When cafes and restaurants closed their doors or moved to takeaway menus, all but two of Sarah Heath’s regular hospitality customers cancelled their orders for living herbs and edible flowers.
Determined to not let the tough times get the better of her, the Burpengary grower revolutionised the way she sells her produce in order to keep her business alive.
Sarah says the big changes to her business began when she was trying to decide whether to proceed with a planned open farm day for home growers on March 21, just as tightening movement restrictions were being debated.
“It was the first time for a long time that it had been really good planting weather, no drought and not too much rain,” she says.
So, Sarah had to come up with a way to get her produce to customers while reducing the risk of exposing herself and her customers to COVID-19.
She hosted a contactless open day where customers ordered seedlings online and collected them from the farm gate. Sarah filled 32 orders that day.
Half of her business is supplying retail outlets such as green grocers across the region. Cafes, restaurants and bars make up the rest. “Every one of those cafes and restaurants, except two, have cancelled or closed their doors. The garnish on top doesn’t look as good in a takeaway box.”
On the upside, Sarah says green grocers are busy and many customers are buying her seedlings from their stores so they can grow their own food at home.
She has also received great support from the Brisbane Bulk Buys and Discounts Facebook page. As a result she’s been able to sell set trays, made up of 10 herbs and vegetables, and deliver them to the group’s administrator for customers to collect. These sales have helped ease the pain of the loss of her restaurant/cafe customers.
She says the crisis has forced her to embrace online ordering and she now has more than 140 different varieties of plants on her website.
“I will be expanding to cover more of the Moreton Bay Region and greater Brisbane with home delivery,” she says.