Agricultural & Farm Marketing Solutions for Family Farmers
TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTubeEmailRSS
TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTubeEmailRSS

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.

Using Video for your Farm Marketing

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)The most common misconception about video marketing is that it is hard. That doesn’t have to be true at all. I recorded, edited, and published my latest farm video right from my cell phone. Quite honestly, that blows my mind, and I’m a geek.

Let’s take a look at the three biggest fears that people have when it comes to video marketing.

3 Fears of Video Marketing

1. I will look like a fool on camera.

So? If you are yourself, you’re honest, and you have a good message you will not look like a fool. When I think back to my beginning videos I cringe. I have done some really embarrassing stuff in my day. The good thing is, if it’s terrible, you can delete it! If it’s not half bad then you need to post it before you over-think it.

Take a second to make sure your hair isn’t insane (unless that’s what you’re going for), make sure your surroundings are at least a little orderly (at least what’s in frame), and speak with confidence.

2. I have no idea how to work a video camera.

Learning a piece of “video equipment” is no different then learning to use any other piece of farm equipment. All you have to possess is the earnest desire to learn and the knowledge that this new skill will help your business. Through the owners manual, the internet, and some young tech geek you will be shooting tons of video in no time.

3. I can’t edit the video once I have shot it.

Again, I refer to #2. Earnest desire to learn, and the knowledge that this will help your business. For every person out there who wants to learn something there is a teacher. Just start asking people. You can find a pro video editor in one of your kids, in a friend, or even in an actual professional who wants to trade for some veggies.

Once you’ve conquered those fears just upload it to YouTube, figure out how to embed it on your website, and make sure to share it with your customers. If this still scares you that is ok, write me a note in the comments section asking me to create a tutorial on video creation and editing and I will make it happen.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Getting started on Youtube
  • Creating video to illustrate a point or farming technique
  • Using video to educate
  • Why simple videos are often more effective
  • The elements of an effective video
  • What elements of your online marketing benefit your offline store
  •  How Christie got to speak for TEDX
  • What it means to be “on” all the time
  • What is a “Content Management System”
  • What’s the best practice for Search Engine Optimization?
  • Let the perfection go!

Interview with Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honey Bees:

christy hemenwayJust what did bees do before beekeepers?

Searching for the answer to what seemed like it should have been a simple question, Christy Hemenway launched her own investigation into what was really behind the growing problems with honeybees. She soon came to the conclusion that with honeybees, “less is more,” in other words, less human manipulation is better for the honeybee.

This led Christy to found Gold Star Honeybees – to advance a low-tech, natural beekeeping system known as the top bar hive. The most important feature of a top bar hive is that it allows the bees to make their own natural beeswax honeycomb. Because for bees, ”It’s all about the wax.”

Gold Star’s top bar hive beekeeping equipment is all natural, non-toxic, clean and green, and supports the making of natural beeswax - beeswax made BY bees, FOR bees!

At TEDxDirigo in 2011, Christy highlighted the important connection between honeybees, pesticide-free food, and people in her TED Talk – “Making the Connection – Honeybees, Food and YOU.” The inter-relatedness of bees, human health, the health of the planet and in fact, all of nature suddenly becomes very clear. You can watch it here: http://bit.ly/TedxDirigoTalk

Christy Hemenway is the author of The Thinking Beekeeper – A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives. Published in 2013 by New Society Publishers – this book contains the practical how-to information you need to begin keeping bees in this natural method. http://www.thinkingbeekeeper.com/

Christy advocates and agitates for MORE organic food, LESS industrial agriculture, and of course, for BETTER beekeeping – natural and sustainable. It’s a case of understanding that instead of one beekeeper industrially managing 50,000 beehives, and lots of trucks and treatments, shouldn’t it really be 50,000 beekeepers each tending a few hives of their own in their own backyard garden?

gold star honey beesGold Star Honeybees supports top bar beekeepers with education. A Gold Star Honeybees Weekend Intensive offers a bee’s eye view of the reasons that top bar hives make sense – for bees, for beekeepers, and for the planet. Learn where to site a hive, how to inspect and manage it, what to do about “cross-comb,” and how to conduct the “dual harvest” that top bar hives are famous for. This comprehensive weekend class inspires people to be confident natural beekeepers.

If you are interested in a shorter workshop: The How and Why of Keeping Bees in Top Bar Hives offers a quick overview of the “how-to” and “why-to” of stewarding bees in top bar hives. This workshop is ideal for those just getting into, or beginning to learn about, natural beekeeping.

Classes are offered nationally, and we’d be happy to bring these opportunities to your area. Call for information about hosting a live Weekend Intensive or The How and Why of Keeping Bees in Top Bar Hives where you live! 207-449-1121.

Christy encourages people to think outside the box and reminds us, in the words of John Muir:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:




Visual Farm Update

selling at a farmers market

Here is my most recent farmers’ market table. It can be tough to sell meat so I created a lot of visual interest to pull people in. This includes a picture frame with scenes from the farm, boxes to add height and interest, and my chalkboard signs that fit the “feel” of my farm.

moving chicken tractors

On farm we are constantly keeping chickens rotating on pasture and reviving fields on the farm. Here Farmers Nick and Alan are helping me load up a chicken tractor. We’ll they’re doing the work, I’m taking the photos…

chicken mobile

Here’s one of our chicken mobiles at dawn. I get great pleasure when I see birds out on pasture. They’re happy, I’m happy, and the customers are happy!

farm family

Here is my inspiration. These two are why I do what I do, and I always think about that. Sure the long hours of working the farm often take me away from them, but they always know where to find me. I want to leave the world a better place for my little girl and I couldn’t do it without my wife’s help.

baby tour de france

This is big news, Mabel likes the Tour de France! It’s the first one she’s watched since she was born. Don’t know who I’m rooting for this year yet, but it’s been a great race so far!

japanese beetles

Japanese beetles, nightmare. What are your organic solutions to this shiny pest? Leave you advice in the comments section below, I’m curious to know what has worked (or not) for people.

Today’s quote:

Video Marketing solidifies your online presence whilst building deep and meaningful relationships with your customers. It adds a personal touch to your brand whilst increasing your conversions!” – Lilach Bullock

Take aways:

What common questions do you get about your farm that can be cleared up with a simple video?

What is one thing you wish your customers knew about you, your farm, or your products? Would a video help them learn?

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.

Starting a farm, is it as stressful as everyone says?

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)“Farming is hard.” I hear it over and over again. But what does it mean?

Farming is going to mean a million things to a million different people. There are an infinite number of scenarios that can play out when it comes to starting and running a farm. Now having interviewed dozens of other farmers on how they got their start in agriculture I can tell you one thing, it’s hard, and it’s worth it.

Oh sure, there will be times when you want to throw your hands p and walk away. Many of those times you should, then come back to whatever you were doing with a fresh mind and a better attitude.

There may come a day when I am too over-whelmed by what is going on with the farm and a year may come that beats me down to the point where I find a new occupation. That day is not today, nor is this year the year.

The best I can do with Farm Marketing Solutions is to give you my perspective on what is stressing me out and how I am dealing with it. I found that regardless of how many things go poorly, (and they will, it’s part of learning) you have to concentrate on the positive things in life.

As a new format for the matching blog post in addition to the podcast I want to share some photos from around the farm to give you visual perspective to go with the audio.

Right click here to download the MP3

Items mentioned in this farm podcast:

mobile chicken coop

This was a big win in the last week. We made some big improvements to our chicken coops. New running gear (near impossible to get used in New England), better watering system, new feed storage, and a higher capacity for birds which results in a decrease in labor.

chicken tractor pastured poultry

Here you can see the sheep (on right under blue tarp sheep shelter) and the chicken tractors rotating around pasture. Pasture management makes me really happy. I get a natural high when things click into place and the birds, sheep, pastures, and farmers are all happy.

chicken and hops

Here Farmer Nick (everyone is a farmer here!) inspects a young hop transplant that is located near our chicken tractors. The chicken and hop relationship is a beneficial one. This picture is a few weeks old and a lot of our hop bines are well over 18 feet tall.

farmers market

Here’s my lovely wife Kate at our Farmers’ Market stand in New Milford. We’re constantly looking to improve on our display. I think we’re doing alright so far. We’re thinking about a second market to increase sales, but getting enough people to run it will be a challenge. Ever thinking on it, we’ll see what happens.

farm flower

This picture is beautiful, I had to include it! Hope it made you smile.

beer can chicken

Here it is, a pastured broiler with a Keystone Ice in the cavity (no judgement). It was great, loved it. Such a good dinner, thanks Kate!

farm baby

My reason for everything. My little Mabel. I love what I do because it provides delicious food for her, a beautiful place to live, and a wonderful community of supportive people.

Take aways:

What are you thankful for? How does that effect the decisions that you make?

What is one small thing you can do right now to make yourself a little happier?

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.

Prioritizing and organizing your farm to do list

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)The list of things to do is ever expanding on the farm. There is always more to do, and even simple tasks become complicated if left to long. The worst is to repeat a past mistake because you had forgotten about it, or you have remembered it wrong.

I have been working for years to find a system that works for me in terms of organizing and record keeping. Am I done? Heck no! I have a long way to go yet, but I have learned some good things along the way. In today’s farm podcast episode I share many of those strategies that I have used and the ones that I still am using today.

Life is about balance. I don’t have to tell you is you tend toward doing everything in the “analog” world, keeping a notebook, writing on the free monthly calendar with the beautiful natures scenes on that you got from church or the volunteer fire department fundraiser. Or if you tend towards the “digital” world where everything happens on your smart phone, tablet, or desktop computer. What I can do is point you to a few creative ways to use those systems that have been working for me.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Different strategies for organizing tasks on your farm
  • How record keeping keeps you from making the same mistakes over and over
  • Pointers for the Luddites and the tech geeks in all of us

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:



Quote of the episode:

“The role of leadership is to transform the complex situation into small pieces and prioritize them.” – Carlos Ghosn

Take aways:

How are you keeping organized so you can prioritize your tasks?

Are you keeping records so you know what happened when you’re faced with same situation in the future?

Share your answers in the comments section below.

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 able to pivot your farm business

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Agility in your agricultural business can be the difference between coming back for another growing season, or putting the farm to rest. That agility starts with listening. Your customers will tell you what they want you to produce. It is then up to you to decide whether you want to listen, and if that will work for both you and your business.

I had no idea that I would end up where I am today. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be a chicken farmer running a 50 acre farm, hosting a podcast, and selling eBooks on the side, I would have told you that you were crazy.

When I first got mixed up with agriculture I thought I was going to be an heirloom vegetable farmer. Then I tried vegetable farming. When I got into vegetables I realized I liked them, but I didn’t love them. Not the way I do chickens. I also found that there were way more vegetable farms than poultry farms. I listened to the market, started a poultry farm, and the farm continues to grow in popularity.

I have learned, through some very hard lessons, to watch for and embrace change. You may have a plan, but life has another one, and there’s no way you are going to know all the details until they’re happening to you. Who knows where I will be in another 10 years? All I know is that I am excited for whatever comes my way.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • What is a service as a business?
  • Different ways to make money in agriculture
  • How to leverage your skills, passion, and knowledge
  • What flexibility can bring to you
  • What you get from listening to your customers
  • How to get over impostor syndrome
  • How to grow your business and give yourself more time

Interview with Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honey Bees:

christy hemenwayJust what did bees do before beekeepers?

Searching for the answer to what seemed like it should have been a simple question, Christy Hemenway launched her own investigation into what was really behind the growing problems with honeybees. She soon came to the conclusion that with honeybees, “less is more,” in other words, less human manipulation is better for the honeybee.

This led Christy to found Gold Star Honeybees – to advance a low-tech, natural beekeeping system known as the top bar hive. The most important feature of a top bar hive is that it allows the bees to make their own natural beeswax honeycomb. Because for bees, ”It’s all about the wax.”

Gold Star’s top bar hive beekeeping equipment is all natural, non-toxic, clean and green, and supports the making of natural beeswax - beeswax made BY bees, FOR bees!

At TEDxDirigo in 2011, Christy highlighted the important connection between honeybees, pesticide-free food, and people in her TED Talk – “Making the Connection – Honeybees, Food and YOU.” The inter-relatedness of bees, human health, the health of the planet and in fact, all of nature suddenly becomes very clear. You can watch it here: http://bit.ly/TedxDirigoTalk

Christy Hemenway is the author of The Thinking Beekeeper – A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives. Published in 2013 by New Society Publishers – this book contains the practical how-to information you need to begin keeping bees in this natural method. http://www.thinkingbeekeeper.com/

Christy advocates and agitates for MORE organic food, LESS industrial agriculture, and of course, for BETTER beekeeping – natural and sustainable. It’s a case of understanding that instead of one beekeeper industrially managing 50,000 beehives, and lots of trucks and treatments, shouldn’t it really be 50,000 beekeepers each tending a few hives of their own in their own backyard garden?

gold star honey beesGold Star Honeybees supports top bar beekeepers with education. A Gold Star Honeybees Weekend Intensive offers a bee’s eye view of the reasons that top bar hives make sense – for bees, for beekeepers, and for the planet. Learn where to site a hive, how to inspect and manage it, what to do about “cross-comb,” and how to conduct the “dual harvest” that top bar hives are famous for. This comprehensive weekend class inspires people to be confident natural beekeepers.

If you are interested in a shorter workshop: The How and Why of Keeping Bees in Top Bar Hives offers a quick overview of the “how-to” and “why-to” of stewarding bees in top bar hives. This workshop is ideal for those just getting into, or beginning to learn about, natural beekeeping.

Classes are offered nationally, and we’d be happy to bring these opportunities to your area. Call for information about hosting a live Weekend Intensive or The How and Why of Keeping Bees in Top Bar Hives where you live! 207-449-1121.

Christy encourages people to think outside the box and reminds us, in the words of John Muir:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

 

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you listening to your customers? What is something they have been asking for that you don’t yet provide?

Are you ready to adapt and change with the times/economy/whims of the public? How are you prepared?

Share your answers in the comments section below.

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.

Sustainable farming is good for business

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Sustainable farming is the path I have chosen for my career in agriculture. When you think about it, it’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s right there in the name, “sustainable”. That means I get to keep going. I get to keep doing what I love because it is sustainable.

That word sustainable has given me pause lately. What exactly does it mean to be sustainable? What does that mean on a big scale for the world at large? What does that mean on a small scale for me, my family, and my farm? I have been giving it thought while moving chicken coops, talking with the other farmers who work with me, and while working on this podcast episode.

I have come to a conclusion, one that will be shaped and developed in time. True sustainability is born from good community building. I do not believe in being completely self-sustainable. You will always rely on outside inputs of some kind. That does not have to be a bad thing. Even if I used no fossil fuels on the farm, grew everything I needed to live and feed my livestock, and produced enough solar energy to run my podcasting equipment I would still need money to pay for taxes and the things that I absolutely cannot produce here. That requires a community of people willing to support my effort of self-sustainability.

Camps Road Farm, the farm that I manage has a ways to go before I will consider it “very sustainable”. Right now I have to buy in grain to feed my chickens, I run a tractor  that uses diesel, and there are a other areas that I wish to improve upon and plan to in time (I just don’t want to list them all and give you the wrong idea about my farm). While it’s not perfect now, I know there’s a goal that I am working towards and I make decisions every day that effect the long term outcome of the farm and its’ impact on the world.

I’ll give you the brewery we’re starting as an example. I have a 1.4 acre hop yard on farm to service the brewery that we are also starting on the farm. That brewery is working with a local grain grower to supply grains. Those grains used for brewing will then be used as chicken feed. The manure from the chickens will go either directly onto the pasture where they live, or will be composted to feed the hops, which in turn are used in making beer.

There are three businesses in that example that benefit from supporting each other. Because (officially certified or not) we are all growing according to the organic methods so the earth benefits as well. The brewery grains will help me cut costs to make my business more viable, the brewery has great marketing from being part of a farm, and the grain farmer has consistent business from a production brewery. I love it!

At best, all we can do is strive toward our best interpretation on what it means to be sustainable. For me that is being a part of a community that is mutually supportive of each other’s efforts. I work to create healthy soil, to create healthy food, and results in healthy people who then have the strength to go out and do good in the world.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Who put “organic” and “agriculture” together originally
  • How big organic agriculture’s market share has grown in the last decade
  • Why, at some point you just need to make things happen!
  • The benefits of being a good listener
  • What the Rodale Institute has done for sustainable agriculture
  • The longest running field study in agriculture
  • How organic ag can “feed the world” just as well if not better than chemical or conventional ag

Interview with Coach Mark Smallwood, Executive Director at Rodale Institute

coach mark smallwoodCoach’s professional experience has been dedicated to environmental sustainability, efficiency and conservation. Since joining Rodale Institute in December 2010, he has brought heritage livestock back to Rodale Institute’s 333-acre farm, expanded and enhanced Rodale Institute’s research efforts, as well as launched “Your 2 Cents,” a national campaign to support and promote new organic farmers.

Prior to joining Rodale Institute, Coach served as the Mid-Atlantic Green Mission Specialist and Local Forager at Whole Foods, where he was a 2010 National Award Winner for “Best Whole Foods Market Spokesperson.” While at Whole Foods, Coach initiated a composting and recycling program throughout the Mid-Atlantic region – an effort that resulted in an 80% diversion of waste from landfills. In recognition for his sustainability efforts, Coach was chosen as a messenger for Al Gore’s Climate Project presenting to over 15,000 people on the effects of Global Warming. Last, but certainly not least, as a long-time organic farmer and biodynamic gardener, Coach has raised chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and driven a team of oxen. Given his array of experiences, Coach is uniquely suited to lead Rodale Institute.

farming systems trial

 Items mentioned in the farm podcast include:

Take aways:

How do your views shape the type of business you choose to work in?

What does “truly sustainable” mean to you?

Write you answers in the comment section below.

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.