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Archive for the ‘Farm Business’ Category

The Monadnock Community Land Trust (our landlord) held its annual meeting here at the farm on Sunday. After the procedural details were taken care of, we took a walking tour to inspect our operation.

It may seem hard to believe, given how important food is to our lives, but farming does not pay well enough to compete with residential and other commercial uses for land these days. The cost of land has become disconnected from its ability to produce food–even though farm land is subsidized by relatively low taxes. Without conservation land trusts and other landlords willing to forgo a “market” rate in favor of farming, it would be nearly impossible to find affordable land to farm.

Another way to look at this is that food today is incredibly cheap. It is subsidized both by the government and by landowners like MCLT. We should all thank MCLT for the dinner they help put on the table tonight!

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Help!

Our plans for adding free-range (pastured) chickens to the farm are firming up. We have our sights set on a system that lets hens themselves hatch and raise the chicks instead of incubating the chicks in an indoor brooder. Does this sound simple? Well, it’s not! It’s like trying to learn to juggle with five balls instead of starting with three. But we are determined to try.

We will be starting slowly with VERY small numbers at first. But we will need help. That is why we are now hoping to find an intern for the summer. As soon as we iron out the internship details, I’ll post them.

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Soaking up Advice

I had a really nice visit today from Chad Cochrane, our local District Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We took a walk in the pouring rain and talked about all our conservation concerns (fencing off a seasonal stream, controlling erosion on a hillside, dealing with soil impact in high use areas, etc.). Chad had some great advice, including which projects might be eligible for funding under the EQUIP program of the 2008 Farm Bill. Whether or not we get the funding, Chad is a great example of what I  wish the government could always be: efficient, highly competent, and really out to help us.

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Thinking About Chicken

Many customers have asked me if I have thought about adding pastured chickens to the farm. Yes, I have thought about it in the past. But this week, I took advantage of the cold weather to think more seriously. I have not worked out all the details yet, but I do plan to begin raising broiler chickens on a small scale next spring.

I will probably experiment with a number of breeds in order to find one that works well on our pastures and in our climate (possibly starting with the New Hampshire Red, if only to show a little home-state pride). The goal, as always, is sustainability.

To make the planning managable this first year, I will probably raise only the amount of chickens I can presell. So pretty soon, I will be looking for a few hardy customers to sign up for a few hardy chickens. Let me know if you are interested.

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We went from 70 degrees to snow on the ground in just forty eight hours. Change sure is a constant part of life. The snow put a stop to my work building a corral with a Temple Grandin design (more about that in a later post).

‘Tis now the season for sitting in the barn office working on spreadsheets. I would prefer not to be inside. As my customers, you might agree—especially when my spreadsheeting results in a price increase. The good news is that the increase will be small (nothing like the recent temperature swings). The even better news is that you can lock in 2009 prices by ordering before January 1—even for advance orders that will be delivered after the New Year.

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Demand is Up!

I am committed to supplying you, my customers the cuts you want, when you want them. But recently there has been a tremendous increase in orders (partly due to the success of Food, Inc. and FRESH! ) and I have not been able to increase my supply of beef in a short time. I do “buffer” my supply in storage freezers, but until my next butchering date (December 10) my buffer is seriously depleted.

So some of my customers have started planning ahead and ordering in advance in quantities that will last months. I realize this is not how most of us are used to buying food—I am a last-minute shopper, myself. But ordering in advance sure helps your local neighborhood farmer to plan.

I have thought about offering a subscription or “CSA” option whereby a customer can subscribe to a monthly delivery of assorted cuts. I’ve always felt that CSAs limit the consumer’s choice too much. But I’d love to hear your opinion. Would you prefer to give up choice in exchange for a guaranteed, steady supply?

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