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Co-Op Marketing Boosts Small Farm Businesses
Jack McCann is helping independent small farmers sell eggs and poultry products for profit through his marketing company, TC Farm. About a dozen farmers raise produce for McCann, including Ian Rhoades and his wife Elizabeth O’Sullivan of Dundas, Minn. The two families came together in a roundabout way as both sought knowledge on how to raise chickens and market poultry products direct to customers.
TC Farm began when McCann and his wife Betsy moved to a hobby farm near Montrose, Minn. and began raising chickens for meat and eggs, and a few sheep. Within a year they were selling their surplus and eventually TC Farm grew into selling beef, pork, chicken, eggs, sausages and deli meats.
In recent years TC Farm has worked with 8 to 12 small partner farms. “This became just a natural and well-balanced partnership for all of us,” says McCann. Eventually they developed business relationships with several more small organic farms around the state.
Rhodes and O’Sullivan, who’ve been able to contract more than 1,000 organic eggs to TC Farms every month, own one of those farms. If they produce more than TC can use, those are marketed through a wholesale buyer.
The two families met each other through their successful efforts to comply with state animal welfare requirements, learning from each other. McCann works with farmers to help them choose the right breeds to produce a larger and healthier bird with better flavor. He says the female Cornish hens will grow slower on regimented feed and grass for a longer period of time without getting so large they literally tip over and die. “We want them to reach that 10-week mark where chickens get most of their flavor.”
The McCanns initially marketed their eggs and meat cuts to family, friends, and co-workers. This CSA-style marketing didn’t last long because customers were difficult to retain. Now TC Farm allows customers to choose the amount and type of meat cuts they want and whether they’d like it every month. “This led to a fast-growing customer base, around 750 to 1,000 individual monthly deliveries in the Twin Cities area, amounting to about $100,000 in product,” McCann says. “The most effective marketing I’ve had is through happy customers and word of mouth.”
McCann says their biggest challenge is logistics, which includes receiving products, sorting and packaging them, labeling and then delivering boxes to about 70 pick-up locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area. TC Farm members log onto the website to identify when and where to pick up their products.
McCann recently sold the Montrose hobby farm where the business started and now focuses on sales, marketing and management. “It’s been an amazing business where we’ve met great people and established wonderful relationships because of the products we’re offering. We’ve found our niche and continue to grow.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, TC Farm, 10389 Baker Ave. S.W., Montrose, Minn. 55363 (ph 612 217-1770; www.tcfarm.com).

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #2