Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TBF 111 :: Spring Updates & Goals, Locker Trips, 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.**


brooderwagonAs much as possible we try to do our planning in the winter season, but there are just some plans and goals that can't be made until spring comes and you can get a handle on the state of farm. Spring usually uncovers some repairs that need to be made, projects that need to be tackled, and of course all sorts of other problems that come once the new enterprises are started. At least that has been the case on our farm. There are projects that I wanted to get done last fall that have been bumped to this spring ... like the shade wagon for the cattle and sheep. There are projects that need to be done because they didn't get finished before the ground froze ... like the new pig paddock in the woods. And, there are brand new projects that weren't even on the list last year ... like the possibility of building another chicken wagon so I can brood chicks in it. That is the life of a farm though ... ever changing goals and to-do lists!

On today's episode I share and update from each of our main enterprises and then talk about some of my short-term goals. This years short-term goals include building projects and marketing projects. I would love to hear what spring has exposed at your farm! What are you working on? What are your short-term goals? Are there any big projects you have starter or plan on starting soon?

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, April 08, 2015

TBF 110 :: The Snowball Effect, a Sick Cow, 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.**


Do you remember those cartoons where a character starts rolling down a snowy mountain and eventually a snowball is formed with the cartoon character in the middle? And then, as they are rolling down, the snowball gets bigger and bigger collecting everything in its path. Finally, there is the fateful end ... usually in the form of some sort of cabin that the snowball crashes into! That is the best description I have been able to come up with for the farm lately, and at this point I would almost welcome the crash into the wall at the end because at least it would stop the snowball! Of course now that I read that I realize I may be exaggerating the difficulties slightly, but the point is that things have been a little rough lately on the farm and even after six years of farming that causes me to wonder if I'm making the right choice.

So, the question then becomes, "How do you handle the things that knock you down on the farm?" Simply put I think the answer is that you press-on. Just like most things in life, when something goes sideways it doesn't mean everything else stops. Recently when I had a cow down that just had a new calf it didn't meant that I could focus all my energy and thoughts on her. Sure I did everything I could, I called the vet for help right away and checked with other farmers for tips, but in the end there were still literally hundreds of other animals that needed my care and attention (other cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, and rabbits). So, I had to press-on and continue to attempt to do my best at the art that is farming.

This episode isn't my proudest moment, but it is real and raw. Sometimes real and raw can be a good thing ... I hope! So, when the farm starts to snowball on you how do you handle it? This would be a great discussion to have ... join in the comments below!

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, April 01, 2015

TBF 109 :: Guineas No More, Beef in the Freezer, 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.**


stickwithchicksJust when I think everything is chugging along like a "sort of" well oiled machine something comes along and seemingly derails everything. This time the "something" was our Guinea Fowl. In the past you have heard me say all sorts of good things about them: they have a good profit margin, they are great foragers, they do a good job of tick control, and they are generally a hardy bird. From time to time though you have probably heard me talk about how they wander too far, that they won't roost where I want them to, and they can sometimes be a general annoyance. All of the negatives have come to a head in the fact the Guinea Fowl won't stay on my farm and roost where I want them to roost, so they will no longer be a part of our farm. It has been a tough week getting to that point, but now we have most of them caught up and in a wagon with feed and water until they go to the processor (we also already have them marketed).

All of that has led to me rethinking my support of beginning farmers like myself raising Guinea Fowl. I'm not saying that it won't work in other cases, that there weren't things that I could have done differently, or that I don't have ideas that I would have liked to try. What I am saying though is for me they didn't work out and because of that I can't recommend them to other farmers. All of that being said, if you are having success raising your Guinea Fowl, keeping them on your farm, and getting them to roost in the spot you want I would love to here your thoughts and share them with others! Comment below ...

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 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 ... 
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