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GFP074: Farmers Using Instagram

growing farms podcastIs social media all it’s cracked up to be? It is still working for some and yet, not for others. I speak with one farmer in this podcast episode who is gaining some attention through his efforts in Social Media.

I have found that in particular I have been unhappy with Facebook as a platform. You have to pay to get people to like your page, then, if you have a post that is popular or you wnat people to see you have to pay to reach all of your “fans”. These are people who have liked you page and would like to see your update show up on their home page.

In the end I’m calling shenanigans on the lot of it. Yes, it is still useful, but I have a feeling that we’re in for a big shit in how people are using the internet. For me, that shift is going back to a time before Social Media. I am narrowing my scope and my efforts this year not to try and capture everyone on every platform, but to deliver a lot of value onthe platforms that I remain active on.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • My opinion on the current state of Social Media
  • What hashtags are
    • How to find them
    • How to use them to get discoverd
  • What instagram take-overs are and how they are good for all involved
  • The benefits a smartphone can bring to the farm

 

Interveiw with Colby Layton of Sandia Pastured Meats

At Cottin's FM

Howdy!

I am Colby.  On the 14th of May, I took over as the full time Farm Manager and the President of the business.

It was outside of the middle of nowhere on a warm day in the midst of the watermelon ripening season  when I was born to a cotton farming family.  Later we then moved to the city where I attended high school learning that people talk back to the teachers and other enlightening aspects of the city.  Before senior year, I enlisted as a medic in the Army and attended basic training with the medic training occurring between high school and college.  Coming from the farm and being in the military influenced my collegiate school choice.  From Texas A&M I gathered a baccalaureate degree in Animal Science, an Army commission in the Medical Services Corps branch, and a wife whom you will meet below.

After Texas A&M, Kelly and I moved to the employ of Sandia Agricultural Enterprises, Inc.  SAEI was a dairy milking purebred Jersey cattle.  This land and family was a part of the former “World’s Largest Jersey Dairy, the Knolle farms.  From this chapter in our lives, we determined that we would need to have a career change in order for us to obtain our own piece of the pastoral lifestyle.   In order to achieve this lifestyle, I earned my doctorate in microbiology from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.  With this new piece of paper in hand, our first child, as well as a tour in Iraq during OIF I & II, we moved to New Mexico where I performed research in biodefense areas.  This research moved us to a position in Kansas City, MO.

During our first moths in KC, we searched a 60 mile radius from downtown for a large tract of land.  Our criteria included a small home, outbuildings, fencing, and a nearby country church.  We also talked with the extension agencies in both Missouri and Kansas.  From these talks and the information provided we concluded that our dream of a commodity-cattle-ranch was not feasible for us with having only limited capital.  We then reduced our land size requirements and found the place we now reside, our home.

While settling into our home, we began to learn more about nontraditional, non-commodity ways of agriculture which were not included in our formal nor in our experiential education.  We are now practicing beyond organic, natural animal stewardship to directly bring you the nutritious products you deserve.

 

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

 

Take aways:

What ways are you approaching farm marketing this season?

What do you think of Social Media and has it had an impact on your farm?

Farm Quote of the Episode:

“There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

April Farm Finance Reports

Highlights From The Month:

 

Farmers on Instagram

Colby Layton – Sandia Pastured Meats April Report

This lamb would not go to the flock and its ma.  I ended up tackling it so that I could carry her close enough that she could see the others.  Once there, she ran to them and drank from her mother.

This lamb would not go to the flock and its ma. I ended up tackling it so that I could carry her close enough that she could see the others. Once there, she ran to them and drank from her mother.

A smart farmer is one that is willing to adapt to new information and resources. Colby is no exception. Having now watched his online farm marketing efforts after he became a participant in the Farm Finance Challenge this guy does it all.

His latest adventure is into the world of instagram.

Any small business and even life itself is an iterative process. You try something, you test the results, and you try again. That’s Colby. Not afraid to try something new on his farm or with his farm marketing.

In this month’s report Colby shares his success with this new social media channel and what it has been doing for his customer engagement. He proves a point that new technology doesn’t have to be a bad thing if it gets the job done.

Keeping your customers engaged and up to date with what is happening onthe farm will increase customer retention and word of mouth. That is most easily done these days with a smart phone and a social media account. Be open, be honest, and be ready for positive feedback.

Looking at You Business Holistically

John Suscovich – Camps Road Farm April Report

john suscovichYour tractor breaks, you lose a field of crops to pests, it downpours at a farmers’ market and you don’t hit your sales goal, stuff happens. Due to the nature of farming we tend to get caught up in all the details big and small that seemingly matter a lot with how your farm operates.

I mean, this stuff really weighs on us, and it is hard. While it is important to have a certain level of focus on the details it is also important to keep an eye on the larger holistic picture. How is that small loss or victory weighed against the benefit of the whole.

On Camps Road Farm we oftenhave to make a sacrifice to benefit the whole of our business model. The farm may fall a little behind in a certain area but the whole moves forward in a positive direction. The farm will purposelfully and intentionally fall short to help our brewery or distillery, and that is ok. The small picture stuff might be a little annoying, but weighed against the whole it all makes sense.

Farming is a possion and a vocation. It is not about making money, producing food, or being a steward of the land. At the end of the day it is self-serving act of selfishness. You are working harder than you ever have before because you love some part of it. Your trials serve a greater whole of self and community.

 

Links to farm reports:

Berube Farm

Berube Farm

  • Vegetables including squash, tomatoes, and beans
  • Gross Income: $357.71
  • Expenses: $408.17
  • April Report
Bird Creek Farms

Bird Creek Farms

  • Organic vegetables, 200 chickens, and alfalfa
  • Gross Income: $1,440.00
  • Expenses: $5,415.24
  • April Report

 

Camps Road Farm

Camps Road Farm

  • Hops, apples, pasture-raised poultry, and events
  • Gross Income:$4,428.00
  • Expenses: $3,691.00
  • April Report

 

  FFC | Fresh Farm Aquaponics

Fresh Farm Aquaponics

  • Aquaponics and consulting
  • Gross Income: $5,705.00
  • Expenses: $2,105.00
  • April Report

 

 Sandia Pastured Meats

Sandia Pastured Meats

  • Dairy, eggs, and livestock
  • Gross Income: $1,270.45
  • Expenses: $5,022.38
  • April Report

 

 Squash Hollow Farm

Squash Hollow Farm

  • Pastured pork and chicken
  • Gross Income: $679.00
  • Expenses: $1017.89
  • April Report

 

 Sugarwood Acres

SugarWood Acres

  • Maple syrup, wood, and hay
  • Gross Income: $640.00
  • Expenses: $2,383.25
  • April Report

 

GFP073: How to Start A Slaughter House

growing farms podcastImagine that you built a business that relied on someone else doing their job well in order to properly satisfy and impress your customers. Sounds like a lot of small businesses right? Now imagine that you lost that important connection and you are suddenly upa creek without a paddle.

There are people in this world more brave than I am who are willing to take a seriously leap of faith and take control of the critical step in their business. One of those people is my guest on the show today. She saw that her business relied too heavily on outside resources, and not only that, she was paying a lot of money to those sources as well.

She took matters into her own hands when she decided to start her own on farm slaughthouse or abattoir.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • To “go big or go home”
  • What it means to “go big”
  • What vertical integration can do for your farm
  • What happens when you keep hearing “yes”

Interview with Kate Stillman of Stillman’s At The Turkey Farm 

kate stillmanKate quite literally grew up in the business of farming- helping on her parents veggie and her grandparents dairy farms- she learned early to embrace her farming roots and hone her skills as an entrepreneur, caretaker, manager, vet, sales person -even undertaker- she has managed to leave no stone unturned.

Kate attended the University of Massachusetts, today she farms her two properties with her sons Trace and Jaide. (They have a little ways to go before they approach helpful!).

Kate has successfully brought Stillman’s at the Turkey Farm to Stillman Quality Meats- developing am extensive CSA network, and creating a vibrant farmers market system.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Farm quote of the episode:

see a need fill a need

Take aways:

What is one thing you currently out-source that is crucial for your business? Would it make sense to take that task over yourself?

If you took no this new project, what would it mean for your farm?

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

GFP072: Proper Farm Planning Makes All The Difference

growing farms podcastDoes it feel like sometimes you want to just not have a plan? If you don’t have a plan then nothing can go wrong, right? Let me tell you, it is that time spent planning that helps you figure out what is going to wrong and how you will be able to handle it when things take a turn.

Without my planning time and the time spent researching and organizing I would be a total wreck right now. My farm plans for the year have completely been turned on their heads several times already and we’re only not just about to get into May.

Today I interview two farmers from my area that are taking their planning and analysis to make some very positive changes on their farm. I’m even going to cut the text short today and really encourage you to listen to what Paul and Rebecca have to say.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Analyzing what your farm goals are
  • How farming kicks your butt every year
  • How farming is a business if you want to make a living off it (I know that seems obvious, but trust me)
  • How the CSA model can end up costing you (the farmer) a lot of money

Interview with Paul and Rebecca of Fort Hill Farm

Paul Bucciaglia

Like many small-scale, direct market farmers, Paul did not grow up on a farm. He grew up gardening at the family home in Naugatuc, CT, and studied agriculture at Penn State University and plant biology at the University of Minnesota. After spending time in mid 1990s working with Paul and Chris Burkhouse on their operation, Foxtail Farm, just northeast of the Twin Cities, Paul decided to leave the laboratory and explore small scale organic farming.

In 1999, Paul returned to New England to apprentice at  Brookfield Farm CSA in Massachusetts, and later mangaged Holcomb Farm CSA in Granby, CT. After two successful seasons at Holcomb, Paul had a clear vision of what his own farm would look like. In the fall of 2002, Paul moved to New Milford and plowed the first four acres of what would become Fort Hill Farm on the sandy soils of the Sunny Valley Preserve.

Now, after many years of cultivation and the hard work of friends and family, Paul and Rebecca continue to work the land with the help of a talented crew of aspiring farmers and workers.

Rebecca Batchie

Rebecca came to farming through her combined love of plants and food. She trained in horticulture at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY, and then ran her own horticultural business for 10 years. During that time, she became increasingly drawn to vegetable crops and spent much of her time designing, building, and growing vegetable gardens.

Farming was a natural transition for Rebecca. She worked summers with Paul while earning a degree in Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. After graduating in 2011, she joined Paul in running Fort Hill Farm. She and Paul joyfully welcomed their son, Luca, into their lives in July of 2013. In her “spare time,” she enjoys hiking, sourdough bread baking, photography, spiritual practice, traveling, and (in her next life), cheese making and fiber arts.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you giving away too much on your farm?

What is one thing you could track better to make your farm more efficient?

Farm Quote of the Episode:

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

March Farm Finance Challenge Reports

ffc and gfp

This month brings a combo post like you’ve never seen before. The Farm Finance Challenge and the Growing Farms Podcast have landed on the same day. In honor of such an event one of the participating farmers in the FFC is the interview on the podcast this week.

Some of the farmers in the FFC are farming full time, others are homesteading or farming part time. Dan Berube of Berube Farm came on the show today to talk about the balance he has struck between farming vegetables part time and continuing a career off-farm.

 

 In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • That life is about balance…
  • How to find a balance that includes agriculture
  • How I am planning Camps Road Farm’s vegetable production
  • Tips for keeping your work-flow efficient
  • Notes on feedback

 

Items mentioned in this farm podcast:

 

Spring has Sprung

Amanda McKelvey Hall – Rockin’ H Farm’s March Report

rockin h farm

Everywhere poultry are laying more eggs, grass is starting to grow, buds are emerging on trees, and the season is warming up heading into the summer months. Q1, the first quarter of the year can be hard on some farms, especially in the NorthEast.

It is a tough time of year where farms don’t produce much and therefore do not profit that much. You have to plan ahead with your finances to cover the lean months before nature provides the warm summer bounty. The beautiful thing is that summer always comes.

It is also not an ideal time to start publicly sharing your financials. There’s not too much to be proud of income-wise when it comes to the past three months. Regardless, the farms involved in the FFC too a leap, accepted the challenge, and have been transparent about their finances hopefully to the benefit of the community as well as themselves.

It is great to see the farm coming alive again hearalding the promises of a wonderful year.

Share the Knowledge

Spencer Curry – Fresh Farm Aquaponics March Report

Aquaponic Lettuce in CT

Aquaponics Lettuce in a Deep Water Culture System

Whether you are farming conventional, organic, or aquapoinc, we need more farmers. That’s a fact. Some people are called to teach as well as grow. Spencer over at Fresh Farm Aquapoincs helps non-profits and other farmers set up their aquaponics systems through consulting and workshops.

It doesn’t matter as much how you are farming, just that you are farming. The rest of the details and motivations will fall into place. WhatSpencer is doing is getting a new(er) was of producing food into schools and other institutions.

The Farm Finance Challenge seeks to educate as well. We are publicly working on making our farms better so that our mistakes are not repeated. With aphids destroying crops, egg sales tanking, and hard-drives crashing this has certainly been a month of mistakes. We’re not perfect and that is important to note. The beautiful thing is neither are you.

 

Learn Your Land When Starting a Farm

Scott Stegerwald – Bird Creek Farms March Report

Scott brought up a great point about the Spring thaw on his land. Observation. When you are starting a farm it takes time and observation to learn the land.

  • What is the path of the sun?
  • What are the water cycles like?
  • What areas are full of life on your farm?
  • What areas seem like they will never dry out?
  • What areas seem like they never get rain?

All of these things are super important to running your farm, and they’re questions a real estate agent will not be able to answer for you. It takes time to learn a piece of land. You will grow with that land the way your farm business will, and the way your crops will.

 

Links to Farm Reports:

Berube Farm

Berube Farm

  • Vegetables including squash, tomatoes, and beans
  • Gross Income: $1,295.00
  • Expenses: $1,439.20
  • March Report
Bird Creek Farms

Bird Creek Farms

  • Organic vegetables, 200 chickens, and alfalfa
  • Gross Income: $0
  • Expenses: $2,175.11
  • March Report

 

Camps Road Farm

Camps Road Farm

  • Hops, apples, pasture-raised poultry, and events
  • Gross Income:$1,931.00
  • Expenses: $7,103.00
  • March Report

 

  FFC | Fresh Farm Aquaponics

Fresh Farm Aquaponics

  • Aquaponics and consulting
  • Gross Income: $2,498.12
  • Expenses: $545.00
  • March Report

 

 Little River Eco Farm

Little River Eco Farm

  • Grass-fed beef, fowl, and free-range eggs
  • Gross Income: $3,605.00
  • Expenses: $3,929.00
  • March Report

 

 Rockin' H Farm

Rockin’ H Farm

  • Vegetables, fruit, livestock, eggs, and honey
  • Gross Income: $1804.50
  • Expenses: $1601.75
  • March Report

 

 Sandia Pastured Meats

Sandia Pastured Meats

  • Dairy, eggs, and livestock
  • Gross Income: $1,438.84
  • Expenses: $2,794.30
  • March Report

 

 Squash Hollow Farm

Squash Hollow Farm

  • Pastured pork and chicken
  • Gross Income: $1,272.00
  • Expenses: $581.00
  • March Report

 

 Sugarwood Acres

SugarWood Acres

  • Maple syrup, wood, and hay
  • Gross Income: $1,884.00
  • Expenses: $4,032.59
  • March Report

 

Take Aways:

As you can see, this was a tough month for everyone. Hopefully April will be a little nicer.

How will you prepare for the lean months?

What are some creative ways to extend your season?

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

Honest and Open Marketing

honest farm marketing sheep

It just so happens that I really love the marketing and business side of farming. Well, I love the marketing side at least. Some of the business stuff I struggle with (here’s looking at you small town zoning regulations). Whether it is social media, traditional printed materials, attending events, updating my website and keeping a blog, or just randomly walking around town kissing babies, I’ve tried it all.

Through all of it, and in conversation with at least dozens of farms all over the country, I have found one thing that is by far the most successful strategy. It also happens to work on every single marketing platform that you might want to choose.

 

Honest, Open, and Transparent Farm Marketing

At Camps Road Farm we are “customer certified”. Being the only show in town for pastured poultry and being one of the bigger pastured egg producers in the area we get a fair amount of attention and loads of questions. When a customer comes up and starts talking chicken we are very open about all of our management practices, as well as everything else, and it is working.

Our doors are open to the public all the time (though now establishing some more official “open hours” just because people keep interrupting my dinner with Kate and Mabel). At any given time I will get someone new on farm and I take the time to give them a tour and explain how it all happens. If they like it they usually make a purchase, at least to try it. If they don’t like my practices then we have a chance for conversation as to why they don’t like it.

This sort of open door policy establishes a relationship of trust between you and the customer that has a lot of value to the both of you. For you it creates a relationship where that person will most likely become a repeat customer because what you are doing is (hopefully) the best option in town. For the customer, they know you’re not a slimy used-car salesman trying to pull one over on them.

 

Know the Facts

It is your job as a producer to know all the facts about your industry. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s important to be good at what you do. You may have read someone on a blog somewhere saying this or that about how food is grown, or you found someone else’s marketing language that you liked and might work for you, but take the time to ask why that person is making that claim, and if indeed that claim is substantiated. Remember that anyone can say anything on the internet, and it’s not always true. (Did I just invalidate myself with that last sentence? I don’t think so.)

This example focuses on chickens because I love chickens, but having the facts applies to any operation.

 

Hormones in Chicken

Here’s my semi-scientific take on hormones in chickens. Please do your own research.

Growth hormones are a protein. Your digestive enzymes break down proteins in your gut, just they way they do for other livestock. If you put growth hormones in feed then the animal will just digest it and poop it out.

To be effective you have to inject the hormones into the blood stream. Plausible if you are running a dairy and you handle each individual cow on a regular basis. Hormones are injected under the skin and are gradually absorbed in the blood stream.

Now say you have chicken house with 40,000 chickens in it. Who do you think is going out with a little syringe and injecting 40,000 chickens with hormones every day? I’m pretty sure no one. Growth hormones don’t work in industrial chicken farming.

So advertising a small chicken farm model that “has no hormones” is kind of schenanigans. So don’t do it. Instead focus on what you are doing that is benefitting the health and welfare of your birds.

When asked if my birds are given any hormones I typically respond with, “No, and no chicken is. But let me tell you about their life on pasture…” If the customer digs deeper then we have more conversation.

This comparative conversation brings up another good point.

 

Focus on Yourself

I initially started this post because of a new chicken-based product I found on the internet that is complete and utter bullsh**. I’m not going to directly reference it or link to it as I am not in the business of throwing anyone else under the bus and it would be hypocritical of me based on what I’m about to say.

Yes, there are some deplorable things that come out of our food system. Honestly, we all see it, and we hear about it a lot. If a customer has found you at a farmers’ market or is coming to your farm it stands to reason that they have heard about it all already. Why bring it up?

I do not believe in building a business based on the perceived negatives of someone else’s practices. Yes that can be a reason to do what you do, to provide an alternative, but there’s no need to highlight what you believe to be a bad way to raise an animal or vegetable. Guess what, that person believes what they are doing it right, and who are you to judge? There’s probably stuff you’re doing that is pure schenanigans too.

Instead of your marketing saying “Buy our stuff because that guy is gross”, focus instead on “Buy our stuff because we are awesome, and here’s why…”

Right now there is a place in the market for eveyone. Organic and conventional, large and small. Who am I to say that someone else should or should not be in business? The market will decide that. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive and let your customers decide whether they want to buy from you or not.

GFP070: Multiple Income Streams From One Product

growing farms podcastIt is not the small farm’s place to count on the grain elevator to set the prices. It is our job to go out, market out products in new and creative ways, and hustle in a way that sees out small businesses succeed (hopefully).

This is a topic that I’ve covered in previous podcasts but since I am currently and constantly refining it, I feel it needs revisiting. I also have a guest on the show who is diversifying her farm not only in production but in marketing as a way to deal with the swings in the market.

Weather, global economies, local economies, food trends, etc… can effect how your farm products are selling. If you put all your eggs in one basket you will be in big trouble if that basket falls. If you build variety in to how your business is supported the likelihood that you will be able to weather a storm increases.

Right click here to download the MP3

 

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Tips for what to look for when finding land
  • One way to design and layout a farm
  • How to bring educational value to your apprentices and why.
  • The benefits of small farm diversity

Interview with Emily of Anderson Acres Farm

emily of anderson acresAnderson Acres is located just around “the block” from me here in Kent, CT. Along with us they are participating in the CRAFT program that we have here in Western CT.

CRAFT stands for Collaborative Regional Alliane for Farmer Training

The goal of CRAFT is to promote:

  • Training of farm workers and apprentices in the craft of small scale agriculture and horticulture with emphasis on food production.
  • Exchange of ideas among farm people.
  • Community of farmers, farm workers, and others who are interested in local agriculture.

Over 2015 I will be interviewing different CRAFT farmers from my area to support the CRAFT program.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you covered if one of your sales channels runs dry?

What creative ways can you grow your business?

Farm quote of the episode:

“A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.” – Elbert Hubbard

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

GFP069: Farm Education Programs, What You Need To Know

growing farms podcastInformation, like matter, cannot be created or destroyed, just changed. Even the most creative works are just the imaginative reworkings of some artists mind. All of our thoughts are distillations of our life experiences. Knowing that, how would you feel if you knew you had the chance to influence the thought patterns of others with your work in sustainable agriculture.

I know how I’d feel, pretty darn cool!

Today’s podcast guest is a farm educator who has accomplished some pretty amazing things in his area of the world. In this podcast episode he and I talk about motivations for beinging kids on farm, opening your farm up to the public, and weaving an educational element into farm life. Farm life in and of itself is an education. I know that I learn somethign new every day.  I am now excited that I can share those experiences with others.

Right click here to download the MP3

 

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How an educational background and a love of farming can bloom into a successful farm education program
  • How bringing kids back for repeat visits keeps them engaged
  • What the most popular activities are on farm for kids
  • How you can work with schools to bring farming to the kids

 

Interview with John Belber of Holly Hill Farm

john belberIt was great talking to John for the interview. He has done some amazing things as part of the crew over at Holly Hill Farm.

Holly Hill Farm is an organic farm located 25 miles southeast of Boston in the beautiful coastal town of Cohasset MA and has been in the White family for 5 generations. The Farm consists of 140 acres of land which includes 10 acres of open fields of which 3 acres are growing fields, historic buildings, greenhouses and diversified natural areas for educational purposes. We grow organic vegetables, herbs and flowers that are sold at our Farm Stand, at the Cohasset Farmers Market, and to select restaurants. Seedlings are sold at our annual plant sales.

Friends of Holly Hill Farm, is a non-profit educational organization that uses the Farm as its outdoor classroom. Hands-on education programs for children and adults teach the importance of food grown organically – to us and to the environment. We also design curriculum, partner with area schools, and conduct programs for local community organizations.

 

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

When you think to how your actions today are going to effect the future, are you inspired to start educating others?

In what way would you farm benefit from trying out some sort of educational programs?

Farm quote of the episode:

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

February Reports for the Farm Finance Challenge

Welcome to the second Farm Finance Challenge post of the year! This is a monumental post because it is proof we’re here to stay and we’re dedicated. Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” I believe in that whole-heartedly. This post is testament to the motivation of the participating farms to make a difference in small scale agriculture.

After the 3rd and 4th post well, then it will just be habit, and we’ll really start to see the change we are seeking by doing this. Response to the first post has been overwhelmingly positive and we want to thank you, our community, for following along and supporting our efforts here.

 

Keep the Conversation Going

We will continue to invite you to comment, ask questions, and leave feedback. Each farm post has a comments section at the bottom for you to share your thoughts. You can also reach out to any of the Farm Marketing Solutions Social Media Channels which are primarily Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Don’t just feedback, but feed-forward (did I just coin a phrase?). If you like what we are doing please shareit forward through your various networks. This project is rooted in a desire to help other farmers and to support the community. We are doing this to raise awareness that your farm is a business and should be treated as such. It is a mindset shift and that shift is only going to happen if it is on people’s minds.

 

Highlights

Every month we’ll select three farms to highlight. We’ll try to provide equal exposure for all the participating farms. The complete list of the farms and their respective pages can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the post.

 

A Sinking Feeling In Your Gut

Colby Layton – Sandia Pastured Meats February Report

My last scheduled market day at Badseed Farmers Market.

My last scheduled market day at Badseed Farmers Market.

It is that time of year where the winter stores are running low and Spring hasn’t quite shown it’s beautiful green face yet. Farmers everywhere are preparing for the season, purchasing livestock, seeds, feed, and making final repairs on equipment before the extended sprint that is the growing season. As you’ll see from everyone’s numbers there are quite a bit of purchases and not a lot of money coming in. “Seeing these costs together, causes a sinking feeling in my gut.”

When you’re farming with the seasons this is a thing that comes with the territory. This is the point when you have been dealt your cards, you’re sending one or two back to the dealer, and you’re getting ready to play your first hand of the season. It is risky and a little unnerving. At some point you are going to have to play that hand because Mother Nature is not going to wait for you.

You will rack your brain and torture yourself with questions like, “Is this the right amount of chickens?” and “How am I going to sell more CSA shares this year?” The good thing is that as you crawl into your head and obsess about what’s to come, the sun comes out and  brings a warmth that you almost forgot since the end of last season. The bight rays of sunlight pull your out of your own head, remind you why you are doing this, and give you the confidence that Summer will be here and that you can do this.

 

Creatively Diversifying Your Farm Income

Austin Martin – Squash Hollow Farm February Report

Squash Hollow FarmMore and more small farms are surviving and thriving through a diversification of not only production methods, but marketing as well. Jean-Martin Fortier and Eliot Coleman are published authors, I have Farm Marketing Solutions and my chicken tractor book, and Jack Spirko and Austin have podcasts. There are  benefits to this other than just the monetary value of what we are providing. Let me explain.

In conversation with older and more experienced farmers I noticed a common thread of concern. That they would hand the reigns of farming over to the next generation and there would be knowledge lost in their passing of the torch. Their tips, tricks, and techniques would go unshared, undiscovered, to be lost and found again through trial and error. No one of the people above completely invented the techniques they use on their farms, they’re just the first to write or talk about it. Their stories are the distillation of their life experiences of talking to those more experienced farmers.

We are living in a time where information is almost too easy to share. Within the mindless chatter that is most of the internet are these individuals who are taking their knowledge and experience and sharing it in a meaningful way with those who care to listen. Now something like Jean-Martin’s book The Market Gardener can get exposure like never before. JM told me that he discovered that his mission in this life is to “grow more farmers”.  He put that sentiment into his book and I heard it in his workshops at PV2.

That is also the heart of the Farm Finance Challenge, to grow farmers in a smart and effective way. If we all want to see positive change in the world we have to do it in a way that provides an alternative to the industrial food system while working around the red tape and loop holes within that system. Change will not come quickly but it is happening and the free sharing of information is what is going to get us there.

 

Record Keeping Will Make Pricing Easier

Jonathan Woodford - Sugarwood Acres February Report

sap bucketPricing your farm products is always a tricky process. It is a balancing act on what you think your market will pay, wanting to cover all your costs, and staying competitive with other farmers and the supermarket. Unless you have all the information that goes into those various elements it can be a guessing game with potentially bad results.

Doing market research to see what other farmers are charging as well as what the prices are at the local supermarket is a great way to give you a ball-park for what you should be charging for your farm products. When I was pricing chickens originally I went to every store in a radius that I thought my typical customer would travel to buy food. I took my notebook and wrote down every price for chicken that I could find, from conventional to organic. Those numbers combined with my Cost Of Goods Sold analysis gave me the price I thought would be appropriate for selling chickens.

When you are starting a farm that’s about as good as it can get. Once you have started your farm however it is good record keeping that is going to win out. If you keep good records you will then have an exact number on what you spent on feed, labor, and other expendables that you need to produce that product.

Jonathan acknowledges that in the end of his post saying, “I believe this challenge and record keeping, will make pricing my hay and syrup much easier to figure out.”

 

Links to farm reports:

Berube Farm

Berube Farm

  • Vegetables including squash, tomatoes, and beans
  • Gross Income: $630.00
  • Expenses: $627.98
  • February Report
Bird Creek Farms

Bird Creek Farms

  • Organic vegetables, 200 chickens, and alfalfa
  • Gross Income: $11,700.00
  • Expenses: $3,471.28
  • February Report

 

Camps Road Farm

Camps Road Farm

  • Hops, apples, pasture-raised poultry, and events
  • Gross Income:$1,986.00
  • Expenses: $1,646.00
  • February Report

 

  FFC | Fresh Farm Aquaponics

Fresh Farm Aquaponics

  • Aquaponics and consulting
  • Gross Income: $792.64
  • Expenses: $183.31
  • February Report

 

 FFC January | Humble Hill Farm

Humble Hill Farm

 

 Little River Eco Farm

Little River Eco Farm

  • Grass-fed beef, fowl, and free-range eggs
  • Gross Income: $2,152.00
  • Expenses: $3,889.00
  • February Report

 

 Naked Ginger Farms

Naked Ginger Farms

  • Vegetables, fruit trees, eggs, and livestock
  • Gross Income: $120.00
  • Expenses: $5,422.00
  • February Report

 

 Rockin' H Farm

Rockin’ H Farm

  • Vegetables, fruit, livestock, eggs, and honey
  • Gross Income: $443.00
  • Expenses: $4,402.77
  • February Report

 

 Sandia Pastured Meats

Sandia Pastured Meats

  • Dairy, eggs, and livestock
  • Gross Income: $1,845.24
  • Expenses: $6,217.59
  • February Report

 

 Squash Hollow Farm

Squash Hollow Farm

  • Pastured pork and chicken
  • Gross Income: $556.00
  • Expenses: $961.00
  • February Report

 

 Sugarwood Acres

SugarWood Acres

  • Maple syrup, wood, and hay
  • Gross Income: $1,531.77
  • Expenses: $2,176.13
  • February Report

 

GFP068: Farm Planning and Execution

growing farms podcast “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Isn’t that the truth? 2015 has gotten off to a rocky start but things are really starting to look up. Even with three feet of snow outside I can already see signs of Spring. Birds are starting to sing in the morning, maple sap is slowly slowly starting to run, and my order for baby chickens just went out.

It has really been a weird past couple of months. Through a strange turn of events I ended up being the only one running the farm this year in a place that need more than one person to run it. It was a good (albeit stupid) exercise on how far I can push myself in the winter.

That is all about to change. I have adjusted my farm business plan to reflect the changing of the guard and we are moving forward in a more positive direction. We’re going to farm smarter instead of harder. This is a change that would have/should have come anyways, but the situation I was in expedited the process.

On farm this year we are not going to grow any of our operations bigger in terms of production numbers, instead we are going to concentrate on making what we already have more profitable. How are we going to do that? Record keeping and analytics!!! Super fun!!!

Alright, as excited as I am for the Farm Finance Challenge, the reason that it is called a challenge is because it is not coming easy. There are many details to iron out and new habits to form. That being said, it is already working to our benefit.

I’ve gotten to the point where at any given time I can go into QuickBooks and run a report on the financial health of the farm. I can be as vague or as detailed as possible, and man do hard numbers really point out your mistakes!

It is the kind of clarity that any small business needs. It shows you the real financial impact of your actions and allows you to make educated decisions going forward. Money is not why I am doing this, BUT it is the most important tool on my farm if I am to keep farming.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How money is a tool to help your farm move forward
  • What to look for when hiring staff
  • Not trying to do it all, but finding people with skills that complement your own
  • Outsourcing major projects in ways that benefit your farm and the people who are helping you out
  • How to get people on your farm when you’re located “off the beaten path”
  • How I plan what is going to happen on Camps Road Farm
  • What my office looks like
  • What a TLA is…

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

farm office

This is where all the magic happens. I have my white-board on the wall, my laptop with extra monitor, and post-it notes galore. Pardon the mess…

farm planning

I have my yearly calendar, maps of the farm, and a couple extra white boards to hashing out idea. That one white board has my “farm at a glance” for production this year.

focus board

This is one of the most important things in my office. It is my “focus board”. Hanging on the wall right next to my computer desk it reminds me that the work I am doing in my office has a point and is taking me away from spending time with my family. If I am not concentrating and being productive I need to either focus, or just go spend time with Kate & Mabel.

Take aways:

How are you setting up your farm this year? Are you getting bigger? Are you getting smaller? How and why are you making that decision?

What would you do with detailed knowledge about how profitable your farm is?

Farm Quote:

“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are only scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.” – John C Maxwell 

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.