Monday, October 08, 2007

The Farm Crawl

Sorry for the late post today, my brother-in-law is home on leave from the Navy and we had a chance to come up and visit him today. But, I did want to relate a few thoughts from my afternoon yesterday.

Yesterday was the Farm Crawl in Northern Lucas county and Southern Marion county (right in our area). You can check out the details of all the farms by clicking on the link, but basically there were five farms to stop at. A goat dairy, an apple orchard, a pumpkin patch, a CSA/Market Garden, and a farm that is in the process of getting everything up and running (they have a market garden, turkeys, pastured eggs, hay, and mules). The event ran from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, but with church and everything else I only had time to stop at three places so I picked out the three I was most interested in.

First I stopped off at the goat dairy. They milk 12 goats in their new milking facility. The building has space for the goats to come out of the weather, a small milking room with a milking machine and a platform, a milk handling room, and the certified kitchen where they make the cheese. It was a very nice building and an interesting operation. They had some nice looking goats and some very nice fences! I wish I could have chatted with them about the possible profits of their business because I don't know all the ins and outs of the dairy business. I do know that they sell their cheese to people at the farmers market and through area businesses. One thing that turned me off a little is I did over hear that they had over $80,000 invested! Nice operation though...

The next stop I made was at Blue Gate Farm. The are market garden, CSA, pastured eggs, and honey farm and do business through multiple channels. A couple things about this place. I really appreciate the work they do there and everything looks really good. They have very nice gardens, honey bees all over the place, a high tunnel for growing, and some pasture raised laying hens. But, I did realize that this probably isn't the direction that I would like to go. I will say that this is probably the way to be the most profitable on the smallest area of land. The highlight of my stop at the Blue Gate Farm was the fact that I bumped into a Dexter owner there! In fact, I met Dan Thomas of Hazybrook Dexters whom I had just spoken to on the phone a couple days before. We are planning on going over to check his operation out in the next week or two, but it was great to talk Dexters and here some of his experiences and successes of raising Dexters. I'm looking forward to seeing his cattle and chatting with him about his bulls.

The final stop was at Coyote Run Farm. I probably enjoyed this one the most. I had a bit of one-on-one time with one of the owners of the farm and he was very candid with me and answered all of the questions that I had. Right now they are raising a market garden that they sell at the farmers market and through other places, pastured heritage turkeys, hay, mules (sort of), pastured eggs, and cut flowers. They seem to be making some money and they weren't totally spending away everything they made. They have hopes of adding some beef and other livestock to the farm once they get some of the pastures back in order. I would like to go out and work with them sometime to have some more time to chat and gain some experience.

All in all it was a great day, despite the rain, and I learned quite a bit and was encouraged by seeing farmers working towards profit in small family settings!

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