Michael Robertson started Sawkill Farm in the fall of 2010 in Upper Red Hook, NY. Named for the Saw Mill Creek that runs through the property, Sawkill Farm is situated on 65 acres of land protected by a conservation easement.
Please join the National Young Farmers Coalition and the Democracy at Work Institute on November 21th at 6pm EST for a webinar on how cooperative businesses are helping to build local food economies and support young farmers in creating new markets, reaching new customers and building sustainable, rewarding farm-based enterprises.
We want to spotlight some great organizing coming out of the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts (BFN/Mass):
Next Tuesday, November 12th, is the BFN/Mass Fall Forum, an opportunity for farmers to meet fellow farmers, farm service providers and food system advocates – in short, all those who are concerned with beginning farmers’ livelihood and success. The forum is both a networking opportunity and a chance for the group to raise and discuss gaps in resources and to figure out how to address them.
This week marked an exciting development in the two-year-long push to deliver a new five-year farm bill. Both the House and the Senate have already passed their own versions of the bill; the remaining hurdle is to reconcile the two with each other in a way that will win approval both both bodies.
Joey Smith, Farmer at Let’s Go Farm, had too many tomatillos. The plants grew exceptionally well this season, and Joey and his farming partner Max Bryer-Bass were up to their ears in green and purple heirloom tomatillos. Despite the fact that “they are delicious and make a great salsa verde,” notes Joey, “they don’t sell that well at market, and we can’t give them to our CSA members every week.”
Farm Hack West Slope CO: Farmers build social and online tools to improve farm resilience in the arid West
On the small-scale farm, the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees. This fact makes resiliency—the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change—an essential trait, especially for small, young and beginning farmers. As we in the west face extended drought and increasing demand for good food and water, we must continue to ask what it will take to ensure our farms remain resilient and thriving.
For marketing, like the rest of our farm venture, we are starting small with big visions for the future. We currently have a logo, a Facebook page, a domain name, and are within a couple days of launching a Kickstarter campaign. We have visions of shirts, stickers, ice cream cartons, a scoop mobile, and much more.
This year we took a multi-prong approach to marketing. I was striving toward an ideal that we would sell most of our products through a CSA. We managed to serve around a dozen members locally, and twenty-eight members through Juniper Hill Farms’ Farmigo share (a CSA service managed completely online). The local CSA operated like a pre-paid credit system where the members start off with a “Small Share” or “Large Share” balance, receiving extra credit toward their balance in exchange for their pre-payment, and we track their purchases on a weekly basis. Members can pick up at the Farmstore or the Farmers Markets. This year we tracked balances on paper and sent out email notices, but would like to find an affordable swipe card system in the future, where members can check their balance at any given time.
Farmer’s markets have been the mainstay of my marketing plan for the past 9 years. They are a great way to get a small farm up and running with some cash flow but there are downsides to farmer’s markets. For one, they are usually only open in the summer but farm expenses come all year long.