Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TBF 108 :: 5 Tools for Spring on the Farm, Pasture Seeding, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


Spring on the farm is often a rushed time because everything is coming to life all at once! On our farm that means projects that have been thought about all winter need to begin, new livestock are being born, work needs to begin in the garden, and so much more. To make matters worse it always seems like everything is a priority and there will never be enough time to accomplish all that we want to get done. That's where a good set of tools come in though. Of course that could mean "mental tools" like using your knowledge of the ground you are working to make decisions on planting or grazing. Or, it could mean "physical tools" such as my John Deere 4020 that is a fixture in most every project that happens on our farm. In the spring though there are often certain tools that shine, and while I may use them from time to time all throughout the year there won't be many days in March or April where you wouldn't finding me using one of them. Some tools make the work more efficient, some bring better quality to the work, and some even make the work more enjoyable!

Below you'll find my "top 5 tools for spring on the farm", but I want to hear what some of your favorites are. Comment below ...

Five Tools For the Farm in the Spring

  1. Stihl Chisel Tooth Circular Saw: This is a blade that attaches to my FS130 trimmer and it makes prep work for the electric fences go much more quickly and take much less toll on my back.
  2. Steel Post Pounder: There is nothing fancy about a post pounder, but I like one that has plenty of heft and no handles to cause me trouble.
  3. Rear-Tine Garden Tiller: Even though our garden produce isn't something that we sell it plays a huge role in the viability of our farm. That's why a good rear-tine tiller is so important in the spring.
  4. Weather App for my Phone: Tools aren't just for hitting, cutting, and building ... sometimes they help you plan your day or week! I've been trying to use the technology I already have for more than just funny YouTube videos (not to be confused with the super educational Beginning Farmer Videos that will be coming soon). Keeping tabs on the weather helps me plan my days, and if the forecasts are trustworthy, my week.
  5. Family and Friends: I'm not saying that my family and friends are tools, but they sure are a big help and are more important than any of the other tools that I find myself using on the farm. Even more so than my tractor!
Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...

Monday, March 23, 2015

TBF 107 :: Educating Customers & Farmers, Crazy Times, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

customereducation.jpgWhen I dropped our first batch of hogs off at the locker for processing I was completely lost. I didn't know where to drop them off, I wasn't 100% sure I could even get them off the trailer by myself (and I could tell they were too busy to help), and I was even clueless when it came to my cut selections (even to the point where I didn't understand where all the cuts came from on the hog). To put it simply I had no idea what I was doing, which has actually been a pretty normal part of this farming adventure! Processing at a local locker is just one of the many differences between the pork we sell and what our consumers may be used to purchasing at their local grocery store. There are differences in our animal care, differences in our feeding, differences in the space they have, differences in the breeds, differences in the cuts you can purchase, and of course differences in how they purchase our meat! All of that shows just how important consumer education is, and why small-scale farmers need to continually work to educate and encourage a growing customer base.

6 Points of Emphasis for Customer Education & Encouragement

  1. Know Your Cuts of Meat (or whatever your product is)
  2. Share Your Raising Practices & Livestock Husbandry
  3. What to Expect With Frozen Meats
  4. It's Not Packaged Like at Big Box Stores
  5. The Processor Makes the Final Product
  6. What Sets Your Product Apart (your elevator pitch)

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App.

It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show! I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail!

As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TBF 106 :: The Nuts & Bolts of Our Meat CSA, Chicks are Happy, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


meatcsa.jpgWhen we began our Crooked Gap Farm Meat CSA in January, 2014 it was with the hope that it would replace our farmers market sales. In fact we were so hopeful that it would replace those sales that it was part of the reason we decided not to attend the market at all in 2014. While making that decision I realized it probably would have been best to do the market part-time at the beginning of the season to help our customers make the transition, but we were just so burnt out from the market that we jumped in head first to the Meat CSA! The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model is not a perfect fit for every farm, but it has worked well for us and it is growing. There is one thing I'm certain of ... like most other things in farming and marketing there is a learning curve (especially when you are offering a variety of products) when it comes to putting together shares and managing the inventory. 

On this weeks episode of The Beginning farmer Show we are going to take some time (a lot of time actually) to answer questions about our Meat CSA model. The direction for this episode came in the form of a great e-mail from Kevin who asked:
  1. How do you determine what goes in the box each week?
  2. How did you price it?
  3. Is the goal to have a customer at the end of the year end up with: for example, a 1/4 or 1/4 hog, an 1/8 beef and 10 chickens or do you do it based on what's in the freezer that week?
  4. If not, how do you know if the customer is getting a balance of cuts (i.e. not too many chuck roasts and also not all steaks)?
  5. Are there any cuts of the animal that you absolutely don't put in the box based on their value?
Along with Kevin's questions I also posted the topic to The Beginning Farmer Show Facebook page and had more great questions come in! I've done my best to offer my thoughts, but I would love to hear what you think about the Meat CSA model. Do you have any tips that I haven't thought of? What is working in your marketing efforts? Join the discussion in the comments below.

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

TBF 105 :: Do Chickens Work for the Farm, Thanks so Much, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

Raising poultry on a small-scale beginning farm is a pretty common thing, especially when the birds are egg laying hens! There is just something aesthetically pleasing about seeing a flock of hens foraging through the pasture and farm yard softly clucking or chasing bugs. Plus, they produce eggs with dark orange yolks that have a flavor that most people are used to when it comes to the simple egg. But, is there really a dark side to the small-scale farm egg-laying flock? Maybe "dark side" is a little much, but the truth is for most small-scale beginning farmers the profit margin is pretty slim when it comes to the eggs. Once you factor in the cost of the chicks, the cost of the feed just to get them to laying age, their housing, the water, the labor, the costs of marketing the eggs, and all the other incidentals each carton of one dozen eggs has a lot of money in them! When I think about all of that I often wonder, "Why in the world did I just order 150 laying chicks?"

That is a valid question because if we've learned anything from over 100 episodes it is that the beginning farming journey isn't always easy! I do think there are some good reasons for having laying hens and egg production as a part of your farming enterprise and I would love to hear why you think it is an important piece of the farming puzzle ... comment below! 

Links Mentioned in the Episode




As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ... 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TBF 104 :: Farming Questions & Answers, Finding the Mix, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

"The Beginning Farmer Video" Kickstarter Campaign

beginningfarmerquestions.jpgWhy in the world would you shave your beard in the middle of winter when snow is coming? What are a few of your farming tricks of the trade? How do you decide when you need to make price increases? Those are just a sampling of the questions that I'm going to attempt to address on this weeks episode. Notice that I was very clear there and I did not say I would "answer" them, but rather I'll just do my best to share my thoughts. Below you'll find a list of the questions that came in over on the Facebook page and the links that relate to those questions. One of my most favorite things about farming is the exchange of knowledge, so if you have any thoughts on these subjects please comment below!

Farming Questions From Listeners:

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TBF 103 :: Let's Be Positive About Farming, No Chicks Yet, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

"The Beginning Farmer Video" Kickstarter Campaign


It seems like lately there have been a rash of articles about farming and about how you just can't be a successful beginning farmer. Okay ... "a rash of articles" may be a little bit of an overstatement on my part, but there have been a couple over the last year or so. The first one that really grabbed my attention was, "Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers" by Bren Smith and published in the New York Times. I really appreciated Joel Salatin's response in a "Letter to the Editor" (although I will admit not everyone agreed with Mr. Salatin). Most recently the article that is making the rounds is titled, "What nobody told me about small farming: I can't make a living" by Jaclyn Moyer. I have lots of thoughts on both of these articles, but in someways I don't feel qualified to respond because I'm not making my full-time living on the farm.

The biggest thing I took away after reading both of those articles though is that I just want to be positive about the possibilities of farming. The work and business of farming will always be difficult and the margins will always have the possibility of being tight because there are so many variables that you can't control. Nevertheless I want to be positive and encouraging when it comes to the beginning farming journey ... all while telling the whole story (including the hard lessons learned).

Three Encouraging Books for Your Farming Journey:

Other Links Mentioned In This Episode:

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn. 

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TBF 102 :: Plans for Chickens, Non-GMO Feed is Happening, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


"The Beginning Farmer Video" Kickstarter Campaign

chickenplansOur "farm" began with six egg-laying backyard chickens before moving out to the 40 acres that is now Crooked Gap Farm. Somewhere and somehow along this farming journey though the poultry operation was pushed to the back ... and eventually to the way back! Once we began adding pigs, cattle, and eventually sheep to the farm I became less focused on the plans and managing of our poultry flocks. It's not that I didn't keep upgrading infrastructure or that we quit having birds, but rather it was just a part of our farm that I didn't put much thought into. That is going to change this year though because I have a plan for both our meat chickens and our egg-laying flock!

The Ultimate Crooked Gap Farm Chicken Plan for 2015

Our Egg-Laying Chicken Plans (Ordered ASAP):
  • Buff Orpington (15-25) - brown eggs
  • Black Astralorp (15-25) - brown eggs
  • Delaware (15-25) - brown eggs
  • Barred Rock (50-75 including roosters) - brown eggs
  • Araucana (at least 25) - blue/green eggs
  • Pearl-White Leghorns (at least 25) - white eggs
Our Meat Chicken Plans (Chicks arrive at the end of February)
  • Dominiques (25 cockerels)
  • New Hampshire Reds (25 cockerels)
  • Nacked Necks (25 cockerels)
  • White Rocks (25 cockerels)
  • Pioneers (25 straight run)
  • Freedom Ranger Black Broiler (100 straight run)
All total that means there will be a bit over 300 chicks coming to the farm in the span of a few weeks which does cause some issues when it comes to brooder space, especially when keeping them warm will be more difficult with winter still hanging on. My plan is to brood the meat chicks in my two 4x8 brooders that have lids and 2 inch styrofoam insulation that I put on top to keep the heat in. That means that I will be building a quick hover to put in the laying chicken wagon I built last year. Something along the lines of this maybe.

What I can tell you is that I'm excited to have a plan! I'm sure there will be some bumps along the way still and I know there will be some "hard lessons learned" to share, but at least I have something to start with. Do you have chick plans for this spring? If you're ordering chicks what will you be ordering? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

One More Kickstarter Support Option!

From now until February 12th at noon you can get nearly 50% off of John's eBook, "Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans" just by using the code "kickstart" when you check out. That is a great deal, but equally as cool is that John will also be backing "The Beginning Farmer Video" Kickstarter Campaign with the proceeds from the sales. Not only can you choose to support the campaign and receive some cool rewards, but for the next two weeks you can also get a cool eBook and support the campaign at the same time!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five star rating and review (by clicking the link). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with "The Beginning Farmer" and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ...
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