Agricultural & Farm Marketing Solutions for Family Farmers
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GFP062: 3 Things I will do differently in 2015 on farm

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back on 2014 there are a number of things that I  would do or manage differently on the farm. There are little things, like how we raise our chickens, or bigger picture stuff like how we communicate as a team to work more efficiently. With the year coming to a close, it is about time I start thinking about the lessons that I learned this year, and how I am going to apply what I’ve learned in the coming months.

1. Spend more time with family

The first thing that I want to change about 2015 is that I want to spend more time with my family and friends. There is always something more to do on the farm. The laundry list of chores and projects just never seems to get shorter. With what it requires to run a farm, it can be easy to get caught up with what you have to do instead of who you should be spending time with. Setting aside time and making the effort to unplug from the grind of the farm allows your brain to reboot. In 2015 I want to make more of an effort to spend time with my family and friends and to maintain a good work/life balance.

2. Get on top of my record keeping

It kills me to think that my farm could have had a better year, or could have been a little easier if I had just been able to track my production and finances better. But it is true. While my records weren’t quite the mess I might make them out to be, they are still far from where I want them. I fully understand the importance of having detailed records for all areas of your farm. It would make the winter decision making easier if I had detailed records of what the year was like. So, going forward into 2015 I am swearing to hone my record keeping skills. I have a few things that I am trying out to keep organized and better collaborate and I get into that in the episode.

3. Get better at outsourcing and delegation

I have a fantastic and dedicated support network involved with the farm. I am humbled to be a part of such a lovely group of people. As part of my support network they are always willing to lend a hand when and if they can. What I need to do is detail out what my tasks are so that my support people can choose an area to help out that best suits their own motivations. I then need to make sure I have the processes figured out so I can effectively delegate that task to that person. This will help me with both #1 and #2. Click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • My strategies to get more time with family and friends
  • The tools that I intend to use more of in my record keeping
  • A method for outsourcing at least some of your tasks

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take the 12 Month Farmer Finances Challenge With Me

uncle sam Starting in 2015 I will be publishing a monthly income report for my farm. To better keep on top of my cash flow I am going to make the commitment to publish it. January’s report will come out in February, February’s will come out in March, etc… Good or bad I will share it with the FMS community so that we can all learn and hopefully better the moment of sustianable farmers. If you would like to add your own story and transparency to the blog in an effort to improve your record keeping and to serve as a case study for other  farmers then contact me and let me know. I would publish your reports on the blog as well as have you on the podcast to introduce you to the audience. I believe in getting farmers on the land and keeping them there. If sharing my numbers and all of my “behind the scenes” info can help that then I am happy to share. If you feel the same way then I encourage you to make the 12 month commitment with me. It’s only 12 reports and it could end up being a really big help to a lot of people.

Take aways:

What are you planning on doing differently in 2015? If you could outsource one thing that you do on a regular basis what would it be? How can you manage to delegate that task in the coming weeks?

Farm quote of the episode:

“The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success: Concentration, Discrimination, Organization, Innovation and Communication.” – Harold S. Geneen

– 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.

GFP061: Bringing the farm all together

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)There are SO many topics to cover when to comes to farming. Each topic reflects on something that the average farmer has to deal with as he or she runs their operation. Today’s podcast episode covers it all.

The mindset to focus on today is that of the big picture. It is very easy to get caught up in the minutia of each farming task. Exactly what tool to use, exactly how to grow something, or most often exactly how to fix something. As we work through all of the little details, which are super important, we must remember the big picture and our holistic goal.

I have been focusing a lot of my big picture lately. My 2015 budget projections are due. I need to have my plan for next year laid out and I need to have it fairly detailed. With that chore on my plate I have been focused on just how all the pieces are going to fit together and how I am going to properly use my resources to accomplish my goals. Let me tell you, it’s a little scary.

As 2014 winds down think of all the things you have done this year in relation to every other thing. What would you change? How could you improve? What are your pain points? What was successful? All of these questions, when thoroughly gone through will help you start the new year on a good foot.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to work with brides to assemble organic flower bouquets
  • Collaborate with other farmers for flower bouquets
  • How to settle on crops that work for you instead of you for them
  • You can’t say yes to everything
  • Finding the time/income balance
  • How to track profitability of certain crops
  • How a computer can me instrumental to record keeping
  • Quickbooks as a tool for farm finance tracking

Interview with Robbie & Deena of Sweet Roots Farm

sweet roots farm farmersRobbie and Deena grow a variety of vegetables and flowers on roughly four acres in Grass Valley, CA.

They market through a CSA, a local coop, various wholesale accounts, and weddings.

Their mission statement as seen on their website:

We pride ourselves on growing great soil and the quality, flavorful produce that follows.  Through the use of integrated organic systems and the farm’s many microclimates, we produce food, flowers and nursery starts that are healthy and vibrant.  We have a diversity of crops and markets that will build a healthy farm and business.  Farming brings us close to the land, which we will preserve and improve for the future. Our business management and sustainable agricultural practices will eventually support our family while providing equal access for a diversity of community members.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

farm website page

Take aways:

Are you actively keeping the big picture in your head?

How are you preparing for next year?

Farm quote of the episode:

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

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.

GFP060: Finding a farming model that works

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)

It takes a long time to figure out what your farm is and what it is going to be. Even if you think you have an idea of exactly what you want to do on your farm that vision is bound to change. Today’s podcast talks to this theme with Forrest Prit

Just like Forrest I am trying, experimenting, documenting, and learning different ways to enjoy my farm while making it profitable. With such an unconventional start-up story it’s a little hard to say when it actually started, but for me it really started just about a year ago. I took over management of Camps Road Farm and integrated my farm FoodCyclist Farm. With one business it was time to settle on one vision. But what exactly is that vision?chard, a guy who has tried just about everything to make his farm succeed and is still evolving his vision.

With the help of Alan Savory’s book Holistic Management I am making strides in finding out exactly what we’re doing here at Camps Road Farm. Sure I know what we’re doing now, and I have a good idea of where I want to be in 10 years, it is the getting there safely and securely that is the trick.

It is a weird position to be in to know where you want to future to go, but not really knowing where it is going to take you. There is a lot of excitement, even more anxiety, and a whole lot of wishing for a crystal ball. I take solace in knowing that I am not alone. The smartest farmers that I know never stop experimenting and trying new things. Not every experiment is a success as your goals in life are evolving with your business.

As you start your or continue you journey in agriculture always keep your eyes and ears open, never assume you know it all, and be modest.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to better your customer retention
  • Ways to find what farming operation is right for you
  • The benefit of celebrating the little triumphs
  • Remain connected to your customers
  • Tell your story

Interview with Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows

forrest pritchard

Forrest Pritchard is a professional farmer and writer, holding degrees in English and Geology from the College of William and Mary. His farm Smith Meadows was one of the first “grass finished” farms in the country, and has sold at leading farmers’ markets in Washington DC for more than fifteen years. His book Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm was named a Top Read by Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post and NPR’s The Splendid Table.

Forrest’s new book is slated for release Fall 2015, from the award-winning press The Experiment.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

meat makers hobby farms

Take aways:

What will be your biggest influences when choosing your farm business?

5 years ago did you think you would be where you are today? (Listening to the Growing Farm Podcast, haha!)

Farm quote of the episode:

“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.”

- Zoe Zantamata

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.

GFP059: Starting a farm at your College

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Starting a farm anywhere can be an uphill battle. The thing you have to focus is is that you are (hopefully) doing it with good intentions, and you have to want to live your passions. If you focus on those two things the rest will fall into place.

If you want to start a farm at a College or University you may be in luck. We live in a time where more and more people are open to and interested in small scale sustainable agriculture. While it is nerve racking to just jump in and do it, sometimes that is what it takes. If you do decide to go rogue and start gardening in the Quad there’s a few things you might want to keep in mind first. Let’s start by asking these questions:

  • Are there other students on campus who might be interested in helping out?
  • What other schools have tried this and succeded/failed? Why?
  • How would a garden or farm benefit your school besides being self-serving to you?
  • Do you have the experience necessary to start a farm?
  • What other areas of the school might be able to build AG into their curriculum?
  • What branch of your school would adopt your farm?

Going ahead and starting a farm without permission (which we discuss in the podcast) is all well and good but you should have a plan going into it. When the farm arrests you for vandalism what are you going to say? Where is the food that you’re going to grow headed after harvest? Sit down and think through every scenario and then nothing can take you by surprised.

Be warned: There will still be surprises. It will be amazing. You’re parents may get pissed.

There is a lot of potential for good in the world, though sometimes you have to give people a visual and tangible example before they will believe it.

Some ideas for incorporating a farm into your school:

  • Science experiments
  • Supplemental class time
  • Traditional food gardens to supports multi-cultural organizations
  • Food for dining hall
  • Supporting area restaurants
  • Buzz-worthy for school marketing

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to start a farm at your College or University
  • What can happen when the faculty challenges the dreams of the community
  • How to build an adobe home
  • What my farm plan for 2015 is
  • How my many small scale operations makes up my one large scale operation

Interview with Nai de Gracia of Pamona College Farm

farm managerNai grew up abroad and came to the US from Cairo for college in 2010. She was a student at Pomona College and graduated in 2014, starting as full time farm manager the summer after that. She majored in Biology and was involved with the farm all four years as a student employee and as a member of farm club. Interests include urban farming, the soil food web, composting tea, vermiculture and permaculture. She can be contacted at farmmanager@pomona.edu.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Visual farm update:

sheep

We will be growing our flock next year. Kind of exciting!

winter chicken housing

This is stage one of winter chicken housing. It’s pretty serious, but I take my farming pretty seriously. The ladies will be in here for the winter with an outdoor run for some fresh air.

frost on pasture

We already have had a few frosts this year. I’m glad the chickens don’t seem to mind.

orchard posts

We have been switching the orchard posts from bamboo to steel. The added strength should see them through the strong winter winds.

tilling fields

We are prepping veggie beds for next year. They will get seeded with winter rye to hold the soil for next year and will be beautiful gardens come spring.

catching chickens

Even our brewers help out on farm. Here Derek and Barry help me catch up chickens for our last round of processing for the year.

farm baby

Mabel is getting huge! We kind of let the garden go toward the end of the season but that is not stopping her. She eats kale raw right off the plant. Can’t beat farm-life for raising a kid.

Take aways:

What would starting a farm do for you?

How do you think your family/friends/school/community respond to you starting a farm?

Farm quote of the episode:

“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” – Grace Hopper

Our proud sponsor:

fatcow sponsorThe show must go on! That’s the way that FatCow.com feels. FatCow is a website hosting company that supports farmers and the Growing Farms Podcast. For listeners of the show they offer a special price of $3.15 a month for a website and a ton of other good stuff. I have been a customer of theirs since 2009 and so far I couldn’t be happier.

Don’t have a website and don’t know where to start? I created a 100% free tutorial walking you through building a website without writing any code. Click here for the tutorial.

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.

GFP058: What type of chickens should you raise for meat?

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)The are SO many farming operations to choose from when starting a farm. The one I chose to start with, and that has become the cornerstone of my farming operation is pastured poultry. That specifically means in this instance raising chickens on pasture with the intention of selling them for meat.

When raising meat chickens there are a number of factors that you have to take into account when you are choosing a breed. Any option can be a good option as long as it works for you.

There are three options in my eyes for which direction you can go. At least in the United States there is. There’s the Cornish Cross which is the production breed used in most larger scale poultry operations. There are Freedom Rangers which are quickly becoming a favorite with small-scale farmers. Then there are dual purpose egg laying/meat birds. Each breed has its’ positives and negatives. To determine which breed is going to be best for you and your farm start by asking a few of these questions:

  • Is pastured poultry going to be a main focus of your farm?
  • Do profits matter to you?
  • What kind of production system do you think your land can support? (Can you test it small first?)
  • What type of chickens are readily available in your area?
  • Can you handle the physical labor of the different types of production systems?

Thoroughly answering these questions will help you get started in choosing a breed. The other thing to try is, well, to try it. Start with 25-50 birds of any given kind. Raise them, take notes, and then try another breed. You will find what works for you and what you think you will be able to scale up and sell. It is not like a cow that can take 2 years to see a result. You will have a case-study in two months time.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • What the main differences in the different types of broiler chickens are
  • Typical systems for raising meat chickens on pasture
  • Farm business advice on how to get started in agriculture

Interview with Joel Slezak of Free Union Grass Farm

gram-farm-hero

Joel was born and raised on the farm in Free Union. When he was young, his father David milked Jersey dairy cows and “gave away” raw milk to all the neighbors, and also kept a flock of laying hens for eggs. He home-schooled Joel and his siblings, which gave them plenty of time to help out on the farm. Joel took an early interest in the animals and would often help with milking and chicken chores, which laid a foundation for his future as a farmer. He attended high school at Tandem Friends School and received a political science degree at Guilford College in North Carolina. Various adventures on sailboats and yachts followed, but Joel returned home to Free Union and spent a couple years working as a cheesemonger at Feast! in Charlottesville. Selling artisan cheeses and finely cured meats to the masses gave rise to an obsession with quality food and reawakened his life-long love for farming.

While working on an organic farm in Scottsville, Joel came across the now  ubiquitous “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. He kicked off his career as a farmer by raising and processing several hundred chickens of his own.

Photo Credit: Modern Farmer

Items Mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

If you’re thinking about adding poultry into your operation, what breed do you think would best suit you?

How can the mentality of “whatever works for my situation” be applied to your farm in the choices that you’ve made? Explain in the comments below.

Farm quote of the episode:

“The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”

- Seth Godin

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.

GFP057: On Farm Events for Marketing and Fun

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Having people come visit your farm can simultaneously be very stressful and the most fun you’ve had all year. With how much transparency is playing a part in small farm marketing these days, on farm events are a great way to get your customers (or potential customers) involved in the farm. This farm podcast is about our first annual Hop Harvest Festival at Camps Road Farm. What we did to plan it, how we pulled it off, and what we plan to do differently next year.

We had great success this year inviting over 50 people to the farm to take part in our hop harvest, hang out and socialize, eat some great farm food, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. The attendees ran the gamut from long-time dedicated CSA members to people who had just heard about the farm and wanted to come and check it out. Across the board good times were had by all.

Our Hop Harvest Event was more to save our behinds on labor than it was to get people to the farm to sell them stuff. In that case mission accomplished. The “money earned” was the money we saved on labor. It was also great marketing for us in terms of getting people involved and actual press coverage.

We’re definitely going to plan more events like this in the future. Some we’ll sell tickets or “seats” to classes and workshops, and some we’ll have people on as volunteers to help us get stuff done on farm.  I actually have a good one coming up that is going to be great for the farm.

How I topped my best Farmers’ Market day for 100th the effort:

In the coming weeks we are having a fleet of school children come to the farm to get the farm experience. We have built a relationship with a couple of the local schools and mutually came up with the idea to get the kids involved in local agriculture.

We were happy to host the kids on farm and the schools insisted that we give the a number, per kid, of what we would charge. We asked around, mulled it over, and gave them a number. They responded right away that it was a reasonable price and we’re moving forward. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 groups of kids in one day
  • 45 kids in each session
  • $12.50 per kid
  • Grand total of: $1687.50

Now I’ve had better Farmers’ Markets than that sure, but with months of work leading up to it. There isn’t that much we have to prepare on farm that we don’t already do to have 135 school kids come visit. We keep the farm beautiful and safe, we have working and clean bathrooms, and there’s always plenty of things to look at, talk about, and get involved in. So NET dollars, we are going to blow our best market sales out of the water. That being said, we are going to invest the majority of that into purchasing supplies for hosting big groups like this. I’m very interested in looking into farm events as a serious part of our farm business plan.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • What it takes to host an on farm event.
  • How we planned and executed our first harvest festival.
  • What we would change in the future to have a better experience for ourselves and our guests.

Interview with Barry Labendz of Kent Falls Brewing Company

barry labendzPicture of Barry hold a lamb: Check!

Barry is one of the best “go-to” guys on the planet. As co-brewery manager Barry has proven an invaluable resource to the farm as the brewery takes time to go through the licensing process.

Barry has been surrounded by small local businesses his entire life. His grandparents moved to the United States in 1947 and started a small bakery in Lake Hiawatha, NJ, to support their young family. Barry’s father has owned and operated Merit Financial, a small mortgage bank, just down the road from his parents’ still-standing bakery.

After graduating from Muhlenberg College in 2004 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Business Administration, he moved to New York City and began his own career in mortgage banking.  Soon Barry would open and manage a branch of another company in downtown Manhattan. By the end of 2007, with the credit crunch tightening, he decided to exit the mortgage industry. Barry took this time to travel, reassess his priorities and explore what would be next for him.

While traveling, Barry became enthralled with how local environment, cuisine and history shapes a region’s beer styles and traditions. Barry has always enjoyed culinary creativity, whether baking with his grandparents as a child, or hosting dinner parties as an adult. These ideas led Barry to first consider opening a brewery.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

hop yard

These are the hop bones growing on the coir trellis. You can see the cones growing off the side shoots. We had a lot of these, even for a young hop yard.

hop cones

The hop cones are pulled off, weighed, and then sent to the Oast to dry. They dry to roughly 8% of their original moisture before they are vacuum sealed and saved for another day.

hop harvest

These are some of the people there that day. There were a number of people who left before we could get a group shot. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Take aways:

What does your farm have to offer for people coming to visit?

Would adding in events be a feasible and viable part of your agricultural venture?

Farm quote of the episode:

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.

Groucho Marx

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.

GFP056: Hiring Farm Workers

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)The hiring of farm workers can be a really tricky process. How do you know you’re going to hire the right person? What’s the process like if you’ve never done it before? That’s what we’re talking about (and more) in today’s podcast episode.

I have had several changes with staff on farm lately. People moving on, moving up, moving sideways, moving West. I need to fill some spots to ensure that all the work gets done that needs to get done. I have had a pretty successful time hiring new employees, even on a temporary basis.

For general farm labor I look for a couple of things:

  • Physically able to do the hard work required on farm
  • Willingness to take direction and work as part of a team
  • Good attitude and flexibility to handle diversified tasks
  • Earnest desire to make the world a better place

Those are pretty hard and fast rules to figure out in the interview process (for me). I’ve been burned before when someone doesn’t hit those points. Note that I didn’t necessarily say anything about farm experience or experience with an particular agricultural enterprise. If you know what you are doing on your farm there’s a safe bet that you can teach the right person just about any part of it.

I had a lot of luck with searching out local farm help (which solves the housing question) by putting an ad up on Craigslist. I was pretty specific about what I wanted in the ad. Here’s the exact text that I included:

Diversified farm specializing in poultry seeks part time farm hands
Camps Road Farm in Kent, CT

Job requires:
- ability to repeatedly lift 50lbs (feed bags)
- comfort working with chickens
- work in all types of weather
- work well as part of a team or by yourself
- punctuality

About the job:
We are looking for motivated individuals looking for some extra work throughout the summer and fall with potential for the future.
Typical tasks are gathering and washing eggs, putting out feed for chickens, and other poultry-related chores. We also have an apple orchard, hop yard, and some vegetable production that have big projects this fall, but we’re mainly looking for pastured poultry help.

This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to come a couple hours a day to collect and wash eggs.

To apply:
All applicants must have appropriate documentation for working in the US. Please respond to this e-mail with some information about yourself while requesting application.

Hablamos un poco de espanol en la granja.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • A simple process for finding farm labor
  • What it is like to take over a farm someone else started
  • Moving an existing farm to a new piece of land
  • How leveraging your network of customers can help you find farm land

Interview with Ruth Blackwell of Mud Creek Farm

mud creek farmRuthie grew up in Cabot, Vermont, surrounded by dairy farms.  When she was a kid, her parents grew pansies and sold them wholesale to farm stands.  As soon as she was old enough, they had her and her brother out in the field transplanting, boxing, and watering.  They also planted an enormous garden, and she remembers her and her brother being told to “go graze” when they asked for a snack; they would eat dirty carrots and freshly shelled peas for hours.

Once Ruth started working, she had a million different jobs.   She always loved working with her hands and being creative, and she went to art school.  But after floating around doing different things, she went to New Zealand and WWOOFed (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for half a year, and it reminded  her how much she likes the dirt.  When she came home, her dad and his partner decided to turn the old homestead into a farm again, but vegetables this time.  She moved back to a little house next door and helped get things off the ground, then migrated to the Rochester area, where she worked at PeaceworkFarm for four years.  She fell in love with the CSA model.  She loves knowing the people she’s feeding and having that direct connection to the community around her.

In 2013, she started working at Mud Creek as Farmer Erin’s assistant manager.  She learned a whole lot from her, and is proud and humbled that she was taught to take over the farm.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

If you had to hire someone tomorrow what questions would you ask them to figure out if they would “cut it” on your farm?

What have you learned from past hiring experiences that will help you going forward with new hires?

Farm quote of the episode:

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.

Larry Bossidy

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.

GFP055: Getting over the summer hump with good farm management

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)It will never cease to amaze me the amount of things that farmers will take on in a season. There are many factors that play into how that happens, but at the end of the day it is how you deal with it that defines you.

One of the biggest factors that plays into crushing responsibility:

This factor is often over-looked. That factor is your own decisions in the winter that lead to insanity in the summer. The hitch with farming is that most operations are simple or inexpensive to start on a certain scale. The problems start when the 1,000 variables come into play as you reach the scale you have to be at to make a profit. It’s very easy to sit down with a spreadsheet to say “I’m going to do this, and this is how much I am going to make in order to keep my farm dream alive.” How can I write this sentence, because I am INCREDIBLY guilty of this fault myself. Now that I am into the summer I am regretting some of the decisions I made this winter that are causing some serious stress this summer. The beautiful thing is that I can admit that, and that I am willing to learn from my mistakes and miss-steps. The best thing you can do in any area in life is to take note of all your successes and failures and learn a lesson from each one. I know over the last 2 years I have learned an incredible amount about myself, my farm, and my future. Right click here to download the MP3

Three elements of good management:

1. Organization

Write it down! I have some of my farms information in my head and some written down. I keep my tasks organized primarily through my trusty notebook and our staff dry-erase board. I have been carrying a small notebook in my pocket that has proven to be very helpful in organizing tasks. Also making sure nothing gets over looked. If I see something on farm that needs to be done I do my best to write it down, that way when I sit down with the farm team later I know what needs to get done that day that we may not have already discussed. Getting things written down has been great for keeping me organized. Whether it’s in a notebook or on a computer, get it in writing!

2. Prioritization

Episode 50 talked about this. It is importantnot only to create the list of things to do, but to properly prioritize it. Task can break down into the different variable that effect them. Whether or not other people are involved, whether you have to buy something or set it up, or even if it’s something that you can live without but it would be nice to have. Every task is going to have its’ different level of urgency. It takes time and practice to know what is going to require what. I am definitely still learning.

3. Delegation

This is crucial for getting anything done. Part of writing down the tasks that you have to accomplish is that you can share that list with others. Even people you have known for a long time will surprise you will what they will choose to volunteer for. You have to make sure you ask. Human beings need direction. We love it. It takes the stress of the decision making off of our plates, and at the end of the day if it doesn’t work out, it is someone else’s fault. Now, if you’re the person calling the shots make sure to be clear, concise, and simple simple simple. If you have something complicated make sure you are there to walk people through it.

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Powerful tools for good farm management
  • Some dos and don’t of getting the job done
  • Lessons learned from a budding farm entrepreneur (farmepreneur?)

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Visual farm update:

chicken farming-2999 chicken farming-3139 hop farming-2975 hop farming-3017 hop farming-3051 hop farming-3055 hop farming-3101 hop farming-3106 hop farming-3127 hop farming-3137

Quote of the episode:

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Take aways:

How do you plan to overcome your next big obstacle?

What experiences have you had in the past that you can draw from to make better decisions going forward?

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.

Being part of the food fight

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Every farmers’ journey through life will be as uniquely theirs as their farm will be. Today’s podcast episode shares a great story of how a vegetable farm was started in Missouri not just by one woman, but by a community of people working to support that one woman.

I found out very early on that it is not the individual that succeeds, but the group. I could not be where I am today, and I know I couldn’t go where I am headed without the support of those people around me.

Sometimes that support means they will tell you not to do something, like the recent NY Times article stating “Don’t let your children grow up to be farmers.”

I think that article raises some good points, but is mis-titled. We should not let our children grow up to be farmers that farm like we do today. In this instance I’m not talking about organic or conventional, small or large scale. I am talking about farming within a system built against the farmer where we are faced with often insurmountable tasks on top of the challenge of farming.

At its’ very base level farming provides people with the basic elements that people need for survival. Food. Even as a tech-friendly guy it baffles me that more time and money is spent on iPhones than learning and investing in what we eat. How is something so necessary so often swept aside.

It is our job as small farmers, who are intimately connected to our communities, to help educate and empower others so that they will help fight the food fight for our team.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to plan for success in your farm business
  • What role community plays in starting your farm
  • Tips and tricks for record keeping
  • Getting your organic certification
  • What it means to be part of the food fight

Interview with Liz Graznak of Happy Hollow Farm

happy hollow farmHappy Hollow Farm is nestled among the rolling hills along the Missouri River. The primary growing fields border the Little Splice Creek bottom and thus benefit from beautiful silt loam soils that are rich in organic matter. The farming techniques used on this farm are a combination of highly managed cover cropping, crop rotations, the application of compost, mulch and small quantities of minerals and nutrients. Liz’s goal is to give back more to the soil than she take.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast:

Take aways:

How are you contributing toward making our world a better place through food?

What do you think our biggest obstacle is? How do you think we’ll overcome it?

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.

Introducing New Farm Products

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)“The riches are in the niches.” Or so I’ve been told. The problem is often that there is a lot of consumer educating involved with introducing a niche product onto the market. What do you do when no one knows how to use what you have to offer, but you know it’s going to be a good business?

One of the answers that I have found is to try everything. And I mean everything to get the information in front of your customers. If you are in multiple forms of media you will be able to reach people in the way that best fits their learning style.

To date I’ve tried (and had success with):

  • Traditional media (newspaper)
  • Hanging fliers
  • Farm website
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • E-mail newsletter

I had/have plans to try other media as well, but quite frankly, it’s July on a farm and I don’t have time for it. Instead of spreading myself too thin my plan is to concentrate on those areas, measure my results as best I can, and see what happens.

Maybe in the future I will try Google Ads, Facebook Ads, taking an ad in the paper, getting on radio, getting on tv, etc… But right now I don’t see it happening any time soon. (Quick aside, yes I have experience getting on Radio and TV, I’ll cover that in another episode.)

What can you do now?

Pick one area that you are not already focusing enough attention on from the list above and put more effort into it.

As farmers we’re used to hard work. There is so much to do on the farm that we often lose sight of the big picture stuff including marketing our products. I know I am guilty of it. There are times where I definitely like the “outside work” better than the “inside work”.

However, I have noticed a drop in sales lately that I am working to fix. My marketing flagged and I am paying for it, literally. My freezers are filling with chickens and I need to get them sold. I will be revisiting my marketing and making sure I’m giving it the attention it deserves so that I can get all my products sold and I can sleep a little easier.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Tips for introducing a new product to market
  • How to narrow down what you’re growing to find what works best
  • Dealing with inconsistency and how that can be a benefit
  • The power of believing in what you do
  • The benefit of keeping organized
  • How to keep your cell phone safe on the farm

Interview with Jacob Cowgill of Prairie Heritage Farm, Montana

prairie heritage farmPrairie Heritage Farm is a certified organic, diversified farm near Great Falls, Montana, just outside Power, on the short grass prairie where the Rocky Mountains meet the plains.

They grow fresh vegetables, heritage turkeys, ancient and heritage grains (Prairie Farro being their favorite), lamb and kiddos. They sell most of what they grow through Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, farm shares in the Great Falls area.

The farm is owned and operated by Jacob and Courtney Cowgill, two central Montanans returning to their roots. Jacob grew up on Red Butte Lane, near Sand Coulee and Courtney spent her childhood on a farm between Dutton and Brady. They both left Central Montana as young adults, for school and careers but came back as soon as they possibly could.

They wanted to find a way to make a life in Central Montana but also wanted to give back to the communities that raised them– to be part of sustaining and reinvigorating the culture and economy of rural Montana.

Items mentioned in this podcast include:

Visual farm update:

hop bine with cones

My farm is highly concentrated on the fact that we’re going to have a brewery on the property in the very near future. As part of supplying that brewery and keeping things super local we have 1.4 acres of hops that will go into our farmhouse beers.

brewery site

We’re literally going to have a new brewery here! Here’s a picture of the brewery site the day I am writing this podcast. They have assembled the forms for the footings and they pour concrete on Thursday. The solar array you see there is for solar-powered hot water to brew beer.

squash and green beans

We are also growing some winter squash here on farm to try in some small batches of beer. There are two rows of green beans in there as well, because I like green beans (dilled and canned).

tomato horn worm

You veggie farmers will be all too familiar with this guy. We have been picking tomato horn worms off of our tomato plants and feeding them to our feathered friends on the farm.

pastured poultry

Our laying hens love eating the tomato horn worms. They fight of them, which makes me feel a little better after seeing the damage done to the tomato plants. In the background is one of our mobile coops.

feeding poultry

We have been trying out a new feeding system on farm. We are only giving the laying hens a set amount of feed based on their age, relative weight, and a few other details. All based on Jeff Mattocks research and information. We will see how it effects production. The trick is having enough feeder space when they mob you, hence the PVC pipe behind that chicken.

chicken tractor

Speaking of chickens, here’s the inside of one of our chicken tractors. Our pastured broilers have been doing really well this year.

sheep on pasture

Here is one of our sheep roaming the pasture and doing some mowing for us. The sheep also rotate in the hop yard and help prune the lower foliage on the hop bines. They do a good job if you manage their rotations properly. Just don’t leave them in one spot too long.

fresh raspberries

Here we have all stages of raspberries. We’ll be propagating more bushes on the farm over time. Why? Raspberry beer of course!

farm flower

Thanks for taking the time to visit the site. I invite you to look around a little bit and feel free to ask me any questions that you might have.

Today’s quote:

“We overcome this dilemma by first forming a temporary holistic goal and starting toward that, much as a military pilot might head generally toward the action before knowing the precise destination. To wait on the ground for perfect intelligence or to burn up fuel circling randomly would waste his chances, his resources, or both. Like the pilot, as you obtain more information and a clearer picture, you can refine your holistic goal so that by the time you know the target, you are well on your way without having wasted time or fuel.” – Allan Savory in Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making

Take aways:

Have you been fighting an uphill battle to get a new farm product to market? What are you doing to educate your consumer?

Are you delivering your message in places where people are there and ready to hear it?

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.