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E-Commerce, Sustainable and Organic Growing Practices Drive Growth of Startup Garlic Farm in Wisconsin

April 9, 2012 |

The following sustainable farm profile was submitted by Greg and Cathy Kosmeder, the owners of Copper Kettle Farm in Wisconsin. It is the first in a series of farm profiles that Seedstock plans to publish on an ongoing basis in order to promote sustainable agriculture and the farmers embracing sustainable and organic growing practices. If you run a sustainable farming operation and would like to submit a profile of your farm for publication on the site, please click on the following link for details: submit a farm profile! 

Sustainable Farm Profile: Copper Kettle Farm

What is the story of how your farm came to be? 

The Copper Kettle Farm was originally a horse farm from 1986 until 2009. In 2009 the Copper Kettle Farm ceased operations for the horse farm. Recognizing there is an increasing local demand for healthy food products, [we] made the decision to begin growing natural high quality gourmet garlic on the acreage that was once horse pasture. Our first marketable crop was in late summer of 2011. We made a commitment to our customers that we will never use any chemical herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or chemical pesticides on our garlic. After all, we would not want to sell a product that we ourselves would not want to consume. Long before we began our agribusiness we supported the organic and buy local, buy fresh initiatives, and since we were children grew vegetable gardens. Growing produce was nothing new for us and we were very excited about our new venture.

Why have you chosen to embrace organic and sustainable practices on your farm?

We have one planet, and one ecosystem. If we do not get this right there may be no turning back. We are the stewards of our land, our water and the air that we breathe. What happens naturally, stays naturally. It is these concepts that make organic and sustainable practices the only methods that we can provide a future for our children and generations beyond. It cannot just be a belief; it needs to be a culture.

Copper Kettle Farm's 2012 garlic crop (early season). Photo courtesy of Copper Kettle Farms.

What unique sustainable, organic agriculture practices does the farm employ?

Our practice of avoiding all chemicals is not always an easy path, but the satisfaction of knowing that our garlic gets its nutrients from the soil and the rainwater is well worth it. We use green manure as a means of sustaining our soil. I don’t know at this stage that we are doing anything unique; however, we are very adamant that nothing unnatural comes in or around our garlic.

What do you grow on your farm?

Our primary product is fresh garlic. We also sell garlic scapes and garlic powder made from our fresh garlic, dried and all hand processed on our farm. Much of our fresh garlic is sold for seed stock to other growers. We feel a very strong connection to our customers in that respect and we own the responsibility to provide other growers with the best possible quality garlic that is grown with organic and sustainable methods.

How does the farm make money?

Because garlic has such a significant shelf life, it is an excellent candidate to market through the Internet. So our agribusiness model is an e-commerce based entity. We can literally reach millions of people, and have our product from the field and in their hands anywhere in the country in 2-4 days without any degradation to our product. It allows the extension of a local, fresh and organically grown product to our patrons anywhere.

Is the farm profitable, or self-sustaining? 

Our first year was successful and we learned a lot. So our first season due to the costs incurred in our startup venture, we self-sustained. We expect to turn into a profitable venture this year.

What are some challenges that the farm faces?

There are three major challenges that we, and most farmers probably face:

1) Competition from large industrialized commercial farms (non organic or non sustainable)

2) The cost of shipping to our customers; there is increasing pressure on shipping costs due to energy costs. We would just as soon not have that burden on our customers. Just as an interesting side note, we transport our packaged products for shipping to the post office by bicycle

3) The third challenge is how to accurately focus our marketing to be able to connect to the right people. Sometimes we get surprised at who and where our orders come from. Marketing seems to be far from an exact science

What are your future goals or plans for the farm?

We will continue to expand our business and try to reach out to folks who are looking for quality garlic products. Something we did not do in our first year and want to expand on is our local market here in our area. Although our agribusiness model is primarily to use e-commerce as our means to reach our customers, we unintentionally neglected our local customers. So in October of 2011 a reporter for the local newspaper in the Milwaukee area did an article on our farm. That prompted a lot of local interest and we actually had people writing us letters and calling asking how they can purchase our garlic. We plan on ensuring that this season we put more emphasis on our local friends and patrons.

Link to Copper Kettle Farm Website: http://copperkfarm.com/

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