The 3 R’s

The area I live in is surrounded by farms all selling an impressive harvest of local produce. Many sell the exact same items, so what makes one stand out from the others? One particular farm, Emma Lea Farms, has been in the area since 1885 and is currently operated by fifth generation family members. What started as a simple grain and hay farm, has become a year-round destination that draws customers from a large radius. Why? Their berries aren’t better or fresher than the others. And their prices aren’t cheaper, in fact the opposite. So what have they done to differentiate themselves?

REVITALIZE. Check out the side-by-side Google Street view of the farm in 2009 vs 2021. Years ago when I started going, there was a small outbuilding they sold berries out of. That was it. Then something started to change. Little by little things started being revitalized. The buildings were painted, the bathrooms improved, the process to pick your own berries in the fields became more efficient. A wider selection of berry crops was available. They moved customers through the buying process faster. They created more and easier parking spots. And they started to maintain the property in a more beautiful way each year.

What they have created today gives the impression they care. And if they care for their farm so much, their berries must be well cared for… and I will also be well cared for. Revitalizing your business allows customers to see it with fresh eyes every time they return. And Emma Lea Farms didn’t stop there. If all these customers were coming just for berries, what else could they buy?

REINVENT. They began a subtle and slow reinvention. They built a brand-new building (in the far-right edge of the 2021 picture) where they now sell sundaes and milkshakes. They added picnic tables for visitors to sit, a kid’s play area, donkeys to pet, sunshades to relax under after picking berries and there’s lovely flowers surrounding the buildings where people are lined up to make their purchases. Every year since they opened the new building, it has improved. They added a few baked items and coffee, they expanded their ice cream products, and they’ve paid attention to people’s desire for less packaging and waste. In the original shop they’ve added various local products in addition to flats of berries – jam, honey, beef and fresh flowers.

They’ve also partnered with a local brewery to make Strawberry Sour beer, they rent space to a different food truck each weekend. You can even book a time and rent a space to bring a professional photographer out to have family or wedding photos taken. They’ve reinvented themselves as a Berry and Farmer’s Market. During the season the place is packed. They have duly taken advantage of every opportunity to create multiple streams of income, and each partnering business involved cross promotes and adds new customers as they do so. Their average transaction size has likely sky-rocketed. These days, each time I leave it’s with much more than just berries.

RENEW. As you can imagine, selling berries is very seasonal. When it’s on, it’s on. And the rest of the year it’s back to preparing the fields and farming for next year, with no income. You probably have an off season too, perhaps not an entire season like at Emma Lea Farms, but a specific time each week. It is knowing when those dips in sales happen that you have the opportunity to counteract them.

Through revitalization and reinvention, their season has now expanded. It starts with berries in late May, fields of sunflowers in August, and ending in October with a pumpkin patch. Everything is available to purchase prepicked (for a premium) or you can wander out into the field yourself for your Instagram pic and pick your own. When the growing season ends, the market stays open on weekends selling pies, local meat, farm eggs and holiday gifts and décor.

The entire farm is now a destination. Word has travelled via Instagram, so much so that city dwellers drive 30 minutes just to experience the rural farm life. And other farms in the area have taken note. If you wanted to, you can now stop at three other spots selling locally farmed items nearby. The area has become so popular that in the busiest months, the city hires traffic control to manage crossing the one-way wooden swing bridge that connects the mainland to the small island the farm sits on.  

Emma Lea Farms’ Evolution

How many can you apply and adapt to your business? How else can you follow their lead?

The area has become so popular, the city hires traffic control to manage cars…

If we don’t give our customers a reason to return, a memorable experience, a spectacular offer, a reminder, rewards – we will be forgotten. Perhaps not by all customers, but by a large percentage. Consumers lead busy lives and our businesses do not stay at the forefront.

Thankfully, you have Royalty Rewards®, your Cash Creator Calendar™ and your Coach on your side. Our program is designed to automate the communications small businesses need to stay at the forefront of their customers’ minds.

When Emma Lea Farms was in its infancy, no one imagined having a standalone, fully-staffed ice cream stand, or having customers wander their fields picking flowers and pumpkins. They were simply farmers who grew and sold berries. Emma Lea Farms revitalized, reinvented, and renewed. They thought outside the box, pushed limits, and opened their own doors. Now, THEY are the trailblazer. And so with this story we ask:

The opportunities are likely right in front of your eyes. We once worked with a Business Owner who had a steak house. They butchered their own steak daily and threw away large beef bones regularly. Until one day a team member realized that they’d be perfect dog bones. So they started selling them, and a new revenue stream was born from something that was once considered waste. Others have started VIP memberships, or monthly maintenance package, bundles of products, special events, built partnerships and created retail items like sauces and rubs. What will it be for your business?