Bootstrap @ Chaseholm Farm – Reflections on My First Season

Chaseholm Farm - Chase in front of tractor - smallLast post!

Before I had started farming I used to think about writing in a notebook or generally documenting my first steps so that I could see back and know what I had done and how to make it better. But once I started I was so busy and so worried I was forgetting something else that I definitely didn’t remember to properly document my path.

I got lucky that Bootstrap stepped in to make me take notice, to help me summarize my experiments for better or worse, to formulate opinions about my progress. It was a great way to step back this year and feel like a small part of a whole farm and a whole bunch of farms (and lots of rad women!) (more…)

Bootstrap @ Chaseholm Farm – Reflections on Policy

Chaseholm Farm - Dayna and Chase smallHi All, it’s a rainy day in the Hudson Valley and the cows are inside, we made our rotation last until 10/27 in our first season.

Not bad…but room for improvement. Today’s post is about policy issues and regulations and how they affect my farm. One of the clearest ways is in my ability to sell raw milk. I went through some hurdles this year but in NYS you can be licensed to sell raw milk directly from the farm as long as you continue to meet certain quality standards. These were all easy for our farm to meet and so I wasn’t shelling out big money to alter my operation but I did have to spend a lot on pathogen testing (the first tests are the farmer’s to pay for and NYS does all the rest after you are licensed). (more…)

BOOTSTRAP @ CHASEHOLM FARM – REFLECTIONS ON MARKETING

By Sarah Lyons Chase of Chaseholm Farm

This is post is coming at a gchaseholm-farm-chase-on-tractor-wheel-smallood 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.

I am so thrilled to be in cahoots with my brother Rory, cheesemaker and owner at the Chaseholm Farm Creamery, he buys all of my milk except for some occasional moments when he needs a day off and Agri-Mark, a cooperative of farmers I belong to, comes and picks it up. It feels important to me to sell my milk to the creamery; I love being able to own a part of that product, especially as a former cheesemaker myself. I miss it and I feel proud to be a part of the (AMAZING) end product.

It also feels important to me tchaseholm-farm-calf-and-mama-smallo make this business work at a price per hundredweight (ctw) that isn’t exclusive. I want access! For the sake of clarity I will tell you that right now I am being paid $22/ctw for my milk. I have goals of keeping close track of my cost/ctw. to produce the milk and building smart systems that help me keep that number low. I’m not there yet and when I am I will be able to understand what $$/ctw is best.
The non-wholesale part of my business also has to help me make it. I look forward to building a raw milk clientele and also inviting people into this farm store as a part of it, selling milk and cheese and meats from the farm – products like pastured and whey-fed pork, veal, and beef. I am hoping to sell the milk for $4/half gallon, $2 for the bottle on top of it. I will also be selling these products through participation as a partner farm in the Sparrow Bush Winter CSA. This collaboration is really exciting for me too – I will provide beef and dairy products and Sparrowbush will be growing and storing vegetables, including winter greens in a greenhouse as well as pork, pastas, breads, lamb, eggs and fermented veggies.

I need to do more ouchaseholm-farm-calf-through-boards-smalltreach for the farm store and my own branding as my business moves along. That part is a little daunting but I think I will print little flyers to leave places that I travel (aka: very locally) and try to charm my way into some newspaper articles.  Overall, I am planning to build up slowly and really get to know the folks that are interested in buying their milk raw. I am excited and am ready to share what I have been working on. Till next time or if you are near….come visit the farm!

Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.

BOOTSTRAP @ CHASEHOLM FARM – THOUGHTS ON PASTURE MANAGEMENT

By Sarah Lyons Chase of Chaseholm Farm

This is a big one. This is my first season ever and also myChaseholm-Farm-cows-grazing-in-high-grass-small first season managing a rotationally grazed dairy herd. I think I have a lot to learn about how to maximize productivity of both grass and cow and it is fun to feel like I have also come a long way.

I learned about grazing management first from Alan Savory and then from Jim Gerrish and more intimately with local farmers and their animals as well as supplemental insight from Graze magazine (a worthwhile investment). My basic grazing plan is that my herd (33 cows- 10@1000lbs and 20@1400-1600lbs) move to a fresh 6/10 acre paddock every 12 hrs. This is the very formulaic version of what I do every day but I am not so rigid in reality and when the grass looks good they may get that 6/10ths but when I am wishing that it were taller or more dense or the weather is wet they will get a bigger slice.

I have many pasture spaces andChaseholm-Farm-setting-up-electric-line-small each of them has a permanent perimeter (in some cases that is a polyrope perimeter, others my father’s old barbed wire, and in one case, a five strand high tensile that a previous leasee of the farm must have spent big money on) the interior of each pasture is divided up into sections with single strand polyrope and pigtail posts. I love pigtail posts. Pigtails and fiberglass posts have given me a lot of flexibility that everyone who is experimenting and learning will find valuable.

This fall I will be applying for an EQIP grant—I had put in an application last year but in hindsight I feel really lucky to have not been selected because I probably would have made mistakes and they would have been a lot more permanent in oak posts and high tensile than in polyrope on a fiberglass post. I feel like after experiencing successes and failures of my current pasture layout I will be much more prepared to put a plan together for how I would like it to be.

I dream of a new mower so that Chaseholm-Farm-mowed-grass-smallI can more efficiently mow pastures down when the cows are leaving. I had a pretty ugly infestation of Canada thistle this year and in some places my fathers giant bush hog just doesn’t fit or it can’t make the slope. I have been reading a lot about mowers that can be towed by ATV’s and have their own motors attached so that I can reach steep pastures and fit through my smaller lanes and gates without taking down fencing or waiting to do a larger piece of grass.

My biggest failure has been my watering system. I have a 500 gallon tank that I fill every 12 hours and drive out to the paddock. This sucks. It takes up a ton of my time, if its wet and I have to go to a paddock that is on a hill…..I get stuck. We have had a wet summer and I can’t tell you how many times I have cursed this system. I dream that EQIP will help me install underground pipe and frost free spigots to each paddock.

Dream big. Certainly some new system will need to be implemented next season.
Another bit of information is that tChaseholm-Farm-grazing-behind-electric-linehis year I have been using two solar chargers, the PRS100 from Premier fencing. Cows are easy to keep in and for the most part I have kept mine in, except for Apple and Sue but they are determined! Usually when there is a problem it is my mistake and not the charger. They are a more affordable option and I have had good success. I do hope for a barn charger someday but I feel okay putting that investment lower on my priority list.

Pastures are one of the most exciting parts. I suggest to all aspiring graziers that you read Newman Turner, he is my newest favorite and he is getting me really excited about the potential for grazing systems that are low cost, restorative to cows, land and diversity. Check him out!
Good luck!

Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.

Bootstrap @ Chaseholm Farm – Marketing and Sales

Chaseholm Farm - Chase on tractor wheel - smallThis 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. (more…)