We don’t just sell apples at the markets, we use them here on the farm.
Apples are on our desks, in our pockets, out in the warehouse, sometimes in the field. Sean uses one on the tractor, and several at the markets.
Apples help us run this place. Because of Apples we know how much our restaurants order, and then how much to pick to fill those orders. Apples tell us when those orders are filled, how they are to be placed in the trucks, and when the invoices are paid. Apples also help us do inventory, run credit cards, collect e-mail addresses of customers at the markets, and even help me write this blog.
We have have citrus in the orchards, but make no mistake, we are an Apple farm.
Several months ago Sean was contacted by the marketing department of Apple Computer. Yes – that Apple. Sean had gathered some attention from the business account representative at our local Apple store, after his continued visits to buy more iPads. They couldn’t figure out what a farm was doing with that many iPads.
From the moment iPads hit the market, Sean had grand plans for them around the farm. He saw ways we could use them to help run the farm more efficiently. He wanted them to help with the inventory, crop rotation, and watering schedule. He thought they would be helpful at the markets and out in the warehouse and in the fields. He thought that it could transform our business. I, on the other hand, didn’t quite see it.
Not yet anyway.
With the help of our software programmer, Phil Raffel, Sean dreamt up applications that would link our orders, inventory, invoices and pick lists real time. He and Phil linked all of the elements of our business applications so that not only were they talking to one another, but we were able to eliminate many of the repetitive steps we had been using to stay on top of our inventory, picking and order fulfillment. In our business with markets and restaurant orders each happening twice a week, we needed to have information real time and easily disseminated to everyone. It not only made jobs easier and more efficient around here for everyone, it saved countless man hours and miscommunications.
These changes didn’t come over night, they came as a result of endless phone calls and hours of Sean and Phil working on this together. Over the course of months we would see mundane, repetitive tasks that had been so engrained disappear with the swipe of the iPad. The business began to run more smoothly and we found that we had time we didn’t have before, to further update and streamline how we do things around here. The late nights of manually updating the inventory in our system after a farmers’ market, or entering in restaurant orders after Bob had transcribed them by hand, were now gone. There were no more multiple trips out into the fields to pick things when we came up short fulfilling an order, because we had guessed wrong. There were also no more multiple trips to restaurants when the orders they received weren’t correct. We could also stop guessing as to what we brought to the market each week. We could now see what had sold the week before (or even at that same market a year before), and what time it sold out, and then adjust what we picked for the next market.
Sean made me a believer in the iPad, and he made Apple a believer in him.
So much so, that after talking with our rep at the local Apple store, they asked if they could tell people in their corporate headquarters about what Sean was doing. Then a member of Apple’s business marketing team called Sean and began to ask for more details as to how we were using the iPads. These conversations evolved over the course of months, and last September, Apple sent a team to come out, photograph and document everything Sean had set up with the iPads on the farm.
Over the course of a few days photographers Jose and Jason photographed, interviewed, questioned and recorded every way we use iPads here on the farm. This shoot was probably one of the most professional and carefully orchestrated things I have ever witnessed. They left no detail unnoticed. They had a very clear story they wanted to tell through photos and interviews with Sean and Bob. This team was at the farm at the crack of dawn and shot until the sun went down. They were out in all of the fields, in the office, on the tractors and the trucks and even in the middle of the basil garden. Aidan was even involved, doing what he does best, riding his bike around and giving running commentary.
Jose, a National Geographic photographer and owner of a major photography agency, shot rapid fire, for hours on end, without a break, always looking for a new angle. At one point, he was showing me one of the shots, and I noticed that he had already rattled off 9,000 photos that day. It was only 3:00pm.
They made us see the farm in a way we hadn’t. It is so easy to get caught up in the regular routine of work that it was nice to see the farm again through new eyes. It was also wonderful to see all of Sean’s hard work and his vision not only validated, but appreciated, by Apple. Their product helped us transform the farm, but we also showed them uses for the iPad that they had not envisioned. (Trust me, I don’t think even Apple could have foreseen someone using the iPad to drive a tractor in straight lines.)
Sean and I got to enjoy dinner at FnB with Apple’s marketing representative and Jose and Jason, and to talk off camera about their own experiences and lives. They enjoyed having a dinner made from the produce they had been documenting all day, and we enjoyed getting to learn more about them. Jose is as fascinating as you would expect from a photographer who has shot all over the world for some of the biggest and most respected publications. He is also a serious gardner and cook, and had specifically wanted to direct this shoot just to come see the farm for himself.
The result of all of this, is now up for the public to see on Apple’s website. We were honored that they took the time and effort to come visit us on the farm. It was an experience we will always remember, and thankfully, will now have this video to share, that you can see here.
And, for my husband who has been a great and often fanatic believer in Apple for a long time, this was his ‘field of dreams’ moment, out in the middle of a citrus orchard.