Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TBF 081 :: Facing Farming Realities, Fence Work, 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.**

Lately I've been going through what I'm calling my "Farming Reality Check". It's not so much a mid-life crisis or even a "mid-farm crisis" as much as it is the fact that I am quickly (after slowly) coming to the realization that there needs to be more shifts and movement on the farm. A few weeks ago it became painfully clear that the balance in our life had gone from extremely shaky to absolutely falling off the ball out of balance. This shake-up (which I admit had been coming for sometime) has finally got me to the point where I need to honestly evaluate what is going on at the farm and what maybe needs to have big changes. There is good news though! The good news is that I'm taking the bull by the horns and attacking the balance issue as best as I can ... with the help of my family and all the great listeners of The Beginning Farmer Show I'm building a business plan and taking a close look at everything we do on the farm and why we do it.

Not everything about this episode is a downer though. Thanks to a growing group on the new Beginning Farmer Show Facebook Page I wanted to take some time to answer questions about two of my favorite topics ... chainsaws and pigs! Below you will find links to the resources I mentioned:
One more thing ... I mentioned in this weeks episode that I'm getting about 1,500 volts on the ground wires in my fence. Is this normal or do you have any thoughts on what I'm missing that would be causing this? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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, September 10, 2014

TBF 080 :: Farm Randomness, Fall 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.**

One of the great things about the community that is springing up around The Beginning Farmer Show is that I often receive encouraging e-mails and messages, questions, comments, and links to helpful resources. One of the bad things about me is that when my computer died I neglected to add an important e-mail address to my phone's mail application and because of that I've missed a bunch of great e-mails! There are some great topics though and I want to cover as many as possible. Here is a sampling of the topics that I will be attempting to share some thoughts on ...
  • Dealing with processors can be a challenge. There are often things we as producers worry about because we have spent a lot of time and care getting our livestock to that point only to drop them off and drive away (in some cases).
  • I'm getting pretty passionate about completing my business plan and I'm thankful for all the encouragement and tips that have been coming in.
  • In the future (maybe this year ... maybe next year) we'll be spreading compost on our pastures in order to fully utilize our deep bedding and to help improve our pastures. When is the best time to do that and what about spreading compost in addition to seeding pastures?
  • Even though it would be great if all our interactions with other farmers would be perfect and idyllic our our beautiful farm dreams the reality is that they are people and sometimes it goes better than others. Recently a listener related a story along these lines to me that gave me a lot to think about.
All of those questions together though have lead me to some conclusions about The Beginning Farmer Show, my farming journey, and some things that I would love to see moving forward. I'll give a bit of a preview today, but really what I want to say is that I've been extremely blessed to have the help that I've had and I want to share that help as much as possible! Like I said ... there will be more details coming.

We covered a lot of ground on today's episode! Do you have any tips on working with butchers, building a great business plan, spreading compost and seeding, or even connecting with experienced farmers?

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, September 03, 2014

TBF 079 :: Farm Business Plans, Updates from the Farm, 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.**


This John Deere 4020 has been in the family for almost 50 years and is still a work horse on the farm!
I love working with the pigs, I love driving the tractors, I love attempting to fix the tractors, I love building fence, I love a lot about farming (even the dirty work), but I'm not a big fan of running the numbers and big time planning. What I'm trying to say is that I'm six years into my on-farm journey and I have never completed a business plan ... although I have started a few times. My thoughts on farm business planning have changed recently, as in they've done a complete 180ยบ turn, and I'm in the process of working on my plan. The big question is why have I had such a change of heart ...


The main reason for the my heart of change can be summed up in one phrase, "Something needs to change." I have some idea of things that could change on the farm that would help the business and the family, but I've come to the conclusion that a real life Farm Business Plan could really come in handy. I think it will be especially helpful when it comes to things like communication, taking emotion out of the decisions, goal setting, and plans for the future of the farm. There is one problem though ... I feel completely incapable of making a business plan!
Luckily I have resources ... here they are:
  • Building a Sustainable Business Workbook from The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (This is the one that I'm using and I love it because not only does it have the information, but it has case studies from other farms as well)
  • Online Worksheets from the workbook mentioned above ...
Do you have any tips, tricks, or experiences when it comes to creating your Farm Business Plan? I'd love to continue the discussion 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 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 ...
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