Sarah Jean Whelan, Director of Operations, Three Chimney Farm
WHO? Sarah Jean Whelan
ROLE: Sarah Jean is the director of operations at Three Chimney Farm. She handles much of the day-to-day, spanning between farming, marketing, and PR. Sarah Jean works closely with Tim Wall, founder of Three Chimney Farm, and notes that their roles overlap a good bit. “Three Chimney was a homestead at first, and [Tim] wanted to grow a whole bunch of food… he knew I knew how to do that” SJ recounts. “At the end of last growing season we realized we could sell that food and turn it into a more proper business”.
BIGGEST WIN IN THE PAST YEAR: “We’re in it right now!” Sarah Jean explains. She cites that developing TCF’s partnerships with different breweries and workspaces in Burlington has been crucial to the growth of their model. “Last fall we weren’t sure exactly how we were going to make this accessible to other people… but now the three different breweries have nearly tripled our profit”. The three breweries are Foam Brewers, Switchback, and Four Quarters Brewing, respectively.
HOW? Sarah Jean was sitting at Study Hall one day and speculated that TCF probably had a enough room to get another partner. “I was like.. why don’t we see if foam brewers would do something like that?… And then I basically just sent an email to info@foambrewers and they responded in an hour” SJ laughs. She also believes that their frugality in bootstrapping has allowed Three Chimney to hit the ground running.
Three Chimney Farm: The name “Three Chimney’ is the historical name of the farm. Tim had moved there in July 2016, but the property has been around since the 1800s. Three Chimney Farm seeks to improve the community experience of buying food directly from farmers. They’ve developed an innovative online store and direct to consumer model that the agriculture industry has yet to fully utilize. Unlike CSA’s, Three Chimney Farm is comittiment free and orders are done on a week-by-week basis.
CAN SARAH JEAN SEE THE FUTURE? “Yeah! We have been talking about ways to really scale this up. Of course we want our farm to scale up, but our model is so different”, Sarah explains. “I can’t find any other e-commerce based, commitment-free farm”. Sarah Jean considers TCF’s long-term goals as looking to expand nationally and perhaps franchise the farm/model. “We could have a list of criteria that [another farm] would have to meet in order to be called a Three Chimney Farm. If we can get the numbers in the next couple years, we can prove that the model is worth trying out”.
PIZZA OR ICE CREAM? Pizza! Sarah Jean recommends the long haul to Long Island for an authentic slice of NY pizza.
FUN: “I have a real passion for lifting weights! I like to work out and I like visiting all the different breweries in Vermont”. Sarah is doing the VT Brewery Challenge, “there’s like 50 breweries and every time you go to one they stamp your beer passport”. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about that challenge, Sarah Jean!