Case Study: Dutch Meadows

Taking the Leap Toward Innovation

For generations, Dutch Meadows Farm was a conventional dairy operation. In 1992, the patriarch of the farm was suffering from some health issues and it became quickly apparent that his son’s, Dave and Ray Stoltzfus, had to explore other profitable options, leading them to transition to organic farming.

For seven years they shipped organic milk on bulk trucks, while friends and new contacts consistently trickled in for direct to consumer sales. The family at Dutch Meadows recognized consumer demand for pastured meats, locally

processed cheeses, and new milk products, so they incorporated those products into their line by aggregating from neighboring farms.

Another seven years went by and they remained focused on wholesale but created a small, retail buying club.  Initial success of the buying club, positive momentum and recognition of a niche, encouraged Dave and Ray to explore a transition away from wholesale and toward direct to consumer.


Sticking the Landing

In 2016, Dutch Meadows felt unsure of how to best access the direct to consumer market so they enlisted KTC’s Ted LeBow and Noah Munro for help with the matter. Their main challenges included:

  • financial and operations organization
  • administration
  • staffing/hiring
  • new business development and feasibility
  • sustainable growth
  • event management
  • marketing

Additionally, wholesale was becoming more challenging and difficult to navigate, and the Stoltzfus’ hoped to develop a farm store and home delivery.

Ted reorganized Dutch Meadows’ QuickBooks and restructured the Chart of Accounts. Next, they took a detailed look at inventory management, how it affects the numbers and its reflection on the sales and expenses. Dave now realizes how important it is to regularly track everything, and recognizes that the development of an extensive tracking process allows him to see “exactly what they make on each product, and then make educated decisions on inventory.” Then Noah came in.

“Noah really helped to drive sales on the right products, and created a new website through GrazeCart. We were able to add home delivery in certain regions with our own truck, and now have over 300 products and new customers every day.”

Marketing was always challenging for Dave and Ray, and the Stoltzfus’ lifestyle made it imperative for KTC to provide custom solutions. Dave really appreciated Noah’s natural understanding and genuine respect for their parameters, and finally feels like they’re making progress. He really enjoys telling Dutch Meadows’ story to the customers now that he’s been trained on how to properly do so.


Leaning into Discomfort

Dave found the most challenging part of this work to be tackling the inventory management.

“We weren’t used to it! We needed real time inventory and then had to create a system for all the staff to implement. If you don’t know what’s in the cooler, you don’t know how much cash is sitting around.” Dave now passionately believes that “end of year inventory is not enough tracking – month to month operations and cash flow matter a lot.”

When working with KTC, Dave recommends a person “be ready for some hard questions once you realize where you want to go with your business – especially if you don’t have your books/reports in order. You may need to re-organize your books before you can start to solve the problems.” Dave notes that he “found meetings to be very motivating”. Ted and Noah kept him moving when he was in need of a push to learn new systems and get them in place for his team. Once they established well-working systems that didn’t require constant attention, it freed up time and energy for neglected business elements, like marketing and strategy.


Life After the Leap

Dutch Meadows has officially, and successfully, entered the direct to consumer market while strengthening collaborations with local, like-minded businesses and farmers, and supplying products in new areas of consumer demand. With a new set of tools, and confidence in using those tools, Dave plans to make retail the primary focus. He hopes to try out new products regularly, now that he has a firm grasp on pricing, budgeting, and inventory management.

Along the way they learned several valuable lessons, but perhaps none more valuable than understanding that your “focus can not always be on the bottom line. [The bottom line] has to be good but [our] mission is to be a sustainable family farm that is happy and contributes to the economy and consumer health.”

There is a momentum behind them that just wasn’t there before. Two years ago, confidence was low. Dave and Ray were actually shopping for other jobs in order to save the farm. There was a ray of hope and they had a vision but it felt precarious. Dave expressed that he felt their “energy was renewed after just a few months of hard work with KTC”. Right off the bat, the clearer understanding of their numbers helped tremendously. Closer inspection of their sales channels resulted in making informed decisions that created time for more valuable opportunities and efforts. Dave appreciates  the value of his relationship with the KTC team, and he hopes to spread the word through the Amish community.