food & finance

photos by Chiot’s Run

Even farmers and foodmakers are realizing that today’s market demands new revenue models. A recent Globe & Mail story titled, “Cash-strapped artisans turn to foodies for financing,” explored how savvy food producers are revamping their fee structures.

The highlights:

– Faced with an expired lease, artisanal cheese maker Ruth Klahsen is offering subscriptions to her Monforte Dairy. Cheese fans give $500 upfront to help her build a new dairy. She pays them back in five annual cheese deliveries worth $150 each.

In the last year, she’s sold 810 subscriptions and raised a total of $364,000 (some subscriptions were worth more than $500, some less) toward her $500,000 target.

– Ontario farmers Vicki Emlaw and Tim Noxon are battling the winter cash-flow crunch by selling Vicki’s Veggie Bucks. These are coupons that customers can trade for vegetables during the harvest season. They also offer a 10-to-15% discount for every $100 purchased.

Hungry buyers can use their bucks at the couple’s own farmstand or at the farmers’ markets they attend — eliminating the need to deliver boxes during the busy summer season and guaranteeing them a predictable income.

– Quebec microbrewery Boquébière creates beers infused with local maple syrup and honey. The company has started paying some of its suppliers in beer, rather than cold, inedible cash.

– Southern Ontario’s Creemore 100 Mile Store was launched with a funding party. Owners Jacquie Durnford and Sandra Lackie invited women they thought would be interested in a grocery store that sold locally produced food and shared their business plan at the soirée. That night, 17 women gave $1,000 each, which the owners have promised to repay (with annual interest) in five years.

The pair evenutally raised $47,000 and opened the store just one month after the party.

These examples are brilliant because they represent more than just creative financing; they’re also giving customers an invitation to participate in the business and a good story to share (i.e. “You have a chèvre subscription? They’re paying you in honey ale?”).

There are so many ways to earn money — and no rules that you have to follow tired revenue models. Think through your best attributes. If you’re offering something amazing and the demand is real, people will want to help. Get your customers or clients involved (and even invested) in your success.

$150 in cheese? Yes, please.

posted 22 Apr 10 in: food, media, retail. This post currently has 2 responses.

2 Responses so far. Add Your Own.

Wonderful coverage. Also, I can vouch for Monforte Dairy producing DELICIOUS cheese, and for Ruth being a lovely woman and a creative force! I was unaware of all the other intiatives like this going on. Its definitely an interesting new business model.


Gina — How great that you know Ruth and you’ve eaten her cheese! I love how she’s tackling a tough situation with such creativity.

cheri / 23 Apr 10

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