Thursday, November 25, 2010

Food Coma Bragging Rights

Good gravy, Im full.

Wow.  That was one fantastic Thanksgiving day.  Thank you Carl and Sherry for having me to dinner at the last minute.  Perfectly cooked turkey!  Wonderful meal.  

The verdicts are rolling in from all over the country.  Thats right.  Our turkeys were served in multiple states this year.  Annette and the kids drove 4 birds to Illinois to family and friends.  And I must say the results look fantastic!!!  37, 23, 36 pounds represented below:

These bronze turkeys are the best turkeys Ive ever eaten.  You absolutely cant go wrong with them.  I will definitely be raising them in the future.  The bigger the better!!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Farmer as Marketer and Salesperson

Back to another "farmer as" blog posting.

Our original goal for 2010 was to get to 100 customers. You'd think that would be an easy task, right? It's only 100 people. But we also had a rule that a customer needed to buy a certain amount and/or be a recurring customer. We're up to 45 customers with 6 weeks to go till the end of the year. If we did get to 100 customers by the end of the year, we'd probably run out of products to sell at customer number 88 but we'd then be set for next year!

We are listed on Local Harvest and some other local websites which is where most folks find us. We are stepping out this month and putting an ad in our local Carroll Magazine. It's a really great local magazine and it's free to all households as the ads pay for the magazine.

So we'll see how it works. We currently have 191 friends of the farm on facebook and about 40 email address of folks who have purchased products or want to be kept informed about products. We average 4-5 sales transactions a week with 1-2 as low dollar transactions $10-30, 1 as a mid range - $60 transaction, and 2 larger stock up orders - 30-40lbs of meat being the most common.

Now I also understand why small farms don't advertise much. One ad will cost us $600. It's a good price but in relation to our sales, it's a large expense. So we'll see how it works and I'll give the results in a future blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lamb burger

Tonight Mike made lamb burgers. Wow!
2 lbs of grass fed beef (2lb packages available for $10 each)
1 lb ground grass fed lamb (1 lb packages available for $10 each)
1 egg (free range and from hens living on pasture of course)
salt, pepper
he put in some fennel
finely diced onion

mix it all up and it will make 6-8 of the most wonderful lamb burger patties.
We ate it on buns with some yogurt, dill, garlic, sour cream topping

It tasted almost like a gyro hamburger -- fabulous!
I should have taken a picture as we had the burgers along with salad greens. The lettuce and greens are still growing in the garden and are perfect right now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A lesson about hens and eggs

I had a few questions today from a co-worker so I thought I'd blog about it.

The first question: How many eggs does a hen lay in a week?
The Answer: It depends. Some hens are production hens so they lay once a day while other heritage or as I call them 'cool colored laying hens' lay 5 -6 times a week. My husband is reading over my shoulder saying, "once every 25 hrs they can lay an egg". It also depends on the amount of daylight or just light a hen gets each day. In the winter, many hens stop laying until daylight starts to increase in late January. If your hens are in a barn or somewhere you can install a light with a timer, then you want to turn the lights on early when it is still dark out and this will cause the hens to lay more. It also depends on weather. Some birds don't lay well when it is too hot or too cold.

The second question: Can you get an egg from a hen without a rooster?
Answer: Short answer: Yes. This is perhaps the single most asked question I receive.

The long answer: This is my simple analogy and I know it's not going to be exactly perfect but you should understand this after reading it. I'm going to compare a human woman to a hen.

A human woman at some point ovulates and releases an egg a month.
A hen releases an egg just about every day.

In a human woman, that egg travels thru tubes towards the uterus.
In a hen, the eggs travels in a similar manner and starts to get larger over a few days. (if you kill a hen you will find 2-3 eggs of varying sizes still in the hen)

If there are no human men around, the female expels the egg or whatever happens to it and it is no more.
For a hen, even if there is no rooster around, they will expel or lay the egg. Kind of like giving birth to an egg about once a day- in a manner of speaking. No chick will ever come from this egg as it is not fertilized. And this egg looks and tastes just like the fertilized ones you'll read about below.

If there is a human male around and fertilization occurs in the female human, then the female egg gets fertilized in the tube and heads toward the uterus where it hangs out for 40 weeks.
If there is a rooster around and fertilization occurs, then the hen can lay a fertilized egg which if you collect it within a day or 2 or 3 is just a regular eating egg. Now this egg can wait for a week or so while the hen lays a bunch of eggs to form her clutch. The egg won't turn into a chick unless the hen sits on it for a few weeks and keeps the eggs at a certain temperature.

And concludes our lesson for the day. If that helps-- let me know. It's my best analogy yet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Breakeven Goal Update

Back in the beginning of the year I posted about the roller coaster farm life and our desire to break even this year. Drumroll please.......

We are just about at break-even. Now I'm going to count breakeven after we get a tax refund in March/April so without that we're still not quite there. I do have confidence that we will be at breakeven in 2011. That would mean after 2 full years of animals on the farm that we might make say $5,000 profit in 2011. Actually that means Mike's salary would be $5,000 so I'm not sure I can call it profit but it makes me feel good so I'll just pretend for now. Mike has watched me create P&L's for every aspect of our farm and he dreads it when on a football Sunday afternoon I say "hey honey, come over here and see if my spreadsheet looks right, I need to sit with you for 20 minutes to review this".

The point of this posting is to say that diversified farming is not easy. What we've learned :

Value added products make you more money.
Pork sells better than beef and lamb combined in our area (but we're working on the lamb-- you have to try it folks.)
You need to have a steady income before you can hire people so work on your customer base.
We really only need about 100 steady customers to support our farm.
We need to create value around our products - it doesn't magically happen.
If you give away the first dozen eggs to someone- they will be hooked from that point forward.
You can find a customer anywhere (Mike actually solicited a customer at Safeway based on the disappointed look on her face and she trusted that he wasn't a crazy person and followed him home to buy some meat.)
And the most important lesson: FOCUS on one or only a few complimentary products. We're still thinking about this one as it runs counter to the name "diversified farm". Now I know that focus is extremely important in my job and in any business. So why wouldn't it be important for a farm as well? Mike and I will be exploring this question as well as redefining the focus of the farm.

Thanks to all for helping us get to 'almost break-even'. You know who you are and I thank you for your support as customers. Happy eating!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's for Sale

Lamb is for sale. Grass fed, no hormones, no antibiotics. Just good old grass for these fellas. We have 3 more lambs left we could sell whole- $7/lb hanging weight and then we move onto individuals cuts. This lamb is so good. The lamb are not your massive breed but a nice size breed and the meat has been outstanding. We had lamb for dinner last night - the kids never tire of it especially when we can celebrate with a rack of lamb!

I'm showing the chickens because around the 2nd or 3rd week of December we will have stewing hens for sale. $7 per bird. These are the hens that are 2-4 years old and that we have decided to replace. Next year I'll be all about egg colors. I need more variety in the colors and I also have no chicken left from our broilers so we needed some chicken for ourselves and for a few customers who routinely ask for chicken. We are reducing the size of the flock from 140 to around 60. But the mix of those 60 will have deep brown, speckled brown, white, green and light brown colors. Email us if you want any stewing hens, best to place an order now as the chicken seems to go fast.

The bronze turkeys are almost sold out. I thought by Nov 1 - but could be tomorrow or Nov 10. I just need to make sure my husband doesn't sell them all again like he did last year and forget to leave a few for us. I can't wait to process these birds. The Tom's are gonna be 30+ lbs and the hens should be right at 22lbs.
Last but not least- we will have more Beltie beef for sale the second week of December. For those who are scheduled to come pick up meat this week and those who I am seeing in 3 weeks over the holidays- you are covered. But then we'll be totally sold out (other than the liver, heart and tongue). We've got #12 at the butcher and he is hanging aging right now. #12 was the hardest steer yet to get into the trailer but we outsmarted him- poor guy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What do you do with lots of end of season peppers?

The bell and sweet peppers were outstanding and prolific this year. So prolific that last weekend I was left to pick the rest before the frost would kill them. I picked about 4 bushels and I said, that's enough! What is on the counter is about 3/4 of a bushel all cut up and then frozen on sheets in the freezer for a few hours so they can be bagged up.

We now have peppers ready to use during the winter. Unfortunately there are 3 bushels left. Anyone need some peppers? I may try canning some this weekend and see how that works.