Oregon City farm sells full-diet memberships
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
DeMille said the pricing is competitive with stores like Safeway and beats prices at the nearby New Seasons.
“Of course we don’t have everything year round,” she said.
The full-diet plan does, however, offer fresh local fare to members and provides C’est Naturelle with an economic model that works. DeMille said knowing what customers want ahead of time helps the farm avoid losses. And working on a year-round model allows C’est Naturelle to avoid the seasonal client loss that is typical for CSAs, usually about 40 percent.
“That’s not a sustainable business model,” said DeMille. “CSAs are always looking for new and better ways to market but my theory is that you just need to focus on a model that works better for your customer.”
She notes the farm’s delivery service helped lock in about 70 percent of the farm’s customers, all of whom want good food for their families but are either too busy to attend farmers markets or get overwhelmed by the expense of feeding a family on high-end groceries.
DeMille said the full-menu model has also helped C’est Naturelle’s economic outlook. The farm is now on track to make $400,000 in 2012, enough to cover expenses, pay its four employees a living wage and cover operational costs into next year. She said their investor seeded the operation with approximately $500,000 and doesn’t plan for a return on investment until the farm is financially stable.
DeMille said the farm’s ultimate goal is to make investments in young farmers and to assist farmers in the third world. For the short term, C’est Naturelle will be adding grains to its members’ menu through partnerships with other farmers and will also offer baked goods like bread, cereals and rolls once the Oregon Department of Agriculture approves its new certified kitchen.
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