Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TBF 119 :: An On-Farm Extern, The Garden Grows, 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.**


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Two sets of hard working hands are better than one, and two quick thinking brains will always trump one! Those are just a couple of reasons that we are enjoying having our summer "extern" Ryan on the farm for a few more weeks. He brings lots of great help, great questions, and a wonderful desire to work and learn. On top of all that he also is doing great things teaching high school students about sustainable agriculture and now he will have some crazy stories to go with those lessons. Ryan is able to give you an "outsiders" view on The Beginning Farmer's farm!

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, June 11, 2015

TBF 117 :: How Many Acres, Help on 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.**


Subscribe to "The Beginning Farmer" YouTube Channel!

fulltimefarmOf the many challenges that beginning farmers face (access to land, lack of farming skills, need for capital) one that I often find myself thinking about is just "how many acres" I need to make my farm a "full-time" farm (if that is the goal that you have). That reminds me of something my uncle said to me when he first saw my new shed, "It's not big enough." To me it seemed huge (bigger than our house) and besides, I built it as big as the money would allow! But, as he explained that the reason he said that was because buildings are never "big enough" it made sense. Now that I've had that shed for a few years I have thought plenty of times, "I wish I had room for this thing or that thing."

Often times it is similar when it comes to farm land as well. I am very thankful for the 40 acres we were able to purchase, but sometimes a little more would be useful. If I just had a few more acres I could raise enough cattle or sheep to help the income. If there 20 more acres maybe I could really increase my hog numbers and not sacrifice the grazing animals. Or, if I really upped the acreage maybe I could even produce all the feed on my farm for my animals! Nevertheless the question stands, "How many acres do you feel you would need in order to increase your various livestock levels so you would be able to support your family with just your farm income and not have to work off farm?" When I think about that question I have a few thoughts and a couple of paths I think I could go (or any other farmer in my shoes). I wonder to myself what could I do instead of livestock that would require 10 or less acres? I wonder if I just plain need to raise my prices to support everything on the land we have? I wonder if instead of increasing livestock numbers there just needs to be some other source on "on-farm" income (as in work from home). But, that wasn't the question ... so I feel like I have two paths I could take if I wanted to land a full-time on farm income as far as the number of acres.

Path #1 :: 40 Acres Enough

Sometimes bigger isn't better, so with that in mind there might be value in not increasing the amount of land that I am farming, but rather "farm it better" (you can decide for yourself what is better). If I was to take a path like this one I wouldn't increase my land, but rather increase my livestock numbers and shift my ratios. With the land base we currently are farming I believe I could up my hog numbers into the 300 to 400 range (total number each year not all at once) and I could also increase my poultry numbers without causing a huge impact on the hog numbers. The rub would be in the ruminants though. With that many pigs they would have to move out onto more of the pasture (or all of the pasture) and I would not be able to graze the numbers of cattle and sheep that I currently raise. I would lose diversity on the farm, but possibly gain a full-time farm income.

Path #2 :: Let's Get Biggish

I have thought about this path more than just a few times, so I have quite a few thoughts! But, instead of rambling on those thoughts I decided to come up with a simple answer. If I was going to add acres to get to a size that would allow me to farm full-time on the farm making a respectable living (working hard), and possibly even supporting more than just my family, I would say 300 acres of central Iowa farm ground. I didn't just pull that number out of the air though, that is how many acres Dick Thompson (one of the founders of Practical Farmers of Iowa) farmed. Of course there could be ways to lower that number through direct marketing, even deeper niche markets, and any other creative things you can come up with. But, it is a good starting point if I wanted to produce as many of my feed inputs on farm as possible.

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 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 ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

TBF 118 :: Pastured Rabbit Talk, Muggy & Muddy, 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.**


Subscribe to "The Beginning Farmer" YouTube Channel!

One of the newest ventures on our farm (although we've been at it for three years) is the pasture raised rabbit operation that was begun by our son when he was 8-years old. Over our three years of raising rabbits out on pasture we have had many ups and downs, but this year is beginning to feel like it can be a turning-point in the business. On today's episode though I have a very special guest on again to talk about raising rabbits. My oldest son and I sit down to talk about the good, the bad, and of course the hard lessons learned! If you have any rabbit raising questions or thoughts on the subject we'd love to have a discussion.

Resources 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 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 ...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

TBF 116 :: Fun Farming Questions, Electric Fence Upkeep, 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.**

Subscribe to "The Beginning Farmer" YouTube Channel!

farming questions  Do you know what? You don't have to feel guilty about your prices for the products your raise and produce on your farm! It is perfectly acceptable for you to make a decent living on the farm selling your products to farm friends that appreciate the way you raise things and the values your farm has. And, did you know that some of the listeners to this show have figured out a good way to get greens to their chicks in the brooder? Those are just a few of the questions that I attempt to tackle this week. There will also be questions about labels for meat products, minerals for livestock, and how we use our rabbit pens! Thanks to all the listeners who took the time to ask questions, and if I missed your question please let me know and I'll do my best to answer!

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 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 ...

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 ...
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