Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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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...


 

 
 

How To Opt Out of a Food Shortage

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I posted back in January What does 2011 Hold and Five Steps You Should Take.

Since then fuel prices have continued to go up. Grain prices are up, and food prices continue to rise.




Fuel (diesel) has just now reached $4 a gal here in my part of Ohio. $4.05 to be exact.

The world's best real estate investor, Sam Zell, told CNBC last week: "My single biggest financial concern is the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency... I think you could see a 25% reduction in the standard of living in this country if the U.S. dollar was no longer the world's reserve currency."

Folks don't bury your head in the sand.

"A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered." - Proverbs 27:12 The Message


Of the five steps I outlined previously, I want to focus on one that I feel is so important that I'm going to say this:

There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not do this.

If you only take action on one tip, do this:

PLANT A GARDEN.

The most basic, fundamental, insurance policy for your family is to provide food for them. Start planning now.

If you think about it there is no downside to planting a garden. If I'm crazy (along with some the most informed, wealthy people in this country) then the worst thing that happens is you have some good, fresh, food to feed your family.

But if things continue to decline - not just in our economy, but worldwide unrest seems to be getting more prevalent.

Then throw in some natural disasters.

Can you imagine a disruption in our oil imports? If we think $4 -$5 a gallon is expensive for fuel....

And the real question is how much of your monthly budget can you spend for fuel and food while still meeting your current obligations?

My friend it is time to wake up! Get out your pen and paper and figure out where, when, and how you're going to plant a garden!

I recently went on the hunt for some good solid information on small garden "how to." I wanted to see if I could point you in the right direction while you were reading this and take all the excuses away!


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High Density Gardening
I'm a big believer in intense gardening. I grew up with the typical huge garden that you see on most farms of that time.

We spent hours weeding, hoeing, having a roto-tiller beat us to death, hilling up potatoes, and generally working the garden.


With my schedule I don't have much time to spend in a garden. I bet your schedule is like mine. Ric, the author of High Density Gardening has got it figured out.

He covers everything from A to Z in this ebook.

  • How to plan your High Density Garden in order that you can maximize the quantity of crops you can grow
  • How to build a High Density Gardening bed
  • How to propagate seeds
  • Home made compost. How to make it quickly.
  • Much more

And the best part- You can download it and be reading it within the next 5 minutes.

I'm no stranger to gardening and I was impressed with this book. His writing style is refreshing and he knows his stuff. I'm already planning some changes to my gardening and I'm excited!

No more excuses! Get your mind made up to plant a garden this year. Don't wait until you discover the economy or food prices have killed your budget. Do something now! When a friend is talking about how much produce has gone up at the store wouldn't you rather be telling them you haven't bought much produce since you started your High Density garden?

Or how about this - you offer them some of your garden produce at a better price than the local grocery store because you have so much!

Until next time!


 

 
 

How I'm helping Save Heritage Breed Pigs

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Heritage Breed Tamworth
When I first started raising Tamworth pigs they were listed with The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as "critical." Since then they have been moved to the "threatened" list.

While there are many ways to promote a breed, one of the best ways and especially in the case of heritage breed pigs is to eat them! That is where I have focused ever since I bought my first Tamworth breeding stock. I was just foolish enough to believe that if enough people found out how fabulous the pork was I could create a demand for a pig that was on the verge of extinction.

If enough people eat the pork and want more, I've got a reason to enlarge my herd and help increase the population.

How has that worked? Pretty good! I have increased my business every year and my pig population. As more and more people have experienced the pork they want more.

I now have other farmer's (who couldn't figure out why I went 500 miles "to get pigs" when I first started) that are helping me raise them to feed all the hungry customers.

As the word has spread about these old bacon hogs I have been forced to increase my herd size to cover the demand for breeding stock.

Tamworth swine are the perfect fit for small farms. They are active foragers and very prolific. I have focused my breeding program on breeding pigs that can forage as much as possible and still put on weight. This is an added bonus with corn tripling in price since I started.

So the bottom line....

If you're looking for some of the best pork you can find try an old heritage breed pig. If you're in the central Ohio area, look us up!

If you're a small farmer looking for a good pig to fit your farm. Find a farmer raising an old heritage breed pig. I love Tamworth, but they're not the only one for sure.

If you're a farmer who would like to know how to help these heritage breeds or increase your sales no matter what you sell, here's the best fast-start resource you'll find.

Until next time...



 
 

Most Tamworth Sows are Great Mothers

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Tamworth Sow and Piglets
Tamworth pigs are the breed I decided to raise for several reasons. One, they have big litters.

They also are typically good mothers.

We farrow our sows outside in the warm months and many times the sow just goes into the brush and builds a nest.


In the winter we use huts or bring them into the barn and put them into a 12 x 12 stall. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, not all Tamworth swine are great mothers. Most of them are, but we breed for sows that will farrow outside with out assistance.

I've had a few since we started breeding Tamworth's that weren't very good mothers. I like a sow that takes her time laying down and "talks" to her pigs as she does to let them know "get out of the way."

If they hear a pig squeal they move or jump up whichever the situation calls for.

I need low maintenance hogs. The Tamworth sows we have are very capable of having their babies and caring for them just like nature intended!


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How to Cook Grass Fed Beef

 

Grass fed meat is leaner, denser, less watery, and far more flavorful than other meat.


This is affected by mainly two things:

  •  The quality of the animal (breed and genetics)
  • The quality of the forage (pasture quality or hay)
For instance some cattle don’t finish as well on grass as others do. That’s the genetics part. The forage could be hay if it’s winter or maybe less than optimal pasture, and cattle typically don’t finish as well on hay or nominal pasture as they would on lush, green, spring grass.

Keep this in mind as you cook grass fed beef. Over cook it and you'll be disappointed.

So you’re ready to cook a steak.

  • Cook it low (heat)
  • Cook it slow

Never cook a steak over medium rare. Rare is better. Anything over medium rare is going to be dry and tough. Think jerky, it’s not very good without some heavy spices. Which leads to another tip; do not salt a steak until after it’s cooked and on your plate. Salt pulls moisture out of the steak….not a good thing. You must have a meat thermometer! You can’t really get it right if you’re trying to go by what color the inside of the steak is. If you cut into it valuable juice escapes and leads to a drier steak.

You should use tongs instead of a fork to turn steaks. Same as above, your losing valuable juices every time you poke it with a fork.

The best temps for grass fed steaks are as follows:

120 to 140 degrees.

Once you get it to this temperature pull it off the heat and throw it on a plate and leave it sit for at least five minutes while the juices redistribute and it finishes cooking.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be amazed at how delicious grass fed beef really can be!

Here's a printable copy of these tips.

 



 
 
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