Bauman’s Farm & Garden’s
October events draw thousands of customers
Brian Bauman, general manager of Bauman’s Farm & Garden in Gervais, Ore., is one of four, fourth-generation siblings involved in the family business.
In 1895, Brian’s great-grandmother Elizabeth Bauman founded the family farm growing fruits and vegetables. Then about 30 years ago his father, Rick, built a roadside stand for his mom, Barb, as she wanted to supplement the family income to stay at home with her children. This seasonal store would eventually morph into a year round independent garden center. He says there are two main philosophies that keep their business going: the first is diversification, and the second is giving customers a reason to visit. Unlike its local competitors, Bauman’s includes a nursery, country store, bakery, produce and gourmet food market, which features an apple cider press, and much more.
“With so many different facets to our business, we have great customer traffic through most of the year,” Brian says.
Because Bauman’s is off the beaten path so-to-speak, with most customers located at least 30 minutes away, Brian believes they have to create a draw, giving consumers a reason to travel to them on a regular basis. As such, Bauman’s is a poster child for agri-tourism and is a modern day “Field of Dreams” because, “If you build it, they will come.” And come they do, in particular for their Fall Harvest Festival.
Held during the entire month of October, more than 8,000 school kids and 70,000 customers will visit the “Pumpkin Patch,” which boasts more than 25 different family friendly activities. There is so much to do that Bauman’s has an interactive map on its website. Sarah Farrell, Brian’s sister, focuses her energies on social media and the website, but their Fall Harvest Festival has grown so large that she employs an outside media firm each year to handle the seasonal PR needs. View Bauman’s media press kit here.
Unlike most IGCs that have their peak season in spring, autumn is actually the busiest time of the year for Bauman’s. Brian says they make sure that on their way to pick out their pumpkins, customers walk by an impressive display of mums, ornamental peppers, millet, sunflowers and other great fall color.
So, while it was the farm fresh produce that was the building block of their business, plants are still an integral part. Being located in Oregon means they take advantage of buying in their trees and shrubs but “do what they do best” by growing their own hanging baskets and premium 4 inch and 6 inch annuals.
Q: What has been your most effective marketing tool?
A: Three years ago, Bauman’s started a direct mail piece in conjunction with their loyalty program. They are mailed quarterly and have been a huge success. The mailer contains three coupons with savings based on that customer’s collective purchases at Bauman’s over the previous 12 months. Brian says customers look forward to receiving the mailer and with redemption rates as high as 60 percent on some coupons; one would be hard pressed not to agree.
Q: What are you doing to reach younger generations?
A: Over the past couple of years Bauman’s has made a concerted effort to reach the younger generation by increasing activities for kids.
“We feel that the best way to reach that generation is through their young kids,” Brian says. “We have an animal barn, and a playground that is open to the public year round and is free for our customers to use.
“We also have a two-week-long kids’ camp during the summer, which has been very successful. And we have classes scheduled throughout the summer specifically designed for kids, which have garnered great attendance.”
Q: What do you do to gain repeat customers?
A: For several years, Bauman’s has been building a large loyalty program and through that program, they have been able to target customers more effectively. In addition they started a new program last year called Bauman’s Great Buy. Each week during the spring season they send out an email that highlights an incredibly good buy. It’s not a sale that lasts for a specific period of time and then when the sale ends the plants are marked back up. Instead, they work with their vendors on getting in a large amount of a specific item that they get a really good price on and in turn pass that savings on to their customers. But, when that quantity of Great Buy plants is gone, they’re gone. They create a real sale along with a sense of urgency for customers to come in and get the item before it is sold out.
Q: How do you reward your best-performing workers? Do you offer incentive programs to sales people?
A: Every week each department is given a set of goals. At the beginning of the following week, management evaluates how each department did on their previous week’s goals and hands out new ones. If the department met its goals, money is put into an envelope that the department can use at their discretion for a group activity so that everyone can share, such as lunch, a movie, or a dinner out on the town.
Teams of individuals from each department are formed to play games throughout the year. Several secret shoppers will stop in the store every day. If a member on the team provides good customer service, they get a point for the team. However, if someone on the team does a poor job, the team gets two points taken away. At the end of the week the winning team’s members receive a gift certificates for shopping, dinner, or something else.
Q: What do you do to keep company morale up?
A: From a more personal perspective, Bauman’s regularly does activities as a group. For instance this summer the entire staff was treated to a day at the zoo, and they have an annual Christmas party. Bauman’s is closed on Sundays except during October, April and May, so that everyone can spend quality time with their family.
Business-wise, Bauman’s takes its staff to local businesses on secret shopping trips. Examples include taking the produce department to a local, high-end grocery store to see how they display their produce; the nursery staff may go on a tour of local nurseries; and the bakery staff visits another local bakery. Brian thinks these mini field trips keep employees engaged and excited about possibilities.