Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Hog Farmers and Pork Lovers - Hang On!

The writing is on the wall. Meat prices in general will be trending up with pork and chicken leading the way.

The drought across the corn belt has raised grain prices to the point many farmers are unable to stay in business.

I recently saw an article on AgWeb titled Pork Producers Enter 'Survival Mode'.

The article cited a loss of $57 per pig. While many of these large farms will ride out the bad market with operating loans etc, the small farmer is going to have to make some decisions.

I realize most small, sustainable type farms don't necessarily sell at commodity prices, however the feed cost is normally higher and they are working with smaller numbers of animals.

Another article sent to me titled bacon, pork shortage 'Unavoidable' points out that as hog herds shrink across the world prices will have to go up. They went as far as saying it was possible that shelves would be bare of certain pork products and prices could double.

What does this mean to you?

If you currently buy your meat products from a small farm, prices will have to increase. I predict many small farms that have been filling hog feeders with feed from the local mill with little or no thought to the financial situation currently in play will be out of business or at the least scaling back...big time.

I have been watching the sale barns here in Ohio and it's staggering the amount of "small farm hogs" that are going through. These aren't pigs from confinement operations, these are one and two sows, half grown market hogs, feeder pigs, you name it they are leaving the farm.

That tells me pigs are going to be in short supply for the Spring of 2013.

I've said for years that the time to get better is when things are good. That's why way back when corn was under $2 a bushel here at Spring Hill Farms we were busy developing a line of pigs that weren't dependent on a feeder full of feed.

At the same time we were looking at ways to minimize our dependence on outside inputs. I'm glad we did it then and not now. For some farms, it may be too late.

Until next time....


 

 

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An Excellent Pig for the Smal Farm

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Tamworth Sows circa 1920
I'm often asked: "What makes a great pig?" It could be many things depending on what your goals are, but for us at Spring Hill Farms it means:

1) It should be a true heritage breed.

2) Posses a strong, healthy immune system.

3) Excellent maternal instinct.

4) Prolific – large litter size.

5) Forage ability – How much grain?

6) Good temperament – Be good or be food

7) Excellent table qualities – Fabulous pork

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of desirable traits for good pork it is some of the traits that enable us to produce our quality pastured pork products.

Let’s look at these traits a bit closer.

Heritage Breed – I’m a huge believer in using heritage genetics whenever possible on the farm. Many of the methods used on the small and/or sustainable farm are pretty much pre-1950’s farming techniques with some modern day tools and technology thrown in.

It only stands to reason genetics that are the least developed towards new, big, modern agriculture would be best suited to these types of farms.

Strong healthy immunity – Because our methods here at Spring Hill focus on not using any modern or chemical crutches to keep our hogs healthy; we must constantly develop and refine our genetics so our hogs will thrive under good management without antibiotics, chemical wormers, or any other type of chemical or pharmaceutical designed to keep them healthy, grow faster, etc.

Maternal instinct and Large Litters – Every sow on the farm costs the same to keep regardless of whether she raises one pig or ten. To operate a viable business model we need sows to raise at least eight pigs for us to consider keeping her.

We take that one step farther by insisting they raise that many pigs without assistance. If sows are unable to build a nest, have her pigs, and raise them without assistance I know right away she doesn’t have the maternal instinct I need on my farm, This doesn’t mean we don’t give them the best environment to succeed in and intervene if necessary, but that sow will be culled from the herd.

Forage Ability - This is the most under utilized and under developed trait I see. First, what am I talking about “forage ability”?  To me it means the ability, the willingness, and the functionality of the pig to forage for a large percent of its diet. The pig must be able to eat a limited grain feed diet, still gain weight, and stay healthy. Many of our heritage breed hogs have been on full feeders for far too many years. This has produced an animal with a voracious appetite for grain and diminished what I call the forage ability trait.

Good temperament – This is fairly self explanatory although fairly subjective. I expect my sows to protect their young. Therefore we don’t mind a sow that will not allow us into the pen with her when she has piglets. Other than that, if you’re a grouch, abusive, bully, or otherwise can’t figure out I’m the boss…well you’re sausage.

Excellent table qualities – It would be kinda silly to go through all the work we do to develop these traits and have a pig that we couldn’t say produced some of the best pork available today. Our Tamworth pigs will stand on their own for exceptional pork. Our Large Black pigs are no different; They stand out from the crowd when it comes to eating experience.

When we started crossing the two it was like taking the two best, mixing them together, and ending up with something better than the best!

That's how we can say:

Our heritage pork is unlike any other a taste so deep and rich it echoes the flavor of pork from a bygone era. The meat is flavorful and, whether grilled, smoked, roasted, sauted, stewed or braised, yields the most exquisite juiciness and tender texture. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

If you’re a farmer who is looking for some of the best pigs suited to small and sustainable farms that won’t make you a hostage to the feed mill. Look no further I have what you need. You can read more of my breeding philosophy here.

If you’re simply looking for some of the cleanest, best tasting pork you’ve had in your life. I invite to try us out!

Until next time…

David

Spring Hill Farms
 
 

Farmers and Consumers - Don't Wait Until You Need Them

Another story showing how oppressive local government is becoming to small farms.

 The worst time to buy insurance is after you need it. It's like closing the gate after the hogs are out. I taught personal finance for 15 plus years and my counsel was always weigh the risks for insurance, most people are betting they will need insurance and the insurance company is betting you won't.

 The threat to small local farmers is mounting on a daily basis. Your chance of having an issue is greater today than ever before. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a great resource fighting to help small farms.

 Don't wait until you need them to become a member. I receive nothing in any way from promoting them other than the peace of mind knowing other farmers and consumers are helping fund the resistance to over regulating small farms and your right to food of your choice.


 

 


 


 


 
 

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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