Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley sells high-end agricultural products directly from the farm, from honey and lavender to meat and wine. They run a popular farm-to-table style restaurant, with classy wait staff dressed in brand-consistent plaid shirts. Long Meadow Ranch is polished all the way through, proving that success in direct-to-consumer agriculture requires significant investment, business planning, branding and marketing,..
Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia also sells high-end agricultural products directly from the farm. But they don’t run a restaurant , and they certainly don’t spend a lot of money on branding. In fact, founding owner Joel Salatin and his son Daniel often wear work shirts from a thrift store with other people’s names on them. Still, the Salatins make $2 million in sales from his local, direct-to-consumer farm operation per year.
So, who’s right? Should direct-to-consumer agriculture be elaborate and polished, or scrappy and simple? Long Meadow Ranch certainly looks fancier, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Joel makes a higher profit on his simpler setup. In any case, both are successful by most standards.
It’s tempting to see a success, and assume an organization succeeded because they found THE right way to do things. But that’s rarely true. What those success stories DO have in common is they picked a direction, and kept on working at it.