Cutter Ranch – February 2018
Tyler McNaughton and Sacha Bentall are breaking new ground in the East Kootenays, demonstrating a unique model for sustainable farming and “authentic” food production.
Both Tyler and Sacha came from farm families and had off-farm work experience when they decided their future together would include collaboration around their own farm business – Sacha was a farrier and Tyler worked in the seed industry. Their combined skills, vision and values were the basis for the start of Cutter Ranch on a small piece of family property in Clinton, BC. They had clear goals: to be a leader in the rapidly growing farm to table movement, demonstrating authentic farming and raising their animals with the highest standards of care and attention. In meeting the demand for these products, they would surpass their customers’ expectations for quality, flavor and nutrition. In addition, the farm would provide them with a solid living without having to bring in additional employees.
Fast forward to 2016 and the work/life partners had grown to a family of four. The business had also grown significantly in products and markets, having relocated to a 600 acre property in Fort Steele, a heritage town in the Kootenay Rockies with a culture that celebrates historical traditions and practices. From the tow sows Tyler and Sacha started with, they were now raising a herd of several hundred animals and their loyal customer base included families, chefs, restaurants and other business in the food services industry throughout western Canada.
The business was at a turning point. “We started out with a good knowledge of farming, but we also had enough off-farm work experience to realize there are common requirements for any type of business to grow,” Tyler says. “We knew we could be more efficient and improve our marketing to take the business to the next level, but needed some guidance.”
The couple were introduced to the Basin Business Advisor (BBA) Program at Columbia Basin Trust and worked with Advisor Bob Bougie for several months. From a complete operational review, the focus came down to two main areas: rebranding the farm, and developing a new transactional website that would enable customers to purchase products more easily.
“Bob helped us see how our original process for taking orders right through to delivering products could be improved, resulting in more up-front cash flow that we could use for marketing and other purposes,” Tyler says. The website design and messaging have extended the company brand and its online customers are now Cutter Ranch’s greatest source of sales. “We’re still farming in the authentic way, but doing it better with the use of modern technology.”
“Tyler and Sacha are so open to learning new ways of doing things as well as sharing a remarkable respect for each other as partners,” Bob says. “They are part of the new breed of young farmers who realize the impact of technology and how today’s consumers think about, and purchase food. The e-commerce platform will support additional value-added products they have planned down the road.”
“We still connect with Bob to run ideas past him occasionally,” adds Tyler. “Today’s farmers need a much more diverse range of skills and advisement than previous generations, and the type of support available through the BBA program is really valuable to the agriculture industry.”