Jersey Natural Farm has found success in its mission-driven model of organic, regenerative agriculture on a small scale. But to expand the model and drive growth, it relies on new partners.
- Partnerships are an essential part of taking your business to new heights.
- Jersey Natural Farm leverages partnerships to expand its mission of using regenerative, organic farming to promote the health and wellness of its community.
- By working with healthcare professionals, Jersey Natural Farm hopes to reach new audiences to spread the word about building a healthier planet and society through diet and lifestyle.
Everybody has goals, and so does every business. Whether your business is driven by a mission, a strategy or an idea, it can be hard (or even impossible) to go it alone. Effective, strategic partnerships are a critical element of running a business successfully.
To learn how to creatively establish and navigate partnerships, it can be useful to examine other companies doing just that. Jersey Natural Farm is one example of a company relying on like-minded partners that buy into its mission and philosophy to extend its impact well beyond the confines of its own business model.
A business with a mission
Jersey Natural Farm was founded in 2017 with a simple philosophy: Healthy people and a healthy planet start with healthy farming practices. That means relying on small-scale, restorative, organic agriculture, rather than industrial farming operations that rely on monocultures and pesticides.
Regenerative, organic farming all starts with a healthy soil, said founder and farmer Andrew Patterson. Fresh, nutrient-dense produce in an ecologically diverse environment can thrive from there, feeding healthy communities and establishing a resilient, local food system.
"Off of an acre we can sell six figures worth of produce [per year]," Patterson said. "We do that by supplying the demand for our onsite farm market. The other part of that is we're trying to tie [our produce] into medicine."
The first Jersey Natural Farm location is in Long Valley, New Jersey, where the farm sits on an acre alongside Ethos Health, a medical practice dedicated to treating and preventing health conditions with a whole food, plant-based diet and active lifestyle. It is aptly known as JNF @ Ethos.
"We're teaching people not only why they should be eating this stuff; we're teaching them why our produce is better than what you get in the supermarket," Patterson said. "Not only is it 40% to 50% more effective from a nutrient standpoint, but there are no environmental externalities because we're organic, regenerative and small-scale. We don't want to be just sustainable, but regenerative; we want to sequester carbon and be carbon negative as a farm."
Thus far, Jersey Natural Farm has been successful. It's growing fresh produce on an acre of land, both revitalizing the ecology and contributing to the health of its community. It is profitable and has the ability to support its operations into the future. However, there is a problem.
"We're pretty much maxed out in our own market as far as quick growth goes," Patterson said. "It's hard to get a foothold or compete with the prices of larger-scale farms that have more efficient systems or have had more time to implement infrastructure. It costs them $2 to grow a carrot, but it costs me $3."
To compete and expand into new markets, Patterson is leaning into the mission. He wants to bring the JNF model to new locations while conducting community outreach and education throughout the Garden State.
But he can't do that alone.
Achieving business goals by establishing partnerships
While Jersey Natural Farm is driven by its mission, achieving its goals requires more than just a strong set of values. By leveraging partnerships with landowners and other businesses, Jersey Natural Farm plans to expand its ecologically friendly and wellness-centric philosophy throughout New Jersey.
The first step is to expand beyond one location. Jersey Natural Farm keeps its costs low and stays competitive mainly by hosting a farm market on its property, rather than going to farmers markets to compete with larger, more established farms. Since JNF @ Ethos is operating at capacity, it's time to branch out.
"The conventional way to grow is going to more farmers markets, but then you have to grow more produce, add more infrastructure and spend more time sitting at the market," Patterson said. "So what we're trying to do is expand our farm as a whole into different areas of the state. We'll have onsite farm markets in each location, with the actual farm at those locations as well. It's the same as JNF @ Ethos but replicated in other spots."
That will keep costs lower for both the farm and its customers, but even more importantly, it will help foster the type of community that Patterson believes is essential to making small-scale, regenerative, organic farming most effective.
"It just boils down to having a relationship," he said. "It's not just about buying produce; it's about being connected to your food and the people who grow it. And their support is important for us to have a resilient food system."
Building on success with a cross-industry approach
Jersey Natural Farm began as a cross-industry venture between a medical practice and a young farmer. Perhaps it is because of that origin that Patterson seeks further cooperation with healthcare professionals. Health and wellness are in Jersey Natural Farm's DNA, he said, so it makes sense to work alongside nutritionists, dietitians, and doctors to help educate people on how to improve their diet and lifestyle.
"People have kind of forgotten how to live a healthy life, be mindful and eat right," Patterson said. "They don't know cooking with these foods can be pleasurable. We try to teach ways to use our seasonal produce to make delicious, healthy meals and show them it's no so hard.
"If you stick with it, you actually change your taste buds," he added. "You don't need all this salt and sugar to make food taste good; you don't need added fats to make food taste good. It tastes good on its own because it's nutrient-dense, and that's where flavor comes from."
Spreading the word has been a challenge, though, so Jersey Natural Farm is working to assemble a board of healthcare providers and wellness professionals to establish an education curriculum and event programming for patients. Patterson said they are starting by targeting a major condition affecting Americans: diabetes.
Patterson envisions the program working through simple relationship building. Doctors see their patients suffering from a chronic condition, and when they give them a prescription, they also offer them a pamphlet that introduces them to a comprehensive wellness program available through Jersey Natural Farm. That program consists of educational programs, events and, of course, the farm market itself.
"We're trying to have health professionals – nutritionists, dietitians, medical doctors – be ambassadors of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle and give patients an option … that gives them the tools and education to help them on their journey to living a better lifestyle and not needing those prescriptions anymore," Patterson said.
"We want patients to know, 'You're not in this alone. We're here to support you,'" he added.
How partnerships can help your business grow beyond itself
When you develop effective partnerships in any business, your impact becomes greater than the reach of your business alone. It also contributes to a healthy, expanding bottom line. For JNF, that means building a community that furthers its mission of building a healthier world and healthier communities through the way food is produced and distributed.
"We're trying to build a community on our farm," Patterson said. "It's not just going to a farm market to buy produce from your local farmers; it's about being part of the local farm, seeing how your food is grown and knowing who grows your food."
Jersey Natural Farm promotes health, wellness, and vitality for both people and planet. By partnering with like-minded landowners and healthcare professionals, Patterson is expanding the model that has already revitalized an acre of property in Long Valley, New Jersey.
For any business, whether it is mission-driven or not, partnerships are an essential part of driving growth. Sometimes thinking creatively and developing cross-industry partnerships that might not be immediately obvious can help you forge the most effective path to success.