Cherry Valley Organics Crowdfunds to Expand Farm Offerings!
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Imagine you’re hiking or riding a bike along the Panhandle Trail, and passing through Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, and you come across what looks like an old train station and decide to check it out. Inside is a warm, bustling cafe and market selling a variety of local groceries and cafe food. You’ve found Cherry Valley Organics Farm Market and Cafe!
However, that’s just the top of the carrot plant for what Cherry Valley Organics has to offer. This woman-owned and operated 36-acre farm grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that they distribute through the market and farm shares. More excitingly, they’re also growing their herbal tea program with the help of a Honeycomb Credit crowdfunded small business loan.
In 2021, owner Jodi Danyo decided to double Cherry Valley Organics’ herbal tea production, and needed some capital with which to do that. So, she decided to run a Honeycomb campaign, raising $36,672 from 53 investors in her community!
Read on to find more about what being a local food business means to Jodi, how she’s working to grow Cherry Valley Organics sustainably, and how she’s building a community around her business in the process.
Don’t grow on your own, grow with your neighbors!
We all know that having vibrant local farms in our area is a key part of building a more sustainable food system, and makes our communities a brighter, healthier, and more delicious space. Because of this, farms like Cherry Valley Organics are growing with the help of crowdfunding!
Interested in growing your business? Learn more about Honeycomb crowdfunded small business loans, and fill out the form below for more information.
What does it mean to create a sustainable, local food system?
For Cherry Valley Organics, the first way they work towards promoting local food in their area is by producing high-quality organic produce, soaps, potted plants, and cut flowers and herbs, which they then process into herbal teas.
Not only does Cherry Valley Organics promote their own products, but they also encourage other local food producers in the area to sell their products at the Farm Market and Cafe. Local grain producers like Weatherbury Farm, Primrose Farm free-range eggs, and so much more can be found at the market - even Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream (another Honeycomb alum)!
To Jodi, it’s important to provide this space for local foods in her community. “It really says something, unless you're looking at the label or you recognize the farm, if you go into the grocery store, you really don't have any idea where the products are coming from,” she says. “We have a little map on the wall that shows where our products came from in Pennsylvania, so people can actually see and make the connection that these products were all produced somewhere in our region.”
Behind the scenes, acting sustainably is also important to Cherry Valley Organics internally. They make it a point to fairly compensate their employees, which is especially important in an industry where low wages and high turnover are the norm. Farming is hard, and often at the prices that consumers are willing to pay for food, it’s increasingly difficult for small, local farmers to pay themselves, much less employees.
“I believe that this model can definitely work,” says Jodi. “We need to have more well-paying jobs in agriculture, at least jobs that pay a livable wage so that we can continue to have a local food system. What farmers are doing is really important, and we need to recognize that in order for it to be sustainable in the long term, farmers need to be able to make a living, farming, and that's what you so often don't see.”
Cherry Valley Organics is just one farm in a vibrant local food system that many in the Pittsburgh area have discovered and come to rely on, especially in the wake of the past year and a half.
“We saw with COVID, national food distribution gets disrupted,” says Jody. “And there are limitations; grocery store shelves don't have certain items on them, and in those situations we're going to fall back on local farms and local producers and so what we're doing is really important, and others that are contributing to the local food system.”
With this in mind, it’s of the utmost importance that farmers like Cherry Valley Organics have the ability to grow sustainably so they can generate more revenue and strengthen their place in the local food market.
Sustainable growth - not just in the fields
The way that Cherry Valley Organics, and many other small local farms, is sustainably growing their business is by diversifying their income streams. This is especially important in an industry where the outcomes can sometimes be unpredictable - having another source of revenue can be vital to small farmers.
For example, the Farm Share program that Cherry Valley Organics provides is a great opportunity to make connections in the community, but it’s not always the most profitable. “We have folks that are Farmshare members this year and have been for the better part of 15 years, which is really crazy but amazing to see that those folks are still sticking it out with us even when we have hard years,” says Jodi. “I would say last year was a particularly hard year. In 2021 there were literally 10 weeks of no rainfall in the summer. So, I think, to have that kind of commitment to our business means everything to us.”
So, how to grow new revenue streams? Jodi decided that in order to grow sustainably, Cherry Valley Organics should grow their dried herbal tea side of the business, with the goal to double their production. In order to do that, they needed to get a drying building, as well as a vehicle to help move things in and out of the fields more efficiently. Now, how to fund it?
“In the wake of COVID, almost no one was able to get any kind of financing from traditional methods,” notes Jodi. “I really liked that Honeycomb was all about sustainable and ecologically minded and socially responsible companies, and I think it was a natural fit for Cherry Valley Organics really to be involved with Honeycomb.”
Jodi decided to run a Honeycomb campaign, and ended up raising $36,372 from 53 investors.
“The investments were kind of circling in, and most of them were really small,” says Jodi about the beginning of the campaign. “Then we started to get other investments that were more sizable, more than $1,000 or $5,000 or $2,000. It helped us gain momentum.”
“The whole last week of the campaign was really exciting because we just got so many investors at the eleventh hour,” she continues. “To me, that was a huge boost for this season, and it really did show that we did have a lot of people investing in us, and having that many people pledge some commitment to Cherry Valley Organics is really exciting.”
Building community through investment
As a landmark on the Panhandle Trail, the Farm Market and Cafe gets people from all over the country passing through - some all the way from the West Coast, others biking up from Washington, D.C. This is very exciting to Jodi, because the Farm Market and Cafe gets to be a part of these travelers’ journey, but she’s also excited about building more local bonds with her community - and the Honeycomb campaign has helped with that.
The Honeycomb campaign had an added benefit of helping to market the Farm Market and Cafe location to people living more in the city area of Pittsburgh. “We're still, you know, off the beaten path, and I think in a lot of ways it's hard for us to get folks to drive all the way out from the city because it's so far. It's not that far really, but it seems so far,” says Jodi. “I think that participating in the Honeycomb campaign definitely got us some visibility, where we didn't maybe have it before.”
“I was at the Farm Market and Cafe one day when someone came in, and she had invested in the Honeycomb campaign and she was like, ‘Wow, I don't come this way on the trail all that often, but I was excited to come and check you guys out, after I had invested,’” notes Jodi.
“There was a really neat kind of resonance there with someone who's like-minded and kind of gets what this is all about. We were talking about songbirds that we have with the farm and all of these other things so that was pretty cool, because I'm sure that a lot of our investors really, really feel strongly and resonate with the Cherry Valley Organics brand and what we're all about.”