One may argue that INFLECTION POINTS are brought about by the coincidental alignment of a hodge-podge of factors. I don't necessarily disagree with it, we all need a good break once in a while. Having said this, in business, as much as it is in agriculture, we try to minimize coincidence and lean on a plan -- one that improves how you do stuff or one that makes you responsive to what the market needs and wants.
ALL SEASONS has been farming since 2009 and every so often, we ask ourselves a few questions: how are we doing? are we doing better, worse? do we STILL like what we're doing? do we want to do SOMETHING ELSE?
We started off with orchids and do I love orchids. I still have them all this time -- it's a high margin business though gestation can be slow. You'll hit a few jackpots once in a while but in itself isn't sustainable -- at least from where I stood at that time. Orchids are a long term crop and we needed something to drive cash pronto.
In 2011, we decided to go into poultry with pekin ducks. Pekin ducks are differentiated in the market. Its meat is not exactly mainstream, but exotic enough to command a premium. Ducks are harvested every 75-90 days and so they're reasonably short term. Our foray into poultry did not stop there. The following year, we pursued chicken broilers (dressed chickens) and chicken layers (chicken eggs). We did not have the size of a large grower so we had to differentiate yet again in the market - we'll grow them naturally -- and so started our romance with all things natural and organic -- a premium segment.
Selling premium goods is alright but we were curious if we had it in us to produce products in volume.
Duck eggs were introduced in 2015 borne out of a deafening demand for salted duck eggs - the market cannot have enough of it and thus ALL SEASONS entered the commodity space. We still have to differentiate our eggs though and ours come sans the red dye -- which is a hit in MetroManila (healthier without the chemicals) but people find unusual in the provinces (is that a real salted egg?). There goes the lesson on knowing WHERE to market your product.
Just last year, native pigs were all in vogue and ALL SEASONS decided to join the bandwagon. Starting off with just one boar, five sows, and 28 piglets in August, we now have almost double that number. Pigs aren't exactly rabbits but they do know how to MULTIPLY. So what differentiates our pigs? They're leaner (they get lots of exercise and are very much vegetarian!) and tastier minus the porky smelly taste. Our pigs are so clean, you won't even know they're there until you're perhaps one to two feet away. We also had access to a market wanting for clean, tasty pork.
Throughout our eight year journey, we've made bad bets, hit some clear winners, and learned a lot and paid tuition (costly debacles) along the way. Throughout this journey, we tried to plan our way through to make sure stuff worked out. Plans sometimes do not hold up so well (in such cases, you need another plan) but the idea is to get a handle of situations and change tact as need be.
As parting words, let me share what has seemingly worked for ALL SEASONS :
1. Understand the Market's needs and wants.
2. Learn how to produce the product and how the product gets to the buyer.
3. Understand if you have the chops to produce the product
4. Define what differentiates your product from the competition
5. Expect that things will not go smoothly. Iterate with the intent to perfect.
6. Pray. Some humility is always good.
7. Know when you're beating a dead horse. Go back to the drawing board; sell something else.
Have a good week ahead.