Rockin’ the Farm

When it comes to feeding the foodpreneurs, it’s Farm or Die.

Advice for urban foodpreneurs who depend on local farms.

Many foodpreneurs rely on local farmers for sustainable, organic produce. In 2018, two musician friends with zero agricultural background founded Farm or Die to tap into that market. Their story is a testament to the hard work involved in keeping people fed.

“Rock ’n’ roll never sleeps,” says Garrett Simon, who met his friend, former roommate and now business partner Ben Kjernisted while they were working in Vancouver’s vibrant music industry, mostly setting up concerts. “Ben and I got into gardening as a way to keep the soul and mind healthy.”

Together, they grew tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans and microgreens, while contemplating the possibility of starting their own urban agriculture business. Later, on a five-acre plot in North Saanich, they did just that, with the goal of improving local food security. And so Farm or Die was born.

The first few years of their entrepreneurship weren’t easy. At one point, they incurred a massive loss when worms destroyed over an acre of vegetables. And to cut down on overhead, Simon contributed  thousands of hours of unpaid labour. “The toughest problem that we had to work through was the uncertainty,” says Simon. “Even if you fully believe in a project, it takes a while to convince everyone else.”

But their determination has paid off. Simon says the food and farming community is starting to appreciate their goal, adding that, “This is the first year our business is really making money.”

So You Want to Be a Foodpreneur

The path to success in the craft-food business doesn’t come with a road map. But if you’re looking to start your foodpreneur journey, here are a few key pointers:

Find a niche

Study current food trends to help formulate the perfect recipe, whether jarred pickles, gluten-free pastries or gourmet chocolate, and also a novel take on that product. Leverage social media — one of the best ways to track changing food trends is via Instagram and Facebook.

Craft a USP

Create a unique selling proposition that will make your product stand out from the crowd. Is your target audience male or female, young or old? Where do they live? Where do they shop for food?

Study your competition

Identify other foodpreneurs with similar offerings and sample their products, whether found in markets, specialty stores or supermarkets. Most food producers are happy to talk about their own journey and the lessons they’ve learned. You’re not there to copy them, you want to stand apart.

Price, packaging and prototype

This trifecta holds the key to success. Once you have formulated a recipe, tastings will help assess if your food is as good as you think it is. Invite friends and family and ask them to be honest (if not brutal) with their criticism. Once you’ve fine-tuned your product, it is price and packaging that will make it sell. A quick market study and conversations with retailers will help nail a price that’s neither too high nor too low.