Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sugar Creek Farm Q&A Interview - Part 4

I hope you are enjoying this weeks farm interview with Kelli of Sugar Creek Farm. I think she has given some great insight to their farm and into the possibilities and realities of sustainable farming in general. This will be something that I will do from time to time ... as long as farmers are willing to answer my questions! If you would like to participate or know of a farmer that you think would have helpful insight just let me know. Now, onto part four (make sure you check out Part One, Part Two, and Part Three).

The Beginning Farmer - What has been one of the most difficult things you have had to endure on your farm?

Sugar Creek Farm - Generally I'd have to say Matt & I working together has been a real challenge :) We have totally opposite personalities, and our brains don't seem to think in the same way. This leads to some rather animated discussions! But it's also strengthened our relationship and, I know it's cheesy, it's helped us grow as individuals and as a couple.

As for specific events, any time you lose animals on a small farm it's difficult. Because you're working with relatively small numbers of animals, losing any one of them is a big hit. By far the biggest of these hits was last spring. We had purchased 3 purebred Chester White gilts and a Berkshire boar. We were so excited about expanding our little herd from 1 sow to 3. When those gilts farrowed they were horrible mothers and we lost all but 5 pigs out of the three litters. It was a huge setback, financially and emotionally. Sometimes, when dealing with animals, you can do everything right and still things just happen. We kept 2 of those 3 gilts, and this time around we couldn't ask for better mothers. They weaned 9 pigs each.

The Beginning Farmer - Talk about the transition from treating the farm as a hobby to treating it as a business. How did things change in your mind and in real life?

Sugar Creek Farm - It was more fun when it was just a hobby ;) No, that was actually Matt's (joking) response. A hobby is something you do for fun, and it's largely self-serving. But as we started having to make choices about things, such as not using hormone implants or sourcing non-medicated feed, it started to feel like a calling. It came to be about more than just us and feeding our own family. We live in a very conventional, commodity-farming part of Iowa where the ideals of "local" and "sustainable" are just starting to make their way into the vernacular. So we felt a calling to use our farm to promote and further these ideals. The best way to do that was to grow from hobby to business.

In real life, making that transition has meant spending more time on things like accounting, marketing, and sales. I actually kind of enjoy these activities. Matt would rather just be outside taking care of his animals. But he's had to spend a lot of evenings at the computer figuring profit and loss and forecasting cash flow. I think the thing we both hate the most is setting prices.

**Today's picture is copywritten image by Kelli Miller of Sugar Creek Farm**

**Remember to check back tomorrow for part five**


farm mama said...

I so enjoy reading your interviews. I am living vicariously thru my daughter's family as they set up a small (12 acre) farm about an hour outside of Charleston, SC. I have another 4 1/2 years to go before I can retire, and then I plan to join them on their farm - I spend many weekends there now. One of the greatest sources of info is the ongoing dialogue with others via their blogs - I have become totally addicted. It's the first thing I check every morning.

~Cindy~ said...

I enjoyed the interview.

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