Agricultural & Farm Marketing Solutions for Family Farmers
TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTubeEmailRSS
TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTubeEmailRSS

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.

Creating a marketing plan is easier than you thought

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)Everything goes smoother when you have a plan. There have been so many unplanned surprises on the farm this year that I am glad my marketing hasn’t thrown me too many curve balls. I took the time initially to lay out what I needed to do to market my farm, and now I am executing that plan.

I will admit that when I first sat down to create a marketing plan, I found the task to be a little daunting. My marketing plan got a little involved. That is in part because marketing takes a significant amount of effort, and in part because I wanted to focus on it for my How to Start A CSA project.

Once I got everything down on paper it felt good to have a plan of action. Since then I have found it invaluable as far as keeping me focused and on track. When the work on farm wears me down or seems overwhelming the last thing I want to do is to think about how I am going to sell my farm products to people. The only thing I can think about is playing with my daughter and having a beer before bed.

That being said, even on the tough days I have been making an effort to do something to market my farm every day and stick to my marketing plan.

Come to find out, there’s more than one way to write a marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be scary, it doesn’t have to be long, it just has to exist and hit some important point. I brought today’s guest on the show to share her expertise on creating a marketing plan specific to your farm.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to create a one page marketing plan
  • What elements should be included in a good marketing plan
  • What each of those elements are and how to define them
  • What to do with your marketing plan once you have created it
  • What your plan can do for you
  • How to make the most out of a wholesale account

Interview with Myrna Greenfield of Good Egg Marketing

myrna greenfieldGood Egg Marketing is a Massachusetts-based business that specializes in promoting good food and good causes.  Good Egg was hatched by Myrna Greenfield, a seasoned marketer with a passion for sharing good food, helping people, and making marketing fun.

A “good egg” is a phrase that is typically used to describe a “good person,” someone who likes to help others.

A good egg is also an egg that is safe to eat and tastes good. And any egg that deserves to be called good should also be humanely and sustainably produced. Good Egg Marketing aspires to be all of these things: helpful, safe, tasty (tasteful), humane and sustainable.

While Good Egg Marketing is particularly devoted to working with businesses and organizations that produce, provide or promote delicious, healthy, sustainable food for all, it offers services to anyone who is a good egg.

Good Egg clients are based in Massachusetts and nationally, and include farms and food enterprises, small businesses, nonprofits, and consultants. Founder and “Top Egg” Myrna Greenfield works with associates in graphic design, web development, video production, and social media to create effective, affordable marketing campaigns.

Greenfield was raised in the Chicago area and is now a proud resident of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.  She holds an MBA from Simmons School of Management.

Click to view Myrna’s Sample Marketing Plan

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

What have you been doing to market you farm?

Do you have a marketing plan? What direction is it point you in?

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.

Diversifying your marketing and alpaca farming

Growing_Farms_Podcast2 (300x300)It is good business practice to get the most out of any effort you put into your business. That definitely applies to farming. Diversity is the name of the game on small farms these days, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean a diversity of farming operations.

Barbara Ronchetti of Island Alpaca Company on Martha’s Vineyard shares great insight on having just one type of agricultural operation, in her case alpaca, and getting the most bang for your buck.

While I am working toward a diverse farm I have a main area of focus right now and that is my Chicken & Egg CSA. For those CSAs I am implementing a diverse array of marketing strategies to get my name out there and close more sales.

I am:

  • Updating and interacting on my farm website
  • Interacting on Social media
  • Hanging fliers with tabs to rip off
  • Creating brochures
  • Going to schools
  • Planning events
  • and more…

It takes creativity to try all of these things. The answers to your problems are not always easy to find. I know we as farmers will always thrive in the face of adversity. Now we must thrive and embrace diversity. Remember that different customers appreciate their products or their marketing in different ways. Starting with one group at a time direct your farm marketing to them, then move on to the next group once you have established yourself with those other customers already. Be careful not to take on too much too soon.

There are a lot of “you should do this” and “you must do this” pieces of advice coming from me and in the “marketing advice” world in general. When you boil all of it down it comes down to doing what you are comfortable with (so that you will keep doing it) and what is working (because that’s how you are successful).

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to start an alpaca farm
  • What are all the different ways you can use alpaca wool
  • How quality relationships will help grow your business
  • Tips on marketing you farm products and CSA
  • A lot about alpaca farming

Interview with Barbara Ronchetti of Island Alpaca Company

alpaca farming

Island Alpaca Company of Martha’s Vineyard began in 2004 with the purchase of 19 acres of land and an antique post-and-beam barn that once stood in Export PA. Over the next two years, the barn was assembled, pastures were cleared, and fencing installed. The original purchase of eight alpacas in 2004 had grown to a starter herd of 31, which moved into the barn in 2006. Today, Island Alpaca has a select herd of 80 colorful Huacaya alpaca, one Suri alpaca, and one llama.

island alpaca company

alpaca farm website

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

What else can you do to sell your farm products?

What other products can you develop from what you are already producing?

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.

How to Start a CSA Days 15 through 21

The more I dig the more I notice an ebb and flow with every kind of marketing. There is one constant however. Relationship marketing.

The relationships you form throughout life and throughout the life of you farm are going to prove to you while life is worth living and why farming is a great career. In addition to a host of varied topics I cover a lot of relationship marketing this week. It is really starting to pay off as those shares start to come in and the season is starting to warm up. I cannot wait to see where it goes.

I use Facebook a lot in my marketing. Even with the recent revelations (as you’ll see in a later video) where Facebook has been doing some dirty things with how it makes money, I still find it a good way to connect with my customers. This video is geared toward people who have or have thought about using Facebook. There is a certain combination of content that works best for us farmers and I give some examples besides my own.

Following through applies in so many areas of life. From baseball, to golf, to farming, you need follow through. What does that mean? Following through with farm marketing means tracking your results, staying in touch with your audience, and in this case I went back to check on my fliers and see how they were doing and if they were attracting any business.

I have now scheduled workshops at local schools, a nature center, and more. Getting in front of people, not just to sell mind you, is important as a step to making friends and establishing relationships in your community. The more good you put out into the world the more that will come back to you.

I mentioned a little earlier that I use Facebook a lot. Well I recently found this video, Facebook Fraud, and I’ve been doing some digging. It turns out that Facebook has been doing some pretty sketchy stuff. Even with that there are a lot of benefits from being on Facebook. This only means that you shouldn’t invest in a certain type of marketing. You’re being honest, open, and establishing relationships so you have nothing to worry about!

My farm website has been critical in my farm marketing so farm. I love when people are prepped with knowledge about myself and my farm so that we can cut the small talk and dig in a little deeper. This helped recently as a newspaper reporter contacted me and kept saying, “Don’t worry, I know. I already read your website.” It was a great feeling.

I have been in Home Depot, out hanging up fliers, or out with my family and I always wear a farm t-shirt. You never know when or where it will come in handy. Even if you run out of business cards you can have them take a picture of your logo.

We keep crop records, plan grazing rotation, and do budgets. Why not do the same for marketing. I only want to plan this once, so I am going to be busy tracking my progress so that I cna replicate the good stuff in the future, and cut out the bad stuff.

Stay Connected

Like me on Facebook: Every day I re-post the YouTube videos on Facebook with some exclusive content on what else I did on the farm that day.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Every day I post a new video in the evening after Mabel goes to sleep. That’s when I have a little computer time.

Visit the Hub: I will be keeping all of this content organized at the How to Start a CSA hub on FMS.