Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TBF 095 :: Christmas on the Farm, Christmas Hams, 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.**


I love all seasons on the farm, but there is just something special about winter on the farm that really makes me thankful. In my mind it begins at Thanksgiving as we enjoy the bounty of the growing year, continues through the Christmas season, and then all the way to January and February as the kids (and parents) enjoy the fun that winter on the farm offers. Christmas on the farm is also the perfect time for telling stories and I love a good story ... especially when it is a farm story! Some stories make you thankful for what you have, other stories help remind you of what is truly important, and there are even stories that are just fun memories of times gone by. On today's episode I want to share three such stories. One comes from "Successful Farming" Magazine, another comes from the story of an Iowa farmer, and the last comes from my own childhood farm memory.

Do you have Christmas or winter memories from the farm? Stories that you love to share? I would love to hear your stories so don't be afraid to share!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This 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, December 17, 2014

TBF 094 :: Can I Break Even, The Grinder Mixer Grinds, 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.**



Of all the farming related questions I receive I would say that the majority of them have to do with money. Questions like: Can I make a full-time living? How much will insurance cost? What is the profit margin per hog? Can I at least break even? All of those are great questions, but like many things in life the answer isn't always a yes or no, but rather it is usually "it depends". That was also the answer I had to give for a couple questions that I received over the past week. It's not that I didn't have thoughts on the subject, but sometimes a simple question like, "can I at least break even" just leads to so many more questions. Questions like: What price will you have to charge to break even? Do you have interested customers? How much marketing are you able to do? What about input costs (feed, pigs, water, structure, etc.)? All of those questions and their answers will make it possible to answer the, "can I break even" question.

Very rarely though do I lack an opinion on a farming subject, especially when that subject is pigs! That is why on today's episode I attempt to answer Doug's question about whether or not he could break even raising 3 to 6 American Guinea Hogs (or any pig for that matter) on his three acre property. The easy answer is yes. I mean if you have people willing to pay enough you can break even no matter what, but of course that is where the variables come into play. Once you take all of those into account I think the answer still may be yes, if you can come up with reasonable answers for questions about feed, purchasing feeder pigs, marketing, and so much more.

What do you think? What does it take to raise 3 to 6 pigs and break even or make a profit? Are you doing it now, or are you hoping/planning to do it in the future? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This 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, December 10, 2014

TBF 093 :: The Farmer Christmas List, Overwhelmed, 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.**


farmersgiftguide.jpgThis past week has been a bit overwhelming on the farm and in our world of farm business planning. When things get that way it is always nice to do something a little more lighthearted and fun, which is exactly why I have put together my Second Annual Beginning Farmer Christmas List! Farmers can be hard to shop for because usually if there is something they need it is needed at that moment and can't wait for the nearest birthday or holiday, but it is still nice to have something for them to open up if you have a farmer or future farmer on your shopping list. On today's episode (and listed below) you'll find ten things that I think make great gifts because I use them on my farm, or they are so awesome that I actually have them on my wish list. There are things for reading, things for working, things for making that work easier, and of course even a bonus item that will help you clean up at the end of the day ...

The Beginning Farmer & Future Farmer Christmas List
  1. Carhartt Double Front Logger Jeans
  2. GreenBest Expandable Garden Hose
  3. Chainsaw Helmet System
  4. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  5. Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard
  6. Kinco Pigskin Leather Gloves and the Six Pack of Gloves
  7. Fence Staple Driver and the Fancy Fence Staple Driver
  8. Acres USA Subscription
  9. Cordless Impact Wrench
  10. Knipex High Leverage Combination Pliers
  11. FarmCrafted Soap made by The Beginning Farmer's Wife
What is on your farming Christmas list or what would you suggest for other farmers? Check out what was on my Christmas list last year!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This 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, December 03, 2014

TBF 092 :: My Farm Business Plan Update, News From the Farm, 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.**


If you ask anyone that has know me for even the shortest amount of time they would probably tell you that I am a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of guy. I like to come up with an idea and then just start doing it without putting a lot of thought into how it will get done, or rather more accurately what it will take to get it done. For example there have been more than three or four times when I have brought livestock home to the farm because I really wanted them or because they were a "really good" deal with no plan on where to house them or what will keep them from deciding to hang-out in the neighbors cornfield. The same can be said for my "business planning" up until this point.

Unfortunately I haven't been too concerned with the business of the farm over these past six years and I'm starting to understand that it probably has hurt my decision making along the way. It's not that I haven't been thinking of the dollars and cents, but rather that I didn't dig down deep into what those numbers were saying and how that impacted various things on the farm. All of that is changing though because I am about 1/3 of the way through my business plan workbook and I've been doing a lot of writing, answering questions, and assessing the farm, labor, enterprises, values, and marketing. My business planning isn't exactly flying, but I am finally making some steady progress and along with that progress I'm beginning to recognize a few things that have me thinking ...

My Business Plan Insights So Far ...
  • There is room for growth in my markets ... especially when it comes to hogs.
  • The Meat CSA and our Whole/Half Hog sales need to receive more of my focus
  • I really need to hone in on our shared values for the farm and make some cut-backs in other areas.
  • Pigs truly are the centerpiece of our farm ... by a large margin.
  • Not every enterprise on the farm is a good idea judged purely by the numbers, but that doesn't mean they don't have an important place on the farm
Have you ever made a business plan? If so, what surprising things did you find? What should I be looking for as I do all of this evaluation and planning?

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This 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, November 26, 2014

TBF 091 :: The Thankful Farmer, Happy Farm Updates, 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.**


trenchingFor a whole host of reasons I absolutely love the Thanksgiving holiday! I love it because of the history, the season that it comes in, the focus on family around a table, and of course because of the fact that it often points people to remember an idea that we don't think of often enough ... Thankfulness! As I look back on this year of farming (and the past six years since we began) I realize that I have very much to be thankful for on the farm. And it is not just the good moments, because there are often reasons to be thankful even in the midst of difficulty. Below you will find a short list of the things that I am thankful for as a beginning farmer. Of course this is not the complete list, but rather those things that are most closely related to our farming journey ...
  • I am thankful for all of the difficult tasks, moments, hours, days, and weeks on the farm.
  • I am thankful for the family, friends, and neighbors who have helped me along the way.
  • I am thankful for my wonderful wife and children.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to work outside no matter what the weather is.
  • I am thankful for the fact that the livestock help keep me humble.
  • I am thankful for the countless farm friends that help keep the farm running by supporting us.
  • I am thankful for the farmers that came before me.
  • I am thankful for the sunsets, the cool breeze, the softly falling snow, the spring rains, and the beautiful stars at night.
  • I am thankful that I am a farmer.
What are you thankful for this year? No matter where you are on your farming journey I would love to hear what you are thankful for and what sticks out in your mind!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! Links Mentioned in This 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, November 19, 2014

TBF 090 :: Winter Preparations, Mud Boots, 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.**


winterbootsWinter preparation will vary from climate to climate, but here in South Central Iowa it means getting ready for temperatures that can head south of zero, snow that can suck you into the ditch, and wind that seemingly will find it's way through all your warmest layers! Because of that in an ideal world I would head into winter with all of my preparations done and then just carry on the minimal chores needed for the farm and relax next to the wood stove. The reality though is that no matter how well I plan to prepare for winter I always miss something, or in the case of this year winter decides to sneak up on me earlier than I think it should arrive. Nevertheless I keep preparing for the short days, cold nights, white snow, and blustery winds. Below you'll find some of the things that I try to do as we prepare for winter on the farm ...
  • The Gathering of Firewood - This one might not matter to you, but for me it is how we keep our home warm and our expenses as low as possible.
  • The Watering of Livestock - Water tanks, heaters, automatic valves, and hoses! There is so much to keep track of and in working condition when the temperatures drop below freezing.
  • The Feeding of Livestock - Feeding in the winter often means working around deep snow, mud, and even roads that are impassable. All of that becomes even more difficult if you rely on a tractor for some of your feeding.
  • The Warmth of Livestock - Give the animals a place where they can find shelter from the wind and a dry place to bed down is always priority number one on any farm in the snow belt.
  • The Cleaning of the Farm - I love when we get six inches of softly falling snow. It is beautiful and even fun, but where I've run into problems in the past is when it covers up and hides things that I need!
  • The Gathering of Warm Clothes - The most important winter preparation in my book is gathering together all of my cold weather clothes so that I can stay warm doing all the other things on my list. If I can't stay out there and stay warm then things aren't getting done.
  • The Checking of Fence - If you use electric fence like I use electric fence, and you have snow, then you probably want to have the ability to shut down sections of the fence (or even individual wires) to keep it from shorting out in the snow.
  • The Maintenance of Equipment - There are now fully enclosed buildings on my farm where I can pull in equipment and work on it out of the cold and wind, so I like to have all of my equipment ready to go for the winter in hopes of minimizing my breakdowns.
  • The Monitoring of the Forecast - If there is a big storm coming I want to have all my hay in place, feeders filled, and plans made for taking livestock to the locker. That means keeping an eye on the forecast even if they don't have the best track record for accuracy.
  • The Enjoying of the Season - Winter is going to come to Iowa no matter what I do, so I might as well enjoy the snow as much as possible. And I do enjoy it!
What are you doing to prepare for winter? Is your neck-of-the-woods colder than mine? Warmer than mine? I'd love to hear how you prepare for the changing of seasons.

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Boots and Links Mentioned in This 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, November 12, 2014

TBF 089 :: Dexter Cattle, The Big Bin Ordeal, 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 very first "farm animals" that we had while we still lived in town were chickens that we raised in our backyard. But, while still living in town the second "farm animal" that we began purchasing were our Dexter Cattle. Obviously we weren't able to keep them in town (the police even made us get rid of our chickens), but my dad only lived a little more than an hour away and had plenty of pasture, so that is where we began our herd. Before I knew it we had way too many Dexters because I had been finding way too many "good deals". At that time (around seven years ago) I was completely enamored with the Dexter breed, with grassfed cattle, and with having cattle as the center piece of our farm. Times have changed quite a bit and while we still do have our Dexters I am beginning to question their place on our farm. Not cattle as a whole, but the Dexter breed specifically.

While I very much appreciate the smaller size of Dexters, the tri-purpose use that they can have, the great flavor of their meat when raised solely on grass, and of course their stately looking horns ... there are somethings that are beginning to make me question whether or not they are the best fit for our farm. Over the years I have often had this thought pop into my head in regards to high price for breeding stock compared to the amount of meat you receive from each steer, but recently a few other questions have begun bouncing around my head and they have me thinking maybe it is time to shift my focus when it comes to cattle.

Generally speaking, while I do love my little Dexters the economic realities of wanting to have a wholly viable and financially sustainable farm has me question where they fit into the picture. I think the real question then becomes what are your goals for having cattle on your farm. Do you just want a small herd to provide a few steers for you, your friends, and a few customers? If that is the case then maybe they are a perfect fit for you. But, if you would like grassfed beef to be more than a small sideline to your business then I think you should at the very least consider other options ... or maybe even write-off Dexters completely.

What does that mean for this beginning farmer and for Crooked Gap Farm? Well, the jury is still out and honestly I probably won't be quick to make a decision on this one because I have quite a bit invested (time, money, and emotions) in even my small herd of cattle! I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment below or join in the fun on The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook.

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 ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...