Saturday, May 23, 2015

TBF 115 :: Dairy Goats & Cheese Making, Cattle on Pasture, 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've listened to my "Hard Lessons Learned" over the past two years of "The Beginning Farmer Show" it would be very much aware of the fact that I am a beginning farmer. As you watch the video below it will also be painfully obvious that I am very much more a beginning YouTube creator! I had problems with video equipment, issues with audio equipment, and then there was the significant reality that I had know idea what I was doing ... nevertheless Lois Reichert of Reichert's Dairy Air is both a professional cheese maker and interviewee.

As you will hear in the podcast and see in the video the life of a small-scale goat dairy and cheese making farmer is all consuming, but you will also hear Lois' passion for both her goats and her cheese come out. Her dedication to producing the best possible product begins with great management of her dairy goat herd and follows all the way through her milking and cheese making process. The other main thing that is evident though is that it can be a tough row to hoe for a beginning farmer, and starting a goat dairy may not be the best choice for the a person looking to jump in to the farming world with both feet.

Are you involved in small-scale dairying? Do you know someone that is? What about a goat dairy, is that something that has been on your radar as you research farm enterprises? I would love to hear you thoughts and comments!



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 rev iew (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 ...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TBF 114 :: Technology and Homesteading, Moving Pigs, 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.**


farmtechI am a small-scale diversified livestock farmer who doesn't use GPS guided tractors, robotic feed controllers, or large amounts of bio-tech seeds. But, I do very much depend on technology for my farming and marketing. The rotational grazing would not be possible without the use of my polywire electric fence and hi-tech energizers with remote controlled on/off features. In some ways my plans are made every week based on the information gleaned from the weather apps on my farm. The Square App has helped make sales that wouldn't have happened if I was a cash only vendor. And, of course I am very thankful for the Podcast App on my iPhone and all the listeners that use it and other apps!

Technology and the farm go hand in hand these days whether it is online programs, phone apps, or even larger technologies that help keep the farm running or make things more safe and efficient for the farmer. And, those sorts of technology are just for large corporate farms, but also for small-scale beginning farmers like myself. I use technology to help make farming decisions, market, and stay true to my farming values.

Below you'll find a list of online and phone apps as well as other technologies that I find useful. Are there applications that are useful on your farm? What about applications that you wish someone would create? Let's brainstorm some ideas!
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, May 06, 2015

TBF 113 :: "Despite What You've Heard", Grow Grass Grow, 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.**


insanelyinnovative"Despite What You've Heard, Small Farmers are Doing Just Fine". That is the title of a recent article by Brent Preston who runs an organic farm with his wife in Canada. What is so striking about this brief but compelling article is that it is completely opposite of the other articles about small-scale farming that have been making the rounds on social media over the past year. Those articles had titles such as, "Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers" or, "Has the US hit peak farmers' market?" (this one is actually a pretty decent read and very informative) and the most recent big splash, "What nobody told me about small farming: I can't make a living". Can an online article have a more depressing title than those! Thankfully Mr. Preston has taken some time to respond and he is offering a different picture of the small-scale farming landscape, one that I feel is a little more representative of the reality.

Obviously the statement that, "small farmers are doing just fine" paints a pretty broad stroke and there are farms out there that are struggling or having tough patches. But, the reality is that there are always some businesses (remember farming is a business) struggling or working to pull themselves out of a hole. A struggling restaurateur could have easily written an article titled, "What nobody told me about the restaurant business: I can't make a living". Thankfully Mr. Preston took time in his article to share some of the "common elements" that he has noticed on successful farms over the years. I could not have said them better!

What do you think about the latest installment of the, "how are small-scale farms" doing genre? Were you encouraged by the writing of Mr. Preston or deflated because even the success that he wrote about seemed difficult to obtain? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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 29, 2015

TBF 112 :: The Kickstarter Special on Pigs, Quick News, 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.**


hooppigsPigs! I love to talk about pigs, and that is exactly what this episode is all about thanks to the generous Kickstarter backer's Paul and Delanie of Oak Grove Valley Farm. More specifically though it is a discussion of my thoughts about raising pigs for what I guess can best be described is a "niche pork" buyer (think Niman Ranch, Berkwood Farms, Organic Valley, etc.). This is actually something that I have thought about quite a bit though because it is a route that I have considered pursuing in the past and still think about from time to time. When I set it in my mind that I wanted to have a hoop building on our farm one of the biggest problems I had was what to do with the building when I had the pigs in the woods. I just didn't like the idea of spending quite a bit of money on a building that wouldn't be used for over half of the year! That led me to look at the possibility of raising one batch per year of hogs in the hoop building starting in May and then finishing those pigs before I was ready to bring up my pigs for the winter. My hope was that the building would then work for our farm all year long. In the end though I have not yet decided to go that route for a variety of reasons (herd health issues, infrastructure issues, profitability, etc.).

Of course just because I have decided that the time is not right for me to go that direction at this time it does not mean that it is a bad idea. If you are starting from scratch though, or at least just beginning to raise pork for a similar market, there are a few things that I would make sure to have planned before you begin. Actually I'm sure there are a lot, but these are the few that came to the top of my mind:
  • Will you be raising pigs farrow-to-finish? If so do you have the needed infrastructure?
  • If you will be getting in feeder pigs (some may come as small as 20-30 lbs.) do you have facilities to handle them depending on the season?
  • What will your feed source be? Pasture/woodlot can be a piece of the ration, but if you are going to be raising pigs for these types of markets they will want a certain amount of consistency and quick growth.
  • In my mind scale is a benefit with this type of market, do you have the ability/infrastructure to have batches of around 100 pigs that are finishing about the same time?
As if that wasn't enough pig talk the discussion also morphed into some more general pig raising talk about pasture structures, hog feeders, waterers, numbers of pigs per acre, and whatever else worked it's way into my mind. What do you think? Do you see any benefits for going selling to a "niche pork market" such as this? I would love to hear your thoughts, and I know Paul and Delanie would as well!

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, 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 ...
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