|Location Red Deer||Owner Mike Kozlowski, Kristen Carlson|
|Employees 4||Founded 2010|
★ The Business
It’s no secret that running a farm these days is a difficult operation. So why did Mike Kozlowski, a self-described “city kid,” decide to try and run one along with his partner Kristen Carlson? He traces it back to a trip to Kenya, where he came face-to-face with the fact that he didn’t know where his food came from. Now, as the proprietor of Red Deer’s Steel Pony Farm, Kozlowski knows exactly where his food comes from – and befitting a former city kid, he uses social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to tell his customers all about it.
★ The Case
The conventional wisdom is that farms need to get bigger in order to remain viable, but Mike Kozlowski and Kristen Carlson have gone in the other direction. They’ve “human-scaled” their farm, which means things like weeding their crops by hand rather than using chemical pesticides, transporting their produce to market by bicycle and cultivating a loyal following of local customers.
But their most important innovation, Kozlowksi says, was the decision to start their Food Box Program. People sign up at the beginning of the year for a share of their produce (it sold out this year before the first scheduled delivery of vegetables) and receive a weekly box of whatever’s in season. The up-front cash, meanwhile, buffers them from the boom-and-bust cycle of the weekly farmers’ market, shields them from the worst effects of bad weather and its impact on crop yields and helps them avoid digging too deeply into their line of credit at the beginning of the growing season to buy the seeds and tools they need. “Financially, it’s the single biggest thing that allows us to work as a farm,” Kozlowski says.
|Strategy & Innovation Superstars Nominees|
|CanLNC Inc.||Steel Pony