Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TBF 007 :: Sheep vs. Cattle, a Rainy Week, and Mud Lessons

Before moving to the farm I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted my farm to look like. As you can tell from the previous episode I read a lot of books, and after reading all of those books I thought I knew just want I wanted for the farm and how everything would work. I had done a bit of market research for the area, I had studied various breeds, and I had even began to purchase cattle before I even had to call my own! Now that I am almost five years of running the farm though I have found out that my initial plans are really what suits the farm or the farmer the best. All of that means that now I am headed a different direction than I had planned and that I’ve learned the need to continually evaluate things.

Dexter cattle where what really made me interested in farming. We had researched grassfed beef after finding out about my high cholesterol and I thought instead of just buying the beef I might as well raise my own (at my dad’s place to begin with and then eventually an acreage of my own). What began as an idea to raise a cow and her calf eventually blossomed in my mind into a full-blown farm. After reading books like Salad Bar Beef by Joel Salatin and Grass-Fed Cattle by Julius Ruechel I was convinced that cattle could and should be the centerpiece of my future farming operation.

Now my tune has changed ... I’m beginning to realize the real limitation of only owning about 20 acres of pasture even if my cows are smaller in stature and I’m also finding out about the intense competition for rental grazing ground. There is one other thing I am learning though that is encouraging ... my Katahdin lamb is a very popular thing at the farmers’ market and there are a lot of people interested in purchasing whole lambs.

With all of that and more on my mind I sat down for todays show and shared some of my “thinking out loud” thoughts on changing the pasture focus for my farm. It has also been raining a lot on the farm lately meaning the big projects have come to a stand still and the mud has appeared just like it does every spring! Which leads me to my hard lesson learned for the week ... learning to defeat mud!

The Beginning Farmer ShowI also wanted to thank you so much for everyone who has taken the time to listen and leave a review on iTunes. I am learning and growing as a “podcast producer” with each episode and I hope that there are little nuggets that you can learn from in each show because one thing I love to do is share my passion for farming!

As always, 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 ...

TBF Show 007 :: Play in a New Window | Right Click to Download

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TBF 006 :: 10 Books for the Beginning Farmer, Farm Updates, and a Hard Lesson Learned

Over the years I've received quite a few e-mails from people wanting to pick my pea-sized farming brain. Usually when that happens I have two thoughts run through my mind ... #1 :: Have they ever read any of my blog posts, I even know what I'm doing half the time! #2 :: Don't farm ... it's not worth it! Thought number one is true no matter what ... and thought number two is something I only half mean. It's not that I want to discourage people from farming, but rather I think it is important to spend a lot of time considering what it really means to be a farmer. With all of that being said, I do love hearing from people that stumble on to the blog and want to ask a question.

On today's show I take some time to answer an e-mail from Patrick who asked one of the questions that I receive most often, "What books and websites would you suggest reading?" As an avid reader this is an easy question for me to answer. The biggest problem that I have when I think about this answer is whittling the list down a little bit to a manageable size. So, what I've done is come up with my "10 Books a Beginning Farmer Should Read". It should be noted that these books are coming from my livestock based background.

In no particular order here are my 10 favorites ... for the moment. I have also included links for each book if you are interested in purchasing them. These links are affiliate links, so if you are interested in one of the books and enjoy the show it does support the show a little.

      Finally, this weeks "Hard Lesson Learned" has to do with that old adage ... "Don't always believe what you read." I'm not saying that all of those great authors I mentioned are wrong, but what I am saying is that all things don't work in all places and it probably would have been better if I would have tried to get some real world experience rather than just armchair experience!

      The Beginning Farmer ShowAs always, thank you so much to all of you who have taken the time to subscribe and listen to the show each week. I hope that I'm growing as a podcast producer and that as time goes along the show just gets better and better. If you do enjoy the show don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes (by clicking this link or the image on the left) or on the Stitcher App on your smartphone. For those of you that have taken the time to leave a review on iTunes ... thank you, thank you, thank you! 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 ...

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

      Wednesday, April 10, 2013

      TBF 005 :: Making Major Farm Purchases, Rain is Coming, and What Not To Buy

      Making major purchases on your farm is always a necessary part of beginning a farm and expanding your farm in the future. But, they are not always easy decisions to make! Before you go out and drop your hard earned cash on that next great piece of equipment or structure you need to examine whether or not you even need this "next great thing" and where you are going to purchase this item. Just because you have a need for something doesn't mean that you need it. It may mean that you need to borrow one, rent one, or hire someone to do the job for you. There are times though when a purchase just needs to be made to move the farm along or make your work more efficient. If that is the case then you need to consider where you are going to make that purchase.

      What Do I Really Need?
      • It will vary from farm to farm, but ask yourself what you need to get started and what can wait for a little while.
      • Are there other ways that you can use something that you feel like you need? Borrow, rent, trade work, hire, etc.
      • Ask yourself if you are better off spending some time and sweat instead of your cash?
      Where Do I Get What I Really Need?
      • New is an option, but not really the best option most of the time.
      • Check the farm auctions out if you have time to spare, but make sure you don't get caught up in the "fun" of an auction.
      • Craigslist is a pretty good choice and I know most farmers already check it often, but don't forget about posting "wanted to buy" ads. You'd be amazed at how many farmers have what you want sitting in the back of their shed.
      Remember, the bottom line is that it doesn't need to look perfect ... it just needs to work perfectly (or close enough to perfect)!

      Lately things have been very active on the farm and a bit of rain in the forecast made things ramp up this week as we tried to get things ready for what I hope is a bit of spring mud. That meant finishing up some projects to get ready for our next back of chicks and doing as much tractor work as I can so I don't have to use the tractor when it's muddy. And, as always I take some time this week to share one of my hard lessons learned ... this one was a little costly and I hope you don't have to learn this lesson the hard way.

      Some stuff mentioned in this episode ...
      Finally, 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 ...

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

      Monday, April 08, 2013

      The Little Satisfactions ...

      Chick Brooder #2
      I will be the first to admit that it is very easy for me to become the "Danny Downer" of farming. Sometimes it feels like the farm is only overwhelming, only discouraging, and only failing. But, then there are moments ... and these moments probably happen more than I allow myself to see ... moments when I just feel a huge sense of satisfaction from farming. There is just something extremely satisfying about building, raising, growing, harvesting, sharing, and consuming! Yesterday was one of those days that was full of satisfaction.

      • A friend at church had continually been asking to try some Crooked Gap Farm beef jerky and pork. This was the week when I finally remembered to bring it and they were very excited to take it home with them. Satisfying!
      • I needed to load four pigs and a lamb to take to the locker for processing this afternoon, so I hooked up the hog cart (which I recently bought, broke, and fixed) and headed out to sort and load pigs. Things went very smoothly (as they have been with loading recently) and I was done much sooner than I had anticipated. Satisfying!
      • There are another batch of 125 chicks coming this week (and rain is in the forecast as well), so I needed to finish up my second brooder (pictured above). Even though I had a few broken tool issues I was able to accomplish this tiny construction project and with a little more work today I'll be ready for chicks. Satisfying!
      • Speaking of chicks, the first batch that came in a couple of weeks ago are doing great. Growing and staying very snug and healthy in their brooder. They'll be ready for pasture before I know it. Satisfying!
      • Even though the grass hasn't really taken off yet it seems like the animals are just enjoying the spring days that have been popping up more often today. It may seem weird to say this, but as I was doing chores today all the livestock just seemed to be more chipper. Satisfying!
      • As I mentioned I needed to load four pigs and a lamb for processing. I dropped them off at the locker last night and the unload went on without a hitch. Plus, I just love dropping off pigs (and a lamb) that have been raised only on this farm. Satisfying!
      • I love direct marketing the fruits of the farm. To know that customers we know and call friends will be enjoying our pork, lamb, beef, eggs, and chicken ... well that is just awesome. Satisfying!
      • And then as I was making the last pass to collect a few eggs around the shed I peeked into the hut occupied by our latest litter of Hereford pigs. A very cool sight. Satisfying!

      What do you find satisfying about your farm (no matter how little or big that farm is)?

      Wednesday, April 03, 2013

      TBF 004 :: Spring Farm Updates, Buying vs. Renting Land, and Lessons Learned

      On this weeks episode of "The Beginning Farmer Show" we dig into one of the most popular topics ever from The Beginning Farmer Blog ... Land! More specifically I talk about the posts ... "How Much Land Do You Need?" ... "Working On The Farm Layout" ... and even all a little about the post titled "Buying a Farm is Like Buying a House". Basically, when it comes down to it, access to land is one of the biggest obstacles that many beginning farmers have to overcome. Unless they are joining the family farm or working with a current farmer the only solution is to purchase land or rent land. There are just as many positives as there are negatives for renting vs. buying depending on what the goal and vision of your farm is. When it comes down to it I believe it is a decision that needs to be made on a case by case basis ... but, that doesn't keep me from sharing my thoughts on the subject!

      As always I will take some time to share some farm updates and delve into my hard lesson learned for the week. This weeks lesson has to do with bumps, bruises, and trying to over power pigs with brute force ... hint ... it doesn't turn out very well!

      The Beginning Farmer ShowIf you are interested in working on rented land, especially when it comes to livestock, I whole-heartedly suggest Greg Judy's books ::
      Finally, 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 ...

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

      Monday, April 01, 2013

      Dick Thompson :: Research Farmer!

      "In harnessing land, Iowa farmer preserves it" ... that is the title of an article from a little over three months ago that somehow I missed. If you are like me and missed it too I very highly recommend this article from the Star Tribune about Boone, IA farmer (and Practical Farmers of Iowa founder) Dick Thompson. If you are not familiar with Mr. Thompson let me just give you a brief history ... he is an 81-year-old farmer who does a lot of things differently than his neighbors and he makes a living doing it ... I believe that pretty much sums it up. Really though ... even though I've never met him I do owe him a lot for my own farming journey for they way in which he helped the Practical Farmers of Iowa organization get off the ground.

      This little chunk from the article was one of the great takeaways for me :: 
      "That's the way my dad farmed in the 1950s and '60s," said Robert Plathe, a corn and soybean farmer west of Mason City. "If I have a market, that makes sense," he said. It would also help revive agricultural communities because farms would be smaller and more families could live off the land. 
      But, he pointed out, it's a lot harder, and few people want to farm like that anymore. Animals require daily care, winter and summer. 
      "Farmers like their free time in the winter," he said. 
      I think the article, and Mr. Thompson, raise some very good points that farmers and farm consumers (everyone) should take some time to think about. So, I think you should check out the article for yourself and I would love to hear what really hit home with you!

      Finally ... if you aren't very familiar with the work of Mr. Thompson this link will take you to a great resource that I've actually been making my way through.

      Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...