This is a very difficult email to write. I don’t want this to seem like click bait so let me first say that we ARE NOT going out of business. What we are doing, effective October 20th, 2023, is closing our farmers market business. The picture above is Laura and I (hard for even us to recognize those crazy kids from May 2010!) at our very first Farmers Market in Cotati. I came across this as I was looking for another picture and it was gut-wrenching to see how far we have come and to know that this is the end of an era for us as a business.
This email is going to be full of information, albeit lacking a lot of pictures and fun stuff. It has been a very difficult week for us, both for the Parks family and our staff who we consider family. I hope this email will give you some clarity on why we had to make this move, what the future looks like, and if you are so inclined, what you can do to help. Here we go!
Let me start by saying that closing the farmers markets had absolutely nothing to do with sales or our staff. The three men that run our farmers markets are some of the best people we know. I will be talking about them more in depth in a separate article below. The main reasons for closing the farmers markets are two fold. First, it takes a ton of production to service the seven markets we have been doing. Keeping up with that production of fresh meat, making sure we had a wide variety of cuts for you to choose from, and the massive amount of labor that goes into repacking the leftovers to go to the freezer has taken a toll. Eliminating the heavy need for so much fresh product will cut our labor and input costs dramatically.
Second, while our farmers markets were profitable thanks to all you Meatheads, they were somewhat finite. We could only bring so much product and there are only so many customers at a four hour market. There was really no room for growth. They are also super labor intensive, and take a heavy toll on both our equipment and staff.
We are also painfully aware that the economy in this state is brutal right now. Everyone is having to tighten down their budget and every dollar matters. We are so grateful for those of you that shop with us and know that how you spend your money is a difficult decision right now. Hopefully that will improve soon, but know that we are with you in this trying time and are doing everything we can to stay in business and continue to provide your family with the best quality meats and seafood available.
Where we can grow is in home delivery and shipping. By switching our farmers market customers to home delivery, we can produce exactly what we need because we have the orders at least three days in advance. This tightens up our production needs, and allows us to be much more mindful of what we are ordering from our producers, thus helping out a ton with budgeting. And if the initial response is any indication, you Meatheads are on board. I have spent countless hours over the past few days personally calling each subscriber that was scheduled to pick up an order at a farmers market this weekend and 100% have moved to home delivery. I will talk more about suggestions we have received from those patrons that might make that easier for you as well.
Speaking of suggestions, please send us yours! There are no bad ideas right now, and we are wide open to them. We have several customers that were picking up an order every two weeks at a farmers market that have switched to home delivery once a month. This saves them $15 a month in delivery fees. This is just one example, and we are super accommodating with making this work for all of you.
How does Home Delivery work? For retail customers, you simply place an order through our website at least 3 days in advance and we bring it to your home. Ok, there are a lot of nuances to this but we have been doing it for several years and can accommodate a lot of unique situations. For example, if you live in an apartment building, just give us the instructions. Leave it with the doorman? Walk it up to your 4th floor apartment and leave it by your door? Whatever works for you generally works for us. We have customers who have door codes and ask us to punch in the code and leave it inside their doorway. We have folks with homes that are scoped out by porch pirates that need it put in their back yard or garage. Nobody home during the day? No problem! We pack your order in an insulated bag and everything comes frozen. If you want to put out a cooler for our driver to put your order in, easy peasy. Orders will generally be fine outside for several hours. There may be some thawing but as long as everything remains cold it is perfectly safe to put it in the freezer or fridge depending on when you will be using that cut.
The most frequent question we get about home delivery is what time will my order get there. Here is how it works. We use a routing software that takes the list of deliveries for a given day and optimizes the route the driver will take. Obviously that changes with every route as it is dependent on how many orders, where they are, and how wide the service area is that day. So it is important that you plan for the order to be delivered whether you are home or not. The good news is that the routing software provides texts. You will get a text the night before giving you a two hour window of when your order should arrive. Then you will get a text the day of the delivery when the driver is 30 minutes out. And finally you will get a text showing that the delivery was made and a photo for proof of delivery. The bad news is that these texts are notoriously inaccurate. We have no control over this, and it has generally not been a big issue for our patrons. Just know that if you get a text saying that your order will be there in 30 min, don’t panic if it is 45 minutes or even an hour past that.
Our delivery schedule will be much more consistent going forward as we have a lot more deliveries each week and will be able to maintain our days in your area. That said, this is a very fluid situation, and we are adjusting on the fly as we figure out how many deliveries we have in each zone as we reach out to each customer. You may see some changes after the dust settles but for now here is our delivery schedule…
Tuesdays: North Bay/Napa
Wednesdays: Marin/East Bay
Thursdays: San Francisco/Peninsula/South Bay
One thing we would like to offer is a way for you to check out our home delivery service on us. If you have not had a home delivery in the past 6 months, let us know and we will waive the $15 delivery fee for your first order. All you need to do is type in “Waive Delivery Fee per Adam” in the Order Notes box on the checkout page and we will take care of the rest.
Another thing to consider if you were a frequent shopper at one of our Farmers Markets is signing up for a Vic Farms Meat Box. With a 15-40% discount, signing up for one of these will help cover the $15 delivery cost and also comes with a 10% discount on anything you order outside of your box (holiday cuts do not get a discount). We are in the process of rebuilding our subscription page as it had some challenges when we took farmers markets out of the mix, so please give Adam a call to discuss and set up your box. Anyone that calls in also gets the $25 Set Up fee waived!
OK, what’s next? In reaching out to all our subscribers moving to home delivery, many have asked how they can help and several have suggested that we do a GoFundme type situation. There have been several times in the life of our business that we have struggled, and in those times our solution was to offer gift certificates that could be used at a date in the future. Those have been great, but the challenge is that when they are eligible to be used our cash flow takes a hit. Kicking the can down the road doesn’t work for very long. We have never asked for donations or charity. There are a lot of folks out there that are far worse off than we are. But we also can’t ignore a helping hand when it is offered. So to that end, we have a Donation button below and on the website now that you are welcome to use as you see fit. It feels really awful to even put it on there, but our customers have asked for it and so we are doing it. Our one request is that you only use this if it feels good to you and it is within your means. We do not want anyone stretching themselves out for our benefit. However, if you like what we are doing and want to help ensure that we can keep doing it, anything helps!
What feels much better to us is folks placing orders, trying out our home delivery service, and checking out our Vic Farms Webstore for new products. I completely get that the beauty of shopping at the farmers markets was being able to check out the fresh product and choosing a particular cut that looked good to you. But please know that we take just as much care with our frozen meats and seafood as we do with the fresh stuff you have been buying. There are actually a lot of things that are sold on our website that we didn’t offer at the farmers markets. So do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to peruse the Web Store and see if you don’t find something new to try!
Finally, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. My number and email are easily available on the website but you can email me HERE and/or call me at 707-332-4605. Many of those calls have resulted in great ideas and collaborations over the years and it is actually the best part of my day when I get to chat with Meatheads that want to see us succeed and have ideas that might improve our business.
From the bottom of our hearts, we can’t thank you enough for caring enough to just read this newsletter let alone for the years of support and love you have shown our family. I have a great friend Kelly that gives me a bad time for how long these newsletters are. I get it, and typically agree. But, we get enough feedback about how much folks enjoy my ramblings that it apparently works for most of you. Please be sure to check out the article below about our staff that were laid off this last week. You never know where a new job opportunity might come from and these are exceptionally good and talented guys that anyone would be lucky to employ.