Wednesday, May 29, 2013

TBF 012 :: Balancing Family, Farm, and a Job; Pig Corrals; Hard Lesson Learned


Family, farm, and the job in town ... that is the balancing act that many farmers have to juggle these days whether you are just starting your farm or you have been farming for years. According to this document from the USDA (which has lots of interesting data) 60% of todays 2.1 million family farms had less than $10,000 gross sales and 30% of the farms had between $10,001 and $249,999 of gross sales. If you dig a little deeper you will find that nearly all of those "60%" farms lost money on their farming business, and of those farms in the "30%" while they did make a farm profit it was less than $10,000. Plus, they still received the vast majority of their income off farm. I can't wrap my mind around all of those numbers and I'm sure there is much I'm missing ... what I do know though is that the majority of farmers in the United States are balancing a job in town and the job of the farm.

By no means have I mastered the balancing act! It feels like I'm always dropping a ball somewhere, but there are a few things I have learned over the past five years that are important to keep in mind when you are mixing your family ... your farm ... and your job in town.

Six Keys to the Balancing Act
  1. Work Just Needs to Be Done - Having a job in town and a farm job is having two full-time jobs in most cases and that means the work of two full-time jobs.
  2. There are Some Things You Can't Do - Sacrifices are part of the game when it comes to starting your farm and you have to be able to say no to certain things.
  3. Involve Everyone in as Much as Possible - When you are working together you can not only get things accomplished, but you can also have some great family time with lots of teachable moments.
  4. Let Get Aways Happen - Maybe you all can't get away for a day or two, but make sure that you don't miss out on everything because you may regret it in the future.
  5. Some Projects Need to Be Done Now and Others Can Wait - There are things that need to be done daily regardless of what is going on, but allow yourself to stop and focus on more important things.
  6. Be Sure Everyone is 100% On Board With the Farm - If the whole family isn't 100% invested in making the farm happen there will be an underlying stress that is just not worth creating ... no matter how badly you want to farm.
In the farm update section of the episode a spend a little bit of time sharing about how awesome our customers are that brave the rain and cold to come to the farmer's market! If you have a customer base you need to make sure that you are continually thanking them for the support (financially and emotionally) that they give you. We really couldn't do this farm without their help in more ways than one!

Do you have any keys to balancing family, farm, and the job in town? I would love to be able to make this "Top Six List" into a "Top Ten List". If you have any advice for me (and the other listeners) on how you balance everything and accomplish the the projects that need to be done please leave a comment below or e-mail me.

The Beginning Farmer Show
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 start rating and review (by clicking the link or the image on the left). 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 ... 

**Special Note :: Because iTunes and Blogger were not playing nicely I now have a different feed for the podcast episodes. You can find a The Beginning Farmer Show specific feed at this link if you use an rss reader. I hope this also helps with some download problems others had been having as well.**


(if you are interested in the music in this episode check out my brother's record label, Historic Records) 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love the podcast Ethan. I can't wait to listen to this weeks as this is the subject I was just about to send you a question on. After hearing everything you do, with a job in town, you still managed to take a vacation and have fun time for personal activities. We love the farm and are at the crossroads of deciding to try to offer more to others or just keep it supporting our familiy's food. We're worried about the extra time it takes to work on marketing and the business side which neither of us like. We love the farm, just don't want to deal with the selling. How did you overcome that?

Ethan Book said...

Thanks so much for listening and for your encouragement. We were able to sneak in a vacation this year, although it was the first in five years of farming so I'm not sure it will be a yearly event ... but it was a lot of fun!

The marketing is at least 50% of my farm work if not more when I'm being completely honest with myself ... when I factor in trips to the locker, time at the market, e-mailing and talking with customers, blogging, facebook, etc. I quickly realize just how much marketing I do.

I will say though that I enjoy most aspects of the marketing process though so it isn't completely a drag on me. Plus, it is a huge encouragement for the farm work when we hear about how much the customers love the products we are producing.

This is something I'll chew on a for a little bit though, because it is a good thing to think about!

sailorssmallfarm said...

Thanks for this great podcast, Ethan...it really spoke to where we are right now. I think your six keys are bang on; for myself I think I would have to add the importance of knowing when to say "no", both on the farm and off it. In fact, I'm currently working may way through the beginning years of your blog, and in May 2009 you did a few posts on lessons learned, which included this very point. I think another one for me would be the KISS principle - keep it simple :). I have a tendency to set up needlessly elaborate or complicated systems that no one else in the family understands (the recycling bins come to mind) or can cope with satisfactorily, so that it usually means that job can only be done by me. Which makes me cranky...which leads to another one that's maybe more relevant to me than to you - perfectionism. Doesn't Joel Salatin say "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly first"...Especially with kids and teens alongside we need to hold our tongues about minor stuff. I struggle with this A LOT.

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