BUHL, Idaho — The organic farmers who started 1,000 Springs Mill less than four years ago now supply products to more than 1,000 retail stores.
Tim Cornie and Kurt Mason, along with sales and marketing specialist Paige Yore, said growing good food from good soil — and telling people about it — helps the Buhl, Idaho, business maintain its momentum.
“Every single employee we have has walked the fields,” Yore said.
“There is a sense of pride when you walk into a beautiful field of beans and you know that product is going to go into your bag and onto the shelf,” Cornie said.
Mason said developing relationships with retailers helped 1,000 Springs qualify for and get Safe Quality Food certifications that larger companies require. The business hired a full-time employee to focus on the certifications.
Relationships remain key as the mill and client businesses seek solutions to supply chain, inflation and other challenges, he said.
“If we succeed, they succeed,” Mason said.
A price increase 1,000 Springs announced Sept. 1 is slated to take effect Dec. 1. Cornie said many costs, from farm inputs to product packaging, roughly doubled in the past year, and “all food companies are raising their prices.”
Yore said the business has fared well during the coronavirus pandemic. People stayed home, cooked staple foods and “had time to read ingredients and learn more about where their food is coming from.”
She said 1,000 Springs, named for a nearby feature of the Snake River and the aquifer, is pursuing opportunities with about 10 large companies such as grocery and club chains. It aims to be in about 2,500 stores overall around the first of the year and more than 5,000 by the end of 2022.
The business occupies more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse and office space in a former food-processing plant.
Cornie said all of its commodities are grown in southern Idaho except for the rice, which is bought from a small California farm that is Safe Quality Food-certified. The business knows each field that produced the commodities.
Consumers “want quality, and to know where their food comes from,” he said.
Cornie and Mason supply the business from their farms and contract with six others. They plan to contract with more.
“We see more farmers transitioning to organic farming,” Cornie said.
He said the e-commerce segment — now about a quarter of revenue — is growing well and can grow more based on existing, new and planned products.
“We see e-commerce being more than half of sales in the near future,” Cornie said. Many households “prefer their pantry staples delivered to their door, which we are able to do.”
The business, which employs 16 people, has also been bringing young people onto the farms. It is developing a pilot project, centered on building confidence and self esteem, with the local Boys & Girls Club chapter.
“Our goal is to build strong community with the youth program,” Cornie said.