by Sara Weihmann
In the last couple of months we have returned to the classroom once a week to evaluate the strengths and opportunities of our business, write a cohesive business plan as a team, and host a variety of guest speakers. On the farm, we have fine-tuned our production process and continued to grow exceptional produce for our restaurant partners. Our first cohort of youth — Kasandra, Guayo, Paul, Casey, De’Andre and Ale’ah — will complete their year with us the weekend before Thanksgiving. It has been such a fantastic year of growth, for this budding program and also the farmers as individuals. It has been an inspiration watching these young individuals develop and I am so grateful for the opportunity to know them.
A little more about our business sessions!! As a group we have collaborated on crafting our mission and vision statements, as well as our company values (hard-working, team-oriented, clean, respectful, honest and efficient). We have detailed the products and services we offer our clients, and evaluated how the quality and prices of our products compare to our “competitors”. We have looked at the customers that we’ve worked with throughout the year — Flora, Cafe 15, Cafe 817, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Hibiscus and Boot & Shoe Service — and interviewed some of them about their experience working with us and asking what we can do better. We’ve assessed our marketing strategy and brainstormed ideas for improving our impressions. We’ve diagrammed our order fulfillment process and analyzed our environmental and social impacts, identifying ways we can “lean operations”, improve community relationships and reduce waste within our system. We have identified key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with our farm business. We have taken time to document the strengths of each member of our team, emphasizing the qualities that each individual brings to our business. We have assessed our financial picture, distinguishing between COGS (cost of goods sold) and other expenses of doing business and how that brings our gross sales to our “net profit”.
We have had several inspiring guest speakers come share their experiences with us. Willette Battle, owner of Assemble Oaktown, talked to us about finding nutrition in our lives. She clued us into different diet options and emphasized the importance of being mindful about what we put in our bodies. As a small business owner, she was able to shed some light on the benefits and challenges of taking a self-employment route. Leland Thompson and Quan DeMarco are the co-founders of a new leadership consulting firm in Oakland. These two sat down at the table with us and discussed their unique paths to success in learning, business and community participation (you should check out Guayo and Kasandra’s blog about their perspective on these guests). This week we look forward to welcoming David Ralston from the City of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency and the Oakland Food Policy Council.
Stay tuned for the update from our last month on the farm this year and, of course, stay tuned to WOW Farm for years and years to come. I encourage you to come visit us, support our restaurant partners, and support us!