Thursday, October 14, 2010

NHF Podcast ... "Death of a Farm"

Thank you to all of you have taken time to comment and e-mail over the past couple weeks. I am taking time to filter everything through my mind, but want to say that I'm thankful for the encouragement and ideas. Hopefully I'll find the time to respond and share some of the things that are processing through my head soon! In the meantime though here is something interesting ...

Many of you may already know that Nature's Harmony Farm has stopped doing their blog, but have begun doing podcasts. I have been listening to them lately when there is time while I'm driving around and they have been pretty interesting. But, for me their latest podcast was very interesting ... especially in light of my latest post and thoughts about the farm. You can find it on iTunes or download it from this link.

In the latest podcast Tim and Liz interview Rebecca Thistlethwaite of TLC Ranch in California about her farm experiences and the end of the farm (after 6 years of life). In some ways it was almost depressing to listen to the interview and hear about the struggles and realities they faced as they tried to make the farm go and grow. On the other hand it is important to hear all the sides of the story ... especially when you're thinking about pushing forward. It will eat up a bit more than an hour of your time, but I think it is worth a listen.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Help! :: Crooked Gap Farm

Dear Crooked Gap Farm Friend,

One of the major commitments of Crooked Gap Farm is to the customers and the people that have been an encouragement along the way. Because of that, we are looking for your advice and input. We are passionate about providing healthy and delicious meats by raising animals the way they were created to be made. This means that the cattle are grassfed and raised on pasture. It means that the pigs have their babies outdoors, and that they have a chance to root and be a pig. It means that the chickens can roam the pastures and clean-up after the cattle. I am very appreciative of our customers and friends who value these commitments and ideals!

Late this summer, however, we encountered a change that made the things that were starting to seem known about our farm unknown. My full time job of 6+ years at the church became a 20 hour a week job. In order to fill in some of the financial gap, I took on an additional 40 hours in the NAPA department at the farm store. This gave me 60 hours of town work plus the work on the farm.

Because of the changes in my job, not only are finances tighter than they were before, but I also have less time to take care of the livestock, maintain the farm, and cut firewood for the house. Plus, it is important to keep the family sane as well! Finding time to take care of everything has already become a challenge, and I know those challenges will continue as winter comes on and the days become shorter.

The first thought is that this is the time to back away from the farm and sell off the livestock. To maintain at the level we are at is not profitable enough considering the limited time that I have on the farm right now.

On the other hand, having my job at church cut to 20 hours gives me an opportunity to take a risk that might sound a bit crazy considering our situation ... to jump in to the farm completely and to grow and expand it. That expansion would mean buying in more animals over the winter and spring to have more available during the market season, including pork, beef, lamb, and poultry.

If that is going to happen though I’m going to have to think outside of the box. I’m going to have to be more creative and try and build some operating capital to fund the expansion and the extra feed and facility costs over the winter.

This all leads of course to my “big ask”. In one sense, I’m asking for your thoughts as customers on the direction of Crooked Gap Farm at this time. If the farm is going to continue, it is going to need the support of all of you who have supported it through its beginning stages. Would you like to see us stick around and grow? Would you like to purchase grassfed lamb and pastured chicken along with the pork and beef you may have already purchased from us? If that is the case, let me know.

And, another part of the “big ask” is would you help me think of ways to raise some of the capital needed to grow? Maybe you would be interested putting a down payment on a half hog, lamb, or chickens. Maybe you would like to reserve first crack at the limited amount of grassfed Dexter beef that will be available later this fall and next year. Maybe you have an outside of the box idea that could help the farm. Whatever it is, I would love to hear your thoughts!

One thing that you could do right now though is spread the word about Crooked Gap Farm if you have enjoyed our heritage breed meats. Please feel free to share this letter or our contact information with any friends or family that may be interested in our farm. We will have more pork and eggs available this fall and hopefully some ground beef if we can clear out some of our very limited freezer space (hint, hint). Our customers are the best advertisement we could have, and we would greatly appreciate your help.

So, there it is ... the current situation of Crooked Gap Farm in a very small nutshell. I want to thank you all for the support you have given over the past couple of years and all the encouragement that I have heard. This past summer was a summer of learning and growth on the farm. Even with all of the challenges I can look back and see progress, and that would not have been possible without you. If you would like to come out to the farm and see what is going on, please feel free to contact me and set up a visit. I would love to share our passion and vision with you in person!

Ethan Book
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