Wednesday, August 27, 2014

TBF 078 :: Beginning a Farm - Marketing & Sales, Farm News, and a Hard Lesson


**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.**

Farming is great! Let's say you've done your research, got set-up on your farm, and now you're even raising some crops or livestock ... you are officially a real life farmer. Of course if you want to continue to be a farmer you should probably figure out how to make a dollar or two along the way. That's where marketing and selling comes into the game, and it is important to realize that those are two things that you will spend a lot of time doing if you want to be a full-time (or part-time) direct-to-consumer farmer. On our farm we started out slow with our marketing ventures and quickly worked our way up to a very large farmer's market. But, looking back and considering the direction that we are going now with our marketing I'm not sure if I would go the route of the farmer's market.

Sure the farmer's market was the main way that we built up our customer base (and we have an amazing group of customers and farm friends), but when you factor in an off-farm job, a family, and the fact that I really had know clue what I was doing with the farming and marketing it might have been less stressful if we would have tackled our market growth in a different way. That is the great thing about living in the 21st century though ... there are tons of opportunities to get the word out about your farm and products. There are plenty of gyms and fitness centers that often times love partnering with farmers, we have healthy living conferences, there are even CSA events where farms can set-up and talk to potential customers about the things they offer. I'd love to hear your thoughts on marketing! What has worked for your farm (or business)? Do you think you have to do the farmer's market thing to be successful? Any suggestions that I missed?

... from Ethan's bookshelf ... one of the upsides (besides the awesome time with my son) of a couple hours four times a day sitting at a hospital was that I found myself with time to read :: this is what I was reading
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, August 20, 2014

TBF 077 :: Beginning a Farm - Choosing Enterprises, Farming in the News, and a Hard Lesson

**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 are going to be a farmer you have to do some sort of farming! It doesn't matter if it is livestock, vegetables, grains, tree crops, fruits, or whatever else you can think of you still need to be doing something other than living on a place in the country. If you are a fresh beginning farmer like I was just under six years ago the question then becomes, "What sort of farming am I going to do?". This will probably be something that you think about throughout all of your farming research, learning, and even your land search. But, I believe (if your like me) that you may not settle on what works for you until you actually get your "hands dirty" on the farm. Of course there are many things to think about when you are choosing your farm ventures, but on this episode I wanted to talk about five that were particularly important to me.
  1. Land :: What can the farming land you have access to support?
  2. Money :: Some ventures take much more capital than others, so which ones will fit into your budget the best?
  3. Market :: Knowing what is being done in your area and what isn't will be very important to you as you build your farm.
  4. Niches :: What can you do to create a specific niche in your area that sets you apart from other farms that may be your "competition"?
  5. Passions :: Are you not a big meat eater? Then raising hogs might not be the thing for you! What are you passionate about and what do you love learning and talking about because that will be important when it comes to telling your farm story!
Here are some links related to the New York Times Opinion piece by Bren Smith titled, "Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers" ...
What advice would you give the beginning farmer looking to find the ventures that fit them and their farms? What do you think about the New York Times opinion piece? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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, August 13, 2014

TBF 076 :: Beginning a Farm - Land Part 2, Help is Great, and a Hard Lesson


**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 call yourself a beginning farmer, but you aren't farming because you have no place to farm does that mean you are still a farmer? That question is really a bit to deep for me, but I did want to spend some more time talking about land because I know how big of an issue this is for beginning farmers. If you remember from episode 75 I spent most of the episode talking about my latest beginning farmer idea ... renting an abandoned homestead area to begin your farm. Of course that idea may not be possible or appealing to everyone, so I wanted to share a few more ruminations on land that I have been running through my head lately when it comes to beginning farmers.

Fence Water GapAfter our first official "farm building" (besides the house) was done I was showing it to my uncle and explaining how I planned on using it. He really only had one comment, "It's not big enough." Of course I tried to explain that I built it as big as I could afford, but what he was really saying is that no matter how big it is you'll never have one big enough because there is always something else you want to have indoors or under cover! He was right ... and now that I'm almost 6 years into my farming journey I'm wishing I had more land. In my mind that is another plus for renting because it may not tie you down to a very specific area like purchasing does. Plus, if I would have tried started out on a very small parcel I may have had a better idea of just how much area was needed for my farming ventures.

Another way to find access to land that I think isn't pursued enough is the idea of partnering with a current farmer. That may mean coming to some sort of agreement with a potentially retiring farmer, possibly finding employment with a farmer looking to change directions or slowly work their way out, or maybe even just come alongside a farmer who has areas of the farm that aren't being utilized. Whatever the agreement may be I believe the value that you would gain as the beginning farmer would be more than just access to land ... there would also be a potential wealth of knowledge that you could mine!

Do you have any advice for the beginner looking for a place to farm? Let us know in the comments below!

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, August 06, 2014

TBF 075 :: Beginning a Farm - Land, Help is Coming, and a Hard Lesson


**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.**

homesteadpigareaLet's say you want to begin a farm (that may be one of the reasons you listen to this podcast). You've done some reading, you've connected with other farmers and organizations, and you've even spent a year working part-time on a real functioning farm. Now you finally feel like it is time to jump in and do some farming on your own, but as a beginning farmer either you see the wisdom behind starting small and with minimal investment or you just don't have much to invest other than your desire because you are a beginner! Either way you are going to need some place to farm, and if you are like me that means you are starting with nothing ... no family land, no land of your own, and not a lot of knowledge to get you there.

When we began our farm I went against everything that I had read and heard because I just felt like I needed to "own" a farm, but if I was going to do it all over again or give advice to another beginner like myself I would strongly encourage them to go the route of renting. In fact lately I've come up with my perfect farm rental plan.

Have you ever been driving the back roads in your neck of the woods and seen those old abandoned farmsteads of 2 to 4 acres? I see plenty of them here in Iowa and I often wonder about the lives of those farmers when they were thriving farms, but lately I've been thinking about the possibility of using them as beginning farms. Usually they are unused, full of trees and other brush, and just waiting for an enterprising beginning farmer that is willing to work and wanting to learn! In today's episode I'm going to talk about why I think they are a good option and what I would do if that is how I was beginning. Do you have any advice for the beginner looking for a place to farm? Let us know in the comments below!

Other 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, July 30, 2014

TBF 074 :: Beginning a Farm - Research, Forgetfulness, and a Hard Lesson


**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.**



podcastview
"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!" If you're used to waking up on Wednesday morning and finding a new episode in your podcast app you already know that this episode is a little late. But, on the flip side I was able to record an early morning episode sitting on the porch looking out across the farm. You can see the view from my "podcasting studio" on the right. One other thing you notice on this episode is a few more distractions that come from recording on the front porch ... distractions as in kitty cats and heifers on the loose. Hopefully though it gives you a small glimpse into the interrupted life of any farmer.


Beginning a Farm: Research

For most prospective beginning farmers the first stage is research. Anytime you are starting a new business, occupation, or venture most of us try to learn as much as possible so that we aren't jumping in completely unaware. That's the way it was for me at least. I read dozens of books, hundreds of magazine articles, countless blogs, and plenty of research papers. In fact I did so much reading that I'm not sure how much I was actually able to consume and retain! If I was going to do my "Farming Research Phase" all over again I would do it differently than I did over eight years ago. Here are my three steps ...

•Reading
•Connecting
•Doing
  • Sometimes (most of the time) it is important to just dig in and get our hands dirty. Find farm, almost any farm, and volunteer your time ... ask if they need a hired hand ... or even offer to pay for the experience (it's that important).
  • BeginningFarmers.org Jobs/Internships Links
:: Other Resources 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, July 23, 2014

TBF 073 :: You Can't Farm, The Heat Wave, and a Hard Lesson


**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.**



haybales
If you're like me you read the latest books, find the best websites, and listen to the greatest podcast about your topic and then think you can go from 0 to 60 in no time flat. Sure, maybe you understand there will be a learning curve or some bumps along the road, but all in all you think it is totally doable and totally doable in your own prescribed amount of time. In some ways that is how I was when I started my farming journey. I read about the people that were doing it. I talked to beginning farmers that were making it work. I thought I had looked at every possible angle! But, what I didn't do (and what I still don't do from time to time) is do a quick reality check and compare apples to apples. If I had done that I don't think I would have actually changed anything other than my thoughts on how long it would take to get from "Point A" to "B" and so on.


On today's episode I want to talk about just those sort of reality checks. Today you can find all sorts of great books, videos, and blogs talking about a great way to make a living on the farm. In fact you'll find links to some of my favorites below. But, at the same time it is important that you understand that just because "Farmer A" is making $50,000 per year on 1/2 an acre doesn't mean that you can go out and do it tomorrow. You probably can do it, and for some of you it may happen tomorrow, but more realistically it will take some time and learning to get to that point. That's why my show has plenty of "Hard Lessons Learned" and most weeks I have multiple lessons to choose from!

 :: Great Resources for Those That Know They Can Farm ::
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, July 16, 2014

TBF 072 :: The County Fair, Farming for Kids, and a Hard Lesson


**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.**


It's Marion County Fair week for us at Crooked Gap Farm. That means that we are extremely busy and that our children are the centerpiece of the farm this week (actually they always are, but you get what I'm trying to say). With that in mind I thought it fit perfectly to take some time on today's episode to a question from Lisa on Facebook. The questions was about getting kids involved on the farm and specifically mentioned age appropriate chores, and while we didn't dig into that completely I do believe we have a great episode because I decided just to go straight to the horses mouth. On today's show my son and I sit down in the show ring stands to talk about the fair, his projects on the farm, and what gets him most excited. Of course I have plenty of "proud father" moments throughout my interview with Caleb, but above all I'm excited because of how excited he is when it comes to the farm.

If you do have any questions for Caleb about his life on the farm feel free to send an e-mail or leave them in the show notes and I think I can convince him to come on again!


:: Some Books Caleb Has Read ::

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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