Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Staright Talk from a Young Farmer

Ever wonder what a 13 year old female farmer has to say about farming, food and finances?

Shelby Grenbec recently spoke out about her experience raising chickens, selling eggs, and gardening in an article in the Denver Post.


I loved the article! It is an honest assessment of where the sustainable farming movement is right now as well as the realities of marketing direct to the consumer.

She says things like:

"If you want sustainable, wholesome, pasture-raised organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free food, you have to support it. You can not get these things by talking about it and not paying for it."

If you read between the lines you see a girl who is wise beyond her years about people and money. I applaud her parents for teaching her these fundamental truths about life.

Shelby is getting a great head start in life by farming and earning money from the free market system we have here in the United States.

It reminds me of my boys. They have a good understanding that money doesn't just show up in the bank. It takes work. It means offering something of value to the market place and working to get the word out so folks will want to buy what you have.

I was disappointed to see she says she will not continue farming when she gets older. As Joel Salatin so eloquently pointed out one time, we have to have new, young farmers coming into the industry or the old ready to retire farmers can't leave. And when they do the big Ag model gets to fill in the gap if there isn't enough young farmers.

Perhaps Shelby will change her mind in the future but even if she doesn't, I wish her all the best and admire her honesty and hard work!

Read the entire article here: The Denver Post It's a great article.

Until next time...

Spring Hill Farms



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High Grain Prices Mean Alternative Feeds

Picture As feed prices rose as much as 25 percent in the last sixty days around our part of the country I began to contemplate how creative livestock farmers would become to stay profitable.


Typically three things happen:


1) You thin the herd.
2) You hunt for alternative feed sources.
3) You raise prices.

I wasn't surprised when a couple of days ago I saw an article in the LA Times titled "With High Corn Prices, One farmer Copes by Feeding Cows Candy." You can access the article here: Candy Cows.

Now that's pretty creative! He has basically located expired candy and is using it as added calories in the cows diet.

I personally don't have any interest in eating candy fed cows but hey the guy is being transparent and it is a free country.

Which leads me to the next thought:

How else might farmers cope with record high grain prices?

Stale pastries - Not a good choice in my book. Many small hog and cattle farmers use everything from a very small amount to huge portions of this in the animals diet. Ever see a healthy person live on stale donuts? I rest my case.

Restaurant Waste - This requires a license in many states and must be cooked to reduce the chance of disease spread, trichinosis etc. It can be everything from plate scrapings to unused or dated product. Like stale donuts, I personally would not use this type of feed or purchase meats from those who do.

Grocery Store Dumpsters and/or Bad Produce - This is the typical "dated product" that if handled properly is still fine for consumption. Think milk or yogurt that is one day past due. The trouble with this (in my opinion of course) is that most of what is available is conventional foods that I try to avoid myself. So why feed it to my livestock?

You might be saying "yeah but what about vegetable produce David? Surely that's okay..."

Consider this: Much of the produce in conventional stores is laden with pesticide residue. Who is going to haul a load of have rotten produce home and wash it before giving it to the pigs? Some produce, with more to come on line, is now genetically modified.

Distiller Grains - This is the spent grains from breweries. Possibly one of the better choices as far as finding waste products for alternatives feed sources. I have casually kept my eye open for these but they are wet when you get them so it can become more of a labor and storage issue than it is worth to me. For me this one would be dependent on where they came from and what they consisted of.

Dairy Waste - This can come from the actual dairy its self or maybe a cheese factory etc. I classify these as I do distiller grains. They could be a good source or maybe not depends on who, where, when, and how.

I'm sure there are some others I'm forgetting but I think these are the main sources of alternative feeds in the waste category. 

In closing I'll say I think the best alternative feeding strategies are what we incorporate here at Spring Hill Farms. We grow forages that the livestock can thrive on to help take the place of grain in their diet. In some cases we grow the grain vs buy it.

Don't get me wrong the high cost of grain and other production inputs are being felt here also. But I'm not heading to the grocery store dumpster for hog feed anytime soon.....or ever.

Until next time...
 
 

Grain Prices - Will They Effect You?

Picture Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t pay attention to the media, you  know much of the United States is suffering from a drought. The experts say this dry weather rivals any we have had in at least fifty years.

There will be far reaching effects for the next few years. I Googled up some headlines to see what I could find in the news and it seems agriculture is front and center.

Probably fitting because for many folks the extremely dry weather has only meant a welcome break from cutting the grass and no rain dates for sporting events or that trip to the lake.

For farmers it could mean the end of their operation.

I consider myself a small farmer so I speak from experience in that realm. To be more specific I raise livestock. 

When I went back to farming in about 1998, corn was $1.98 a bushel. This morning I saw the USDA is talking $8.20 a bushel as a high this winter.

Let’s look at some headlines I pulled up:

The dramatic effects of a small corn crop.

Corn futures could be headed for an explosive run up.

Terrifying Corn Supply/Demand Situation Unfolding.

High Corn, Soybean Prices to Slash Demand.

Say What? $55-Plus Soybeans and $17-Plus Corn!

U.S. drought drives up food prices worldwide – CNNMoney

Drought  Impacting Livestock, Effects on Food Prices Still to Come —Accuweather


When I looked for pigs to start out with in the early days I decided on Tamworth pigs as they were an old breed and they were known to “do well on pasture.”

I had two foundational goals for all my livestock:

1) Cut out as much off farm inputs as possible (grain etc).

2) Develop our livestock to align with that goal. (minimal grain consumption)

Things have come a long way since those early years but I still find myself wishing we were farther down the road toward these goals when I see the grain prices.

I expect meat prices to go up across the board in the U.S. I also expect to see many small livestock farms fold their tents and quit trying to raise livestock while simultaneously handing the local feed mill all of the small profit they might have made if corn was cheap.

"These prices ought to scare the blazes out of ethanol and livestock producers. It appears that the biggest bulk of this cutback will fall on the backs of the livestock, poultry and hog industry. They have some serious decisions to make. And, once you write it on the wall in blood by USDA, I’d say you have a tendency to believe it." - Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group.



If you’re a consumer of farm products direct from the farm it’s inevitable to see prices rise…possibly dramatically.

If you’re a customer of Spring Hill Farms know that we are doing everything in our power to keep clean, healthy, grass based, food on your table regardless of the grain prices. That’s been our goal from the beginning.

Until next time….
 
 

Help Another Small Farmer - Colton's Birthday

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Colton's Birthday
Colton celebrated his six month birthday with about 300 other folks who came out to say happy birthday and show their support to to Stephen and Nel Nutbrown.

Colton was recently diagnosed with a rare brain disease that Doctor's say could make this the only birthday we get to celebrate with him so we wanted to make the most of it.

We first met Stephen and Janell a couple of years ago at a camp outing and immediately struck up a friendship. 

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Lots of Good Food
Since then they have purchased land and began building a house to fulfill a dream of owning a small farm and raising farm fresh, healthy,  foods to be sold direct just as we do here at Spring Hill Farms.

The name of their farm is Harbridge Farms. They will be raising Tamworth pigs and grass fed beef as well pastured poultry and eggs. The plan is to help us supply customers as well. There was a ton of good food brought in by all the guests and although it was hot we all had a great time. 

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A Rare Look at the Master at Work
Stephen and I roasted a hog which took about 15 hours to cook but boy was it delicious!

If you have never had a pig roasted over charcoal you are missing a real treat. Then add my secret sauce that we baste the hog in and you'll join the others who proclaim "the best hog roast we have ever attended."

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Care for Colton Fund
Stephen and Janell are facing some expense to care for Colton, if you would like, you can donate to help them by clicking the Paypal link below. Any amount large or small will be appreciated.

Please keep them in your prayers as they go through this difficult time.

Until next time.....

Contribute to Care for Colton Here.




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Cake with Mom!
 
 

Farmers Market Does Not mean Local or Organic

Picture Farmers Markets are increasingly offering products that are not locally grown. I am seeing more and more produce that is the exact same stuff you can buy at your local grocery store.

I don't offer my products at farmers markets but I do make my rounds to them occasionally and talk to many farmers who sell at them.

The number one complaint I'm hearing is the amount of vendors who buy produce from wholesale houses or produce auctions and then sell it at the market.

In fairness, not all of them are saying it's local but many rely on the fact that people assume it is local or homegrown because they are buying at a farmers market.

If you are buying tomatoes or cantaloupe at a farmers market around these parts in mid May....it ain't local by any stretch of the imagination.

This is a classic case of markets need vendors and vendors need an outlet.

My message isn't these types of products should not be sold at a farmers market. That is up to the folks who run the market. I am all for a free enterprise system.

However, I think full disclosure is a good place to start.

But by far the best way to get what you pay for is still "Buyer beware"

Ask vendors if they grew the product themselves. Sometimes they buy from other farmers which in that case it may be local farm raised product.

But if it came from a wholesale house many times you can get the same conventionally grown stuff at your local supermarket.

Until next time...


 

 

 

 
 

Organic Standards Corruption and Small Farms

Picture The more distant your relationship with the person who produces your food, the more potential for corruption.

Dr Mercola and the Cornucopia Institute have been pointing out the mass corruption in the organic movement.

As with anything that becomes popular or trendy, the potential is recognized and seized by large corporations who are looking to profit from it.

I am including a video from Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute that details some of the unbelievable antics taking place in the organized organic movement.

If you're short on time here are some of the highlights:

  1. Those charged with reviewing and approving additives and chemicals for use in organic foods have in large part been affiliated with the same corporate agribusinesses and/or food producers lobbying for their use.
  2. There are currently almost 300 non-organic and synthetic compounds approved for use in organic foods.
  3. "Independent" industry experts, who have been advising the USDA's National Organic Standards Board on scientific matters, also appear to have been largely supportive of synthetics in organics
  4. The Cornucopia Institute are now pursuing a pressure campaign aimed at the organic program at the USDA, and at the National Organics Standards Board, to persuade them to review the manipulation and misinformation provided at the November 2011 NOSB meeting, which led to the approval of synthetic, genetically mutated DHA and ARA oils—ingredients that have been "confidently linked" to health problems in infants.


What I want to point out here is my original statement of the more distant your relationship with the person who produces your food, the more potential for corruption.

While I applaud and support the Cornucopia Institute for their efforts to rally the American people to hold those accountable who oversee organic standards in the U.S., I also believe the best route to food transparency is to have a relationship with the folks who produce your food.

That's why I have an open door policy at my farm. Folks can come visit and judge for themselves if they want to do business with me.

Complete transparency to your customers is a safeguard against corruption.

How could I say for example 'we use no chemical herbicides on our farm' and at the same time be hosing down weeds with weed killer? If I know customers are coming and no door is locked, no cabinet out of reach it will deter me from such actions.

There is a myriad of temptations to cheat even on the small farm. Farmers need accountability. I need accountability. I need to know that my customers have the right to inspect what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

I gave them that right.

If you're paying with your hard earned dollars you deserve that right.

No amount of regulations or regulators is ever going to replace a relationship between two people.

Here at Spring Hill Farms we think honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability should be some of the foundational principles you build your farm on.

Until next time…


 

 
 

Are You My Mother?

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Are You My Mother?

On my rounds the other morning I glanced in one of the stalls and had to rub my eyes and look again!

There perched on top a baby Tamworth pig was one of our 4 day old Freedom Ranger chicks.

How on earth it got all the way from the brooder to the front of the barn where some of our gilts are with their babies is a mystery to me.


I wanted so bad to get the picture a bit later of the baby chick sitting on mommas side while the pigs nursed. But by the time I got the camera it had hopped off.


Just another day here at Spring Hill Farms!

Until next time...

 PS- To learn more about our pastured poultry go here 


 

 
 

Farmers: Sell More Regardless of the Economy

 A recession is a transference of wealth from the meek to the bold - Dan Kennedy

I love Dan’s definition of a recession. While it seems hard to nail down the figure, the Fed says $878 billion dollars will circulate through the United States economy in 2012.

The question we have to asked ourselves is “how much of that will I capture for my business

Here’s some tips:

Check up on your attitude - W. Clement Stone said in the midst of the depression “I did know the opportunities were unlimited. For sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman—not the attitude of the prospect.”

It’s very common to have customers remark on fuel cost going up or food prices increasing or a million other topics that only accentuate the negative. Resist getting into these conversations.

 Work on being a place that is positive and upbeat. Customers buy more from those types of business.

Tap Into Consumer Mentality. Match It – Customers have money. They are just more reluctant to let go of it in a down economy. Their mentality has changed.  They are holding on to their money and less likely to spend it frivolously. That doesn’t mean they won’t spend it or they only want cheap food.  Actually quite the contrary. Many people are looking for a way to make themselves feel better in less expensive ways.

Talk to your customers about less expensive ways to have fun, feel good, etc. An example would be offering “special breakfast package” or a farm visit they can bring the kids to see your new baby goats etc.

Coach Your Employees or Helpers about How to Talk to Customers – Part of their job is to sell and influence buying decisions not talk about their life is or how rotten the state of the economy with customers.

 Customers don’t contact you or come to your farm to hear bad news. They can turn on the radio or read the newspaper if they want that. They come to you to find something they want and have a positive buying experience.

Farmers take heed: There’s enough bad news in the air, without adding fuel to the fire. When customers come to do business with you, they want to feel good. They want to feel good about buying.

 Action Tip: Spend the next few weeks thinking about positive ways to present your products as well as checking up on everyone’s attitude at your farm.

Until next time.....

www.sellfarmproducts.com

 
 

Some Truth About Manure

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I recently read an article in the Columbus Dispatch about the manure problem in Ohio.

The article starts out "Under the best conditions, raising livestock is a dirty, smelly business."

The truth is under the right conditions, raising livestock is not dirty or smelly.


Until last year I let my hogs spread their own manure 24 hrs a day throughout the pastures. Then I decided I needed to keep some for specific applications. So I have been bringing hogs into the barn for winter to collect the manure.

As long as the carbon ratio is right there is no smell or mess. In my case, wheat or oat straw. Lots of it.

By keeping a good bed of straw in the barn I tie up the manure right along with the smell and mess.  Anytime you're smelling manure you know right away your carbon is low.

If you don't tie it up with a carbonaceous material you are losing valuable nutrients that you can use on your soil to fertilize it.

The nutrients either evaporate, which you smell, or leach away which wastes the nutrients by fertilizing the lawn around the barn. Or worse yet, running of into a waterway somewhere and polluting the water.

The whole idea of a huge amount of animals in one place (for long periods of time) is so unnatural it's no wonder big Ag had to come up with all these nifty, yet environmentally unfriendly ways, to store it or get rid of it. 

Big Agriculture spreads manure that is usually 100 percent raw manure. Nothing added like straw or sawdust. Heck just put those critters on concrete or slatted floors and let the pure manure pile up and then we can overload the soil with it.

Bad idea all the way around in my opinion.

If you read any old books they tout the benefits of manure as a fertilizer. But that manure was loaded with straw or other material which added to the organic material in the soil.

The combination of the manure with the organic material in my opinion is far superior to just raw manure you get from a factory farm.

As sustainable farmers we have to make sure we are doing things right. No manure running off into waterways or overloading the soil.

The American public is getting tired of factory type farms ruining the environment with all these unsustainable ways. I don't blame them I'm tired of it too.

The best way to send the message is to stop giving the factory farms your money. Give to a farmer who is acting responsibly towards the environment and the animals or crops they raise.

At Spring Hill Farms we think that's the right thing to do...

Until next time! 

 


 

 
 

Save Your Own Seed - Grow Open Pollinated Corn

Corn
Reducing off the farm inputs can be accomplished in many different ways. One of the ways we are expanding on this is by growing open pollinated corn. I blogged here about the small pasture we were running pigs on to take off the grass, root up the soil and then we would plant corn. You can read that blog here.

Once the hogs grazed the grass down and then began to root it up and eat the roots off the grass we got ready to move them. In this case we moved them the trailer for a short trip to see the butcher.

 I then tilled the field  and waited about a week  for any seeds to germinate. I then cleaned out one of our buildings we had kept hogs in all winter. We kept them in a building all winter so we could collect the manure for this project.

 I kept them deeply bedded with straw. Two reasons for this; one was to keep the nutrients in the manure locked up with carbon, and two, I think hogs laying around in mud and manure is a recipe for sickness not to mention poor farming.

 So we ending up with a bunch of manure with lots of decomposing straw mixed in. I then spread this on the previously tilled soil and worked it in.

This gave the soil a big nutrient boost and a good amount of organic matter or humus. We then planted an old variety of open pollinated corn.




Open Pollinated Corn

Here's a definition of open pollinated corn from openpollinated.com

 “Open Pollinated”  is a horticultural term meaning that the plant will produce seeds naturally. When these seeds are planted they will reliably reproduce the same plant as the parent. On the other hand, hybrid corn is the result of controlled pollination of inbred plants. These seeds are often sterile, and if they do germinate, will not reliably produce the same plant as the parent. This means the farmer has a perpetual reliance on the seed companies.

 Being able to save seed is a big plus in my book however the good news doesn't stop there, open pollinated corn is typically 11 to 14 percent crude protein whereas hybrid corn comes in at around 6 to 7 percent.

 I have read claims that open pollinated corn picks up substantially more minerals than conventional corn. I've not seen any scientific evidence to support this claim but perhaps it exists. I have had several farmers tell me it can deplete your soil of nutrients as it is a "heavy feeder" which tells me it's taking nutrients from the soil and  I think that's a good thing.

The crop is almost ready and doing a quick and dirty yield test tells me the yield is around 193 bushels per acre. Now keep in mind this test pot is about a 1/4 of an acre.

I would be pleased with 100 plus bushels per acre on a larger scale.

Along with the manure, I also placed the equivalent of 3 gallons per acre of  Growers Mineral Solution in the seed band when planted and then foliar sprayed it twice before it tassled.

Over all, I am very pleased with the Growers Mineral Solution and open pollinated corn. We plan to plant enough corn to eliminate purchasing corn from off farm sources.

Until next time....

Spring Hill Farms




 
 

Judge Says You Do Not Have the Right to Consume Foods of Your Choice

A Wisconsin judge has ruled that owners of cows do not have the right to consume milk from their own cow.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund reported on this in detail and you can find the link at the end of this blog.

Among other things, Dane county Judge Circuit Court Judge Patrick J. Fiedler clarified his rulings by stating Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice.

 I want to use this crazy ruling in Wisconsin to once again say if you are a farmer that values the right to produce and direct market your goods, you need to join the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

If you are a consumer who believes you have the right to consume foods of your choosing, you need to support the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

 The FTCLDF is on the forefront of helping small farms keep, and take back, our rights to produce and consume foods of our choosing.

Take some time and read the article here and then either join or donate to the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Until next time...



 

 
 

Hard Core Sustainable Farmer or Lunatic?

In my never ending quest to reduce inputs from outside sources (like the local feed mill) I have been widening my research on ways to increase the amount of green foodstuffs I can carry through the winter for the animals.  [Read More]
 
 

Tamworth Pig or Funny Looking Chicken?

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Tamworth Gilt
I promised I would update you on the Little Tamworth Gilt who thinks she is a chicken.

A few weeks ago I noticed a pig running through the yard. I watched as she zipped down past the house and disappeared. I was sure she belonged to our oldest sow Droopy. But how did she get out?



Over the next few days I noticed as soon as we were all in the house she would sneak out and head for the laying hens which were being fed outside. She would charge right up and take her place at the trough!

Since the troughs have a bar that runs through the middle it was hard for her to get feed so she began upsetting it and eating the feed off the ground.

This became her daily ritual. Watch us feed the chickens and then run over and start eating. As with any bad habit (or so I'm told) it kept getting worse. Pretty soon she was waiting with the chickens when we went to feed them.

The boys would chase her back to the pasture and she would squeal as loud as she could to let them know she was not happy.

A few days of that and I caught her sneaking out of the hen house! Turns out she wasn't laying eggs she was climbing into the bottom box and eating eggs.

I resolved to fix the fence the next day and put a stop to her antics. I got up the next morning and went to the garden to check things out to find little pig had beat me to it and rooted out a bunch of sweet potatoes for her breakfast.

My next stop was the barn for some fence wire and thus ended the pig who only wanted to be a chicken because they roam around and get all kinds of goodies.

Until next time...


 

 
 

Save Your Fuel Money Eat More Pork

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Tamworth Pigs Plowing
Here at Spring Hill Farms we don't like buying $4 a gallon gas anymore than you do.

We don't like buying gasoline or diesel at any price as far as that goes. That's one of the main reasons we employed Tamworth pigs to renovate our 25 year old over grown land back in 2004.

I had been trying to figure out how we were going to bring the briar infested land back to producing something more than multi-flora rose, rabbits and deer. 

Being raised on a farm I knew pigs had a bull dozer/industrial roto-tiller on the front and a manure spreader on the back. Of course in between is a whole bunch of good eatin'.

So why spend hundreds of dollars per hour to hire a dozer to clear the land? The only reason I could come up with was it would be faster and admittedly easier. Hire the dozer, go in afterwards and broadcast seed.

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Tamworth Swine Dozer

But I wasn't in a hurry and it looked like there was a good bit of vegetation the pigs could utilize.

Now for the part the dozer and equipment couldn't accomplish.

The pigs would add fertility to the soil as they cleared it. The pigs would also root the soil and loosen it up verses pack it down like the equipment would tend to do.

And finally, I've have never had bacon from a bull dozer!

So after I considered both options, I decided pigs were the way to clear land here at Spring Hill Farms.

If you think about it, it's much like farmers would have done before heavy equipment and cheap fuel. As farmers we are going to have to look at how things were done in the past and leverage them with the knowledge and some of the equipment we have now. (Like electric fence.)

We try to find ways to incorporate our animals natural behaviors into working for us. That philosophy is the exact opposite of the farmer who puts his hogs on concrete so they don't root.

The closer we can mimic natural patterns, the better it is for us, and the animals.

Until next time... 


 





 
 

Are we Losing ground?

My last post was about the push to get government to release farmers from the CRP program so they could put acres set aside in the program back into grain production.

Here's a good video talking about the pros and cons of tilling the soil.

 

Watch Video

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Farmers - Retailer or Direct Marketer?

The mind set with which you approach your small farm sales is critical to your success. If you approach selling direct from the farm as a traditional retail operation it will require a completely different set of parameters to operate by than if you approach your business as a direct marketing endeavor.

I’ll confess right up front I am biased towards direct marketing. I posted a while back as to why I don’t sell at farmer’s markets.

To me they encapsulate the retail mindset of selling farm products. You set up and essentially wait for customers to show up to buy.

I realize that farmers can do very well at these type of venues, but I see a huge amount of risk and loss of control. Take for example the farmer’s market closes up shop. Where do all the customers go? How many of them do you have a way to contact? Do you have a relationship outside the market with them? If you answered “no” to any of those questions you will take a big hit if that ever happens. Risky and not much control over what happens I say!

Contrast that with direct marketing of your farm products. You have a large diverse group of people that you actively initiated a relationship with.

Wouldn’t you rather have a large group of  customers that isn’t dependent on them getting out of bed and coming down to see you at the market?

I contend that in some ways we are training the customers who want to buy off the farm to remain in the retail mindset by how we market to them.

One of the most common questions I get is customers trying to figure out the system by which I sell products! They ask about my attendance at local farmer’s markets then about coming to the farm to purchase.

They are in the common retail mindset. I understand why. It’s the most common way to buy food. Once they experience how we market, they love it!

We encourage folks to come to the farm and visit, but discourage them from thinking it how we sell products. Farm gate sales are fine, but just as with the farmer’s market you are waiting on someone to come by and spend money.

I would have never grown my sales to level that they are so quickly by waiting on someone to stop by the farm or a farmer’s market!

That’s the retail mindset.

In speaking with farmers I think the main reason they gravitate to this type of marketing is because it’s what they know to do.

Let’s face it…the question on every bodies mind is:

Where can I find customers in significant numbers without using these venues?

Good question!

Since I have never sold at traditional farm venues I can only tell you how I’ve built my business. These steps are simple, but not always easy.

Figure out what your U.S.P. is. That’s your unique selling proposition. Why should people buy from you? Do this first. It helps you focus your efforts where they make the most impact.

Connect with I call “people of influence” to try your products. This was the second step I took when I started selling direct.

Create a system to glean referrals from your current customers. A high percentage of my new customers are from word of mouth advertisers – the best, least expensive, kind of advertising.

Have a system in place to get testimonies from your current customers and incorporate them in your materials.

Consistently use a system to identify and obtain new customers. I adapted a method from another business I owned that works like magic.

Find ways to make it easy for your customers to pay you. I collect payments automatically which makes it much easier for me and the customer to do business with my farm.

Develop a website and learn to drive traffic to it. This took tons of time and learning, but I now have a significant amount of internet customers. (a whole subject in itself -more on that another day.)

These are some of things I have done to build my farm business. I’ve never used a farmer’s market or had a wholesale account because I haven’t needed to! I believe farmer’s markets are a viable way to market your products and some of these techniques would work for them. For me, I like spending time with my family on Saturday morning.

 

Until next time…

PS- I explain exactly how to do this and more (minus the website information) in my latest ebook “The Secrets of Selling Your Farm Products Revealed.” If you’re looking for increased sales and more customers click here to get your copy today.



 
 

How to Choose an Electric Fencer


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Electric Fence Energizer

One of the most important pieces of equipment for the hog farmer who wants to raise pigs on pasture is an electric fence charger. Sometimes called a fencer or energizer.

I have had several energizers over the years some good and some not so good.

Growing up on the farm was in the day before low impedance energizers. These chargers would shock you very good but they also "ground out" very easy. Some of the very earliest chargers were also continuous output. That means they didn't pulse on and off like most of the new ones do. Pulse is good as this gives the animal (or you) a chance to escape.

Fi-Shock still carries a continuous output charger. The only reason I can think of to have one is to re-train a particularly stubborn animal. However, I think the best way to train livestock to electric fence is covered here.

For most applications you want a "low impedance" fencer. The term may seem to be a little misleading, but in actuality, low-impedance means that there is less resistance (or impedance) in the charger so more power can be pushed through the wire.

This type of charger is able to power through weed pressure and worse if needed. It's a must if you're fencing through areas where you have a high probability of deer tearing down your wire or tree limbs falling etc.

I recently went around checking fence on an area that hadn't anything in it since last summer. I hooked the section of fence and tested the voltage. It was reading 4 kv on my tester. It usually runs around 9 kv so I knew it had some areas that were partially grounded out.

I walked around the perimeter and found tons of sticks laying on it and two places where the wire was completely buried under the wet leaves for probably 25 feet!

That's the power of low impedance! 4 kv on my charger will keep a trained pig in where he belongs forever.

My current charger which is pictured above is from Fi Shock. It is rated at 15 joules. There is a technical definition for joules, but to keep it simple it's the amount zap the fencer will push out.

The higher the joules the more power to keep your stock in over long runs of wire.

The biggest mistake you can make when buying an electric fence energizer is to not go big enough. Pigs can take a shock. I've had 3 joule chargers before and they will hold pigs in just fine provided you're not running too many feet/miles of wire on it.

But I noticed with those chargers the pigs have a habit of getting their nose in the fence more at feeding time. All it takes for a pig to get out is to figure out the wire is off and they are out and running.

With this 15 joule charger they don't have any interest in getting their nose on it! They do from time to time, but instead of a short squeal and a jerk, they scream and then woof two or three times after that! It get their attention.

Finally, although I'm not going into installation here, the one area that needs the closet attention is grounding your energizer. The biggest, most powerful charger is worthless without being grounded properly. Follow the manufactures directions and don't skimp!

Pigs and other livestock are wonderful if they stay where you put them. With a good electric fencer energizer and some training, they will stay in the pasture where they belong.

Until next time...


 

 
 

Small Farmers - Times Are Changing

The demand for local, organic, farm fresh meat and vegetables has been on the rise for the last several years.

This means that people are actively seeking out this type product. Many “marketing type” farmers have been enjoying increasing sales every year.

According to Finding Dulcinea, In Indiana, the number of small farms increased by almost 80 percent from 2002–2007. Greg Preston, director of the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service, told the Indy Star, “We are getting a lot of newer farmers coming in that are smaller—going into direct marketing, specialty products, organics, locally grown, this type of stuff.”

My farm has been struggling to meet the demand since shortly after we started selling direct. That is in part because I come from 25 plus years of sales and marketing experience.

But it’s also because the market for local farm food is growing and I’m enjoying the fact that people are actively looking for farms like mine.

But I’ve been around enough new and emerging markets to know that won’t always be the case.

Take for instance the big mortgage boom up to about 2008. I owned a company that used mortgage lending as a way to grow our business. We used many different mortgage companies and brokers all over the United States.

There was a mortgage broker on every corner. Many of them were so busy that they wouldn’t even talk to us about working with them. They had more business than they could handle!  New mortgage companies were starting up daily.

Why?

Because it’s pretty easy to take a client who has an 8 percent mortgage and put them into a new one at say 5.5 percent. I mean how much sales and marketing does it really require?

The broker simply says “Mr. Jones we can reduce your mortgage payment by $200 a month and give you a rate that’s 2.5 percent lower than what you had.”

So for marketing all they had to do was let people know they were open for business and give some teaser rates on the radio or internet and people flocked in to refinance.

But ever so slowly I started getting phone calls from those brokers who didn’t want to work with me a couple of years before. They were seeing a slow down in the refinance craze. They didn’t necessarily say that to me but I knew what was happening.

The demand was slowing and the competition was getting fierce.

Fast forward another year and many of those shops were out of business and gone forever.

Who was left?

The companies that had focused on running a lean and mean mortgage shop and had focused on developing long term marketing strategies. They did honest business and had a long term mindset.

How does this relate to small farms?

Because sooner or later the demand is going to slow down and the competition is going to get fierce.

Take the previous quote from Dulcinia. There was a eighty percent increase in small farms in Indiana from 2002 – 2007. That means there were a whole lot more farmers supplying the market in Indiana than previous.

Now if several of those farms were near you…you noticed it!

Farmer’s markets are increasing by leaps and bounds. Farmers are seeing prices come down to be able to move their goods as they face the Wal-Mart shopping mentality.

So called “farmers” are bringing in produce from the wholesale house and selling it as local. In my area if you go to the farmer’s market to sell pork or beef, you will be competing with all the butcher shops in the area.

CSA’s are exploding all over the U.S…..

Folks – times are changing.

Don’t get me wrong competition is a good thing,

BUT IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU MARKET IF YOU’RE GOING TO STAY PROFITABLE AND KEEP THE DOORS OPEN.

Then add to that huge corporations are working night and day to fleece the consumer into believing that their food is really pretty much the same as what you can buy off a small farm.

Big agriculture is teaching their farmers how to relate to the public and present themselves as the only solution to the food shortage. They are talking about using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to their communities.

Grocery stores are featuring local farmers that supply them with produce.

Localharvest recently reported many CSA’s experience as high as a 40 percent turnover each year.

Losing that much business per year is unsustainable. If you have to replace that many customers per year you are swimming up stream on your way to broke.

I was talking to a farmer the other day who said he had a lady call him about grass-fed beef. By the time he got back to her (a couple of hours later) she had already found another farmer who had sold her a quarter of beef.

He got a rude awakening that he’s not the only guy in town with grass-fed beef!

In some ways small local farms supplying people with food is still in it’s infancy. But folks things are changing.

What’s your plan to stay on the cutting edge of this growth and rising competition?

  • Do you have system to get new customers?
  • What’s your response time when someone calls or emails you?
  • How easy is it to do business with you?
  • What’s your process for retaining customers and turning them into word of mouth advertisers?

Begin to find answers to these problems now before you end up losing out to the farm that does have it figured out!

Until Next time…


 

Small Farm Direct Marketing

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Learning to See Your Farm as Others See It

Probably one of the most important skills you can develop in your farm business and actually in life, is the ability to see things from other people’s perspective.

This is the key to obtaining new clients, keeping present customers happy, and helping others get what they want out of your farm business. All the interactions you have with customers, or potential customers, can be improved by striving to put yourself in their shoes... [More]

 


 

 

 


Small Farm Direct Marketing

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