Policy is one of those subjects that people either seem to love or hate. Some farmers have no interest in getting involved with policy, even though it might directly affect them. And clearly, most policy makers at higher levels of government have little interest or relation to farming. Bridging this divide to create policy that is responsive to the needs of dairy farmers across the United States is something that we both are active with and is a frequent topic of discussion on the farm.
The most direct interaction I have with the government in the dairy business comes through the New York Sate Department of Agriculture and Markets. Every month, the inspector comes to collect product samples to be tested for bacteria counts, and runs through the checklist to ensure we’re following cleanliness standards.
Hi all, it’s a rainy day in the Hudson Valley and the cows are inside, we made our rotation last until October 27th in our first season. Not bad…but room for improvement.
When it comes to marketing on our farm we are in an entirely different boat than my fellow Bootstrap contributors. One of the most beneficial aspects (for us at least) of belonging to a cooperative is that sales and marketing is built into the model and not something that we as farmers need to be concerned with on an everyday basis. I personally LOVE this.
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.
This is post is coming at a good time for the farm, we were approved for raw milk sales last week and concrete was poured in our future tiny farm store. Getting into dairy farming from cheese making was like taking a step further behind the scenes, further away from farmers markets and retail pricing, more than that it was saying hello to commodity markets and forgetting about marketing…at least for a moment. I welcomed that then and I still appreciate the distance, but of course, we also need to make a living and for the way that I want to farm a commodity milk check barely pays the bills.
For a grassfed dairy like ours, pasture is our bread and butter.
Similar to most of our grassfed friends, we move the milking herd to a new grazing paddock every 12 hours. On the bright side for our situation, we landed on a dairy farm that was already set up with pasture and above ground water line to several paddocks around the farm.
Pasture management in Montana is not just about building fence and moving cows. First and foremost it is about irrigation. Because of our arid climate we rely heavily on irrigation water, which is dependent on mountain snow pack. Every winter farmers and ranchers in the west look to the mountains as they plan for the following year. Good snow levels correlate to a successful growing season. Poor snow levels might mean selling off some stock, planting fewer crops, and preparing a plan for drought.