Guest Article: Rapid Growth Through Joint Venture Partnership, Iron Shoe Farm

As a provider of IT services to the business community we often run across interesting and helpful stories for our clients.  In this guest post, Carla Martz, owner of Iron Shoe Farm shares their secret sauce for rapid growth:

In five short years, we have grown a hobby farm for personal sustainability into Iron Shoe Farm, a large supplier of produce for consumers and restaurants in the central Minnesota region.

In 2005, our daughter became severely ill with roto virus: a horrible gastral intestinal infection.  Upon returning home from the hospital, my entire pantry was on the kitchen counter. No soy, no gluten, nothing pre-boxed, only fresh fruits, veggies, and clean protein sources were allowed.  I was horrified and struggling to find local, economical food sources. This is when we decided to pursue our dream of a hobby farm.

In 2013, we finally found our property.  A modest farm with a big red barn nestled on 23 acres just east of Princeton, MN.  It was just the right size for what we wanted to do for our family: raise our own meat, have a garden with produce, fresh eggs daily and a great piece of land to call home.

Our vision began to expand when I was discussing our new lifestyle with my chiropractor and I sold my first quarter of beef at that appointment!  Additionally, this local chiropractor lead me to her source for business referrals, inspiration and networking: a powerful group of local business owners and community leaders who meet weekly to generate business for each other.  This group has been the surprising cornerstone of our marketing ever since.

We have continued to expand the boundaries of our vision as we have learned to create powerful joint venture relationships:

  • We now sell at 3 farmers markets and have over 500 direct consumers.
  • We grow and sell microgreens to 20 restaurants in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • Our big red barn has become a secondary location for Rockwood’s events. It is the first event location on agricultural property in Sherburne County!
  • We have been blessed by relationships with Aegir Brewery and Lupulin Brewery. Their spent grains are a feed supplement for our livestock. This partnership saves us nearly $10,000 annually and is shared with other local farmers. As part of this sustainability effort, I serve on the MN brewers guild sustainability council.
  • We’ve partnered with local photographers to utilize our property for on-site mini-sessions.
  • We’ve created partnerships with local master gardener programs and school systems, including University of Minnesota (UMN) students to fulfill their internship hours for course work on “Sustainability in Poultry Raising,” and “Living on the Land” series with UMN Extension.

One of the most important things I have learned in business: I cannot do everything myself!  The most rapid and cost-effective growth can be achieved through joint venture relationships.  This has been the key to our rapid growth and success at Iron Shoe Farm.

Guest article provided by Carla Mertz, Owner of Iron Shoe Farm just north of the Twin Cities. Iron Shoe Farm is a woman owned, Minnesota Grown farm; providing Hereford beef, chicken, heritage and mangalista pork, muscovy duck, Mighty Microgreens, and vegetable produce. We pride ourselves on providing a quality food source for the local communities in Sherburne, Wright, Anoka, Hennepin and Mille Lacs Counties and work with the executive chef in over 20 area restaurants.  Visit us at: