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Egg Sideline Grows Into Million Dollar Business
Seven Sons Farms makes weekly deliveries of pasture-raised eggs, chicken, beef, lamb and pork to customers in Chicago and communities throughout Indiana, as well as shipping overnight nationally. It all started with selling extra eggs from the family’s home.
“We always had eggs we sold from the front door,” recalls Blaine Hitzfield, one of the seven sons of Lee and Beth Hitzfield involved in the business. “As we began raising pastured beef, friends and neighbors wanted to buy a quarter or half of beef. We began having customers walk up to the door asking about beef, so we converted a shed to a little store and added a freezer.”
While it sounds simple, the business’ growth was anything but. In the early 1980’s, Lee and Beth purchased a 120-sow farrow to finish hog operation and raised 800 acres of corn and soybeans. When Beth suddenly developed severe rheumatoid arthritis after the birth of her third son, the couple began researching health and wellness. As dietary and other changes improved her health, they began making changes in how they farmed as well.
By the mid 1990’s, the sows had been sold and a transition from corn and soybeans to perennial pastures was underway. “Building fence on high value crop land was considered an odd thing to do, and the next 10 years were rough financially,” recalls Blaine. “Dad wanted to get cattle back to regenerate the soil, build organic matter, and reduce inputs. “
The Hitzfields followed Joel Salatin’s template of pasture rotation with poultry following beef. When the family began selling their meat at local farmers markets, the business grew.
In 2000 they came up with the Seven Sons Farms brand and started putting labels on the meat as it came back from their processors. Blaine built websites for local businesses while in high school. In 2004, he built a website for the family business and started working on social media.
“At one point we were doing $40,000 in sales out of our former garden shack and on-farm vending machine,” says Blaine. “We had a very loyal clientele who understood the quality we offered and were willing to pay a premium.”
Those clients were travelling as much as 3 to 4 hrs. to pick up meat at the farm. Meanwhile the internet was rapidly building visibility, demand, and online orders.
The family set up drop sites for remote customers to pick up their orders in Chicago and around Indiana. Once again business expanded rapidly. The family reinvested in the website, making it as appealing and easy to use as possible. However, with growth came complications.
“We were trying to manage 50 drop locations, all on different schedules and a couple of thousand customers,” says Blaine. Seven Sons was also dealing with packaging, dry ice, overnight shipping to customers outside the drop sites and more. That was all in addition to raising the animals and getting them processed.
A friend of Blaine joined the business to work on the website and develop software to resolve issues. He taught himself software development and came up with low-cost solutions. He has since joined a local company that Seven Sons partners with.
“None of us went to college,” says Blaine. “We just figure it out as we go and have found incredible people who’ve done amazing things for us. The first year with the new software, we tracked about a million dollars in sales.”
At their consultant’s advice, they focused on customer retention strategies versus customer acquisition. “He said we had a great brand and list and just needed to serve our customers even better,” says Blaine. “He laid out a plan, and we’ve been able to really advance retention, but also leverage social media. His campaigns work in the background, but it makes it look like we live on social media.”
The emphasis has paid off many times over. Today Seven Sons ships product to customers in all 48 continental states. Instead of drop spots, they work with local courier companies who make deliveries to the customer’s doorstep in the Chicago area and throughout Indiana. Seven Sons drops off product at their warehouses, and the companies do the rest.
Product is priced on a margin goal of 20 to 40 percent based on demand for the most popular cuts and supply on hand. When the pandemic hit, the system was ready and reacted accordingly.
“We thought we had too much inventory on hand in early 2020,” says Blaine. “Our home deliveries went from 250 to 300 per week to 1,500 per week.”
FedEx and UPS handle interstate shipping, and Seven Sons has had to flex with the challenges these companies face since COVID hit. Packaging has been redesigned so that frozen products stay rock solid for 4 days.
“The majority of what we ship is 1 and 2 days, but if there are delays, the customer may be frustrated, but it’s not a problem for the food,” says Blaine.
All 7 brothers have stayed involved in the company, as well as several of their wives. Seven Sons now includes close to 20 full-time equivalent employees. They offer health insurance and other benefits. One special benefit is a $2,000 per year food credit, whether the employee is gathering eggs, filling orders, or doing customer relations via social media.
“Everyone gets to experience our products and when they talk to customers, they can speak directly to the quality,” says Blaine.
Direct as well as virtual interaction is key to the business. Weekly farm tours every Saturday are done in person and posted to YouTube for those who can’t make it.
In addition to the herds and flocks Seven Sons Farms raise, they partner with around 30 farms, mostly in northeast Indiana. These are carefully vetted farms that follow the same regenerative practices as Seven Sons.
It is all part of an overall effort to communicate with customers. “We focus on customer convenience and building trust with our consumers,” says Blaine.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Seven Sons Farms, 15718 Aboite Rd., Roanoke, Ind. 46783 (ph 877 620-1977; www.sevensons.net).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #5