Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Expanding on Expansion

Yesterday I wrote about my desire to see the farm grow and expand in the near future. Right now I'm in super planning and thinking and figuring mode. I'm trying to plan what needs to happen on the farm in a physical sense as far as structures and fencing goes. I'm trying to think of ways to expand the farm and what I feel comfortable adding in a short while. And, I'm trying to figure and pencil out what this all looks like on paper financially as I build up and then what sort of sales can and need to happen if I do build up. On one had it is very exciting and I'm kind of just having fun with the idea of throwing myself in a little deeper. On the other hand though the task seems nearly impossible and completely daunting!

One of the ways that I'm trying to contradict that is to try and rekindle some of the early passion I had for the farm. It is not so much that the passion has dwindled recently, but rather it has been pushed to the back of my mind with my new and improved busy work schedule (at least 60 hours of town jobs per week). I'm still passionate about raising animals on grass and connecting with customers how are also passionate about the food the use to fuel their lives. But, that passion has been pushed to the back burner for a while now.

The field day that I hosted back in August (you can read about it here) was one of the first things that helped bring that passion back to the front of my mind. Having others here on the farm that are farming or are thinking about farming really got me excited, and telling them about my farm helped me remember some of the reasons that I started in the first place. It was encouraging to talk to others and hear what they thought of the progress the farm has made up to this point. It helped me focus on what has been accomplished rather than on what hasn't been done.

Reading and blogging (and tweeting) are things that I'm doing again to help me keep that focused passion for farming. About the same time that I stopped blogging is about the same time I stopped reading about farming. I don't know how much those two are related, but I do realize that it was probably about the same time that I began to feel a little overwhelmed by what wasn't done ... and sometimes overwhelming feelings paralyze me!

But, I'm reading again and I thought it would be a good idea to start out with the first farming book I read ... one of the ones that really made me think that a farm was a realistic possibility. So, I grabbed "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin off the shelf the other night and started in. It is good to go over some of the ideas that I had one I was just starting to think and dream about a farm and also evaluate whether or not I've strayed from some of those original thoughts and ideas.

Of course all the passion, dreams, and excitement don't add up to a successful business. That is why I'm trying to look at things from every angle I can possible think of as I look at the ins and outs of expanding Crooked Gap Farm. Oh ... and I'm praying ;)


Yeoman said...

"I'm still passionate about raising animals on grass and connecting with customers how are also passionate about the food the use to fuel their lives. But, that passion has been pushed to the back burner for a while now."

I hear you on that. A busy life itself is a major damper to passion on our true vocations.

I envy you though. Good for you. You're a lot younger than me and things are panning out. I find myself headed more and more in the other direction all the time.

Richard said...

It sounds like you are just getting overwhelmed with work right now which will zap all the fun out of anything.

Didn't you start on this road to better your family?

My advice (for what it's worth) would be to get back to the basics of helping your family and making a difference there instead of trying to make a succesful business. If y'all can take care of yourselves and get to a point where you don't have to work off farm 60 hours a week then you'll be in a good position to expand and do a little more to help your neighbors and the town around you.

Reduce stress and enjoy the farm like you once did and everything will work out as God plans.

Rich said...

"...also evaluate whether or not I've strayed from some of those original thoughts and ideas..."

Is it important that you follow those original thoughts and ideas?

I once read that one of the ideas behind some of the holistic management thinking was to set an ultimate goal and start from the point that whatever you are currently doing is incorrect.

Then, you don't get tunnel vision and overlook an obvious path to reaching that goal.

As an example, there is are railroad tracks running through part of our farm. Decades ago, cattle were moved between pastures on either side of the railroad through a couple of underpasses. But, those underpasses had to be maintained and when the farm was leased out, the renter moved his cattle by loading them on a trailer instead of using the underpasses.

When I started farming, the underpasses were neglected and unsuitable for moving cattle, so I got fixated on building loading pens on both sides of the tracks. The only solution I could see at the time was trying to make it easier and quicker to load cattle on a trailer. I spent months of indecision trying to figure out the best way to build a system of pens to make it "easy" to load and unload cattle.

Thankfully, I finally recognized that the "easy" solution was to fix the underpasses. After all that time trying to design the perfect corral system, a half day's worth of work with the tractor fixed the underpass, and a few days of "training" trained the cattle to use them.

That episode changed the way I looked at solving problems and improving the way the farm worked.

My goal was to move cattle as stress free, safely as possible, and as frequently as needed. If I had actually defined that goal initially and considered all possibilities, I might have arrived at the underpass solution quicker. If I hadn't finally realized that my original plan might be incorrect, I might be unnecessarily loading cattle on a trailer on a regular basis.

After that long-winded explanation, I hope what I am trying to say makes a little sense and it is a little helpful.

Steve Romero said...

Good luck, Bro! I wish you all the best in your farming endeavors. I understand what you mean about "daunting". I haven't even started, and I'm getting a little "daunted" myself thinking about everything I need to do when I finally get moved out to our place in about a year.

Keep up the good work!

Steve Romero said...

Richard - I really like your line of thought. I was getting very overwhelmed thinking about how to build our farm as a business, and it really put a damper on enjoying the process of planning my farm.

When you see folks like Nature's Harmony, and all they do it can get kind of depressing thinking about trying to live up to that. They've really done some amazing things at NHF, but I don't think I'm ever going to try to get into all the niches they've gotten into. I'm not sure how, but I think Tim and Liz have found a way to turn a 24-hour workday into a 40-hour workday. My only thoughts on their progress is 1) they brought a lot of capital to the table, 2) they have excellent organizational skills, 3) from day-1 they approached the farm as a business, and they came into the business knowing how to market, and leverage technology to meet their marketing goals, 4) they have help, 5) they don't sleep.

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