Producer Feature: Svec Farm
Cooperation, not competition, will help specialty producers thrive says Linda Svec of the Svec Farm.
The family farm near Estelline, SD raises non-GMO crops and grass-fed cattle. Owners Roger and Linda have found success in working with other small farmers and organizations to overcome challenges. From utilizing shared equipment for no-till planting and chicken processing, to referral and joint delivery with other farms, departing from the myth of rugged individualism is key.
“Farming, especially as a specialty producer, can be lonely at times. I think it’s important to work together,” Linda said.
This past year the Svec Farm joined a collaborative that has been building in the southeast corner of the state: the Dakota Fresh Food Hub. The food hub is a farmer-owned LLC that aggregates, delivers, and markets products jointly for the dozen or so members. By joining, the Svecs were able to take advantage of the logistical support, as well as the dedicated manager who reaches out to restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions to generate sales.
For Tanya Svec, a member of the next generation working with the Svec Farm, the cooperative aspect of the hub has been a big bonus. Tanya helps market the family’s beef, as well as the lamb and eggs she and her husband raise on their adjoining acreage.
“There are a lot of aspects of working with the hub I have really enjoyed, including the community nature and just working with other growers who are not using GMOs and antibiotics to raise their products,” said Tanya.
This past May, the food hub launched a retail sales program that now offers online sales and weekly pickups to customers in Sioux Falls and Brookings. The program has been a boon for the Svec Farm.
“Our customers were typically buying halves, quarters, big bundles of beef,” Tanya said. “The hub’s retail program has been great for those people who want locally raised grass-fed beef but maybe don’t want to spend that much at once or don’t have a big freezer.”
By coming together to market their goods, all the farmers benefit. While customers might not seek out a grower to stock just one item in their fridge, the farmers market style of the hub’s online market allows buyers to stock up on meat, eggs, vegetables, teas, soaps, honey, and more. Similarly, while it may be hard for growers to justify smaller orders, by working with the hub to get a larger quantity of orders, the model becomes feasible. For larger institutional orders, some growers are able to work together to meet a demand they would not be able to fill on their own.
It’s all part of the spirit of cooperation that the Svec Farm believes will help small farms thrive.