How to Build a Salad-Centric Farm Brand with Kat Johnson

How to Build a Salad-Centric Farm Brand with Kat Johnson

I’ve discovered a new word—salad-centric! And I’m excited to share its meaning with you, as well as its inventor, Kat Johnson, aka Kat the Farmer.

When I first heard the word, I  wondered how can a business be so specifically centered on salad. What does it take to run a farm that produces naturally grown crops and herbs while also managing a business that creates packaged value-added food products?

In this episode, Kat shares with us how she grows and makes all things salad-connected. This conversation is a walkthrough of her ways and means as a solopreneur: from farming salad crops organically, to making salad dressings, bringing quality products to market, undertaking the standards of being a Certified Naturally Grown brand, and most importantly, living out the Good Food mission.

Virginia Foodie Essentials:

  • I grow and make things that belong in salads. So everything I grow is tailored to that genre of food and eating. I grow salad crops and herbs. I make salad dressings and I also prepare salad kits. - Kat Johnson
  • Floyd County is a really special place, and community is a key word to describe it. It's very rural, in Southwest Virginia, and it's an agricultural community. So there are lots of farmers, beef, cattle farmers, and veggie farmers. There are lots of farmers who are like me growing and using organic practices, which is pretty special. - Kat Johnson
  • That's a struggle with craft food brands: to make that decision between ingredients and pricing. - Georgiana Dearing
  • [What good package design] conveys is that I have put effort into the product that I have intention behind. It’s not only what the package looks like, but what's going into it, and that it's safe and consistent. And I just love everything that the complete package adds to my product. - Kat Johnson
  • Those are really valid business decisions that every Good Food brand faces. You have to make a choice: Can I keep going if I keep to these particular principles? I totally get that you've had to make some difficult decisions. - Georgiana Dearing
  • I think it would be unwise and maybe unsustainable to imagine being a solo farmer or a solopreneur forever. I'd like to envision bringing in some key roles in the kitchen and in the delivery. - Kat Johnson
  • I've been farming for a long time – since I was 15. I started working on organic farms. I feel really fortunate to have gotten hands-on experience both in growing and business management and crew management before I decided to strike out on my own. - Kat Johnson
  • Really even within salads, I'm still doing a lot as it is, and I probably could have narrowed down my business plan to even smaller than that and still found success and plenty of work. - Kat Johnson
  • With farming, you can be as intensive or not as intensive as you want. You can take out a plant and replant it if the season still has space for another succession in that bed. So I try to grow things that I can fit a lot of successions in because I am limited by that certain amount of area that I have at my disposal. - Kat Johnson

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Kat the Farmer is a salad-centric farm and food company based in Floyd County, Virginia.
  • A salad-centric farm and food company means that Kat grows and makes things that belong to salad—grow salad crops and herbs, make salad dressings, and prepare salad kits.
  • She manages what she calls a “farmlet”—a quarter acre of land where she grows her salad crops and herbs.
  • Kat the Farmer is also a Certified Naturally Grown brand. This certification allows her to claim with validity and proof that her products are organic, especially when she sells them in larger markets like the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market.
  • Although her salad crops and herbs are CNG labeled, it is a different case for her salad dressings. Price is part of the issue. The dressings are already a premium product and it would be difficult to create a fully organic dressing that would still be affordable to most shoppers.
  • Her package design has a huge impact on sales and she believes the design fully conveys the effort behind bringing quality, organic, and sustainable food products to her customers. 
  • Being a solopreneur has given Kat both flexibility and also a little bit more work on her hands.
  • To track labor cost as a startup solopreneur, she times herself in batches and sees how much work or product she can do in a given block of time. This way, she can predict how much time she’ll need to allow to for production runs as she prepares for market days.
  • In a span of two years in the business, Kat has made changes from her initial plan. Being a solopreneur has its limitations and she’s been streamlining her business to fit the limited scale of a single worker. But she definitely has plans of growing the business soon and adding staff to fill key roles.

More About the Guest:

Kat Johnson is known in their community as Kat, the farmer. Growing food is her life’s work. In fact, organic farming has been part of her life since she first began working in agriculture in high school. Since then, she worked on seven different farms across the country and learned from many skilled growers along the way. She was fortunate to put down roots in Floyd County, where she built a beautiful home by hand with the love of her life, Joshua. The food-filled, community-centered, creative, and meaningful work of growing and selling organic food speaks to her heart, urging her to establish this little farm and food company in January 2021. She envisions it becoming a beautiful, productive, and sustainable small farm that provides a joyful life, a livelihood, a classroom, and a community gathering space.

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Full Transcript:

Note: We use AI transcription so there may be some inaccuracies

[00:00:00] Kat Johnson: Even within salads, I'm still doing a lot as it is, and I probably could have narrowed down my business plan to even smaller than that and still found success and plenty of work.

[00:00:14] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome to the Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we live the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered how did they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?

[00:00:33] Georgiana Dearing: Then we've got some stories for you.

[00:00:39] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome back, foodie family. If you're new to the podcast, then hello, I'm George Steering and I provide marketing strategy and coaching for good food brands. Today on the podcast, I'm talking with friend and client Catherine Johnson. Also known as Cat, the farmer. I first met Kat a few years ago when she was looking for assistance with packaging for her soon-to-be release line of value added farm products.

[00:01:05] Georgiana Dearing: Kat had a strong brand vision in mind and had already employed an illustrator to create custom graphics that showcased the ingredients for her new line of salad dressings. It was fun to work with someone who clearly understands her brand voice so, And it was super easy to take her creative vision and turned it into packaging that was both professional and affordable.

[00:01:29] Georgiana Dearing: Since that first project, I've watched her launch her business and grow her customer base to a strong following of loyal fans. Kat is from Floyd County, Virginia, and she builds herself as a salad centric farmer serving the region with herbs and vegetables of course, but also prepared salads and bottled salad dressing.

[00:01:51] Georgiana Dearing: Cat is primarily a farmer. She's also a food manufac. And in our chat, she shares some of the successes and challenges she's faced as she brings packaged foods directly from her farm to her shoppers.

[00:02:11] Georgiana Dearing: Hello Kat, and welcome to the podcast. Your ears must be burning because your name came up in an earlier episode when I was talking. Alice vain, but I'm so glad that you're here to talk with me today, and I always put everybody on the spot. So could you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell people what you do and what your business 

[00:02:34] Kat Johnson: is?

[00:02:35] Kat Johnson: Absolutely. And thank you for having me on the show. I'm a longtime listener and I'm honored to be. 

[00:02:41] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, that's nice of you to say. 

[00:02:45] Kat Johnson: So I'm Kat Johnson. I'm the owner of Cat the Farmer, which is a salad centric farm and food company based in Floyd County, Virginia Salad 

[00:02:55] Georgiana Dearing: centric. That was a new term to me when I first ran across you.

[00:02:59] Georgiana Dearing: When I first heard you say it, I thought it was pretty interesting. Can you describe what that. 

[00:03:04] Kat Johnson: Yeah, it means I grow and make things that belong in salads, so everything I grow is tailored to that genre of food and eating. I grow salad, crops, tomatoes, herbs. I make salad dressings, and I also prepare salad kits, so a fully prepared salad with chopped veggies and dressing.

[00:03:27] Kat Johnson: So can you 

[00:03:29] Georgiana Dearing: educate me, is that a common term or is that something that is very cat specific to be a salad centric farmer? 

[00:03:36] Kat Johnson: I like making up words, but I think it could catch on. Sure, 

[00:03:41] Georgiana Dearing: I'll help you. So you grow these crops and you're in Floyd, Virginia. Can you talk a little bit about your farm and what it's like?

[00:03:51] Georgiana Dearing: You've described yourself as a micro farm. 

[00:03:54] Kat Johnson: Yeah, the farm itself is only a quarter acre, so I made up another word, which is the farm lit, so I call it my farm lit, and that's where I grow some of the ingredients that go into my value added products and on the farm is three tunnels so I can grow inside and extend my season two.

[00:04:15] Kat Johnson: And it's situated in Floyd County. I can describe the area a little bit if that's helpful. 

[00:04:20] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, I think that would be helpful. I mean, I know pieces of Floyd because we've ridden through it and it's charming, but can you describe it for our listeners, like what it's like in Floyd and how your farm lit fits into the community 

[00:04:33] Kat Johnson: there?

[00:04:34] Kat Johnson: Yeah. It's a really special place and community is a key word to describe it. So it's very rural, southwest Virginia, and. A agricultural community. So there are lots of farmers, beef, cattle farmers, veggie farmers. There's lots of farmers who are like me growing using organic practices, which is pretty special.

[00:04:56] Kat Johnson: It also has a vibrant bluegrass music scene and cute little downtown. But where I'm at is about 20 minutes from the downtown, sort of all alone in an area called Czech. So dirt roads and mountains and forests and things like. Yeah, I was gonna say 

[00:05:13] Georgiana Dearing: like the pictures of your farm are kind of mountainy looking to me.

[00:05:17] Georgiana Dearing: Very blue ridge looking. 

[00:05:19] Kat Johnson: Yeah, definitely. I was excited. I had a photographer come out and do a drone picture this summer, so I got to see sort of the mountains around me that I can't see when I'm working cuz of all the trees. 

[00:05:30] Georgiana Dearing: Oh my goodness. Have you shared that? Don't have to look at that cuz I wanna see it too.

[00:05:35] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, I'll show you. Yeah. Well you said that. Farm with organic practices, and that's kind of where your name came up before with Alice Veron because she's from the naturally grown organization. So can you talk a little bit about that and the way you're using it in the marketplace? Yeah, so I'm 

[00:05:56] Kat Johnson: certified Naturally Grown, which is a certification that I voluntarily decided to add to my farm's claims.

[00:06:05] Kat Johnson: So I sell at the Blacksburg Farmer's. Every Saturday. Mm-hmm. And sometimes people will come up to you and ask, is this sprayed? Is this organic? Or questions like that. Mm-hmm. And until I pursue that extra certification, I just felt like there wasn't a lot to bolster me until someone got to know me and trust me, it's just some lady behind the veggies saying, no, I didn't, or, oh, okay.

[00:06:30] Kat Johnson: Yes, I did. It's more of a hollow claim, but for the people who aren't familiar with me or what I do or my history, having a certification provides a little bit of extra value, and what they provide is more affordable and more accessible than having a U S D A agent come out and certify yours. 

[00:06:49] Georgiana Dearing: So Blacksburg is a much bigger market than Floyd.

[00:06:53] Georgiana Dearing: Are you finding, like, when I think of Floyd, I think of the Bluegrass Festival and it has a very, if you live in Virginia, you know that it's got kind of a hippie vibe and there are a lot of people who would be like totally on board with a micro farm lit with organic practices. But going over into Blacksburg, you're finding more people is, so, I guess what you're doing is product educat.

[00:07:19] Georgiana Dearing: That was a rambling clarification. Yes, thank you. That was a very rambling way to ask a question. 

[00:07:25] Kat Johnson: Yeah. Well, I think Good Floyd people know me as Cat the Farmer, before I even had a business. But then when I decided to have a business called Cat, the Farmer, L l c, and make these products and go to a larger market like Blacksburg, not everyone knows me.

[00:07:41] Kat Johnson: Very few did. Mm-hmm. Yeah. They know me now, but that's where the certification came. Now 

[00:07:47] Georgiana Dearing: to ask you, focusing on salads, this is a very businessy question, and it might be off the mark, but are people are buying complete salads from you, right? You're creating salad kits and then also the ingredients. Is that right?

[00:08:01] Kat Johnson: Yes. Yeah, so I'm both a farmer, just growing greens and people can buy those, or they can buy a bag of greens and dressing, or they can have a fully prepared kit. Or sometimes people buy a whole stack of them, one for each day of the. Take them all home and they've got their work week lunches set. 

[00:08:19] Georgiana Dearing: That's kind of a cool idea and very like on the mark for the way people think about food right now.

[00:08:25] Georgiana Dearing: Batching food is like a big thing right now, so having those pre-prepared is probably like very much a lifestyle choice. Now you sell your value added products, of course the complete salads, but also the dressings, the bottle dressings. Where are you selling those? Cuz I know that they're, aren't they refrigerated only?

[00:08:44] Kat Johnson: Yeah, they're refrigerated dressings and they sell also at the Blacksburg Farmer's Market, and then to a few wholesale accounts like natural food stores and farm stores in 

[00:08:56] Georgiana Dearing: our area, which there are a few. Mm-hmm. So it has to be refrigerated all the way. How do you do that chain? Like when you're go, I guess you just put 'em in coolers on your way to the farm market and sell out of 

[00:09:06] Kat Johnson: that.

[00:09:07] Kat Johnson: Yeah. Yep, exactly. I don't have a reefer truck yet, but hopefully one day. 

[00:09:11] Georgiana Dearing: Do you put the naturally grown badge on those dressings? 

[00:09:15] Kat Johnson: I do not, no. They don't qualify. Just my produce is covered under the certified naturally. 

[00:09:21] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, I'm a little, okay, so what would you have to do to have those qualify? I raised this question with Alice and she said if your ingredients are organic and certified, naturally grown, they could, or is it, do you have to submit them to someone to get the permission to wear that 

[00:09:38] Kat Johnson: seal?

[00:09:39] Kat Johnson: It's not a hundred percent organic ingredient, so select ingredients are, but not everything is. Oh, 

[00:09:45] Georgiana Dearing: okay. Yeah. Is that just a sourcing issue for you? Yeah, 

[00:09:50] Kat Johnson: just I don't think it would've been possible to create a fully organic dressing and have it still be affordable. It's already a premium product and the price point is already pretty high as it is now.

[00:10:01] Kat Johnson: I mean, that's 

[00:10:01] Georgiana Dearing: a struggle with craft food brands is to make that decision between ingredients and pricing. I'm working with someone who's having a really hard time. They want to include an organic cheese, but they can't source it at a price that they could turn around and process it in their product and make the product afford.

[00:10:20] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, it's said same back and forth. So I asked you about your wholesale customers. What's your plan on that? Do you plan to expand your salad dressings, or what is the future for your packaged food looking like? Yeah, 

[00:10:34] Kat Johnson: for the value added products, like the salad kits and dressings, they kind of fall into two separate categories.

[00:10:40] Kat Johnson: Naturally, with the Sally, There's some reach that they could have into more of my region. I can certainly produce more of those, mm-hmm. Than I am currently and have more subscribers. You know, folks who get that weekly subscription of salads delivered every week. And with the dressings, I feel like I could go even further.

[00:10:58] Kat Johnson: Even though they are refrigerated, there's plenty of distributors that do have that cold chain. Mm-hmm. Intact. Or perhaps there's a way to set that up myself or as a cooperative of other growers, set up a system where we're bringing refrigerated product to stores and getting a wider reach together.

[00:11:16] Kat Johnson: Mm-hmm. That's a big future goal of mine. I was just 

[00:11:20] Georgiana Dearing: gonna ask like, oh, is the cooperative a future goal or just having a wider. 

[00:11:25] Kat Johnson: I think, yeah, maybe one step at a time. 

[00:11:28] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, I was gonna say, that's a lot of decision making to make. Well, I wanted to circle around to your package design because that's where we first crossed paths.

[00:11:37] Georgiana Dearing: I think you have like a really cute branding. You worked with an illustrator to come up with some icons for your product, and I'm just wondering what impact do you think that that has on the sale of your, I mean, you're a premium price product. What impact do you think that that has on your sales? 

[00:11:55] Kat Johnson: Yeah, I think it's been huge.

[00:11:57] Kat Johnson: First of all, I just really wanted to work with someone like you to create a cohesive image and sort of like a whole finished package so that when I did ask that premium price, it made sense. So I think I wanted to prove that in my first debut, and I think that we achieved that. And I see it working in real time when I'm at the market because I can see people's eyes landing on my booth and.

[00:12:24] Kat Johnson: Filling with joy and excitement and wanting to hold this product, and I think what it conveys is that I have put the effort into the product that I have intention behind. Not only what's the package looks like, but what's going into it, and that it's safe and consistent, and I just love everything that complete package adds to my product.

[00:12:50] Georgiana Dearing: That's good. How much of your product price cover. The cost of your packaging, and this is the trick question cuz there's like, I know there's, in your salads, there's bottles and lids and all kinds of things that have been all over the morgue in the last two years. Yeah. It's different for every 

[00:13:05] Kat Johnson: product.

[00:13:06] Kat Johnson: Mm-hmm. Salad kit is a dollar 40 and those are in the compostable packaging, so it's pla instead of plastic. 

[00:13:15] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. And that's a cost, right? Plastic would've been a lot less 

[00:13:18] Kat Johnson: expensive. Oh yeah. Big time. I estimate that I could have close to a dollar more margin on each item. Oh yeah. If I went with plastic.

[00:13:28] Kat Johnson: That is 

[00:13:28] Georgiana Dearing: such a commitment to your mission. I hope your shoppers appreciate that. 

[00:13:34] Kat Johnson: Yeah. I feel like that would be the biggest. I did start out with the glass packaging for my dressings. Mm-hmm. And I ended up switching over because the choice there was stop making dressings entirely or switch to a more affordable package.

[00:13:50] Kat Johnson: So those are now plastic. So yeah, it's not a hundred percent perfect, just like mm-hmm. Nothing is, 

[00:13:55] Georgiana Dearing: no, I think those are like really valid business decisions that every good food brand faces, like you have to make a choice. Can I keep going? If I keep to these particular principles, I totally get that.

[00:14:08] Georgiana Dearing: You've had to make some difficult decisions. One of the things though, that we really thought about when we were working on your packaging was that trying to keep the overall costs down over time, and you have a printer in-house, right? Like when you make your salads, those ingredients change every 

[00:14:26] Kat Johnson: week.

[00:14:27] Kat Johnson: Pretty much, yeah, entirely. I have a variable ingredient statement, so that has to be customized every time I make a salad. Yeah, that would be 

[00:14:35] Georgiana Dearing: crazy if you had to do commercial printing for every one of those, or you would be stuck to some particular rules that your farm may not be able to support. Yeah, and like, oh, the carrots didn't come in.

[00:14:48] Kat Johnson: Right, exactly. Yeah. It's provided me by doing that in-house. I have a lot of flexibility and a little bit more work on my hands. 

[00:14:55] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. So for the in-house printing, have you calculated a cost for the imprint? Like would it cost you to put ink on that pre-printed master label for your salad kit? 

[00:15:07] Kat Johnson: I had not until I knew that you were gonna ask me this question, but I figured it out.

[00:15:12] Kat Johnson: It's 50 cents per 100 labels. Oh, wow. Not counting time or. 

[00:15:20] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. Okay, so that's not actually 50 cents per 100 labels. How many salads do you produce a week where you have to print them? I'm just curious. How many labels do you have to print 

[00:15:31] Kat Johnson: in a week? Hopefully this number increases, but it's around a hundred, 

[00:15:36] Georgiana Dearing: 150.

[00:15:37] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, okay. So you're just adding like 50 cents under a dollar every week. Your time, obviously your time. You're creating a custom product, so being able to have a custom label for a buck for every production run is not that bad. 

[00:15:53] Kat Johnson: No. And it's a pretty fast printer too, so that helps 

[00:15:57] Georgiana Dearing: as well. Oh yeah. Well, I am curious, how do you, I mean, you're yourself, right?

[00:16:01] Georgiana Dearing: You have no staff right now. How do you capture labor costs, really? Do you track 

[00:16:07] Kat Johnson: your time as an expense or, yeah, as an overall experience. Yeah, it is just me. So I'm doing everything. I am the kind of person that likes to time myself doing everything, but I told myself in the first two years of business I was not going to do that yet.

[00:16:27] Kat Johnson: That I was just going to work. Okay. And then revisit that once all my systems were set up and I had some sort of regularity and Oh, that probably makes sense. Go back to being my crazy record keeping self after. But I will time myself in batches, you know, like to say I worked eight hours today and that resulted in this many bottles of dressing this many salad kits.

[00:16:51] Kat Johnson: And try and capture little bits of data that can stand alone. 

[00:16:56] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, okay. So you get a little bit of a sense that helps, I guess, with predicting like, oh, I need to make this stuff. How much time do I need to set aside to get that done? 

[00:17:07] Kat Johnson: Yeah, definitely. Or if I were to grow to the point where I can hire someone else, how many hours have I been doing this per week is helpful too.

[00:17:17] Kat Johnson: How big do 

[00:17:17] Georgiana Dearing: you think you would grow? Do you have an idea now 

[00:17:20] Kat Johnson: in sales numbers? Or in what sense? 

[00:17:24] Georgiana Dearing: Well, a vision, I guess. You don't have to share your sales numbers so much as like, do you see yourself as having you and two or three employees or? I asked because a while ago I interviewed Sandra Velazquez and she of No, and she said, begin with the end in mind.

[00:17:43] Georgiana Dearing: And so I'm just curious, do you have your end in mind or a version of the end in. 

[00:17:48] Kat Johnson: Yeah, I think it would be unwise and maybe unsustainable to imagine being a solo farmer solopreneur forever. Mm-hmm. I'd like to envision bringing on some key roles in the kitchen and in the delivery. To support a more reasonable amount of work for me, especially in the light of like, I'm 34 and I would love to start a family.

[00:18:13] Kat Johnson: So that's like the biggest puzzle piece to try and figure out and going forward with such physical work. Yeah. And being the one that would bear the baby if I'm so fortunate, like that's a big risk to depend on my body. 

[00:18:27] Georgiana Dearing: Oh man. Yeah, that's a lot to factor in there, but definitely, yeah. The solopreneur thing is there's only so much as I am figuring out now that I've downsized.

[00:18:38] Georgiana Dearing: There's only so much you can do in a given week and sustain like your physical and mental health, things like that. And so you have to figure out how do you multiply that? Like what are you gonna do to multiply. So there's only so much you can do to multiply what you're doing to get a livable income, but it's also a style of living, right?

[00:19:02] Georgiana Dearing: You've gotta figure out what do you want your lifestyle to be like? And you mentioned a family and things like that. That's all part of like future planning. So you have been doing this, how long now is it? Was 20. 20. 21 wasn't your first year of sales? 

[00:19:17] Kat Johnson: 22. It was, yeah. So I've been in business two seasons going into my third growing year.

[00:19:23] Kat Johnson: Okay. 

[00:19:24] Georgiana Dearing: And you were doing some, like you entered into this with your background in farming and you've done some teaching or training or something like that, haven't you? 

[00:19:33] Kat Johnson: I've been farming for a long time, since I was 15. I started working on organic farms and worked on lots of farms. I feel really fortunate to have gotten hands-on experience in both growing and business management and crew management before I decided to strike out on my own.

[00:19:51] Georgiana Dearing: And so at one point were you provide something like business management tips or tools or things like that. Are you still doing. 

[00:20:00] Kat Johnson: I did launch the business with the idea that I could offer farm consultations in the wintertime. Mm-hmm. And I've decided to stop doing that and instead, sometimes I'll training through C N G, they'll hire their farmers to come teach lessons to other farmers within the network.

[00:20:19] Kat Johnson: So that has been part of sort of downsizing what I do, because I am just that solo. 

[00:20:26] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah, that was a lot. I was just curious. That was actually where I was headed. Like it seemed like a lot to be launching, you know, setting up your micro farm and launching these value added products and growing new markets.

[00:20:40] Georgiana Dearing: And then also, oh, and I'm gonna teach people how to do this 

[00:20:42] Kat Johnson: too. Well, you know, like going out on my own. I imagined the worst case scenario that nothing would work instead of the best case scenario that all of this is gonna be a. I think like I set myself up with too many things and I thought I was in the moment being really narrow, like being, I'm just gonna focus on salads and then consulting in the wintertime, but really even within salads, I'm still doing a lot as it is, and I probably could have narrowed down my business plan to even smaller than that and still found success and plenty of.

[00:21:18] Georgiana Dearing: How many crops, I'm curious, how many crops do you have to plant for your salads 

[00:21:24] Kat Johnson: roughly? Oh, I guess there's a million ways to quantify that. Yeah, let's figure out another way to ask that question. Cause it could be like area or number of plants or number of varieties or, I 

[00:21:37] Georgiana Dearing: mean, yeah, like let's talk about plants.

[00:21:40] Georgiana Dearing: What are you planting to make salads. It's not just like lettuce and carrots 

[00:21:45] Kat Johnson: and radishes. It's a lot. Tell me lettuce. Yeah. Yeah, it's a lot of lettuce. I did add up my transplant for last year, so the plugs that I started from seed in the nursery and then took outside and planted, and that was 54,000 plants of lettuce.

[00:22:02] Kat Johnson: Oh my gosh. Four various other leafy greens. Yeah, 

[00:22:05] Georgiana Dearing: so that's 54,000 plants that you started, and then you moved, and then you nurture. And then you harvested more than once. 

[00:22:13] Kat Johnson: Yeah, ideally. 

[00:22:15] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. That's a lot for one person. So that microform doesn't sound all that micro 

[00:22:21] Kat Johnson: to me. Yeah. Well, with farming you can be as intensive or as not intensive as you want.

[00:22:29] Kat Johnson: You can take out a plant and replant after that if the season still has space for another succession in that bed. I try to grow things that I can fit a lot of successions in because I am limited by that certain amount of area that I have at my disposal. Mm-hmm. 

[00:22:47] Georgiana Dearing: Well, tell me what's next for cat, the farmer and her salad centric farm.

[00:22:53] Georgiana Dearing: What's next 

[00:22:53] Kat Johnson: for Cat? The farmer, she is gonna continue doing what she does. And try to continue to build financial sustainability so that I can bring on a delivery driver this season. Oh, even this season? Yeah, even this season. That'll gimme one more day on the farm, which will be great. Mm-hmm. And expand my subscription program.

[00:23:16] Kat Johnson: Mm-hmm. As a goal for this season. 

[00:23:19] Georgiana Dearing: Do you deliver those directly to people if they subscribe to your salad kit? Thing? 

[00:23:24] Kat Johnson: I have in the past, but I'm trying to hone that in so that there are drop sites rather than doorstep delivery. Mm-hmm. 

[00:23:32] Georgiana Dearing: Yeah. Okay. So you're getting a driver and you're gonna expand your subscription service.

[00:23:38] Georgiana Dearing: What else have you done any winnowing? Have you taken out products or added in things? I'm just curious. In two years, what did you learn about your product lineup? 

[00:23:46] Kat Johnson: Yeah, definitely. I started with four dressing recipes and I feel like that was a mistake and I've since dropped two of them and I'm trying to find recipes that are great sellers.

[00:23:58] Kat Johnson: Super yummy, really. Uh, Good in the kitchen flow. Mm-hmm. You know, because the two recipes that I took off were a little bit too complicated for my kitchen setup, and so it wasn't an enjoyable production process. Oh, okay. And four recipes as it is, is kind of a lot of taking everything apart, cleaning everything, putting it back together, making another recipe, cleaning up between everything.

[00:24:22] Kat Johnson: So I have tried to win all my recipes. And I started out with a lot of recipes that had eggs in them, and I've since gone all vegan with my dressings, which is really nice. Okay. Just so that it's really crystal clear to the customer what is and is not in the dressing recipe. 

[00:24:42] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, okay. That's a shift that's actually kind of good just for the market because you cover everybody 

[00:24:48] Kat Johnson: then.

[00:24:49] Kat Johnson: Yeah, and they're still yummy and creamy and so good that it doesn't really matter. 

[00:24:55] Georgiana Dearing: So what else can we expect? Anything? What's the sales challenge you're trying to solve right now? 

[00:25:01] Kat Johnson: I think that the next thing I need to figure out if I am to grow my dressing, sales and the expansion of the region, which they're sold into, I really need to put pencil to paper and figure out if I can have someone else produce that, deliver that, and still make enough margin.

[00:25:19] Kat Johnson: Mm-hmm. That makes sense. Customers are willing to pay because your 

[00:25:23] Georgiana Dearing: dressing has to get to make more dressing. You're gonna have to have a bigger kitchen, really. Right. 

[00:25:28] Kat Johnson: Yeah, I would love that. I would love to be able to build a kitchen one day, perhaps on this land or another piece of land, and have a facility if that's what it takes to get to that next level.

[00:25:38] Kat Johnson: Mm-hmm. 

[00:25:39] Georgiana Dearing: Those are really two opposing products. I'm gonna say though, like dressing and salad, even though they all seem together, they're very, very different because the dressing is bottled and it has to be refrigerated. And even though salad is, doesn't have a very long shelf life to begin with, but expanding your dressing network means it's gonna have to survive longer away from you.

[00:26:03] Kat Johnson: Yeah, that's true. It right now it has a three month shelf. Just based on sort of the natural acidity and the fact that it's kept in the cooler. 

[00:26:13] Georgiana Dearing: Mm-hmm. Well, this is all very exciting. You've come a very long way in two years. It's been fun to watch what you're doing. I will have to say, you're very much a natural marketer.

[00:26:23] Georgiana Dearing: I get your emails, and I say this all the time on my podcast, that I sign up for people's emails and then I never hear from them again. But I know that I hear from you, Kat, and I wish that I was close enough to be on your salad subscription list because they sound delightful, but I just can't imagine how you would ship them to me.

[00:26:46] Georgiana Dearing: So there is that problem. 

[00:26:48] Kat Johnson: Yes. I can only grow so much. But 

[00:26:51] Georgiana Dearing: for our listeners who wanna learn more about you, or for people who are in like the Blacksburg area or in Floyd who haven't heard of Captain Farmer yet, can you tell people. Where people can find you. What's your Instagram or Facebook or whatever you're using?

[00:27:07] Kat Johnson: Yeah, you can find me cat the and learn all the places where I sell my goods and I am on Instagram and Facebook at Cat dot the Farmer. And that is Cat with a K. Oh, that's important. Yes. Cat 

[00:27:23] Georgiana Dearing: with a K. Well, I am so glad that we got this chance to catch up. I've really enjoyed talking to you and seeing you again.

[00:27:31] Georgiana Dearing: I have to say I have really enjoyed watching you. I know I said it once, but I'll say it again. It's just been a lot of fun and I wish you all the best success. 

[00:27:40] Kat Johnson: Thank you so much George, and thanks for your help along the way. It's been wonderful. 

[00:27:44] Georgiana Dearing: Thanks for listening, and if you wanna learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My

[00:27:53] Georgiana Dearing: If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at VA Foodie on Instagram, Facebook, and. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.