Pine View Farms is a family-operated all-natural meat producer, processor, and marketer based in Osler, Saskatchewan. It’s run by Kevin and Melanie Boldt, who bought it in 1998. The farm is actually located on Kevin’s great-grandfather's homestead (which dates back to 1901) and they were fortunate enough to buy it back after it was sold out of Kevin’s family for 40 years.
We sat down with Melanie to learn more about their thriving business and get a sense of how they use digital marketing to reach their customer base.
Melanie and Kevin are partners in both life and business. Melanie really takes a strong handle on the sales, administration, customer service, and marketing part of their business, while Kevin deals with everything from production to procession, nurturing relationships with all of their producers.
Photo by The University of Saskatchewan
The timing was against them when they bought the farm in 1998: agriculture was at a low, and in their first six years of farming they experienced four droughts and were plagued by grasshoppers and low commodity prices. They had to make a tough decision on whether or not they wanted to continue being grain farmers and what it really meant to be sustainable. They stepped out of their comfort zone, sold all of their grain farming equipment and took that capital to transform their farm into an all-natural meat business. Of course, they had a business plan, but they say fear took them the rest of the way! They remained committed to their plan to provide great meat to their customers and worked extremely hard to grow their business.
Today, Pine View Farm employs five full-time employees and 22 part-time employees. The part-time workers are especially busy in chicken processing periods, which have grown quite a bit in recent years. Chicken started out as more of a seasonal business, but it has grown to be busy year-round. To serve their local market, the farm offers chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and holiday turkeys. They believe heavily in serving their customers the best food that money can buy. Their customers like Pine View Farms for a number of reasons, from environmental concerns and animal welfare to a desire to support local people providing high-quality ingredients.
Pine View Farms was in the right place at the right time and has really grown with the consumer attitude toward developing more mindful eating habits. Consumers are thinking more critically about where their food is coming from. If you’re going to eat meat, choose meat that was well-raised and tastes amazing.
Kevin and Melanie partner with local producers whose values are aligned with their philosophy and their business model. They work with 1 or 2 partners in each meat group and ensure that they follow the same production practices and standards as them. They base their prices not on commodity prices, but on the cost of production so that it’s sustainable for their partner producers to work with Pine View Farms.
To establish partnerships with other businesses, Melanie says that being open to possibility is the best advice she can give people. It’s important to have a good understanding of who those people and businesses are, and what they want to accomplish, and seeing how that ties and relates to your own business. Pine View Farms is passionate about doing business with local people. Through their business philosophy they have managed to be economically sustainable, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible—that’s the benefit of local partnerships.
Cell phones and landlines play a large role in the Pine View Farms business; a lot of their business is done over the phone–from taking customer calls to dealing with retailers. They also use their cell phones for everything from monitoring their alarm systems in their barns to growing their business through social media.
A large part of Melanie’s role is to grow the business through social media, which plays a large part in Pine View Farms’ sales strategy. They use social media as a way to continue the conversation with their customers, and build stronger relationships. Melanie likes to use it to educate her customers, but also to inspire them to spend more time in their kitchens and cook great things with their product. Social media allows them to be authentic and transparent with their customers about what they’re doing on their farm.
The ongoing challenge for Pine View Farms is taking the time to plan their posts and being very deliberate about the messaging that they would like to convey to their customers. Melanie has taken the time to keep educating herself and learning about the ever-changing algorithms that happen on all the different social networks. Melanie suggests newcomers to the business of social media stick with one or two channels that you can manage well, and grow those the best you can. Melanie likes to plan her content in batches and keep a consistent posting schedule. She has learned along the way that planning leads to far better content. She also maintains a blog and a newsletter to keep her customers informed and engaged with the business.
While they saw great results with all of the organic work they were doing on social, Pine View Farms has recently decided to partner with a digital marketing agency that helps them with paid ad placements in order to reach more people and grow their business. They are still in the early days of implementing their targeted ads, but they are already seeing a greater uptick in awareness of their business and in visits to their website.
While life is full for Melanie, who together with Kevin has raised a beautiful family while growing their business, she makes time for the things that nurture her soul — "self-care is one of the best things you can do for your business" she believes. Entrepreneurship is not a nine to five job and with the business literally in the Boldt's backyard, it takes self-discipline to close the office door and make time for yoga, ballroom dance, volleyball and friends. "One of my favourite ways to unwind is to cook dinner with Kevin every day. It's our time together to be creative and relax after a long day", she continues. With passion and determination, Melanie and Kevin have created a great business in the community.
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