GFP075: My Big Meltdown

This was a tough podcast episode for me to publish. I have been dealing with burn out lately and that has lead to depression. I am definitely not the only person to have run a small business and have experienced this. There are high highs and low lows when it comes to small business management and farming is perhaps worse than most.

I wanted to share this story, as vunerable as it makes me feel because:

  • This is the stuff you will not find in any text books
  • I'm not the only one going through this right now
  • If you get into agriculture there is a very good chance you will go through this
  • You have my support

Right-click here to download the MP3

Please Do Not Worry

Yes, I have felt lower than I ever have in my life. And no, it's not over yet. I am actively working on changing my mindset and getting myself emotionally back on track. I have already instituted changes that have had a positive effect onmy well being.

The day this publishes is a day off for me. Something that I really haven't let myself have this year. I am sleeping in, the farm is covered, and I am going to take it easy.

As low as I felt it never reached complete rock bottom. I am coming back up for air a little quicker than I imagined. I am definitely able to put on a happy face when I need to and part of the vulnerability I feel is the people close to me finding out. But trust me, I'm going to be fine. I just need a readjustment of my goals, my perspective, and my work load.

This All Ends Positively

Most people would not have known about this if I had not said anything. I am only sharing because I have fully embraced transparency with Farm Marketing Solutions. This is my case study of my journey through agriculture. It would not be complete without the lows as well as the highs.

The beautiful part of all of this is that I have an amazing support system. Thanks especially to Kate.

The next podcast episode will be back on track and all positive, I can already feel it. Scott and I have some great stuff in store for the coming months and we are planning to implement them in a way that does not add to my work load. In fact, the new stuff we're going to roll out actually decreases my workload if you'll believe that.

Both on farm and on Farm Marketing Solutions I am regrouping, getting focused, and spending time working on me.

Quote of the episode:

"Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become." - Jim Rohn

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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.

GFP074: Farmers Using Instagram

Is social media all it's cracked up to be? It is still working for some and yet, not for others. I speak with one farmer in this podcast episode who is gaining some attention through his efforts in Social Media. I have found that in particular I have been unhappy with Facebook as a platform. You have to pay to get people to like your page, then, if you have a post that is popular or you wnat people to see you have to pay to reach all of your "fans". These are people who have liked you page and would like to see your update show up on their home page.

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interveiw with Colby Layton of Sandia Pastured Meats

At-Cottins-FM-e1428906180916-150x150.jpg

Howdy!

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

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

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

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

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

What ways are you approaching farm marketing this season?

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

Farm Quote of the Episode:

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

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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.

GFP073: How to Start A Slaughter House

Imagine that you built a business that relied on someone else doing their job well in order to properly satisfy and impress your customers. Sounds like a lot of small businesses right? Now imagine that you lost that important connection and you are suddenly up a creek without a paddle. There are people in this world more brave than I am who are willing to take a seriously leap of faith and take control of the critical step in their business. One of those people is my guest on the show today. She saw that her business relied too heavily on outside resources, and not only that, she was paying a lot of money to those sources as well.

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

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

kate stillman
kate stillman

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

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

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

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Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Farm quote of the episode:

see a need

Take aways:

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

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

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

GFP072: Proper Farm Planning Makes All The Difference

Does it feel like sometimes you want to just not have a plan? If you don't have a plan then nothing can go wrong, right? Let me tell you, it is that time spent planning that helps you figure out what is going to wrong and how you will be able to handle it when things take a turn. Without my planning time and the time spent researching and organizing I would be a total wreck right now. My farm plans for the year have completely been turned on their heads several times already and we're only not just about to get into May.

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

 

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Paul and Rebecca of Fort Hill Farm

Paul Bucciaglia

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

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

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

Rebecca Batchie

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

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you giving away too much on your farm?

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

Farm Quote of the Episode:

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

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

March Farm Finance Challenge Reports

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

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

 


 In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast:

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Spring has Sprung

Amanda McKelvey Hall - Rockin' H Farm's March Report

RockinHFarmAnconaDucks&Eggs

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

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

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

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

Share the Knowledge

Spencer Curry - Fresh Farm Aquaponics March Report

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

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

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

Learn Your Land When Starting a Farm

Scott Stegerwald - Bird Creek Farms March Report

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

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

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

Links to Farm Reports:

Berube Farm

Berube Farm

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

Bird Creek Farms

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

Camps Road Farm

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

Fresh Farm Aquaponics

  • Aquaponics and consulting
  • Gross Income: $2,498.12
  • Expenses: $545.00
  • March Report
Little River Eco Farm

Little River Eco Farm

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

Rockin' H Farm

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

Sandia Pastured Meats

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

Squash Hollow Farm

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

SugarWood Acres

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

Take Aways:

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

How will you prepare for the lean months?

What are some creative ways to extend your season?

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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.

GFP070: Multiple Income Streams From One Product

It is not the small farm's place to count on the grain elevator to set the prices. It is our job to go out, market out products in new and creative ways, and hustle in a way that sees out small businesses succeed (hopefully). This is a topic that I've covered in previous podcasts but since I am currently and constantly refining it, I feel it needs revisiting. I also have a guest on the show who is diversifying her farm not only in production but in marketing as a way to deal with the swings in the market.

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Emily of Anderson Acres Farm

emily anderson acres

Anderson Acres is located just around "the block" from me here in Kent, CT. Along with us they are participating in the CRAFT program that we have here in Western CT.

CRAFT stands for Collaborative Regional Alliane for Farmer Training

The goal of CRAFT is to promote:

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

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

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

What creative ways can you grow your business?

Farm quote of the episode:

"A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same." - Elbert Hubbard

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

GFP069: Farm Education Programs, What You Need To Know

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

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with John Belber of Holly Hill Farm

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

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

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

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Take aways:

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

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

Farm quote of the episode:

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

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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.

GFP068: Farm Planning and Execution

 “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Isn’t that the truth? 2015 has gotten off to a rocky start but things are really starting to look up. Even with three feet of snow outside I can already see signs of Spring. Birds are starting to sing in the morning, maple sap is slowly slowly starting to run, and my order for baby chickens just went out. It has really been a weird past couple of months. Through a strange turn of events I ended up being the only one running the farm this year in a place that need more than one person to run it. It was a good (albeit stupid) exercise on how far I can push myself in the winter.

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

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

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

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

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

farm planning office-0615
farm planning office-0614
farm planning office-0617

Take aways:

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

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

Farm Quote:

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

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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.

GFP067: Farm Location and Branding Make All The Difference

Farm marketing is really funny in that is can be very easy, or it can take a significant amount of effort. Today's podcast showcases a good example of both. My guests today Patti & Rick from Breakwind Farm are a good example of choosing the right farm location as well as some really successful branding centered around humor. Camps Road Farm, my farm, is a good example of poor farm location and I'll be honest, some boring branding.

Good/Bad Farm Location

When you're starting your farm and you're looking for land, an important thing to consider is how many cars pass by that spot in a given day. If it is in your farm plan to have any people acutally come to your farm then natural road traffic or "good road frontage" is pretty critical to getting started. If all you have to do is make your farm look inviting and put up a farm sign with what you're offering you're in good shape.

When you're writing your farm business plan and figuring out how you are going to market your farm products, run some experiments. If you have the time and ability, set up some lawn chairs with a friend on the road in front of your farm and invest a day at different times of the year to count how many cars go by. I'm not kidding. I have been facing my own perceived reality vs. the actual numbers and sometimes it can shock you.

Once you have a number of cars at different some of the year you can calculate, "well, if 500 cars passed by, and I can get 10% of them to stop and spend $20 on average, then I can potentially gross $1000 on a Saturday (or whatever it is)." This can help you get an idea of how much to grow before you make the investment in the seeds and end up with a kitchen full of rotten tomatoes if you over produced.

That's just an idea, I literally just made that up as I'm writing this. Did I do that for my farm? No, because there's virtually no cars that drive by my farm. I've kept an eye on the road throughout the whole year, it never gets busy. Let's get into my situation.

If you live in a backwoods section of town like I do, getting people to actually come to your farm is a whole different story. It is nearly impossible for me to get people to come to the farm on a regular basis. Even though I don't feel the drive is that bad, it is just too far for some. What do I do about that? Enter my unfair advantage(s).

I have been doing a lot to encourage some more people coming to the farm. I've registered the farm location on Google Maps, I've hosted events here, I encourage sales here in the winter when farmers' markets are slow, and I am constantlyinviting people up to "see the chickens". In other words marketing marketing marketing.

I also have an on-farm brewery. We're not currently zoned for brewery tours and tastings, so there's only minor benefit of people randomly stopping in to try and snoop around (yes that happens, we lock our doors at night now). If there comes a day when the brewery is open to tours and tastings then the farm should see some increase of traffic as people are drawn to the brewery. I am working on my farm store and signage to best be able to cross-market to any increase of traffic that may come to the farm as a result of my marketing and the draw of the brewery.

What do do if you don't have a brewery starting on your farm? Events and more complete offerings. I am hosting several events and workshops this year as taking more volunteer groups and doing more farm tours. If I give people a specific reason to get to the farm besides just coming to pick up a dozen eggs then my hope is that they'll have a good time, realize the drive isn't as bad as they thought, and then they'll keep coming back. What I mean by "more complete offerings" is having more for sale than just eggs when they cometo farm. Even if I just grow enough vegetables (or whatever) to supply my farm store, having a more complete offering where people can come and get meat, eggs, veggies, and honey, then they have more of a reason to amke the trip. A "one stop shop" if you will.

Although Rick & Patti are known for their home-made baked beans, they have other seasonal products built into their farm to keep people coming back and spending time on their farm. They offer seasonal Christmas tress, pumpkins, mums, seed starting kits, hanging plants, and even gifts/activities for kids. They talk about all of that in the podcast episode.

It is in my farm plan, and I am starting it this year, to grow and offer more variety on farm. Not only do I want to feed my family with the variety of food I'll grow, but I want to be able to provide a more complete diet for the customers who make the effort to come to the farm. Will this all work? We'll find out in time. You can bet I'll be talking about it here.

Funny/Bland Branding

I mean come on, Breakwind Farm, how can you not at least give a little chuckle when you hear that? Rick & Patti have built a fair amount of humor and satire into their farms' branding. That humor has made them approachable, has made them a magnet for media, and has allowed them to sell baked beans with the name FARTOOTEMPTING. What do you get from the first four letters of that?

They are similar to Lucie of Locally Laid Egg Company. "Local chicks are better" and "Get locally laid" I mean, come on now. Their branding is good enough that they're in Minnesota and I've heard of them over here in Connecticut.

Now Camps Road Farm is not bad branding, just a little bland branding. I didn't choose it, and nothing against the guys who did, but it is a bit more work to get people to give a crap about Camps Road Farm. Camps Road Farm is located on Camps Rd. which is half a mile from the more locally famous Camps Flat Rd. I cannot tell you how many times I've had the conversation of, "no no, not Camps Flat Rd., Camps Rd. If you keep going on Camps Flat you'll reach Sawyer Hill and that leads to Camps Rd. a little further East."

Am I saying that I would prefer a funny name? Honestly no, Camps Road Farm (CRF) works really well for our goals, and a brand can be what you make of it. While we're not going to get the buzz of a name that has to do with farts or sex, we'll instead earn our reputation from what we produce and the stories we tell. It takes longer and is more work, but fits well with our holistic goals.

What's the take-away from all this? Pick a brand that you like and fits your personailty and the personality of your farm. A brand is only as good as the people behind it.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • finding an idea and running with it
  • accepting a challenge
  • the role location and branding play in your farm business
  • how to get people on your farm and keep them coming back
  • the role humor can have with your farm business (hopefully a big role)

Interview with Rick & Patti of Breakwind Farm

Breakwind Farm is family run business. They started selling fresh vegetables, herbs, seasonal flowers and baskets, pumpkins and wreaths at a stand outside their house in 2009 and more recently at the Contoocook Farmers Market. They have enjoyed welcoming their new and returning customers each year. They concocted the idea of Breakwind Farm's four varieties of FARTOOTEMPTING Baked Beans in the spring of 2011 and started selling them at the Farmers Market where they quickly became a hit.

It wasn't long before their beans were being requested at local fairs, festivals and other venues. They added FARTOOTEMPTING Breakwind Bean t-shirts to their product line by the end of the summer and they too have become a hit. They have four mouth-watering flavors of baked beans, each offering a unique taste, all guaranteed vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and delicious!

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Permaculture Voices Conference in San Diego March 4th - 8th

PV2 isn’t just another permaculture convergence that focuses on hyper-local DIY skill building and resiliency; we instead decided to look bigger.

We are blending the practical techniques and tactics found in workshops with the entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity of a business conference.

We have brought together a diverse group of creative and innovative doers in a variety of fields looking to share experiences, knowledge, connect, and create in ways that increase passion, purpose and profit. These doers come from a variety of fields both within and outside of permaculture. Each field has its own needs and yields. It is this edge that creates the opportunity for things to happen, and it is this opportunity that offers value to the attendees – how can you fill needs and utilize yields to create more value in your life.

Farm Finance Challenge

Click here for the HUB with all the farms

For the first posting we had some farms that chose to publish late due to whatever reason. Farm life, sick kids, etc... Nothing wrong with that. As we move forward we are all trying to publish as a group on the 15th of every month. So the middle of every month going forward we will have our reports up and to you guys so that we can all grow as a farming community.

Fresh Farm Aquaponics

  • Aquaponics and Consulting
  • Gross Income: $2210.31
  • Expenses: $262.27
  • January Report

Humble Hill Farm

  • Vegetables and Fruit
  • Gross Income: $1043.00
  • Expenses: $6365.23
  • January Report

Take aways:

Are you maximizing the potential of the traffic you get on your farm? Are you giving them a reason to come back?

What message are you sending with your brand?

Farm Quote of the Episode

"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well." - Jeff Bezos

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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.

GFP066: Stockpile Grazing, Saving Money on Farm, and Sharing Information

What if you could save more money every year just by managing your farm a little better and taking care of your land? What if the strategy that made the most ecological sense made the most financial sense as well? Well, turns out people have been doing it for years! We're talking stockpile grazing. Where basically instead of cutting hay you are leaving the grass on pasture and letting the cows graze longer. Seems simple right? Well yes, the concept is simple, but the actual execution is a little tougher, that's maybe why not so many people do it. Also, there's a bottle neck of information into a few books and not a lot of up to date real time information.

Enter The Grass Whisperer.

Troy Bishopp "The Grass Whisperer" is an experienced farmer and great writer that is taking his skills and filling in that information gap. On today's podcast he talks about saving a whole bunch of money by keeping your cows on grass longer, he drops some words of wisdom about how to learn on farm, and the rest of the interview is jam-packed with helpful tidbits whether you raise animals on pasture or not.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • What is stockpile grazing?
    • How do you do it?
    • How do you plan?
    • What effects does it have on your land?
    • Will is save you money?
    • How Troy grazed his cattle on pasture until January!
    • How being flexible will keep you sane
    • The benefits of letting your grass rest
    • What it means to keep your microbes well-fed

Interview with The Grass Whisperer

the grass whisperer-7746

Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is an accomplished professional grazier of 27 years, a grasslands advocate, and a voice for grassfed livestock producers to the media, restaurateurs and legislators.  In addition to working with the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist, Troy is a free-lance writer for a variety of publications, and a popular presenter for workshops and conferences.

Troy is a life-long learner, taking advantage of new knowledge and past experience to bring a holistic approach to grazing planning.  Instead of thinking in terms of grazing 8 inches down to 2 inch residuals, he helps farmers chart a course that pays attention to their personal goals as well as their profits.  Visit his Grazing Help and Speaking & Workshops pages to find out more about what Troy brings to the table (or the pasture).

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Click the image to go to Troy's website.

Farm quote of the episode:

"I've often been asked what drives me, particularly through the last 50 years of abuse, and ridicule. What has kept me going is one word - care. I care enough about the land, the wildlife, people, the future of humanity. If you care enough, you will do whatever you have to do, no matter what the opposition." - Allan Savory

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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.

GFP065: Is a homesteader considered a farmer?

When it comes to owning and operating a farm business there is a lot of talk about scale. Are you big enough? Are you too big? What is right, what is wrong? There is only one right answer, whatever works best for you is what works best for you. I operate at a large small scale. I mean that I only have 52 acres and at the same time I can't believe I have 52 acres, it's insane. It is not 10,000 acres or even 1,000 acres, but there is a lot that can go onwith even just one acre. On the show today is a guy with about 10 acres and he is striking a balance that works for him and his fmaily. He is also approaching farming or homesteading in a very smart way and has a lot of good information to share from doing so.

Is there a right or wrong scale, it depends. It all depends on what your holistic goal is. What are you looking to get out of your hard work on farm. And it will be hard work no matter what scale you operate at. For me personally I have been trying to balance the scale of the many different operations on farm to balance the fact that I am unable to do any one of them at a large enough scale to benefit from the economies of scale.

Not only have I been trying to balance how big or small things need to be to make money on farm, but taking into account that I miss my friends, I love spending time with my family, and I want to have a semblance of a life outside of farming. It all comes down to what your goals are and what life you want to live. Can farming provide that? We'll find out in this episode and throughout 2015.

So, can a homesteader be a farmer? Listen to the podcast episode and find out.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Whether you can consider a homesteader a farmer
  • How to start and grow your farm sustainably
  • How much time is spent marketing vs. "in the field"
  • Different business models for farming
  • A great resource for all things homesteading
  • A free cow is not free
  • Getting time off from farming

Interview with Austin Martin of This Is Homesteady

professional homesteader

In Austin's words from his website: "Imagine this scenario. Farm girl moves to city. Farm girl meets surfer boy. Farm girl shows surfer boy country, chickens, and how to shoot. They marry. Surfer boy becomes country boy.

Then came the babies.

After the birth of our son, we quickly realized our third floor apartment was not going to be right for the family we wanted to have. We wanted to find a place where we could put down roots. After a year-long search, we found Squash Hollow.

Surrounded by fields and woods, so began the idea of starting a small farm. With our farm we could provide our family with the freshest food available. Now we grow enough to share our harvest with your family as well!

Our Farms' Mission:

We believe the earth we live on and the animals around us are beautiful gifts to be taken care of!  We strive to give ouranimals the happiest life possible, and enrich the land around us."

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

What would be your first step on your farming journey? Or, what is your next step to improve upon your current farm?

What scale do you think you would be most happy operating at?

Answer in the comments section below.

Farm quote of the episode:

"The road is rocky, make Homesteady." - Austin Martin

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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.

GFP064: Successful online farm marketing in 2015

We live in an increasingly digital age and as farmers we have a lot of options for how to market our farm online. Where do we focus? Where do we spend our time? At the end of the day, where do we make the investment? Today's podcast is not about registering on places like LocalHarvest.org  or similar sites where we can get a posting that people can find. It is about actively engaging our customers so that once they find us they stay informed, engaged, and keep coming back. It takes a lot more effort to get a new customer than to keep a returning customer, but it still takes effort. I want to break it down into what I plan on doing this year. It is more simple than it may appear at first, and since it's my plan and I'm going to be (have been) acting on it, I am happy to share on FMS how it all works.

The way I see it your active online presence is separated into two groups, Primary and Secondary.

Primary:

  1. Farm Website
  2. Email List

Your Primary is your home base on the internet. "All roads lead to Rome." Every other presence, including your Local Harvest listing, should point back to your farm website. This is your opportunity to educate your customers on everything you are doing and to keep them coming back by continuing to add new content.

Your website should have details on what you grow, how your grow it, and where people can buy it. After that it is up to you as to how much detail you want to go into. The more the merrier as long as you keep it organized.

Your email list is your gateway into peoples homes and cell phones. An email can be a very private and important thing. People are always listening for that little bing that tells them they have a new message. If all the Social Networks in the world fail you will always be able to sell through your email list.

Secondary:

  1. Facebook
  2. YouTube
  3. Instagram

This is the second layer of what you are doing online. These three are great for a couple of reasons.

Facebook is very approachable and there are a lot of people using it. It is a great place to get started with all of your farms' basic info and story. Even though the updates that Facebook has been rolling out has made it a little harder to reach your audience these days you still can reach people AND it links to just about every other network so cross promoting outside of Facebook is easy. Here you can post photos, videos, stories, articles, whatever you want that is relevant to you and your brand. If nothing else it is a good gateway drug to the world of Social Media.

YouTube has been really good for me. While my farms' YouTube page doesn't have a ton of views, the customers that go there because I included a link to a video in an email have come up to me and said how much they loved the video. It is a way to give people a tour of the farm without actually having to host them on farm. From the comfort of their own home people can see what you are doing, how you are doing it, and you have control over the whole interaction. With the Smartphones getting better at not only taking video, but sharing it to the web, uploading videos to YouTube is getting easier and easier.

Instagram for me is one thing, a means to an end. I cannot attribute many sale directly to Instagram, but I can indirectly. Let me explain. I have an Instagram account @foodcyclist. I have friends and family that follow me there. I also have other people involved with the farm that have their own Instagram accounts. The beautiful thing is that we can use the APP to take a photo, edit it, add a fun filter, and all upload it to the farms' Facebook page. The pictures we post get more engagement than anything else. Because it is so easy from my phone I use it as much as I can.

farm marketing infographic x650

Farm Website Posts on FMS:

Farm Email List Posts:

Other useful links:

Take aways:

The world is getting increasingly digital. How are people going to find you online and what are they going to see?

If you had to start or focus on one thing this year online, what would it be? Let me know below!

Farm quote of the episode:

"That's my only goal. Surround myself with funny people, and make sure everyone has a good time and works hard." - Joe Rogan

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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.

GFP063: What's coming on Farm Marketing Solutions in 2015

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2014 was a great year for Farm Marketing Solutions and for Camps Road Farm. On farm we expanded in a few areas, built a lot of infrastructure, and learned a lot about our land and what it is capable of. Online I made a lot of great progress as well. I am constantly listening to hear when farmers are struggling with something or if someone needs some advice or to hear a story about life on the farm. My whole goal with this website is to bring as much value as I can to the readers, listeners, and watchers. I am also learning a lot as well. About farming, about marketing, and about my audience. I then share what I learn here and on my other "channels" so that others may learn with me. Well, 2015 is going to be no different. I have a lot to learn and I want to learn and grow as a group. That is why I have already launched my content plan for 2015. I have been very busy.

Right click here to download the MP3

Farm Finance Challenge:

I have to get better at record keeping and financial tracking. Last year was a growth year, and this year is still kind of a growth year but my budget is way tighter and I have to be really smart about what I do and how I do it. I also need to justify all my decisions to the boss and to myself. Keeping on point with my record keeping will make running the farm easier year to year, it will help me make decisions, and it will help other farmers with their businesses as well.

As part of the 12 Month FFC I will have:

  • Monthly Production & Income Reports
  • Participating farms reports
    • Story about each farm
    • Podcast episode with each farm

Growing Farms Podcast:

I will keep the podcast going as it is, same format, and same schedule. I have seen the podcast grow from the very beginning to over 100,000 downloads. Considering every episode is 30-60 minutes, that's a lot of podcast time. During the year I will be interviewing more farms from all over the world, I will be interviewing the participants in the FFC (by the way, it turns out they're really interesting people), and I will continue to openly share my story so that we can all grow our farms together.

  • Bi-weekly podcast just the way you like it
farm podcast
farm podcast

Videos on YouTube:

I found that when there was something I needed to learn on farm I turned to video. Now having learned a lot, I still turn to YouTube, haha! I am also creating a lot of videos from around the farm and in the farm office to share what I have learned. The videos are typically 1-3 minutes on a very specific topic. I really don't sell anything on them. The videos are meant to be actionable pieces of advise that you can walk outside and use.

  • Lots of video on YouTube and reposting to the blog
    • Tips from the Field
    • Tips from the Farm Office
farm marketing youtube
farm marketing youtube

 

Updates to FMS:

Aside from all the fun content there is not quite as fun website maintenance, restructuring, reformatting, etc... There is a whole back-end side to running a website and building a community. At this time I do everything and I farm full time so you can guess that I cannot always get around to everything. I have a few more big ideas and projects in the works but my mission in 2015 is to stay focused, get my farm running smoothly, get Farm Marketing Solutions running more smoothly, and then we'll think about these new big projects.

I will be and have been creating a lot more content and sharing what I have been doing. What works and what is not working. If one thing I post saves you some time and headache then it has been a good day for me.

  • Cleaning things up
    • Getting the website I want it (will it ever be done?)
    • Thinking about a site redesign (maybe next winter)
    • Getting book sales on the website
    • Publishing more content

Farm quote of the episode:

"Entrepreneurs may be brutally honest, but fostering relationships with partners and building enduring communities requires empathy, self-sacrifice and a willingness to help others without expecting anything in return." - Ben Parr

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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.

GFP062: 3 Things I will do differently in 2015 on farm

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

1. Spend more time with family

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

2. Get on top of my record keeping

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

3. Get better at outsourcing and delegation

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

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take the 12 Month Farmer Finances Challenge With Me

uncle sam

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

Take aways:

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

Farm quote of the episode:

"The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success: Concentration, Discrimination, Organization, Innovation and Communication." - Harold S. Geneen

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

GFP061: Bringing the farm all together

There are SO many topics to cover when to comes to farming. Each topic reflects on something that the average farmer has to deal with as he or she runs their operation. Today's podcast episode covers it all. The mindset to focus on today is that of the big picture. It is very easy to get caught up in the minutia of each farming task. Exactly what tool to use, exactly how to grow something, or most often exactly how to fix something. As we work through all of the little details, which are super important, we must remember the big picture and our holistic goal.

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

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Robbie & Deena of Sweet Roots Farm

Robbie and Deena grow a variety of vegetables and flowers on roughly four acres in Grass Valley, CA.

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

Their mission statement as seen on their website:

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you actively keeping the big picture in your head?

How are you preparing for next year?

Farm quote of the episode:

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." - Henry Ford

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

GFP060: Finding a farming model that works

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

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

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

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

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows

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

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

infographic-meat-makers

Take aways:

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

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

Farm quote of the episode:

"Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective."

- Zoe Zantamata

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

GFP059: Starting a farm at your College

Starting a farm anywhere can be an uphill battle. The thing you have to focus is is that you are (hopefully) doing it with good intentions, and you have to want to live your passions. If you focus on those two things the rest will fall into place. If you want to start a farm at a College or University you may be in luck. We live in a time where more and more people are open to and interested in small scale sustainable agriculture. While it is nerve racking to just jump in and do it, sometimes that is what it takes. If you do decide to go rogue and start gardening in the Quad there's a few things you might want to keep in mind first. Let's start by asking these questions:

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

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

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

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

Some ideas for incorporating a farm into your school:

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Nai de Gracia of Pamona College Farm

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

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Visual farm update:

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starting a farm-3558
starting a farm-3624
starting a farm-3641

Take aways:

What would starting a farm do for you?

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

Farm quote of the episode:

"It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." - Grace Hopper

Our proud sponsor:

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

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

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

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

The are SO many farming operations to choose from when starting a farm. The one I chose to start with, and that has become the cornerstone of my farming operation is pastured poultry. That specifically means in this instance raising chickens on pasture with the intention of selling them for meat. When raising meat chickens there are a number of factors that you have to take into account when you are choosing a breed. Any option can be a good option as long as it works for you.

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

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

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

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

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

Interview with Joel Slezak of Free Union Grass Farm

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

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

Photo Credit: Modern Farmer

Items Mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

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

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

Farm quote of the episode:

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

- Seth Godin

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

GFP057: On Farm Events for Marketing and Fun

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

Picture 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:

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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

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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

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

ruth blackwell

Ruthie 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

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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.