Going from 30 Customers to Over 6000 – Sheri Salatin on Starting, Running and Growing Polyface Farm’s Buying Club (PVP120)

If you’re a farmer, what are your options for selling product?

CSA’s, farmers markets, on farm sales, grocery stores, and buying clubs.

Buying clubs?

It’s one of the options that doesn’t get talked about a lot.  But it’s the focus of this episode.

In this episode I am talking with Sheri Salatin of Polyface Farms about Polyfaces Metropolitan Buying Clubs.

In their words they describe buying clubs as a a local food distribution system that combines the real-time interfaces of online marketing with community-based interaction. These kinds of interfaces, without bricks and mortar, using the internet, create efficiency and economies of scale in local food distribution.

Sheri goes into a lot of the specifics about their buying club and talks about how she grew Polyface’s buying club from 30 customers to over 6000. 30 to over 600.

  • How they manage their inventory
  • How they started their buying club
  • How their buying club grew
  • How their buying club allowed them to grow the farm

If you don’t know much about buying clubs now, you will leave this episode knowing a lot about buying clubs.

“Whoever does the work makes the decision.”Sheri Salatin

Notes from the interview with Sheri Salatin

  • Buying club – a group of food buyers who meet the farmers every X to pickup pre-ordered products.
    • Product is delivered to the customer.
    • Customer gets full selection.
  • 40% of Polyfaces business.
    • 6000 customers in a 3 to 4 hour one way drive.
    • Each drop point needs to have a minimum order to have a delivery.
  • How they started their buying club?
    • They started small, slow and simple.
  • How their buying club grew?
    • High quality product.
    • Rewarded word of mouth referrals.
      • Get a discount on your order for referring someone.
  • How their buying club allowed them to grow the farm.
    • More customers, more land.
  • Polyfaces uses $20 an hour for labor when pricing things.
  • If you are doing a buying club it is important to be able to deliver product consistently.
    • Do you have the product to deliver?
  • Interesting business…. selling good quality dog food.
  • “Whoever does the work makes the decision.”
    • The person doing the work will have huge involvement.
    • You own it.
  • EagerFarmer.com
  • Techno Stealth – Metropolitan Buying Clubs DVD

Polyface’s Buying Club



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Comments 5

  1. This is awesome, Diego! super helpful info for a young farmer like me. you should interview Daniel! I feel like we don’t hear from him enough and it would be cool to know what the latest innovations are at Polyface.

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  2. I would love to know what resources are available for someone wanting to set up a similar situation? Books to read, websites? Specific details of how to work out the details with fellow farmers, etc?

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  3. I want to know what the organizers of the drop off points receive as a reward? They allow access to other people to come to their address, they give up some of their time, and they also are part of the marketing effort.

    On the youtube video
    Polyface Distribution – Buying Club
    It mentions that the organizers do get a 5% discount on their orders. Is that all they get?
    I have been told repeatedly that there is no such thing as a free lunch, my assumption is that the drop off point organizer would get something for referring new customers (which I think Sheri did mention).

    It is just that from my perspective (as a farmer wanting to sell direct [pastured poultry]) it appears very difficult to get a GROUP of people together willing to pick up some poultry once every month or 2 from an address in their area.

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