Business Owner: Amy and Jason Douglas
Business Name: The Farmers’ Daughter
Location: Taylorsville, NC
How did you hear about Slow Money NC?: One of our CSA members knew about our project. When I told her that we were going to have to get a loan and take some money out of our retirement to fully fund the project, she told me to check out Slow Money NC.
Tell us your story. What is your business idea? Tell us your plan.
We are Amy and Jason Douglas. We own and operate The Farmers’ Daughter (TFD), a first generation strawberry and mixed vegetable farm in Alexander County, NC. We have been in business since March of 2008. We operate a roadside farm stand on-site and two satellite markets, where we sell our own and other Alexander County grown produce and a couple of our value-added products. We also have a 50+ member CSA program that we have run since 2010. This project will help to expand our current operation and allow us to be open year-round.
The project is to rehabilitate an 1860s farmhouse and preserve the surrounding 19-acres of farmland. The farmhouse will be converted into a country store, with: fresh produce (grown on-site and by other Alexander County producers), value-added products, dry goods, beef (raised on-site), local poultry and dairy products, and other local handmade products. The building will also house an ice cream parlor and commercial kitchen. In addition to the rehabilitation of the farmhouse, there will also be: site grading for a parking lot and a new driveway, rehabilitation of an old barn (by adding a classroom and animal stalls), barnyard animals and paddocks, and site utility updates (water tap and power rehab).
This project will help: local farmers, gardeners, and artisans by providing a market for their products; local workers and our returning harvesting crew that we share with a local tobacco farmer by offering a more steady work schedule; and our community by giving access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, ice cream, and a commercial kitchen. We currently host school groups and 4H groups for farm tours. The project will allow us to provide a safer environment for farm visitors. This will be done by making our facility handicap accessible and creating more of a buffer from the adjacent state roads (Church Road and Hefner Lane) . It will also allow us to add indoor events on the farm, by creating an event room in the country store building. Teaching others about agriculture is our passion.
We sell directly to the public in our retail roadside farm stand and two satellite market locations, May through September. Our 50+ member CSA Program runs from June through September. Our existing facilities are open air markets and not ideal for a year-round retail space. The new country store will be open year-round. It will be warm and inviting in the winter months and cool on the hot summer days. The summer heat may have discouraged shoppers in the past. We have been in business for over 11 years and know what works in our area. We have tried other satellite market locations, supplying local restaurants, and other wholesale markets. We are comfortable not pursuing sales in these areas and focusing on our retail market. We use the following for advertising: Facebook, Instagram, our 1000+ e-newsletter, and local newspaper and radio.
We are the only strawberry grower in Alexander County and within a 40-mile radius of our farm. We are also the only seasonal mixed vegetable grower and agritourism farm in our county. We host school groups, our CSA members, and 4H groups for tours and events on the farm. We take pride in encouraging and educating our community to eat healthier and learn where their food comes from. The Ice Cream Parlor will bring added value to our community, since there is not one within seven (7) miles of the property. The commercial kitchen will also bring value to our community and encourage entrepreneurship, by being able to be rented during the hours that we are closed.
Our business model is to promote locally grown produce and products. We work with local, Alexander County farms and orchards to provide a good variety of fresh produce throughout the growing season. Currently, fifteen percent of the total sales at our markets are from locally grown produce. This project will allow us to partner with new, local farmers and artisans for wider variety of products. It will also allow us to maintain the relationships with our existing local produce farmers.
This project will also help us to develop the agritourism part of our business. In the past, our development was hindered because our farm stand and pick-your-own (PYO) strawberry fields are located on the same property as Amy’s parents’ farm, Morning Dew Farms. We share a driveway and parking lot with a tractor-trailer, straight truck, and delivery trucks, that are used in their commercial vegetable operation. This driveway runs right by our playground and the playground is bordered by our PYO strawberry field on the other side. The existing farm stand has a gravel floor and weathered wood siding, with no front doors.There are not any handicap accessible parking spaces. Also, there is no running water or restroom facilities.
The new country store location and surrounding 19-acres of farmland will alleviate all of these problems, by providing more space, handicap accessible restroom facilities, running water, and a weatherproof building, with HVAC. The new site will be more inviting to the public, allowing them to see more of our family farm, which is adjacent to the 19-acre farm. It will also give us more open land to expand our agritourism offerings, such as: sunflowers, a corn/sunflower maze, a nature trail, additional swings, corn box, giant pipe slide, etc. By growing the agritourism facet of our farm, we will be able to employ more part-time and full-time employees, sell more of our produce at retail price, and increase our income. This will help to grow our farm for our future generations.
It will also expand our market and existing customer base that we have built over the past 11 years. We are younger farmers, in our 40’s. We plan to keep farming as long as life allows. We have two children that are 12 and 10 years old. We hope to build our business enough to allow them to partner with us in the future, if they choose to do so.
Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina.: We have always been committed to providing our community with the most sustainable produce that we can produce. We do this by growing a lot of our own produce on-site. The remainder of the produce, we buy locally, in Alexander County. We support our local foods system by encouraging smaller growers/gardeners to keep doing what their families have for generations. We keep farm land being farmed and not developed, by farming our own and other leased property.
We currently grow 2.5 acres of strawberries. We are not an organic farm. However, we utilize sustainable practices in our strawberry production, like: 1) We do not use pre-plant pesticides or soil fumigants. 2) We use compost and poultry litter to meet our pre-plant fertilization requirement. 3) We do not spray insecticides. We only use miticides when there is a threat of economic damage to our crop. We determine this by insect scouting. 4) We hand weed each plant in the spring. 5) We only spray fungicides when the weather is favorable of increased disease pressure (rainy weather increases chances of grey mold (Botrytis)). When we do use fungicides we use both organic and conventional sprays in order to help prevent fungicide resistance. We have grown our berries this way, the first crop of 0.10 acre was planted in fall of 2009. We plan to continue these sustainable practices in our future.
What will your sales be? What do you anticipate your profits/your margins will look like? How will you make the money to pay this loan back?: We plan to open the new country store and ice cream parlor in the spring of 2021. We are hoping that by year 2 (end of 2022) we will have tripled our number of annual visitors to the farm. By year 3 (2023), we hope to have the entire project complete and self sufficient. We also want to be hosting special events by year 3.
We estimate that the project will increase our income by approximately 150%. The increase is from the additional sales of the country store goods: dry goods, beef, local poultry and dairy products, additional sales of our own and other local produce, our value-added products, and other NC products. This estimate was calculated from our 2018-2019 sales collected. We estimate doubling the amount of sales of unprepared food (by increasing our acres in vegetable production and local produce purchased), and tripling the amount of sales of prepared food and NC products. This amount was then added to estimated sales of the estimated sales of ice cream and admissions to the farm. The number of visitors was based on our average strawberry production x our expanded acreage to project our 2020 production; plus the estimated number of ice cream cones served (130 cones/wk for avg. 40 wks); plus the target to double our school group traffic (using average of 50 children/group x 12 groups); plus estimated weekend traffic for the petting zoo, (estimated 15 visitors/week, over an average of 20 weeks); plus an estimated 15 new customers over an average of 40 weeks.
Have you borrowed money before? How much did you borrow? From where? How long was the term? Is there a balance still due on that loan?: We have never borrowed money for either of our businesses. However, we have our home mortgage through Taylorsville Savings Bank. We also have a loan through Wells Fargo for a 2013 GMC Yukon XL, started in July of 2019.
Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Who are they?: Yes: Tim Keever, President of Taylorsville Savings Bank, (Mortgage holder)
Lesia Barkley, CPA, Paul Barkley and Associates, Taylorsville, NC
Kelly Bumgarner, Carolina Farm Credit, Taylorsville, NC
Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before?: I am Amy Icenhour Douglas, daughter of Vinson and Mary Ann Icenhour. I grew up on a dairy and no-till row crop farm. My family operated the dairy til 1987. Then, we transitioned the farm to a no-till, row crop and commercial mixed vegetable farm. In 2008, after our daughter, Lily, was born, we started our farm, The Farmers’ Daughter. The farm business is my full-time job and calling for my life. God has allowed us to raise our children on this wonderful farm and we want to share this farm experience with our community! Jason has been a full-time, self-employed mason, since 1995 and has worked on the farm part-time since we started it in 2008. Our son, Max, was born in 2009, right before we planted our first tenth of an acre of strawberries. I also help with our family farm, Morning Dew Farms, part-time, since my father passed away in 2017. It is still a no-till, row crop and commercial mixed vegetable farm. Plus, we have a 150+ head beef herd.
What is your budget for this project?: This is a large project. We have experience in construction management, from Amy’s engineering past and Jason’s masonry career. We also self-contracted our home construction in 2016. So, we have a already good working relationship with the contractors that we have chosen to use on this project. You will find a detailed cost estimate pasted below:
ITEM OR SERVICE COST
Carpentry for farmhouse restoration, Randy Brown Const. 34800
Roofing for farmhouse restoration, Jeff Daghenhart Roofing 15000
Masonry for farmhouse restoration, Douglas Masonry 8000
Insulation for farmhouse restoration, Propst Insulation 2700
HVAC for farmhouse restoration, Bentley Heating and Air 7500
Electrical for farmhouse restoration, Chris Harrington Electrical 11500
Flooring for farmhouse restoration, Jake Hartley Flooring 7900
Grading, Ritchie Bowman Grading and Hauling 30000
Painting for farmhouse restoration, Ourselves (Materials only) 2000
Rehabilitate old barn, Randy Brown Construction 5000
Install fencing for animal paddocks, Ourselves (Materials only) 2000
Refrigeration and freezer equipment for the country store 22000
Commercial Kitchen Equipment 25000
Water Tap from the City of Hickory 2000
These estimates are high, due to the age of the house and the uncertainty of the condition of roof trusses, electrical wiring, etc. We believe that we can come in lower.
Are there other lenders involved in your project or business?: Yes, we are seeking lending through Carolina Farm Credit for a construction loan at 6% interest for 1 year and then locking in at a fixed rate, above prime for 9 years.
We are hoping to supplement this with Slow Money loans for some of the costs involved in opening the store.
What is your timeline for this project? Would you like it to start in a month? 6 months? A year?: We would like to start as soon as possible. We are hoping to open in our new location in the spring of 2021.
You can find more information about The Farmers’ Daughter and lots more photos here.