There’s a farm in Hillsboro, Virginia on the very edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains where one family is dedicated to farming for freedom in a way that pleases God. Just down an abandoned state road called Dawson Gap, you’ll find the Morrisons selling high-quality, non-GMO food and livestock feed. We spoke with Todd Morrison recently regarding his farm, his family, and his community.
In part one of our two-part interview with Todd we discussed the business of farming.
Hiland Naturals: What came first for you all, the farm or the store?
Todd Morrison: The farm did. We moved further out from the suburbs into the country in 2009, and we realized that we had the opportunity to grow food for ourselves and for our family—we have six children. We started with some chickens and things just continued to progress from there.
My involvement with Hiland Naturals happened when I was looking for a good non-GMO feed and couldn’t find it anywhere around us. I finally contacted Hilands. One thing led to another and I guess I was the guy to bring it to the area.
Hiland Naturals: Why did you want to do non-GMO instead of organic?
Todd: Well, first of all, there is an obvious price difference between organic and non-GMO. What I really liked about Hiland Naturals is being confident of the purity of the product through their testing program.
Hiland Naturals: Most farms don’t have a website, but Dawson Gap has one and it’s really well done. Why do you think it’s important to have a high-quality website when you’re a farmer?
Todd: For marketing reasons. When you’re a farmer trying to sell retail to customers in your community, how you present yourself is very important. A person’s first impression is very important. Being a farmer includes all aspects of business from producing to processing to packaging to selling, and part of any good business is marketing.
I wanted to be able to communicate with potential customers and the community and to do so in a respectable manner in a way that represented us well.
I started out by making my own website on my Macbook, but recently we updated the website with a professional designer. It was a conscious investment I made to increase our web presence.
Hiland Naturals: Do you find that you actually get business from the website or is it simply informational for your customers?
Todd: We do get business from the website. It’s a bit of a process with search engine optimization. After changing the website over Google dinged me, and we didn’t do well in search results, but we are doing much better now. This day in age that’s how people look for products—they go to the internet. When people look for “non-GMO VA” I want to come up.
Hiland Naturals: Since you say the farm came first, what made you decide to open the farm store?
Todd: I had actually been praying for quite a number of years for an opportunity to have a family home-based business. The farm is still a part of it, they work together. When the opportunity came up, I recognized that this was an answer to our prayer. We took it one step at a time.
I think our first shipment was a ton—two maybe. I just thought that was so much feed, and I couldn’t imagine how to sell it. I bought a cargo trailer and pulled it around in my Suburban with my kids in the car starting to make deliveries. Little by little, word got out, and it’s just grown. Now I have a box truck with a lift gate I use to do deliveries and we fill the whole barn that’s on the website.
The demand is out there; so many people are looking for it. It’s not in the common stores, although I’m working to get it into stores. It’s definitely in demand. I haven’t had to do a lot of advertising along the way. People are looking for non-GMO, they’re looking for natural, they’re looking for things without pesticides. I like being able to provide them with customer service in their community.