Meet the Grants
“We have an unclassic family farm, in the sense that we don’t have enough kids,” Silcott Springs Farm co-owner Sam Grant said with a chuckle. “My wife, Teresa, and I raised two families of one kid each, spaced 15 years apart. That’s not conducive to being a farm family.”
He quipped: “The good part was they were both daughters, and when they were 16, 17, 18, early 20’s, I was able to get a lot of big strong kids to show up on a date.”
Silcott Springs Farm, located just outside of Purcellville, Va., raises Angus cattle and laying hens alongside Mulefoot hogs, which won the 2009 Pig Pageant, a blind test among 90 food professionals to determine the most flavorful heritage breed of pork.
Before COVID-19, Sam and Teresa sold to farm-to-table restaurants and other wholesale buyers, including the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, which alone purchased 600-800 pounds of ground beef per month. When the orders came down from Governor Ralph Northam’s office to close non-essential businesses in Virginia and enter lockdown, Sam and Teresa had a problem.
While their day-to-day work remained largely unchanged, their primary customers were closed, some without even being able to pay for their last shipments.
All of a sudden, the 400 pounds of ground beef that they had in five-pound packs (restaurant chefs required), seemed like an immovable product. Even if they could find retail buyers, who would want a five-pound pack?
Silcott Springs Farm Finds Relief
Two weeks later on March 31, the Grants got an email from Chris Blosser, rural business development manager for Loudoun Economic Development. The department had just launched the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace, which could accommodate the social distancing requirements and help wholesale sellers shift to retail.
Additionally, Sam and Teresa’s daughter, Sadie, was home from Virginia Tech and worked with Blosser to get their Local Line storefront up and running. With the ability to sell again, the Grants went in search of financial relief.
First, they applied for a forgivable PPP loan and used the money to hire year-round help on the farm. They hired two out-of-work restaurant owners and got help with the animals, mending fences and splitting firewood for the winter.
Shortly thereafter, Loudoun County opened its COVID-19 Business Interruption Fund, offering grants to businesses that had lost 25% or more of their normal revenue. Silcott Springs Farm was selected for the second round, giving the Grants needed money to reinvest into the business. They added a walk-in freezer that doubled the capacity of products they could hold.
“It’s been a real boon,” Sam said. “I’m in good shape with my walk-in and six freezers now.”
Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace Pays Off
Soon after, a fortunate connection was made through the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace.
“A lady reached out to us who had a very large family and one child who was immunocompromised. She was doing everything in her power to not expose her family to the virus, so they were avoiding grocery stores and any sort of market. She asked if I could deliver to the backdoor of her house and accept virtual payment,” Sam recalled. “I said, sure, we could.”
That very large family had 12 children, total. Instead of being put off by the five-pound packs of pasture-raised ground beef, the mom was thrilled to only need two packs of ground beef for an average dinner.
“Over the course of the summer and into the fall, continuing through the winter, she introduced us to friends of hers in their homeschooling club. With the size of the families involved, they were running a small school system, pooling their efforts to teach different subjects to different age groups,” Sam said. “We managed to pick up six families that had nine or more children. They all seemed to know each other with word-of-mouth recommendations.”
The delivery was much the same for each family: place an order with Teresa, load up one or two coolers, drop them off on the back porch of their house and leave. The families would sterilize the coolers, unpack them and call the Grants to pick them up.
“They would pay electronically and everyone was happy. Half a dozen clients of that size, essentially, mimic the restaurant trade,” Sam said. “We sold different products: they bought ground beef and chuck roast, nobody was ordering the filet mignon, but we were still able to sell those at the farmers market.”
The key to business resilience is finding opportunities in the face of crisis, and the Grants did just that in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Silcott Springs Farm changed its business model, opened new lines of business, and roughly doubled its year-over-year income.
Even with restaurants reopening, the Grants intend to stick with the retail model, offering a wide range of products on the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace, including:
- Beef: Chuck roasts, ground beef, heart, liver and custom cuts;
- Pork: ham, roasts, ground pork, sausage, broth bones, fat, jowls, tongue, heart, liver, shoulder, and custom cuts.
Support the Grants and other Loudoun farmers by shopping the Marketplace, below:
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