Farming for profit, has there ever been a greater oxymoron? Okay, maybe humane slaughter is bigger. At least from the small farmer's stand point, when more than seventy-five percent of all small farms in the nation, bring in fewer than ten-thousand dollars a year, of farm income, I ask can there be true economic sustainability in small farming.
This year we changed our business model in that we are concentrating our selling on only high dollar produce and fruits. We are still selling mainly on farm but have joined a market in the city. We are hoping that by cutting back on different varieties and concentrating on a few things we can turn profitable. Because of our size, we cannot grow, as much so consequently we do not have a large variety. I want to be a successful grower, but we need to make a profit. Selling only what we grow is hard because we do not have a bevy of different fruits and vegetables, so variety is not going to be our strong point.
What we will have this year is strawberries, blueberries and sweet corn. These crops sell for a premium and there is great demand. We will be able to conserve the 12,000 gallons of collected rainwater because we will not have so many different plants to water. Our organic chicken meat has not taken off as we hoped but this is only the third year. We have increased our layer flock to 120 layers. We are selling most of our eggs directly to Dawson's Market in Rockville. Dawson's does not put them out on the shelves. Instead, they call customers to let them know the eggs have been delivered. We continue to expand the layers (we have 50 more day olds started) striving to get to where we deliver more dozens so we can make it onto the store's shelves.
Being a small enterprise has great disadvantages, especially, when we go up against the bigger growers and grower associations. We did not take on this farm without knowing the physical, mental, emotional and economic sacrifice and that failure was more likely then success. We are going back to the model that first made us money and that is by growing a few things and concentrating on value added products.
We knew going into this that it was not going to be easy. What we were not prepared for was all the different ways your heart breaks. We lost another layer last night. It was stuck under the trailer. I had moved the house in the morning before I let the layers out. I was tilling and I noticed the trailer looked low in the back. I knew I did not crank the front back down after I moved the tractor away from the ball. I saw it and made a mental note to lower the front of the trailer when I was done tilling.
Well the day got away and I did not lower the front. Sunset comes and I go out to put the layers away for the night and that is when I found one under the backend of the trailer. I can only surmise that it was stuck and died of a heart attack. I took her over to the compost pile and as we have done with every other body, returned her to the earth that helped nourish her in her brief existence.
I take it personally, you are not supposed to, you are supposed to let it roll off but I don't. I know I am too attached at times to see the forest for the trees but that will not change. As long as they are in my care, I will always take my mistakes hard and demand a greater awareness. Five years we have been working with layers. I thought I had been exposed to all the perils of layer life, yet here I am still in this damn learning curve.
BUY LOCAL: Do your family justice, find a local farm, ask questions and then support it if it feels right. If you do not get straight answers, it is probably because they are hucksters not growers.