Today I had a conversation with a grower in Turner about growing the following crops for us: Cardoons. Heirloom melon medley packs. Red Jeruselum artichokes. Edamame. Organic rhubarb. Popcorn. Oddly enough, with over 1200 subscribers to these weekly email updates and links to the availability sheets, we have built a market that support some eclectic enterprises. And when we say support, we mean more than try it. Together we’ve built the critical mass necessary to provide good size orders to our farms – even for the specialty crops listed above.
As we work on the channels of distribution for Northern Girl’s products, I am learning more than ever about how food ‘usually’ gets bought and sold. Minimum inventory points. Multi-tiered pricing. Product costing against similar products on the national market. Most of all, I am reminded that most food distributors spend the majority of their time pre-occupied with price. Not that we don’t spend a fair amount of time pre-occupied with price, but we do spend more time pre-occupied with the products themselves. How to have them available as many weeks of the year as possible. How to improve the quality. How to market them in a way that makes sense for our diverse array of customers.
We’ve started working on a frozen/fresh pizza dough made with 30% Maine whole wheat flour. The pizza doughs would be made by It’ll Be Pizza (makers of Portland Pie Company’s dough) and utilizing Aurora Mills flour. When we called the owner, Jason, the idea of incorporating a more expensive local wheat into the doughs didn’t seem insurmountable. We spent 20 minutes on the phone, he hung up for another ten, and then called back. “It’s about 20 cents more per ball,” he explained. “As soon as you drop off the flour and the labels, we’ll make the dough the next day.”
We’ve come a long way in a short time. Product remains the heart of our work. Good food. Greater availability. And part of greater availability means getting the food into formats ‘regular’ consumers utilize daily. Until I had three kids and two businesses I would NEVER have used processed vegetables or store-bought pizza doughs. And maybe someday I will feel that way again.
For now I’m glad I can whip up humble fare in about 35 minutes with Maine grown vegetables, locally made pizza dough with a significant amount of local wheat, and this week even a winter greens salad on the side. The idea that more of Maine’s small business people can eat dinner with their families that include foods grown by their colleagues seems good to me!
I look forward to your orders Thursday, and for buying clubs, by Friday 10AM.
Please get your orders in on time…