Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TBF 096 :: Teresa Opheim of Practical Farmers of Iowa, Farm News, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


Did you know that well over 50% of Iowa farmland is owned by people over the age of 65? That means that in the coming years there will be a lot of farm land changing hands in one form or another. In some instances it may just transition to a son or daughter that continues the farm, in other cases it may be inherited by the next generation and the rented out to the highest bidder, and if you are a beginning farmer (or hope to be one soon) there may even be a possibility for you to build a relationship with a farmer. One thing is for sure though, and that is that many of these farmers over the age of 65 do not have a farm succession plan spelled out yet. That is one of the many things that I learned from my chat with Teresa Opheim, the Executive Director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and why I am so excited to share this interview with you on this episode. Teresa and I talk about the mission and goals of PFI, the importance they place on farmer led research, and she even has some great encouragement for beginning farmers!

Are you a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa (come and see me at the conference if you are)? Have you thought about becoming a member? What organizations are you a part of, and how do they help make your farm a "practical farm"? 

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TBF 095 :: Christmas on the Farm, Christmas Hams, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


I love all seasons on the farm, but there is just something special about winter on the farm that really makes me thankful. In my mind it begins at Thanksgiving as we enjoy the bounty of the growing year, continues through the Christmas season, and then all the way to January and February as the kids (and parents) enjoy the fun that winter on the farm offers. Christmas on the farm is also the perfect time for telling stories and I love a good story ... especially when it is a farm story! Some stories make you thankful for what you have, other stories help remind you of what is truly important, and there are even stories that are just fun memories of times gone by. On today's episode I want to share three such stories. One comes from "Successful Farming" Magazine, another comes from the story of an Iowa farmer, and the last comes from my own childhood farm memory.

Do you have Christmas or winter memories from the farm? Stories that you love to share? I would love to hear your stories so don't be afraid to share!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TBF 094 :: Can I Break Even, The Grinder Mixer Grinds, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**



Of all the farming related questions I receive I would say that the majority of them have to do with money. Questions like: Can I make a full-time living? How much will insurance cost? What is the profit margin per hog? Can I at least break even? All of those are great questions, but like many things in life the answer isn't always a yes or no, but rather it is usually "it depends". That was also the answer I had to give for a couple questions that I received over the past week. It's not that I didn't have thoughts on the subject, but sometimes a simple question like, "can I at least break even" just leads to so many more questions. Questions like: What price will you have to charge to break even? Do you have interested customers? How much marketing are you able to do? What about input costs (feed, pigs, water, structure, etc.)? All of those questions and their answers will make it possible to answer the, "can I break even" question.

Very rarely though do I lack an opinion on a farming subject, especially when that subject is pigs! That is why on today's episode I attempt to answer Doug's question about whether or not he could break even raising 3 to 6 American Guinea Hogs (or any pig for that matter) on his three acre property. The easy answer is yes. I mean if you have people willing to pay enough you can break even no matter what, but of course that is where the variables come into play. Once you take all of those into account I think the answer still may be yes, if you can come up with reasonable answers for questions about feed, purchasing feeder pigs, marketing, and so much more.

What do you think? What does it take to raise 3 to 6 pigs and break even or make a profit? Are you doing it now, or are you hoping/planning to do it in the future? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TBF 093 :: The Farmer Christmas List, Overwhelmed, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


farmersgiftguide.jpgThis past week has been a bit overwhelming on the farm and in our world of farm business planning. When things get that way it is always nice to do something a little more lighthearted and fun, which is exactly why I have put together my Second Annual Beginning Farmer Christmas List! Farmers can be hard to shop for because usually if there is something they need it is needed at that moment and can't wait for the nearest birthday or holiday, but it is still nice to have something for them to open up if you have a farmer or future farmer on your shopping list. On today's episode (and listed below) you'll find ten things that I think make great gifts because I use them on my farm, or they are so awesome that I actually have them on my wish list. There are things for reading, things for working, things for making that work easier, and of course even a bonus item that will help you clean up at the end of the day ...

The Beginning Farmer & Future Farmer Christmas List
  1. Carhartt Double Front Logger Jeans
  2. GreenBest Expandable Garden Hose
  3. Chainsaw Helmet System
  4. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  5. Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard
  6. Kinco Pigskin Leather Gloves and the Six Pack of Gloves
  7. Fence Staple Driver and the Fancy Fence Staple Driver
  8. Acres USA Subscription
  9. Cordless Impact Wrench
  10. Knipex High Leverage Combination Pliers
  11. FarmCrafted Soap made by The Beginning Farmer's Wife
What is on your farming Christmas list or what would you suggest for other farmers? Check out what was on my Christmas list last year!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

TBF 092 :: My Farm Business Plan Update, News From the Farm, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


If you ask anyone that has know me for even the shortest amount of time they would probably tell you that I am a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of guy. I like to come up with an idea and then just start doing it without putting a lot of thought into how it will get done, or rather more accurately what it will take to get it done. For example there have been more than three or four times when I have brought livestock home to the farm because I really wanted them or because they were a "really good" deal with no plan on where to house them or what will keep them from deciding to hang-out in the neighbors cornfield. The same can be said for my "business planning" up until this point.

Unfortunately I haven't been too concerned with the business of the farm over these past six years and I'm starting to understand that it probably has hurt my decision making along the way. It's not that I haven't been thinking of the dollars and cents, but rather that I didn't dig down deep into what those numbers were saying and how that impacted various things on the farm. All of that is changing though because I am about 1/3 of the way through my business plan workbook and I've been doing a lot of writing, answering questions, and assessing the farm, labor, enterprises, values, and marketing. My business planning isn't exactly flying, but I am finally making some steady progress and along with that progress I'm beginning to recognize a few things that have me thinking ...

My Business Plan Insights So Far ...
  • There is room for growth in my markets ... especially when it comes to hogs.
  • The Meat CSA and our Whole/Half Hog sales need to receive more of my focus
  • I really need to hone in on our shared values for the farm and make some cut-backs in other areas.
  • Pigs truly are the centerpiece of our farm ... by a large margin.
  • Not every enterprise on the farm is a good idea judged purely by the numbers, but that doesn't mean they don't have an important place on the farm
Have you ever made a business plan? If so, what surprising things did you find? What should I be looking for as I do all of this evaluation and planning?

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TBF 091 :: The Thankful Farmer, Happy Farm Updates, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


trenchingFor a whole host of reasons I absolutely love the Thanksgiving holiday! I love it because of the history, the season that it comes in, the focus on family around a table, and of course because of the fact that it often points people to remember an idea that we don't think of often enough ... Thankfulness! As I look back on this year of farming (and the past six years since we began) I realize that I have very much to be thankful for on the farm. And it is not just the good moments, because there are often reasons to be thankful even in the midst of difficulty. Below you will find a short list of the things that I am thankful for as a beginning farmer. Of course this is not the complete list, but rather those things that are most closely related to our farming journey ...
  • I am thankful for all of the difficult tasks, moments, hours, days, and weeks on the farm.
  • I am thankful for the family, friends, and neighbors who have helped me along the way.
  • I am thankful for my wonderful wife and children.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to work outside no matter what the weather is.
  • I am thankful for the fact that the livestock help keep me humble.
  • I am thankful for the countless farm friends that help keep the farm running by supporting us.
  • I am thankful for the farmers that came before me.
  • I am thankful for the sunsets, the cool breeze, the softly falling snow, the spring rains, and the beautiful stars at night.
  • I am thankful that I am a farmer.
What are you thankful for this year? No matter where you are on your farming journey I would love to hear what you are thankful for and what sticks out in your mind!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TBF 090 :: Winter Preparations, Mud Boots, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


winterbootsWinter preparation will vary from climate to climate, but here in South Central Iowa it means getting ready for temperatures that can head south of zero, snow that can suck you into the ditch, and wind that seemingly will find it's way through all your warmest layers! Because of that in an ideal world I would head into winter with all of my preparations done and then just carry on the minimal chores needed for the farm and relax next to the wood stove. The reality though is that no matter how well I plan to prepare for winter I always miss something, or in the case of this year winter decides to sneak up on me earlier than I think it should arrive. Nevertheless I keep preparing for the short days, cold nights, white snow, and blustery winds. Below you'll find some of the things that I try to do as we prepare for winter on the farm ...
  • The Gathering of Firewood - This one might not matter to you, but for me it is how we keep our home warm and our expenses as low as possible.
  • The Watering of Livestock - Water tanks, heaters, automatic valves, and hoses! There is so much to keep track of and in working condition when the temperatures drop below freezing.
  • The Feeding of Livestock - Feeding in the winter often means working around deep snow, mud, and even roads that are impassable. All of that becomes even more difficult if you rely on a tractor for some of your feeding.
  • The Warmth of Livestock - Give the animals a place where they can find shelter from the wind and a dry place to bed down is always priority number one on any farm in the snow belt.
  • The Cleaning of the Farm - I love when we get six inches of softly falling snow. It is beautiful and even fun, but where I've run into problems in the past is when it covers up and hides things that I need!
  • The Gathering of Warm Clothes - The most important winter preparation in my book is gathering together all of my cold weather clothes so that I can stay warm doing all the other things on my list. If I can't stay out there and stay warm then things aren't getting done.
  • The Checking of Fence - If you use electric fence like I use electric fence, and you have snow, then you probably want to have the ability to shut down sections of the fence (or even individual wires) to keep it from shorting out in the snow.
  • The Maintenance of Equipment - There are now fully enclosed buildings on my farm where I can pull in equipment and work on it out of the cold and wind, so I like to have all of my equipment ready to go for the winter in hopes of minimizing my breakdowns.
  • The Monitoring of the Forecast - If there is a big storm coming I want to have all my hay in place, feeders filled, and plans made for taking livestock to the locker. That means keeping an eye on the forecast even if they don't have the best track record for accuracy.
  • The Enjoying of the Season - Winter is going to come to Iowa no matter what I do, so I might as well enjoy the snow as much as possible. And I do enjoy it!
What are you doing to prepare for winter? Is your neck-of-the-woods colder than mine? Warmer than mine? I'd love to hear how you prepare for the changing of seasons.

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

Boots and Links Mentioned in This Episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TBF 089 :: Dexter Cattle, The Big Bin Ordeal, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


The very first "farm animals" that we had while we still lived in town were chickens that we raised in our backyard. But, while still living in town the second "farm animal" that we began purchasing were our Dexter Cattle. Obviously we weren't able to keep them in town (the police even made us get rid of our chickens), but my dad only lived a little more than an hour away and had plenty of pasture, so that is where we began our herd. Before I knew it we had way too many Dexters because I had been finding way too many "good deals". At that time (around seven years ago) I was completely enamored with the Dexter breed, with grassfed cattle, and with having cattle as the center piece of our farm. Times have changed quite a bit and while we still do have our Dexters I am beginning to question their place on our farm. Not cattle as a whole, but the Dexter breed specifically.

While I very much appreciate the smaller size of Dexters, the tri-purpose use that they can have, the great flavor of their meat when raised solely on grass, and of course their stately looking horns ... there are somethings that are beginning to make me question whether or not they are the best fit for our farm. Over the years I have often had this thought pop into my head in regards to high price for breeding stock compared to the amount of meat you receive from each steer, but recently a few other questions have begun bouncing around my head and they have me thinking maybe it is time to shift my focus when it comes to cattle.

Generally speaking, while I do love my little Dexters the economic realities of wanting to have a wholly viable and financially sustainable farm has me question where they fit into the picture. I think the real question then becomes what are your goals for having cattle on your farm. Do you just want a small herd to provide a few steers for you, your friends, and a few customers? If that is the case then maybe they are a perfect fit for you. But, if you would like grassfed beef to be more than a small sideline to your business then I think you should at the very least consider other options ... or maybe even write-off Dexters completely.

What does that mean for this beginning farmer and for Crooked Gap Farm? Well, the jury is still out and honestly I probably won't be quick to make a decision on this one because I have quite a bit invested (time, money, and emotions) in even my small herd of cattle! I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment below or join in the fun on The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook.

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

TBF 088 :: Building Margin on Your Farm, Winter Preperations, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

"Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating. 
Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances."
At least that is how Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin in his book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (a book that I have not read, but does seem interesting). Of course I could talk a lot about the importance of building margin into your life, but I may not be the best one to speak on that subject because I do have two off-farm jobs currently and margin is my biggest struggle! What I want to talk about specifically today is the importance of building margin into the life of your farm so that it is sustainable physically, financially, ecologically, and on and on and on.

This is a topic that came to the front of my mind this past week when I was talking with someone about the low grain prices. They were lamenting the fact that the prices were low and how hard it was on farmers and even the agricultural equipment manufacturers. Of course I knew that when they were talking about farmers they were specifically referencing farmers that only raise grain (corn and soybeans). We talked about how John Deere had cut jobs and all sorts of other implications, but then I mentioned the fact that as a purchaser of grains the lower prices were a pretty good thing for me and hopefully will allow me to catch up a little after two years of higher prices.

All of this got me thinking. Of course I could spend hours talking about the problem of the lack of diversified farms in the United States these days, but we don't have that much time (or patience)! What I can talk about though is the importance of building margin on your farm so that when prices go up (or down), when the rains come (or don't), and when the sales are great (or they're not) you are prepared to survive. Building margin in the end may slow your growth or have other implications, but if you are properly building margin I think you will have a farm that can stick around because there will be money, resources, and a farmer that isn't burnt out!

What do you think? How do you build margin on your farm? Let me know in the comments below or join us on The Beginning Farmer Facebook page ... actually you should probably do that anyways :)

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TBF 087 :: Guinea Fowl & Rabbits on the Farm, Grain Bins, and a Hard Lesson Learned

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

This past week I posted a "fall farm" picture to the Crooked Gap Farm Facebook page and there was a great question about the style of our pasture pens for the rabbits. Of course this had me thinking about the best way to describe them (video of course ... maybe you have heard about a coming Kickstarter project), but beyond that it got me thinking about the role of the meat rabbits and guinea fowl on the farm. Right now they both are important pieces because the rabbits are they way our son gets involved in the business and the guinea fowl provide sales of course, but there is also the fact that they do a great job eating ticks and bugs! As I thought about it though, if I was starting my small scale farm with the focus of building a sustainable business that does more than just support a hobby I don't think either of those animals would be ones that I would start with. Of course if you are wanting to get a start in town the rabbits would be perfect, and if a family homestead was your goal then you might enjoy the guinea fowl (if they don't annoy you too much).

The facts are that with both the guinea fowl and the rabbits there is a huge benefit because your starting costs are rather low, your time to return (as in when you sell the meat) is fairly short, and the learning curve is less steep than cattle. It is also true that in many locations rabbit and guinea fowl meat is probably an untapped market. That can be both a blessing and point of concern. Not that you can't market them, but there will be more work in educating customers on the benefits, cooking methods, and great flavor. As a point of comparison ... even if you are raising pasture based poultry or pork there will always be people willing to take a chance on a whole chicken, bacon, or pork chops.

What I'm trying to say is that they have a place on the farm, but if I was starting my farm from scratch again they would be in the long range plans rather than year one or two. Of course all of that being said, if I would have started with meat rabbits in town instead of egg laying chickens the police never would have called asking me to remove my chickens! With that in mind maybe rabbits are the perfect thing to start with if your beginning farmer journey begins in town!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook! 

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TBF 086 :: Farming Unfair Advantages, Non-GMO Switch, and a Hard Lesson

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


TBFkickstarthogcart

If you've ever spent much time around children you have probably heard the phrase, "that's not fair!" In my eight years of researching my beginning farm and being a real life beginning farmer I have also heard that phrase from beginning farmers (myself included). In fact I've even heard it from politicians talking about agriculture when I visited them in Washington D.C. a few years back. What I'm trying to say is that it is very easy to fall into the trap of looking at my own farming situation and decide that it is unfair because others may have more land, more money, better markets, and a whole host of other things. I believe the reality is though that there is something about every beginning farmer (and experienced farmer) that is unfair ... the business world calls that an "unfair advantage".

On our farm we have the unfair advantage of buying a farm smack dab in the middle of an already successful Farm Crawl. Not every farm has something so great for marketing and not every farm can create an event like the one we are part of because you can't just pull 7 farms within 20 miles of each other doing a variety of forms of direct marketing. Another unfair advantage for our farm is my prolific love of talking about the farm. I'm not saying that I'm the world's best speaker or writer, but I do love to tell the story of our farm and I'm not afraid to share it with just about anyone who will listen.

My question for you is what is your "unfair farming advantage"? What are those things that set you apart from other farmers ... things that they just can't run to the closest farm store and buy? I would love to hear what your unfair advantage is ... what are you going to take advantage of on your farm!

Check out The Beginning Farmer Show on Facebook!

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TBF 085 :: Farming Questions Answered, Updates from the Farm, and a Hard Lesson

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**



ScaredEthan.jpg

Over the past several weeks I have been teasing TBF Videos the next big thing for The Beginning Farmer, and last week as part of a "hidden track" after the closing music I mentioned an upcoming Kickstarter Project. We are getting closer to releasing our funding campaign, but I'm just so excited about the project that I had to share a few more details on the show today! There are some awesome rewards in the pipeline for being a backer of this campaign, we have a couple VERY cool "stretch rewards" if we can go above and beyond our goal, and of course if our project is funded successfully we will be producing The Beginning Farmer Videos! I can't wait to share the campaign with you, so stay tuned for more details coming soon. But, what really makes this episode cool are the four great questions that came in from listeners over on The Beginning Farmer Facebook Page.

On today's episode I answer questions about brooding chicks, learning about pork cuts, researching feed conversion ratios, and building farm websites. Of course great questions deserve equally well thought out responses so this episode runs a little longer than some of the previous ones. Along with my own thoughts I share quite a few links in my responses, so you will want to be sure to check out the links below.

Do you have thoughts on any of these subjects? Did I lead anyone astray? Join in the community below in the comments section!

Links mentioned in this episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

TBF 084 :: Five Reasons for an On-Farm Event, Farm Crawl, and a Hard Lesson

**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**



P1010054The Farm Crawl 2014 has come and gone and this years event was record setting! Overall we are estimating the event drew over 2,000 visitors and that our farm had over 1,800 people touring the farm in a short six hour span! Those are numbers that are hard to believe and humbling all at the same time ... plus, they are very exciting. Now that I'm a few days removed from the event and looking back there are a few experiences that I wanted to share with you. First of all it was amazing to meet so many podcast listeners face-to-face ... and some that had even traveled quite a distance to visit the farm. Unfortunately because it was so busy I didn't get a chance to spend as much time chatting as I would have liked, but know that I wanted to. Another great thing from the day was great encouragement we received from so many visitors complimenting our farm and the products that they have tried ... I can't tell you how great it is to hear someone say that our pork chops were the best they ever had!


Above all though the biggest thing that I'm taking away as I look back on this years Farm Crawl is just how important it is to have on farm events for a direct marketing farm. The connections that are made, the marketing opportunities that present themselves, and the ability of the farm to tell it's own story are priceless. On today's episode of "The Beginning Farmer Show" I want to share some of my most important highlights, the reasons why I think you should consider an on farm event, and of course the multiple hard lessons learned from this years Farm Crawl! Links mentioned in this episode:
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

TBF 083 :: On Farm Learning, Quick Updates, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**
 

Danpigs
Last week I woke up much earlier than the sun and headed all the way to northwest Iowa to visit Seven W Farm and try to consume as much farming knowledge as possible in such a short time. It's not that the Wilson family didn't have much to teach, but rather that there was so much that I wanted to take in! In fact I'm not sure if I was even intelligent enough to soak in all the great farming experiences and knowledge that live on that farm. I first became aware of this farm back in 2009 when I watched the Niche Pork Webinar Series (you can find Dan Wilson's presentation in the link). The chance to visit the farm was a can't miss opportunity.

ChickenpresentationThere were quite a few things that I took away from the day, but some of the coolest things were checking out their laying chicken design, learning about their organic dairy, and of course seeing the pigs and their pasture farrowing set-up. Sometimes I get insulated in my own little "farming world" down here where the only things I think about are my farm and the farm that I work at from time to time. Being on another farm that had similar operations to mine, and even things I would be interested in looking at for the future, really helped open my eyes to what was possible for my farm.

ChickenwagonsideEven though their farm had similar operations and similar values and methods of raising their livestock there was still quite a few things that I took away and would like to add to my farm. I hope that you look for chances to get on other farms in your area for learning experiences, because honestly they can't be beat. And ... if you live in Iowa or the surrounding states you should probably check out Practical Farmers of Iowa.

ChickenwagoninsideAs 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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TBF 082 :: Future of The Beginning Farmer, Cleaning a Farm, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.** 

Even farmers take a break. Ethan
Went and checked out the Central
Time Tour this weekend!
The Beginning Farmer Show was your first introduction to me, "The Beginning Farmer", then you may not know that what is now a podcast initially began as a blog about my farming journey (or hopeful beginning farming journey). My very first post was way back on September 23rd, 2006 (that's eight years ago!). Since that time there have been over 900 posts on this blog plus even more from my day's writing for Epicurious. What began with questions like: How much capital will it take to get started? How much cash-flow will be needed, and where will it come from as we start? How much can I expect to make with certain crops or livestock? And, how and to whom will I do all of my marketing? ... has morphed into discussions about breed selections, hog loading procedures, and so much more! 

What I really want to say though is that I've learned to love podcasting and the community that has grown up around "The Beginning Farmer Show". It's been exciting trying to answer as many questions as possible from all of the listeners, but to be completely honest I think I have probably learned more from everyone that has offered advice and help than I could ever hope to give! The most important thing to me has always been to share the "real life" stories and lessons and experiences from the farm.

I mention all of this to say that I think there are some exciting opportunities ahead for "The Beginning Farmer Show". Opportunities that I hope will continue to grow the community, share farming knowledge, and encourage beginners ... because I know as a beginner myself that encouragement is always welcome. I have two things in mind. One is video and the other is something that I'm still fleshing out at this point. There will be ways for you to get involved though ... so stay tuned for more details after the Farm Crawl.

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TBF 081 :: Facing Farming Realities, Fence Work, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

Lately I've been going through what I'm calling my "Farming Reality Check". It's not so much a mid-life crisis or even a "mid-farm crisis" as much as it is the fact that I am quickly (after slowly) coming to the realization that there needs to be more shifts and movement on the farm. A few weeks ago it became painfully clear that the balance in our life had gone from extremely shaky to absolutely falling off the ball out of balance. This shake-up (which I admit had been coming for sometime) has finally got me to the point where I need to honestly evaluate what is going on at the farm and what maybe needs to have big changes. There is good news though! The good news is that I'm taking the bull by the horns and attacking the balance issue as best as I can ... with the help of my family and all the great listeners of The Beginning Farmer Show I'm building a business plan and taking a close look at everything we do on the farm and why we do it.

Not everything about this episode is a downer though. Thanks to a growing group on the new Beginning Farmer Show Facebook Page I wanted to take some time to answer questions about two of my favorite topics ... chainsaws and pigs! Below you will find links to the resources I mentioned:
One more thing ... I mentioned in this weeks episode that I'm getting about 1,500 volts on the ground wires in my fence. Is this normal or do you have any thoughts on what I'm missing that would be causing this? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TBF 080 :: Farm Randomness, Fall is Coming, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

One of the great things about the community that is springing up around The Beginning Farmer Show is that I often receive encouraging e-mails and messages, questions, comments, and links to helpful resources. One of the bad things about me is that when my computer died I neglected to add an important e-mail address to my phone's mail application and because of that I've missed a bunch of great e-mails! There are some great topics though and I want to cover as many as possible. Here is a sampling of the topics that I will be attempting to share some thoughts on ...
  • Dealing with processors can be a challenge. There are often things we as producers worry about because we have spent a lot of time and care getting our livestock to that point only to drop them off and drive away (in some cases).
  • I'm getting pretty passionate about completing my business plan and I'm thankful for all the encouragement and tips that have been coming in.
  • In the future (maybe this year ... maybe next year) we'll be spreading compost on our pastures in order to fully utilize our deep bedding and to help improve our pastures. When is the best time to do that and what about spreading compost in addition to seeding pastures?
  • Even though it would be great if all our interactions with other farmers would be perfect and idyllic our our beautiful farm dreams the reality is that they are people and sometimes it goes better than others. Recently a listener related a story along these lines to me that gave me a lot to think about.
All of those questions together though have lead me to some conclusions about The Beginning Farmer Show, my farming journey, and some things that I would love to see moving forward. I'll give a bit of a preview today, but really what I want to say is that I've been extremely blessed to have the help that I've had and I want to share that help as much as possible! Like I said ... there will be more details coming.

We covered a lot of ground on today's episode! Do you have any tips on working with butchers, building a great business plan, spreading compost and seeding, or even connecting with experienced farmers?

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

TBF 079 :: Farm Business Plans, Updates from the Farm, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**


This John Deere 4020 has been in the family for almost 50 years and is still a work horse on the farm!
I love working with the pigs, I love driving the tractors, I love attempting to fix the tractors, I love building fence, I love a lot about farming (even the dirty work), but I'm not a big fan of running the numbers and big time planning. What I'm trying to say is that I'm six years into my on-farm journey and I have never completed a business plan ... although I have started a few times. My thoughts on farm business planning have changed recently, as in they've done a complete 180ยบ turn, and I'm in the process of working on my plan. The big question is why have I had such a change of heart ...


The main reason for the my heart of change can be summed up in one phrase, "Something needs to change." I have some idea of things that could change on the farm that would help the business and the family, but I've come to the conclusion that a real life Farm Business Plan could really come in handy. I think it will be especially helpful when it comes to things like communication, taking emotion out of the decisions, goal setting, and plans for the future of the farm. There is one problem though ... I feel completely incapable of making a business plan!
Luckily I have resources ... here they are:
  • Building a Sustainable Business Workbook from The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (This is the one that I'm using and I love it because not only does it have the information, but it has case studies from other farms as well)
  • Online Worksheets from the workbook mentioned above ...
Do you have any tips, tricks, or experiences when it comes to creating your Farm Business Plan? I'd love to continue the discussion in the comments below!

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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

TBF 078 :: Beginning a Farm - Marketing & Sales, Farm News, and a Hard Lesson


**As I transition to www.TheBeginningFarmer.com I am quickly realizing I'm not as web savvy as I had hoped! In the meantime I will be posting here as well for those of you subscribed through RSS ... and hopefully will have that fixed soon.**

Farming is great! Let's say you've done your research, got set-up on your farm, and now you're even raising some crops or livestock ... you are officially a real life farmer. Of course if you want to continue to be a farmer you should probably figure out how to make a dollar or two along the way. That's where marketing and selling comes into the game, and it is important to realize that those are two things that you will spend a lot of time doing if you want to be a full-time (or part-time) direct-to-consumer farmer. On our farm we started out slow with our marketing ventures and quickly worked our way up to a very large farmer's market. But, looking back and considering the direction that we are going now with our marketing I'm not sure if I would go the route of the farmer's market.

Sure the farmer's market was the main way that we built up our customer base (and we have an amazing group of customers and farm friends), but when you factor in an off-farm job, a family, and the fact that I really had know clue what I was doing with the farming and marketing it might have been less stressful if we would have tackled our market growth in a different way. That is the great thing about living in the 21st century though ... there are tons of opportunities to get the word out about your farm and products. There are plenty of gyms and fitness centers that often times love partnering with farmers, we have healthy living conferences, there are even CSA events where farms can set-up and talk to potential customers about the things they offer. I'd love to hear your thoughts on marketing! What has worked for your farm (or business)? Do you think you have to do the farmer's market thing to be successful? Any suggestions that I missed?

... from Ethan's bookshelf ... one of the upsides (besides the awesome time with my son) of a couple hours four times a day sitting at a hospital was that I found myself with time to read :: this is what I was reading
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 star rating and review (by clicking the link). 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 ...
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