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‘Landmark Year’: Clatskanie Farmer Collective Growing


'Landmark Year': Clatskanie Farmer Collective Growing

The Clatskanie Farmer Collective, formerly the Clatskanie Farmers Market, has crunched the numbers for 2023, and this year brought growth in sales and a new brand to the organization.

Clatskanie Farmer Collective Executive Director Jasmine Lillich explained why they thought now was the perfect time to rebrand under the new name.

“The Clatskanie Farmer Collective is a name that puts the farmer on the pedestal. It encompasses all the work that we, as an organization, are doing to bring farmers together collectively to get their products to market and to highlight and share their knowledge and skills with the community,” Lillich said. “It’s a farmer’s first name, and I really like that. The logistical piece of it is that we’re more than a farmer’s market now.”

Lillich said that the many different market opportunities for farmers go beyond the farmer’s market. These opportunities include the farmers market, the Clatskanie Food Hub, and season extension markets like the spring and winter markets.

“We have various ways that we engage with the community as well with our classroom in the food hub. We’ll be expanding that into some on-farm classes in the coming years. [We also do] different community events where we always feature local food, like at our concerts and skill-sharing events,” Lillich said. “We offer producer support as well. So, providing support, technical assistance, and marketing for our producers.”

With all the things they were doing beyond the farmers market, Lillich and the Clatskanie Farmer Collective board felt that the new name better aligned with all the different ways the organization is involved in the local food system.

By the numbers

Produce wasn’t the only thing growing for the Farmer Collective this year; the organization also boasted an explosion in sales numbers across its venues. One of the things that stood out to Lillich was the 183% growth in vendor sales. The Clatskanie Food Hub opened in June of 2023, and the sales it brought in have boosted the organization’s gains.

“The food hub was only open for six months of that full year, so these stats are also only for six months of the food hub,” Lillich said. “A big piece of that (183 %) percentage is that we managed to do over $100,000 in sales at the food hub by Dec. 31.”

Lillich said that hitting six figures in sales at the food hub went beyond her expectations. Lillich had thought that the wintertime would be a slow point of the year but was surprised to see the store “packed” almost every single day.

Lillich said that the food hub has more than 700 “loyal customers” at the food hub. A loyal customer is something that the food hub’s payment system labels recurring transactions in the system.

“That is just from credit card customers. Over 45% of our transactions are cash, so that means potentially, we have twice that many loyal customers,” Lillich said. “According to our Square software, over 700 loyal customers. For a little town, Clatskanie, Oregon of 1,800 people, that’s pretty good.”

Lillich also highlighted the food assistance programs that help make the produce affordable. They accept EBT, SNAP, FDNP checks, and “double up food bucks.” They also secured a grant from the Oregon Food Bank to make funds available to low-income customers.

“Anybody that needs food can come in, and they get $10 of free food a week,” Lillich said. “And that’s on top of other amazing food assistance programs.”

Lillich said that in the wake of the food hub’s success, she has been contacted by other communities who would like her insight on how to start their own food hubs. Lillich said that people from Castle Rock, St. Helens, Scappoose, Rainier, and Puget Island for advice and mentorship.

“That is absolutely a joy to hear. I think every community should have a food hub, and it should be built by that community,” Lillich said. “It’s possible, it works, and we can all work together. We need more access to local food, and this model really works for farmers and community members.”

Breaking it down:

In the 2023 annual report, the Clatskanie Farmer Collective detailed the numbers behind its “landmark year.”

Clatskanie Food Hub:

• $100,080 in total sales

• $70,272 paid to vendors

• 3,760 transactions

• 60 total vendors

• $6,109 in total food Assistance Sales

• $89,071 in food sales

Clatskanie Farmers Market:

• $118,331 in direct-to-vendor sales

• 8,644 visitors

• $4,549 total food assistance sales

• $73,365 food sales

• 70+ vendors

• 47% annual growth

Building community

One of the great catalysts for the organization’s success this year was the development of the long-awaited food hub. Lillich gave some insight into what it’s been like watching the food hub grow in its first year.

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