In 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.
As 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…)
Marketing 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…)
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…)
Marketing and sales – I’m all for them. I’d like to do a bit more marketing and a lot more selling. In our first season, we’ve built our budget on the assumption that we will sell every animal that we raise. Man do I love that assumption.
Our focus is on the CSA model. We offer a chicken share, which includes a chicken every month. We offer a poultry share, which adds to the chicken share a Thanksgiving turkey. These two options have been our bread and butter thus far. (more…)
I’ve always viewed marketing as telling a story and there’s no better story to tell than the one of growing food and community. I feel a bit biased discussing marketing in farming. Before I decided to be a farmer, I was a marketer. I have a degree in Public Relations and Advertising and have done a lot of self-teaching on graphic design and web design.
Therefore, I knew from the beginning that we’d have to create a feeling of community via social media networks, blogging and email. It was a struggle to understand what exactly would draw people in. Ultimately, we went with approaches that would interest us if we were on the other side.
We discussed for months how exactly we wanted the CSA set up, the price points, how much we could grow for the money asked, etc. Once we decided on that, we knew we needed to create a brand that embodied all things Forager Farm. (more…)
It’s important to remember that the greatest investment you can make for the health and success of your farm is you. This is a platitudinous sentiment, perhaps, but accurate enough. If your farm is to be, like many of us hope, a hand raised up against the monoculture- a place of resiliency amidst collapse- then you would do well to train and educate yourself towards such ends.
It 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…)
When Jonathon and I decided to start Forager Farm, we had a combined vegetable growing experience of roughly 10 years. We also had one full CSA season under our belt from our time spent working and learning at Captain’s Creek Organic Vegetable Farm in Australia. (more…)
This blog was in danger of sounding like an acceptance speech where I list off all the names of the people responsible for me being in a position to run a farm. I can’t separate the lessons I have learned from the people who taught me. So to really talk about my training to be a farmer, I’ll pretend it was a planned out education instead of just happening. (more…)