Bootstrap @ Nightfall Farm – Looking Back on our First Year

Nightfall - review - relaxing with beansWhen I switched from working on farms to starting our own farm, I also needed to transition from wearing glasses to peering through a telescope. By which I mean to say that I need to look further down the line in order to run a farm than I ever did as a farm laborer. I know that is not a surprising, groundbreaking insight to any of you reading this blog, but that “zoom” is the most significant perspective that I have gained this year.

For instance, let’s talk customers as the best example of the long view. This first season we started small because we were uncertain of our market base. That was a good, safe idea that afforded us the opportunity to analyze the customer response to our farm and explore the area needs that were not being met. However, because we started with such conservative numbers, we now have only 25 pounds of pork to sell for the next 6 months.
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Bootstrap @ Wild Ridge Farm – The Joy of Community

Wild Ridge Farm - flower community 3Many days this summer began with Anna, Joseph and myself tumbling out of our little red Mazda pickup into the field around 7 am, and beginning the morning’s tasks. Soon after, another red truck – this time a 90’s model Tacoma – would drive through the open gate in the deer fence around our field and our flower farmer friend Courtney would emerge. Her business partner Jamie would also often show up within the hour. They would start filling square plastic containers with water from the well, and soon after they’d be filled with cut flowers of all sizes and colors. (more…)

Bootstrap Dairy Farmer Video Release!

The Bootstrap Dairy Farmer Videos are finally here!

In 2013, five young women chronicled their experiences of starting dairy farms on our Bootstrap Blog. In the long-awaited final installment of the series, three of the women take us to their farms in short films. Watch now and see how these women overcome icy temps, broken tractors, early mornings and a tough farm sector. Films are produced by Farm Run Media and sponsored by Stonyfield.  You can check out all three at NYFC’s video hub, or click below to watch each one directly.

See Sarah Chase of Chaseholm Farm transition her family’s dairy to a grass-fed herd.

NYFC Bootstrap Chaseholm image
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Bootstrap @ Wild Ridge Farm – Debating the Policies of Organic Certification

As someone who has spent many hours paging through codes and regulations in an attempt to develop a compliant organic system plan (OSP), I understand why many small farmers find the process too arduous and time-consuming to be worth their while. And yet, I also understand and appreciate the rigorous and meticulous nature of the certification process which gives real meaning to the USDA Organic label: a certification which takes no effort to obtain and which lacks the oversight to ensure proper compliance cannot give us any confidence that the fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and grains are truly free of the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers which have systematically tainted our nation’s food system.

Wild Ridge Farm - Policy - Hoop House ExteriorTo date, we at Wild Ridge Farm have decided not to certify even though we have complied and will continue to comply with all the methods and material restrictions as stipulated in the National Organic Program (NOP) code—with the sole exception of the Final Rule which I will presently discuss at length. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Forager Farm – The Farming Community

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetCreating a community of food lovers has always been at the top of our to-do list. A community that is centered on food but goes beyond just the consumption, one that supports sustainable practices in not just farming, but day-to-day living.

Our first year of operation hasn’t allowed for much community building. In fact, it hasn’t allowed for much beyond just surviving. We realized quickly we bit off more than we could chew and decided we needed to focus on our priorities as a first-year vegetable CSA.

However, within the CSA model, and in particular how we chose to set-up Forager Farm, community is at the heart of it. Our process of pick-ups meant we met with our members on a weekly basis, face-to-face, to deliver their boxes of fresh vegetables. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Wild Ridge Farm – Farmer Training

Wild Ridge Farm - training - tractor in fieldIt was clear from the beginning of my farming internship at Chubby Bunny Farm that my boss, Dan Hayhurst, loved the work of growing vegetables. Most mornings I would be lying in bed, just waking up around 6:30 am, and I’d hear his truck roll up to the barn. I’d listen as Dan got out and started hauling sacks of feed out of the barn to drive out to the small flock of chickens and few pigs on pasture. This was my cue to get up and stumble about my trailer, putting on filthy work pants and shirt, probably mildly hungover, quickly frying eggs and making coffee so I could meet him and my co-interns in the greenhouse or at the tailgate of his truck in time for the morning meeting. I knew he’d been up for hours thinking on the farm, planning the most efficient way of doing all the days’ many tasks, and it was barely 7 am. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Nightfall Farm – Building Community

Nightfall - community pic - turkey in handIn the last five years, each place Liz and I called home came with a vibrant agricultural support network. Simply by the virtue of location, we were surrounded by farmers, friends and food that guided and taught us what we know and how we act. We still rely on this former (and yet current) network, calling with questions and concerns that are answered with generosity and encouragement. But now we live in a different state, and our Indiana home is a bit different.

Because we started a new farm rather than joined an existing farm, we didn’t plop down into a well-developed network. We are still finding our support but this month especially we are realizing that the voice in the corn was right; if you start to build it, sure enough, they will come.
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Bootstrap @ Forager Farm: Where Policy Meets the New Farm

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetAs a first-year farm selling direct-to-consumer vegetables policy is not something we’ve had to deal much with as of yet. However, the overarching Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA rules still to be implemented tend to hang over the decisions we make as a farm in the next couple of years.

We have plans of integrating livestock into our vegetable operation, including a small goat dairy as well as laying hens and pastured pork. This allows us the ability to turn waste from the vegetables into a saleable product and also provides a built-in fertility program. Not to mention utilizing the animals to manage weeds (especially perennial), clean up finished crop, and incorporate cover crops. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Lemonade Springs Farm – The Tough Reality of Marketing the Start-Up

Lemonade Springs Farm - packaged meatMarketing is the worst part of farming. Contrary arguments and examples exist, I suppose, outside my wallowing amidst the misery of my chosen profession. But this is a known truism; that the dirt-farmer’s is a challenging existence, a rough lot, made worse by the gristmill of the soul that is “sales”. I doubt anyone gets started in farming to get rich, nor do I think most farmers much care for marketing their products. Most of us would rather be digging carrots than hocking them.

Sales is the most essential thing to master if you wish to do this for a living, though, and while I wish dearly that I was writing this from aboard my yacht, the truth is that I’m damned poor and not getting much less poorer. Marketing, it turns out, is hard. But, we (mostly) pay our bills, and while money worries are never absent, I am able to keep myself in fine jugged wines and pay my Harper’s subscription, which is what counts. La vie bohéme, y’all. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Wild Ridge Farm – Developing a Market for the New Farm

Wild Ridge - Marketing - new logoWild Ridge Farm relies on three converging streams of revenue: CSA membership sales, Farmer’s Market sales, and Restaurant sales.

Approximately half of our revenue comes from CSA membership, which provides an essential preseason financial boost allowing us the crucial funds to buy seeds, potting mix, compost, and all the other bits and pieces necessary to get plants started early and ready to transplant as soon as soil and air temperatures allow. This early income also allows us to fire up the greenhouse as early as February. (more…)