Farmer Focus: Getting onto supermarket shelves is constant battle

As farmers, we know there is no tougher business to be involved in than this one. Nearly a year-and-a-half ago I wrote about starting my own processing plant and brand for my organic pasture eggs.

In 18 months, I have charged on and got my product on the shelves in many retail chains. I have felt successful in doing so, but at what price?

I have worked myself to exhaustion and frustration beating down doors to make these contacts.

I offer a premium product, so I can generally get in the stores, but staying on the shelf is a different challenge.

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There is always a newer product or a cheaper price just around the corner. When I began producing organic pasture eggs there weren’t a lot of people with this type of product.

Today there’s almost five identical products on each shelf. It is a big challenge to differentiate myself in the market place.

Recently I was presented with a proposition from a retail brand with a full line of dairy products. It wants me to fill its egg cartons with my product, to diversify its product line-up.

I have thought the idea over and over. Initially I was worried all of my work with retail would be lost. However, I have started to consider the idea and the relief of selling my product under another brand.

Farming is what I do and what I know. I do have a college degree, with some training in agriculture business, but it is not my passion.

I know I am best suited to looking after my animals and managing things on the farm, rather than the constant struggle of retail.

I plan to keep my business going in the stores we are in now and sell all my oversupply into another company’s branded carton, rather than continuing to expand mine further.

With our milk, I think of these same things. How to continue to diversify my product, for sustainability of my farm, but still do the things I am good at rather than getting into the hustle and bustle of store challenges.

We will see how things work out with the eggs over the next year and see if I can find a place to diversify our milk with this same dairy brand.

Jessica McIsaac milks 350 pedigree Holsteins in Petaluma, California, with her husband Neil. They sell organic milk and also have 6,000 laying hens.