I'll drive 500 miles to deliver our beef - here's why that's so important to me
I love making deliveries. I hate making deliveries. OK, I’m conflicted about making deliveries.
So here’s the real deal: when we first started raising beef - and selling directly to consumers - I promised we would deliver anywhere in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts - free. I’ll admit it wasn’t well thought out. No spreadsheets or anything like that. It just felt like the right thing to do.
And so for the past few years I’ve delivered to our share customers (Sides and Quarters) from Millinocket to Cape Cod - myself. It can be tedious and stressful. I’ve had days I drove over 500 miles and it took more than 12 hours. Thankfully, there’s GPS and podcasts and Starbucks. And a couple of times I’ve realized it was late and I had a few hours to go to get home and I’ve pulled off at a motel alongside the road.
It’s easy enough to understand why I hate making deliveries (see above), but I also love doing it. And it’s this: it gives me a chance to engage and get to know my customers. And for them to get to know me a bit - to put a face to the farmer who raised the beef on their family’s dinner table.
Think of it: the farmer who raised the roasts, steaks and burgers you’re serving your family brings it right to your door. That connection is almost completely missing from our food chain. And I can tell it’s important to my customers. (When I remembered this year I got a few of our customers to pose with their deliveries - see the pictures. I love looking at these - they bring a smile to my face.)
But it works the other way too. It brings great meaning to the work I do as a farmer to meet the families who have chosen us to grow their beef. I love finding out who they are, and what brought them to make a choice to eat better beef. Sometimes it was a specific health scare. Other times it was just a feeling that they wanted to connect with the source of their food.
In all of my business experience - before I became Farmer Dan - it was well established that listening to your customer, staying connected to your customers, was critically important. But the connection we have with our customers goes beyond that.
There are families I’ve been delivering to for a few years now. When we see each other once a year we catch up. In some cases there are traditions (the sisters on the North Shore of Massachusetts who meet me with a table set up in the driveway each year so they can split up their shared order). In other cases we catch up on family stuff, or job changes. A few times customers have moved away - and sent me notes that they’ll miss our beef.
All of this - raising good food right here in Maine and knowing who’s eating it - makes the work we do profoundly rewarding.