condition and eating consistently and with very little coaxing.

Once the piglets have round bellies, we let them play in the planter for a few minutes, then they are swaddled into a huge towel, cleaned up, and held like a baby till they fall asleep. Then it’s back into the cage under a heat lamp till the next feeding.

Then it’s wash, rinse, repeat every two hours or so until about 8-9pm.

SWMBO washing a baby piglet
SWMBO washing a baby piglet

Although sometimes you have to get a bath. I know you can’t hear from this picture, but imagine a never ending series of screams from the piglets as he complains MIGHTILY about having to take a bath. Much like children, being clean isn’t high on a pigs to do list. SWMBO is laughing and talking to him through the whole process.

So back to this pig holding thing I promised in the beginning. This Saturday, our two runt piglets are going to be made available much like we did during barn day. Grandma, AKA The Pig Whisperer, is going to be here and folks can stop by and pet/hold the piglet (depending on the piglet’s mood). It’s just a chance to get closer to a piglet than you ever would otherwise. Nothing special, but something special indeed. Unlike Barn Day, we are not advertising this event. No Facebook posts, no fliers. We are trying to keep this event relatively small and manageable so that everyone gets a chance. Yes you are welcome. Yes you can bring your friend/neighbor/etc. We just aren’t advertising it. This one is pretty much word of mouth.

Of course, the store will be open, and we’ll be running our normal tours as well so if you want to stop by, see the piggy, go shopping (how we actually make a living) and even take a tour (starts on the hour, group walking tours for $20 per group), all that will be going on this Saturday. The baby pig part of this thing will be from 10am – 2pm. Everything else is running our normal hours of 8-5.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Results from back to back testing part 2

And now the rest of our results from the past two weekends.

5. Out of the groups we saw, I think we’ll get some repeat customers, which is what this whole thing is about. If we advertise to 3000 people, we see 100. If we see 100, we see 20 again at least once. Of those 20, 2 become regulars. It’s the old sales funnel. It doesn’t change. We worked hard all day and probably gained 2-3 regulars. That’s a win in an operation our size.

6. For all the increased business and extra people, I didn’t work any harder than normal. I only gave eight tours. One every hour, with an hour break at lunch. This is what efficiency feels like. Same work, more results.

Not everything can be good though. What didn’t work with our test?

  1. Spork wasn’t here. And the girls were not here during the afternoon. Erin came up and covered for us from lunch till 4 (Thanks Erin!!). SWMBO came and covered from 4-5 (Thanks Darlin’). Crystal wanted off to go to the beach and I had to tell her no, for which I felt bad. Staffing was an issue but really had nothing to do with our experiment.
  2. It was feast or famine in the store. Between tour groups we’d have some regulars but on occasion we’d be empty and the girls would get bored. Then a tour would return and 20 people would be in the store and it would be crazy. People would have to wait to check out. Regulars couldn’t get in. We need a way to smooth it out some in the store.
  3. We had a person with limited mobility. Giving a riding tour and walking tour at the same time is cumbersome. I got lucky and we were able to cram all three groups into the Gator. We cannot rely on that to happen in the future.
  4. We need better signage for groups. People didn’t know where to go, or where to meet. “Tour starts here” or something would be helpful.
  5. We had people try to take their own tours. They didn’t know better. They just saw groups walking around so they thought it was ok. We need signage that says “No unescorted customers beyond this point” or something similar. Also, I probably need to create a sign of rules to post somewhere. Hot wires are hot. Pigs bite. Don’t walk behind cows. Hands and feet inside the Gator at all times. Ask questions. Unsupervised children will be given a piglet and an espresso. That kind of stuff.
  6. We had one group that was a handful of moms and a bunch of young kids. It just so happened that all three groups were a mom and 3-4 kids. That’s a tough tour group. The kids are loud and semi out of control. On the Gator I tend to drive a lot more and talk a lot less. But walking I couldn’t keep the motion up and they got bored and loud. It was doable for me. For Spork, it may be tougher.

So all in all, our test went well. We didn’t really spend that much money on advertising and we were able to move the needle in the store. We spent about $620 in lost revenue for not charging for tours. Figure another $80 in adverting (it wasn’t that much) just to make it a round number of $700 total cost. Over the two weekends, we definitely moved the top line needle more than that cost. That doesn’t translate into bottom line dollars of equal value but over the long term, if we picked up 4-5 new repeat customers then we should make our money back on what we spent. That’s about as good as it gets. What does that mean going forward. At this point I’m not sure I know. I think this will have to be part of a discussion where we see what we want to do. Until then, we are having a pig petting party this weekend which is a completely different experiment. But more on that, in the next post.

 

 

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Results from back to back testing part 1

Last week I told you about our mad scientist plan to see how our marketing was working. After a busy day on Saturday, the results are in.

First, a recap. Two weeks ago, on a holiday weekend, we had free tours with our traditional schedule. Spork gave one on one tours and I gave one on one tours. Both ran concurrently. This gave us 15 spots in the schedule for tours. We had 3 cancellations so we did a total of 12 tours. We had 40 total transactions in the store. For dollar volume, we totaled what would be a traditionally good Saturday. Not off the charts but on the upper end. That was sample one.

Last weekend, it was not a holiday weekend. Rather than two concurrent tours for 15 total per day, we ran three spots at once for 24 total per day. We also had the tours for free as well for a direct comparison. We advertised the weekend exactly as we had prior. To the same demographic, for the same dollar amount of advertising.

We had about 4 no shows (grr! I hate those) but one walk in unscheduled tour which took the spot of  a cancelled tour. We also had a couple of notified cancellations so we probably did about 18-19 groups total vs. the 12 of the previous weekend. We had 54 transactions in the store vs the 40 of the previous weekend. The average ticket was less than the previous weekend but overall we did better than upper end dollar volume. In other words, we set a new top of the chart Saturday dollar volume (for a non-barn day, special event, etc.)

So what worked with our test?

  1. Free tours and relatively inexpensive targeted Facebook advertising works.
  2. Group tours worked very well. People didn’t mind touring together and often quickly began interacting with one another.
  3. Even with three combined groups, our group sizes were by and large manageable. Most people are 4-5 per group so we stayed below our normal cap of 20 people per group.
  4. No shows were not as much of a problem. When you book a normal one of one tour at 10am, and then no show/don’t answer your phone/blow us off (RUDE!) I generally wait till 10:15 to see if you’ll show. Then I call and probably get your voice mail. I give it five more minutes to see if you will call back. That’s 10:20. Then I figure you aren’t coming. I try to be available 10 minutes before the next tour, which would be 10:50. That means I have 30 minutes wasted, and 30 minutes to do something. That’s generally not enough time to really do anything meaningful so I end up doing next to nothing. The end result is I waste an entire hour for a no show, when I have a million things I could be doing. With multiple tours at once, I wait till 5 after, then whoever is here gets a tour. If you show, catch up. If you don’t, whatever. My time is utilized. Multiple tours mitigates the no shows.
  5. People seemed to be just fine with group tours. They didn’t mind taking the tour with others and some even seemed to interact and connect. It worked better than I would have thought.

More on what worked, and what didn’t, in our next post.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Saturday is looking good!

I mentioned before about our testing this weekend vs. last weekend. We’d hoped to get a good comparison between the 15 tours we had booked last weekend and what we would have this weekend. We currently have 19 tours booked for this weekend with a few spots still open. This is a perfect comparison between this weekend and last so thank you to all the folks who are coming and making this a great weekend for us. Now my experiments will be complete! Ha ha ha.. Oops. Sorry.

We do have a few spots left open. Mostly in the early morning and the late afternoon. If anyone wants to still get in, there is time. All the tours will be given by yours truly as Spork will be off camping with his cousin and Uncle.

Don’t forget, we have baby piglets on the ground just born. Those are the actual piglets in the picture above.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole

This next week we have family coming for an extended visit. We’ll be out sight seeing yet still working. Make ahead breakfasts  will get us all off to a good start. The good news is that the restrictions are easy for me as a trained cook.  Flavor is something I’m not missing out on.

 

One of the thing I love is quiche, However I’m not allowed gluten or really any grains.  Then I thought about frittatas and thought hmm I’m lazier than that. How about a simple breakfast bake.

Sausage & Eggs are both in the NCF store & are the main ingredients to the dish. Then I added a few extra boosts, a teaspoon of Boar & Castle Sauce adds depth. The Cheese well because I love a cheesy eggs, luckily we now carry Ashe Co Cheese Mountain Marble. Chopped Red Onions, Red Bell Pepper, & Spinach add texture as well as a kick of flavor.

 

We carry several types of sausage well suited for this dish depending on the flavor you like.  The Mild or Hot Bulk Sausage is $7.50 lb, Chorizo is $10lb or, Ground Pork for $6.50lb.  Eggs are sold for $4.25 dozen. Mountain Marble run $6.95lb and Board & Castle Sauce is $3.99.  The Boar & Castle Sauce is worth the small investment I add it to everything. In all the cost of this dish will run $10-$20 depending on how big of a crowd you are feeding.  The measurements I’m giving you should have 8 servings for about $16.50. You’ll have plenty of cheese and sauce left over for other meals.

Store Manager and resident chef at Ninja Cow Farm LLC
Lucy lives and works on Ninja Cow Farm. Most days you'll find her tending to the garden or working in the store. She's cooked in restaurants and as a Personal Chef.

Free tours and tasting (again) this Saturday

We are gonna do this again. This Saturday we are having free farm tours (normally $20) and free tastings like we did last Saturday. We have the schedule opened up to take even more people this weekend so hopefully everyone will be able to get a spot although no promises. To reserve your free tour, you need to book it through our online application.

Will we do free tours again? I don’t think so. Kinda depends on how this weekend goes.

So why are we doing this again, especially back to back?

One, we have Sweet Willie’s sauce coming and he’ll be cooking up some of our meats using his awesome sauces. Sweet Willies is one of the carefully selected new products that we put into the store during our recent expansion. It really is a great compliment to our meats and having the grill master himself onsite will really give you a chance to see what his sauce is all about.

Two, as I talked about in my post yesterday, we need to see how this format works on a normal weekend vs. a holiday weekend. So we are going to try this again as a compare and contrast. Did I mention that we have no clue what we are doing? Well this is how you get a clue, experimenting.

Does that mean you are part of a science experiment? That you are not a valued customer but are instead a rat in a maze? Did I mention that we have cheese? Just kidding.

The only way to see what works and what doesn’t is to try new things and compare and contrast. So what that means for you is:

Free tours, yes really. Our normal personal 1 hour tour is really free.

Free tastings. No corners cut. Our awesome meats, with Willie’s fabulous sauces.

And cheese (for you lab rats of course 🙂

How can you go wrong? Book your appointment before they fill up.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

7125 Old Stage Road Raleigh NC