Natural-Lee produces organically certified vegetables, fruit and nuts, honey, decorative plants and eggs that are grown with permaculture principles and biodynamic soils. It initially started in Kevin Lee’s backyard. He and his friends started a community garden, and due to increasing demand for local grown organic food, it has grown into a commercial venture.
The business prospect has expanded in recent years with the return of Kevin to his family property that historically had been used as a station for cattle grazing. Although it was a major commitment, Kevin has turned much of that land into a food forest. He did not do this all by himself. He and his friends have worked tirelessly, and now they have employed horticulture and agriculture students from Southern Cross University’s Plant Science faculty to assist on the property.
With the range and volume of produce, along with the outputs of the animals, in addition to the growing number of customers, Kevin is finding it hard to keep the track of things. An information system may provide a way to help manage the increasing complexities of the business. You have been brought in as a business analyst to assist with its organisation.
The Early Days – Growing up on the Station
Kevin Lee believes that he had been born to be on the land, following as he did, in his fathers’ and grandfathers’ steps with their love and passion for living sustainably and green. Of course there were also differences...especially as Kevin was now passionately dedicated to growing produce rather than attending to sheep and cattle. Kevin has some cows for milk and manure, and recently acquired chickens to provide different manure for fertilizing, in addition to egg production.
Kevin grew great organic produce without the use of any pesticides or artificial fertilizer. He practiced companion planting to help protect crops from insect attack, and he cycled different crops from year to year to aid soil health. Kevin carried in his memory an immense body of information about soil types, weather, seasons, crops, crop rotations, soil preparation, and composting. Being a station boy, he also knew many things about animal husbandry too.
Living on a station is rough. As managers you have to deal with drought conditions and with a lack of infrastructure such as grid electricity and council water feeds. Basic survival is always at the forefront. Careful planning is a must.
Kevin had given up his occupation as an electrician when he returned to the station to dedicate time to his permaculture activities. He is now committed to growing and selling produce. People happily pay top dollar because of the high quality of food, and the ‘organically grown’ status that it holds.
Kevin does not sell his produce through the local farmers market. With the success of the community garden, his customers come to him! Customers would phone through an order the day before they wanted to pick up the produce, and Kevin would relay the long list of offerings that he knew he had available and ready for harvest. This could take a lot longer than most people wanted to spend on the phone. Kevin worked from memory and would recite a list from start to finish, even though there were some products that various customers never, ever bought, never wanted, and were never going to buy.
Kevin was a ‘chatty patty’ and loved to talk with each and every customer. He enjoyed the conversation. But, it was time consuming and it took him away from attending to his duties. In reality, while all of the customers liked Kevin and loved his produce, many really wished to have a quicker and easier way of placing their orders without the need to always be asked directly by Kevin about products that they were never, ever going to purchase. Many customers were frustrated that Kevin would always take a long same order every week as a regular, weekly, customer. Surely, they thought to themselves, there must be a better way.