Tom kept working his full-time job while the farm continued to grow. “I was doing that [full-time job] during the day, farming by flashlight at night—trying to make it all work, working what felt like 8 days a week.”
Many US farmers work both on and off the farm to make ends meet: in 2019, the USDA reported that an average of 82% of farming households’ income comes from off the farm. But it’s exhausting to do both. By 2018, Bennett Farms had grown so much that Tom decided to ditch the security of his 9-to-5—which provided health care and a 401(k)—to give farming a wholehearted go.
“It was a big risk, because we have 6 kids and a big family to support. It’s not something you could just do on a whim—it had to work,” he says. “But if it didn’t, at least I would know, and I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been.”
While he was simply farming as a side hustle, it was easy to sell each season’s harvest by word-of-mouth and at farmers markets. But when it was time for the farm to pay all the Bennett family’s bills, Tom knew he would have to do something different.
Growing business online
“Knowing I needed to sell and make a business, I wanted to have an online farm store before I really knew what that meant,” Tom says.
That’s when he discovered the combined powers of Barn2Door and Mailchimp. As a Mailchimp partner, Barn2Door offers expert Mailchimp marketing services to clients. Barn2Door also offers a platform for farmers to sell their products, which integrates with Mailchimp, making the whole process more streamlined. Tom used both to bring Bennett Farms online. “That’s what really allowed us to be a full-time farm,” he says.
Now, in addition to pork, poultry, and—in advance of Thanksgiving—turkey, Tom also sells subscriptions online, which allow him to keep his business going even in the winter when many farmers markets are closed. “Between the farmers markets, our online store, and our bulk customers, that's pretty much our main 90% of our revenue,” Tom says.
Customers love the option to buy premium meat and have it delivered to their doorstep. Tom loves that his online store works around the clock, taking orders while he does everything else—both on the farm and with his family. With routing software, a fulfillment schedule, and trustworthy inventory practices, he’s found that online sales and door-to-door delivery make his life easier.
“It would be much harder to survive as a farm, selling direct-to-consumer without being online,” he says. “Today people expect the convenience. You can shop our farm from your phone while you’re lying in bed at 9 o’clock at night.”