GFP049: Being able to pivot your farm business

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.

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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:

Just 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:

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.

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 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.