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"I wanted to know where the biggest bang for my buck would be, where I could spend my money and be the most successful."
Janet Smith, Borgman’s Farmstead Dairy

The Challenge

farmer at farmers market

With the number of Missouri dairies steadily declining, Janet Smith, the third-generation owner of Borgman’s Farmstead Dairy, has positioned her business for success. In 2006, she took ownership and switched her Holden, Mo., dairy entirely from cows to goats, and it now occupies an enviable niche as the only Grade A goat dairy in the Kansas City area at a time when goat milk products are increasingly popular. Yet with the exhaustive demands of running the operation and slim profit margins, Smith did not have a clear idea of which marketing channels yielded the best returns on all her hard work. “Marketing was just elusive to me,” she said. “I was spending all this time and money at the farmers’ markets and at the retail outlets, and I couldn’t figure out where I should be.”

The Actions Taken

In 2016, Smith received a SARE Farmer/Rancher grant to get a definitive answer. She conducted a market study that compared the return on investment of selling her products at a farmers’ market and at a retail outlet. During the peak sales season of April through September, she maintained a consistent presence at Kansas City’s largest farmers’ market and at a grocery store that sources local products. Smith’s sales staff offered marketing materials, farm information and product samples at both locations, and they tracked data on customer demographics and preferences, sales and costs.

The Impacts

goats eating in a field

Overall, Smith found that retail sales were slightly higher than the farmers’ market. But when factoring in the time investment and costs, it became clear that retail stores provided the greater economic value. “The study gave me legs to stand on,” Smith said. “It gave me more time in my life because I could say more people buy my cheese at retail outlets than anywhere else.” Today, Smith is taking the following steps to continue growing her business:

  • She has cut back to one farmers’ market and instead has made “a big push on retail.” Her products now appear in 60 regional grocery stores, including Whole Foods.
  • She has hired a food distributor and is in the process of building an online store.
  • She is partnering with a cheese industry consultant to establish an artisan cheesemakers guild in Kansas City. “What I want to do is help other farmers and cheesemakers if they want to get started in the business,” Smith said.

Learn More

Visit the database of project reports to learn more about this SARE-funded project: FNC16-1058.