Sometimes, success means hitting the market at just the right time
Posted On December 22, 2023
Sometimes a business model just has to be started at the right time to find success. What wouldn’t have worked at one time may be the Next Big Thing in another.
So it was for Josh and Jarred Higginbotham, our guests in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston.” The Higginbothams took about 100 kernels of heirloom corn from a freezer in a barn on the farm that’s been in their family for generations and have built a thriving business, Bayou Cora Farms.
There once wasn’t much of a market for heirloom corn – a pre-1940 variety that has never been cross-pollinated. The Higginbothams’ ancestors used it for animal feed.
But these days, non-GMO, locally sourced food is all the rage. And the 96 plants that grew from those frozen kernels have now sprouted a 65-acre farm in Baldwin County, Alabama, that produces corn, corn meal and other products for restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Gulf Coast.
The Higginbothams weren’t sure what they had until they ground the corn produced from those frozen kernels into corn meal and took it to a local farmer’s market.
“We knew there might be some kind of interest in it,” Jarred said. “We didn’t know it would be that quick and that people would keep coming back to us.”
Since these beginnings, Bayou Cora corn products are now sold in Publix stores and used in restaurants from New Orleans to Jacksonville. It first drew the attention of a chef at The Noble South, a popular restaurant in Mobile, and an artisan bakery in New Orleans and word spread quickly.
They helped spread the word but visiting restaurants in New Orleans and along the coast, offering free samples of their product.
“Chefs love samples,” Josh said. “The past several years there’s been a movement, especially here on the Gulf Coast, to buy more local products, specialty products, so they were interested in it.”
And when the company was featured in Southern Living three years ago, business skyrocketed.
Now the problem isn’t getting the word out – it’s acquiring enough land to fill the orders and continue growing the company. Heirloom corn doesn’t produce as high a yield as other varieties, and it must be grown far away from other cornfields to protect it from cross-pollination. Seeds are saved from each harvest to begin the next.
But they have a business that has no local competitor – most similar farms are located in the Carolinas – and the demand isn’t letting up.