Home Back Issues March 2012 The market outlier

The market outlier

| Print |  Email
Articles - March 2012
Friday, March 02, 2012
Article Index
The market outlier
Page 2
0312_Profile_DonKruger_03
0312_Profile_DonKruger_04
AT TOP: Kruger's brand of salad dressings.
ABOVE: Kruger's markets sell affordable produce, Ghanaian baskets and other goods.
// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina
Kruger shrank his staff and production and plodded along until 2004 when he got a call from his ex-brother-in-law about a batch of Ghanaian baskets he had acquired from a wholesaler. “I told him to send me 75 and I’ll give it a run,” he says. “They sold out that weekend.” That fall, he bought 8,000 baskets and sold a third by the end of the year. He then went to a North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association trade show in Sacramento to set up distribution to farms throughout the country.

Within a year he went from bankruptcy to a solid financial footing. He now sells roughly 40,000 baskets a year nationally, worth $500,000 in gross sales. With the added capital from the basket sales and with a firmer grasp on how to manage his farm, he started allowing weddings on his property.

In 2008 he bought the front 75 acres he had leased and entered into aggressive payback lease agreement for an additional 75 acres on an adjoining property. But Multnomah County said his wedding events violated land-use laws. After two years and $60,000 in legal fees, Kruger lost the case and with it a fourth of his income. Using what money and strained credit he had left, Kruger decided to do what he had wanted to do for nearly a decade. He was going to grow food and sell it in simple, low-overhead markets instead of high-overhead upscale markets. He started an open-air market in St. Johns in June 2010 and secured the lease at open-air produce market Uncle Paul’s in southeast Portland later that year.

Nearly two years later, Kruger’s Farm Markets are filled with affordable produce from Kruger’s old produce connections and his farm, and Ghanaian baskets. The southeast Portland market also has fish and meat from local vendor Flying Fish. He plans to invest $50,000 into the St. Johns Farm Stand to set up food carts, a bakery and a stand for Flying Fish. The 59-year-old Kruger is something of an outlier in the business. Few middle-age operators make the transition from traditional farm production to farm-direct, a transition that requires farmers to understand inventory management and have critical people skills.

“I could have four [markets]” says the unsinkable Kruger, who in the past always believed he was right.

“Whether it’s the right thing for me to do … I’m not sure about that.”

 



 

More Articles

Revenge Forestry

November/December 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

A flare-up in the Elliott Forest raises questions about détente in Oregon’s timber wars.


Read more...

Launch

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

September's Launch article features Orchid Health, BuddyUp and Inter-Europe Consulting.


Read more...

Downtime

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How State Representative Julie Parrish (House District 37) balances life between work and play.


Read more...

Shipping News

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JENNIFER MARGULIS

In 2012 The Dalles, a city of some 14,400 located 75 miles east of Portland and often seen as the poor cousin to adjacent Hood River, completed a massive project to revitalize its dock.


Read more...

The Rail Baron

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Oil is gushing out of the U.S. and Canada, and much of it is coming from places that don’t have pipeline infrastructure. So it’s being shipped by rail.


Read more...

Buyer's Remorse

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents and students paying for college today are like homeowners who bought a house just before the housing bubble burst.


Read more...

Launch

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

October's Launch article features Soul Kitchen, Easy Company and Slick's Big Time BBQ.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS