Krysti Morrow Rocky Knob Farms, Morgan County Ohio

Krysti Morrow is still looking for the “sweet spot” for marketing the lamb, beef and chicken she and her husband sell to individuals from their Rocky Knob Farms in Morgan County.

But the young mother has had plenty of success as she figures out how to best promote the retail side of the farm through regular emails, lively blogs on the farm website and forays onto Facebook and Instagram.

“Consistency is the key,” said Morrow, 31, who has owned the 36-acre farm in McConnelsville with her husband, Levi, since 2016. “You want to show up in people’s email inboxes and on social media regularly, so that you’re always in the back of their minds.”

Like many farmers, Krysti and Levi worked jobs off the farm for years before deciding they could make a go of it full time. Krysti “came home,” as she puts it, in 2017 after working at the Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District. Levi made the leap last November, leaving jobs that included teaching agriculture at Morgan High School and in sales for Heritage Cooperative.

Their farm is adjacent to the 70-acre farm Levi grew up on and has been a bit of an experiment for the couple. After extensive cleanup with the help of family, they first grew pumpkins and set up a corn maze and u-pick pumpkin patch for families and school field trips, then added strawberry fields and sheep before COVID-19 hit.

Morrow Family Rocky Knob Farms
Levi, Krysti and sons Noah and Charlie

The couple also became parents to two sons during that time, and eventually decided to give up on strawberries, sell pumpkins from a stand in their driveway and dive into the sheep business full bore.

That’s when Krysti’s marketing efforts ramped up. Her Ohio State University degree in agriculture Extension education and community leadership hadn’t focused on marketing, so she began researching how other small farmers promoted their products. She took advantage of online educational tools and YouTube videos. She also had a college friend who provided guidance.

With that help, Krysti created two websites, one for Rocky Knob Farms and another for Rocky Knob Meats, and began posting blogs about the family’s life and farm. One explained the farm’s history, another explained Levi’s decision to work on the farm full time, and others detailed favorite family recipes.

The most popular post was one about a favorite steak marinade. Krysti promoted it on Facebook, with the promise that readers who submitted email addresses would have first dibs on new blog posts. That effort added significantly to her subscribers list, which now stands at about 250 email addresses.

“My goal was to send out one email a week,” Krysti said. She maintained that pace for a year, in addition to posting on Facebook, Instagram and their websites, by working while sons Charlie, 5, and Noah, 3, took naps. Now that the kids have largely aged out of naps, the emails flow every two weeks.

The Morrows’ current flock of 500 ewes provide enough meat for retail sales and sales of a half or whole lamb. Some lambs are kept for breeding stock, and a handful are sold for breeding stock.

Levi Morrow, Rocky Knob Farms

The retail business includes beef from Levi’s parents’ farm and poultry that his brother and sister-in-law raise. Orders are taken online through the Rocky Knob Meats website and, while the meat can be shipped anywhere, sales are mostly local with pickups at the farm.
Ten to 15 orders go out in a typical month.

“There’s so much potential now for direct-to-consumer sales,” Krysti said. “The demand is there; you just have to figure out how to get the products in front of the right people.”

To expand sales, Krysti began traveling to Marietta and Athens in February for monthly meat drop-offs of larger orders. She’s considered selling at farmers markets, but decided it’s too time consuming at the moment.

Levi, 32, who has an agribusiness degree from Ohio State, said the marketing his wife does is critical to the farm’s bottom line.

“Marketing is one of those things that can give you a competitive edge without spending a bunch of money,” Levi said. “I’m grateful that Krysti is phenomenal at that – she’s just a natural.”

Krysti said any farmer can market their own products.

“Focus on your local area first and find that demand,” she said. “By far, that’s been the most profitable thing for us.”

Photos by Laura Scholl

Kathy Lynn Gray is a freelance writer from Columbus.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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