Pivoting…it’s the new normal.
Kara Babinec is no stranger to jumping right into the deep end. As the head of sales and marketing for the family livestock operation, which is one of the largest pastured poultry and pork operations in the country, Kara and the team have made major shifts from selling direct to restaurants to focusing on getting their meat straight into the hands of their new customers….you and me.
Kara Babinec heads up marketing at Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, Indiana. In the beginning of 2020 the family farm’s primary meat customers were high end restaurants including a loaction in O’Hare Airport. Most of their meat was put in bulk packaging in 20 – 50 pound bags at the request of their restaurant customers.
Illinois and Indiana were two of their biggest markets. As those states began shutting down in March of 2020 restaurants immediately began canceling their orders. Most of the meat had already been processed and was ready to be shipped for the week. This was a major low point for the farm and a really crazy 24 hours.
Pre-pandemic the farm was not set up to sell directly to consumers. Gunthorp Farms did sell a little bit of meat to retail, so they did have a small ability to individually package servings of meat, but it was a very small part of the business.
Within 24 hours of restaurants cancelling orders, retailers wanted to increase orders but the change in packing necessary to make this shift was significant.
A Major Business Pivot in Less Than a Week
The biggest challenging constraint the farm faced was being able to package for retail. Gunthorp Farms built a business on selling entire pork shoulders and racks of pork to restaurants, but retail wants smaller pieces pre-packaged.
The challenge became an opportunity and the farm made the pivot.
Having a system and the ability to sell directly to consumers has always been on the farm’s to-do list, but the pandemic moved this item much higher up the list. After initially being bombarded by retailers and getting lots of questions from consumers who want to buy directly and know their farmer changing the cuts of meat they sold became a high priority.
The family members shifted responsibilities to help each other and tackle an enormous amount of new tasks.
They utilized Farmbuilders Entrepreneurs, a Facebook group where people can help each other answer questions and overcome the challenges they face. Another critical resource to help the farm pivot was the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network.
A Growing Family During a Pandemic
Kara has an 18 month old and is due any day with another baby. Family members and a support system looks a lot different during a pandemic. Kara shares how she will continue to pivot and work through the changes.
Patience, perseverance and an ability to pivot will keep Kara and her family’s farm going through the rest of 2020!
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