Q&A: Juniper Farm

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What was the breakdown of your business pre-COVID-19?
Seventy-five per cent of our sales are restaurant and retail clients. Of that, probably more than half is
to restaurants.

What have been the immediate impacts to your farm’s business since COVID-19?
We faced the obvious reality that the majority of our clients were out of business for the time being. Upon further thinking, we wondered what would happen to the restaurant/entertainment industry in general with COVID-19 realities. We do have restaurants open for takeout, but we’re selling a fraction of what we used to sell to them. The ones that are able to open, though, are trying their best to support local farms.

We’ve had to open an online store to sell to individuals and families to recover some of the secure sales we had to restaurants. We’re taking on more items [from other suppliers] in the store so we can offer a more complete delivery and pick-up service to our clients.

How has this impacted staffing levels?
We have actually had to hire more staff. Everything is less efficient when operating at a six-foot distance from each other. We also have many new systems, such as an online store and extensive packing and processing hub, where new and different staff are necessary. We’ve outsourced our delivery routes to private companies and our administrative team is working overtime to figure out the logistics of software and constant individual pickups.

Were you able to pivot to different revenue streams?
The online store is our new revenue stream and we were ready for it, as we’d been considering this option before COVID-19. So, when the lockdown came, we already had a template to work from. We are also lucky in that we’d been working on forming a co-op with fellow farmers called Farmhouse Food, that distributes food to surrounding cities.

To date, what have been the challenges and the opportunities of this pivoting?

The challenges are that we’re working more than we ever have, our kids are home full time and there are just not enough hours in the day to take care of everyone’s needs (including the farm, our staff, family and ourselves) that are heightened due to this pandemic. The opportunity is that now, more than ever, local food is important and people are doing their best to support small farms.

What lessons have you learned through this process?
That the present moment is the best place to operate from when things are changing fast. Resiliency in the face of adversity is important and that we are a blessed bunch of people living out here in the fresh air on a beautiful farm.

How do you anticipate your business may change moving forward?
I don’t really know. Our online store is successful so far. Perhaps our garden will get smaller, not bigger, and we’ll grow differently for individuals and families, not specifically for restaurants. We hope we can have a
profitable, sustainable business that can also offer food to people who need it.

What’s your advice to other farmers during these challenging times?
My advice would be that we need to just keep doing what we do, which is grow food, with happiness and joy. Try to get it to the people who want and need it and the rest will follow. What else is there to do in these times?

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