The greatest crop I’ve ever grown

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

The winter in south Texas isn’t a time to take off or slow down. Thanks to a mild winter, we are lucky enough to grow all 12 months of the year. Take that, California! Our winter is pretty much like what I think the rest of the country experiences during spring. Thanks to the mild weather, farmers aren’t the only people in south Texas who grow food.

More and more I meet people at the market who come up to my table and tell me they are growing everything I have, discuss growing notes, and leave without a purchase. While at times this can feel like a low point, I have begun to understand that the more people try to grow their own food the more people will realize the amount of effort and time that goes into growing crops, especially on a larger scale.

As gardening and homesteading continue to rise in popularity, folks will concede that battling farmers over the small amount of money we charge isn’t unreasonable. Being haggled for $1 is frustrating.

I recall meeting a guy in Jamaica last year—while on what seems like the last vacation of my life—who said something that really stuck with me. He was selling cheap, beaded bracelets for $5, which was more than they were worth. But I was in the buying mood, so I offered him $3. Dejected he said, “Man I’m broke, I’ll take whatever.” It caught me off guard. (more…)

A day in my life: 15 miles and one noisy cat

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

A day in the life of this farmer can vary, but since I began farming full time, I wake up in a great mood. I can usually get a few giggles and smiles out of my pre-coffee, drowsy wife, a feat in its own right, I assure you. But I digress. I understand fully how blessed I am to live the way I was meant to, which undoubtedly correlates to my happiness as a human and as a steward of planet earth. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like—torrential rain, freezing temperatures, or Texas’s famous sultry heat—am always excited to go outside and take stock of things.

It may sound crazy, because I am here at the farm all the time, but getting up and seeing what did or did not happen during the night is interesting. Of course there will be days where staying in bed under the warm covers is more tempting than throwing on layers of clothes just to feed the animals, but it has to be done, and I don’t mind it. Ever.

My first breath of fresh air on the porch is always greeted by three waggling tails. The dogs are the first to know when I am awake, but they are always willing to wait patiently for my appearance. After they get some good pats, we all begin chores together with the two shepherds leading the way. These companions of mine are such pros at being farm dogs, they can show most humans how chores are done. As we walk toward the barn to get feed for everyone, our barn cat, who I unfortunately trained to meow to communicate with me, begins her attention-seeking behavior. So while I get the feed, I hear nothing but deafening meows. She only quiets down when I leave the barn area, so I hurry. (more…)

Nine months, 20 chickens, and $300: BOOTSTRAP AT EMADI ACRES FARM

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

Moving from a decent paying job to a job that reduces your income to below the poverty level is scary! But once you’re at the bottom, you know there is only one way to go. I conceded to my wife before I quit my teaching job that she would be the breadwinner for many years to come. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit, and she is completely cool with it. Man, am I lucky!

If I had a chance to do college all over again, I would have majored in agriculture and minored in business instead of going the psychology route. At times I feel clueless when it comes to the businessman’s mentality. I got into farming to farm, and admittedly overlooked the business side of things. The desire to accumulate wealth isn’t a strong sense I carry with me, but farming to make great food and provide for my family drives me. While I’m learning as I go, I would recommend any future farmers start learning business in tandem with farming. It’s something I wish I was well versed at.

Farming is a business as much as anything else, and like all businesses, you have to learn to play the numbers game. Is this venture worth the time, risk, and effort? When will I get my money back? How will I be profitable in the meantime?

For example, let’s say you have 20 chickens. If you buy the chickens as chicks for $4 each, that is an initial $80 investment. They will not make any money for you as egg-layers for at least 7-8 months. If you buy conventional feed for them, they will consume a 50-pound bag of feed per month at about $13 per bag. So that’s another $91 you pay before they can make you money. Once you throw in additional costs for their coop/pen, fencing, waterers and such, you will find yourself about $300 in the hole for seven months, and that’s if you get lucky and find cheap materials. (more…)

Death happens (and other facts about being a farmer) – BOOTSTRAP AT EMADI ACRES

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

We asked each of our Bootstrap Bloggers to tell us the top five things people should know about farming. This is Derek’s list:

1) Love thy organic matter
Simply put, always accumulate organic matter. If you farm, whether it’s mulch, hay, manure, leaves, topsoil, cardboard, etc, take what’s free. People are always getting rid of wonderful organic matter. It’s a great resource that is often overlooked or disposed of. Organic matter is helpful in improving your soil, making compost, managing erosion, and much more.The possibilities are endless. Even if you don’t have an immediate use for it, your farm will be rewarded in the future. Remember that the microbes in the soil are hungry, so feed them food they love!

2) “Organic” ain’t easy
Everyday, through tremendous effort, my farm moves closer to organic status. One of my end goals is to be a diversified organic farmer who only uses rainwater to irrigate. Sounds like a crazy dream, but I’ve seen it in action at a farm down the road. The farm’s owner has never pumped any water from our aquifers in 26 years. He intensively manages the organic matter and soil on his 5-acre farm and uses moisture retaining techniques like heavy mulching. It’s really impressive and something I believe we should all strive for in the agricultural community. His farm is the best example of true sustainable, organic farming I’ve seen. At an “organic” farm I worked at previously, I was taken aback by how much water the farm was constantly running on. Even during the brutally hot summer, they ran water all day. This gave me the desire to be a water conserving farmer, even in our drought stricken area.

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Weddings and chickens: A farm business plan – Bootstrap at Emadi Acres Farm

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

The beauty of farming is that there are many avenues to make money, though you have to work extremely hard to get it. I have a silly dream of having all of my business commerce happen here on the farm. Not that I am necessarily a hermit, I just never like leaving my property because it’s where I always want to be. That dream is many years off, so for now I go where the money is.

In my first year of farming, I tested the waters with a small community supported agriculture (CSA), began going to the farmers’ market in our small town, dabbled in “on-farm” sales of poultry and produce, and held a successful wedding on our property. 

CSAs are consistent moneymakers. Most folks love having things delivered to them—just look at Amazon’s success. My CSA is like a farm-fresh Christmas every week, and I’m the tan, sun-kissed Santa who delivers the presents. My small CSA fluctuates between five and 10 people. Really it shouldn’t fluctuate, but I’m still working out the kinks. The demand is there, and at times I wish I could fulfill everyone’s orders, but I only have what natures gives me. I have come to the realization that I have to expand my garden plot to well over an acre of production. The half-acre I have now is capable of producing hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, but it just isn’t enough. And the prospect of using my tractor to get new areas prepped is exciting, especially for someone who has done everything by hand until now. (more…)

Getting by with a little help from your friends … Plus savings and grants

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres
So many stories about farming in the media feature people who left their well-paying jobs in corporate America to start a farm business. The stories always include the folks admitting how difficult their type of farming is, but conclude with how prosperous they have become in their venture. If you to want to be a farmer and are fortunate enough to have a large bank account, I can imagine things being a lot easier. The articles portray picturesque images of rolling pastures with big red barns and sparkling green John Deere tractors with equipment in tow. As great as some of these stories are and as inspiring as they can be, I’m always left asking myself the same question that never seems to be answered: How much money did they start out with to begin their farm business? This is important because, to get the tires rolling, money is the start key.

Now, I speak as someone who is still considered a young farmer with only a few years under my belt. I work by myself all day, pinch many pennies, and save when I can, just to be a farmer. If I could do what I do every day and never worry about money, I would literally have no stress, except of course for the occasional sick hen with a pasty butt. But I have to pay for the mortgage, water, electric, feed, etc. Money needs to be made. Where you start will be dictated by how much debt you have and how much money you have saved. (more…)

“Nature boy” finds his calling – BOOTSTRAP AT EMADI ACRES FARM

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By Derek Emadi, Emadi Acres

As far back as I can remember, one of the only places I felt peace as a hyperactive kid was on my grandparent’s property. Their land was located in a small town west of San Antonio, Texas. The town was small enough that my cousins, brother, and I could walk unescorted to various shops to browse their candy selections. We had so much freedom when we were there. Freedom from school, television, and parents! My impatient brain was able to focus and remain calm.

I knew pretty early in my life that when I became an adult I had to have a place just like my grandparents had. There we learned to fish the creek, catch grasshoppers for bait, shoot guns, absorb millions of mosquito bites without complaining, wrangle a rouge male goose, build fires … what more could kids ask for? My family loves to tell stories about us kids trying to ride goats rodeo-style and walk chickens on a leash. “Nature Boy” was one of the names my uncles gave me that I actually liked. Nature was where I wanted to be, and that hasn’t changed.

My mom’s side of the family wasn’t my only connection to nature. My brother and I never knew my dad’s father, but the older we got the more questions we had for our dad about his family. He told us stories about the farming life he left when he came to live in the States. My grandfather was a well-known, self-made farmer in his time. He had a large orchard near the Caspian Sea comprised of more than 20 hectares that are still in production; citrus rows as far as the eye could see. The thought of being able to grow my own fruit has stayed with me. (more…)

Bootstrap at Emadi Acres Farm – Meet Derek

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Welcome to our 2015 Bootstrap Blog series! We’ve been introducing you to our four Bootstrap Bloggers, who are all in their first or second year of running a farm. Throughout the season, each Bootstrap Blogger will write about the highs and lows, glory moments and curveballs that come with farming.

 

The seed of my farm started in the summer of 2011 while I was watching a documentary that featured a farmer lying on the ground, hanging out with his pigs. I had an epiphany then that changed my life. Before that moment, I had never realized farming could be a viable career option. It spoke to everything that was true in my soul: being in and working with nature to nurture and sustain life responsibly.

At the time, I was working as an elementary special education teacher with my fiancée, but we began looking for a homestead to nourish my agricultural aspirations. We knew we didn’t want to live in a typical, cookie-cutter neighborhood, but finding land was challenging. Let me tell you, two teachers in Texas do not make very much money. (more…)