May 10th, 2019
Happy Mothers Day. Exciting news with our cows.
Happy Mothers Day.
I never expected that when I became married, I would get a new mom at the same time.
I love my mom with all my heart. She is always there and always willing to listen. She lets me know when I am wrong and when I should try a little harder. I’ve heard that when you talk to your mom on the phone, the same chemicals are released in your head as when you receive a genuine hug.
My mom sends me little memes like “have a good day” and “happy spring” and “good luck”. You know, the usual encouragements. I give it some thought and usually smile. But all of a sudden, my Mother-In-Law has started sending me her own little text messages lately, like “you’re in our thoughts” and “hope you’re well”. It’s pretty fun and encouraging having so much love around.
Along those same lines, we have two new moms on the farm. Lucy and Peggy each had boy calves. They were both born on Thursday morning. They both seem to be healthy and spry. We are going to name them Mayhem and Archie. Kim wanted to name the calf May, but since it’s a boy we’re adjusting. With the new royal baby born this week, we are naming our second boy after theirs. These are the first calves that started with our own home-grown bull. Dante is one of the twins we had on the farm a few years ago. I’m not sure how the genes will be passed on, but I would hope that we might see twins again in the future.
Thanks to all the Moms out there. I appreciate all that you sacrifice for us children. Your wisdom, your hugs, your love is all felt.
May 3rd, 2019
When you have an Eggnomoly. Pickle them.
What an Eggnomoly.
There are sooooo many eggs right now. Our 150 hens are lying just shy of 10 dozen a day. That’s a lot for this little farm to keep up with in sales.
Getting to the Yoke
In my attempt to clear out my egg cooler I called up a vendor that I had a hunch would be interested in pickling the eggs. This did not end how I expected. Instead I learned the state statute restricts farms that do not have a processing license to sales from the farm and farmers market. That puts me out of contention with working with a certified processor, and no pickled eggs.
Just because I cannot have them pickled for sale doesn’t mean that Kim and I won’t be pickling for ourselves. We plan on filling our shelf with a healthy supply. A jar of pickled eggs can have a self-life of up to 25 years, and like a fine wine they can get better with age. I have heard that 7 years is the magic number. We can pack about 1 dozen into each quart jar. I expect we will prepare about 20 dozen or so.
While Kim and I decide on whether to get the license that will allow us to sell to a food processor, you can help us by picking up 10 dozen for you to prepare yourself.
Here is the recipe Kim and I are going to follow or something very close to it:
12 boiled eggs (cage free/organic)
4 cups distilled white vinegar
4 cups water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cloves, slightly crushed add extra if you wish!
5 jalapeños 1/4” slices
It is much more difficult to find a recipe that encourages eggs for preservation. Most recipes are just for refrigerated eggs. This is not bad for a dozen or two, but when your intentions are to use and store eggs the pantry is where they belong.
Here is a link that discusses the process and the dangers of not properly preparing your eggs. Please read this and do your own research to avoid potential dangers.
Remember, eating seasonally helps local producers to keep high quality products in and around your market. Your support in the peak season is crucial to our success. Thank you for adjusting your diet to our climate as we move through the ebbs and flows of our growing season
April 26th, 2019
Allergy season is around the corner.
Fortunately for me, I haven’t had many things I have to worry about when it comes to allergies. Until recently….
We eat a fair amount of fruit in our house and always have something to grab on the go to fill my tummy while I wait for our next meal. Recently I found myself sneezing, and when I thought about it, I realized it’s that time of the year. When I looked up to see our pollen count in the area, I found that we didn’t make it to that point in our season yet. Then I realized it was the mold that can give me some sniffles.
I did just eat a cutie. Then I remembered, I have been trying to track what makes me sneeze on occasion. Now I’ve concluded that it is the cuties that get me. Each time I consume one of these little treats, I sneeze a few times and that’s about it.
All of this made me think about the natural remedies for the allergies coming our way soon. So, make sure you’re ready so you and your family can enjoy the season.
In reviewing this list of 8 natural remedies, I found that the same items go for most of a healthy diet.
First, eat an Anti-Inflammatory Alkaline diet. Things like garlic, lemons and leafy green vegetables are all good. Probiotic foods and bone broth are also on the list. These are items that are regularly in my diet. The next item on the list is local raw honey – meaning not pasteurized or heated up. A local recommendation would be any honey within 200 hundred miles or so. If you could pick the season that the honey was produced it would be for the season that gives you the most trouble. So, in most cases, early season honey.
Apple cider vinegar also made the list. I have to admit this is something that I know I could use more of. I hardly include it in my diet, but the cows do get a pint added to their water every other week. This helps them keep a healthy and strong immune system too.
When Kim moved in, she brought her neti pot. I was apprehensive at first, filling up and draining my nasal cavities just sounds weird. When I make feed for the animals and there is no wind to take the dust away, my face can get filled with the dust. Kim yells at me for not wearing a mask, and much to her chagrin it’s just uncomfortable. So, when I am done and cleaning myself up, I use a neti pot and clean out my sinuses. I do like it.
Of the list, the fourth item we use on and around the farm is stinging nettle. This stuff is highly effective and useful. On the top of my list is stinging nettle pesto, but just a simple tea from the nettle will meet the needs. The season is now, pick them when the plant is small and young, and the nettle won’t burn you as it will when it matures. It is also tastier if you to cook with it. Hopefully, Kim reads this email and becomes inspired to make some up, I can’t wait for the surprise!
April 19th, 2019
Let’s build a brighter future and extend earth day throughout the rest of the year
Make a difference.
This week we celebrate Earth Day and I absolutely love it. Mother earth needs awareness and justly is given a day that brings her some well-deserved attention.
Your support helps put roots in the ground.
As you know the management practices on The G Farm are in nature’s best interest. We do not till, we plant trees, we preserve water, we compost, we are building soil and sequestering carbon! The animals on our farm are managed in a way that more closely resembles nature than a farm. This is all done with the intentions of building a brighter future and bringing healthy foods to your family’s dinner table.
This year on Earth Day I have been invited to speak at Thrivent Financial. I am elated to share the farm’s history, its failures, and its successes. My hope is that just one listener takes just one extra step to put something they learn into practice. Life is a journey and so is building this farm and this community. We have taken some giant leaps in the past year.
We have begun using certified organic feed for the laying hens and pastured poultry. We started using a new hatchery for our Cornish cross chickens. This is not actually a new one, it’s a very old one. On an ongoing basis, large chicken hatcheries are pushed to breed and select for traits specific to the needs of the industry. This strain is a much older breed and will hopefully fair better on pasture than some Cornish cross I’ve raised in the past. We also changed the breed of pigs from Herford to IPP (Idaho Pasture Pigs) These are a slower growing pig that will be less damaging to the pasture in the way of rooting. They will also be better grazers in the pasture with their upturned faces making it easier to feed on the grass.
This week I saw that Joel Salatin has made a change with his butcher removing Nitrates and Nitrites in some of their products. So even the giants of farm to consumer products are still making strides to be better and do better. I believe that you are driving the ship. Your demands and purchases influence how and what us small farmers are producing and the inputs we use to create our final product.
As much work as I put into the farm, I cannot do it without you. Thank you for your support. I will be thinking of you this Earth Day as we continue to push forward and build a healthier and more vibrant food system.
April 12th, 2019
Dosent Hurt To Ask!
Wheeling and dealing.
There have been a few things on my list to purchase this year. One of the big-ticket items was a haybine. For the last four years I’ve used a sickle bar mower to cut the hay I bale on the farm. It is tedious and fickle. As I mentioned in January, my tractor was in the shop a lot last summer. Now that it’s back and the grass is just starting to grow, it is time that I find the machinery I’ve been planning for.
Doesn’t Hurt To Ask!
In the past I’ve attended auctions. For me this has been a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it seems to be more misses than hits and it is never fun for me to have that. It’s a little less problematic for me, but when my wife hears about it, then it’s a problem and I don’t like being reminded of those mistakes. Craigslist is another go-to for equipment. I’ve had a little better luck with that, but It’s still not perfect. I’ve found that knowing and seeing the person who had the items before you can be helpful in determining the quality of that product. The same goes for Facebook Marketplace. I also like their rating system. It helps keep people honest in their transactions or their reputation can be hurt.
In mid-March I was looking at a craigslist ad I’ve seen a few times before. It was of a seemingly pristine 7-foot Hesston haybine. The ad had an asking price of $2750. Now that was a bit steep. I had budgeted for a full $2000 and hoped for something in the $1400 range. This beauty was hard to continue to see in my searches. So, I decided one night to give an offer and explanation to the seller as it was listed for over a month. I told him my top dollar and offered him $500 of product from the store. After a week I had not heard back and continued my search. Out of the blue, I received a phone call and had a short chat with the owner of the Hesston PT-7. When I was done, we had verbally committed to the deal without my ever seeing the machine run and going on my gut instinct I sent the check and let the seller know I would call back in a few weeks to pick it up.
This week while I was low on energy from the Shaklee cleanse I saved my steps and drove out to Marshfield to pick it up. When I drove up to the old retiring farmer he seemed to be as excited as I was to make the transaction. He was turning his old farm into a museum of sorts. Everything was clean and under cover. I felt good about my instincts and had a nice chat about what I was up to as he shared what he was doing with his old farm.
Since this transaction, I’ve found myself asking two additional people about transactions I was uncomfortable with. One was asking a friend for some coveted bunnies he raises. The other about a listing on craigslist for a fuel tank. Both were something I would not have done last year. In fact, I even got a “good job babe” out of Kim!
What’s important to me about this story is that you have to ask. The craigslist post did not ask for obo “or best offer” but I had something to give and recognized potential. This skill is often shunned and suppressed by parents. When a child asks for something and the parent says “no” it teaches the child that you shouldn’t ask. I do not believe it is the parent’s responsibility to shy the child away from asking. It is completely up to the party that has what the child wants to give a fair answer. The caveat that comes with this is if the child wants something and they know they can’t have it. There will be lots of examples of this. Soda and other sugar ridden candies are a good example of this.
April 5th, 2019
I am Justin, and I am a Meat Eater. But NOT Next Week!
Whats in your diet?
Have you ever tracked the foods you eat? In preparing and growing your own food it is important that you grow what you eat. There isn’t better way to find out than to start a food journal.
The Meat and Potatos
I’m not going to kid you, I don’t track every calorie, but I do want to know what meats we are taking out of our freezer for our family.
Part of our food journal is to see how much meat a family might prepare in their own kitchen. We have seen a few families opt out of our Meat CSA because they were overwhelmed with the quantity we provide, especially in our larger CSA option. Our options are 8 lbs. and 16 lbs. In the last 3 months Kim and I have put away 22 lbs. of beef, 25 lbs. of chicken and 17 lbs. of pork. This comes to a total of 64 pounds, averaging 21 per month. We do eat out a few times a month as well, but a bulk of my dinners are at our own dinner table. My favorite meals are always leftovers, so those fill up my lunch pail at work. I usually start my day out with a fruit and cup of coffee. I should also mention I hunt and fish. I haven’t put many fish in the freezer lately, but I have gotten at least one deer each of the last few years. We definitely add that to our dinner menu, but it hasn’t made it to our list.
Cooking at home takes effort, time and some skills. I cannot take credit for this in our home. Kim does a bulk of the cooking, and by that, I mean all. I can fend for myself when she’s away, but this affords me extra time in the fields with my hands in the dirt.
Next week is going to be a bit different. Kim and I are going to do a cleanse. I have never done any type of cleanse before, but Kim has convinced me to give one a try. Our diet for the next 7 days will be filled with fruits and vegetables only. Our meals will be set for every two hours. This will be supplemented by a Shaklee morning and dinner pill. I expect it will be tough and hope that I can make it through the week with enough energy to keep up with my farm responsibilities. If not, someone might see an ugly me. Anyhow, wish us luck as we clean our digestive tracks.
March 29th, 2019
The unpredictability of farming! #Nebraskastrong
Nebraska was particularly hit hard with flooding from the quick melt this spring. To add to the trouble a dam broke in the NE portion of the state letting a huge amount of water wash out everything in its path. Entire properties, towns and counties are under water. It is certain that the damages and associated costs will be enormous.
I saw a video of a farmer driving a tractor into a field and using a loader to help pick a cow up out of the mud. Another picture showed a full pen of pigs all belly up. Not only had livestock themselves been harmed, many farmers whose herds survived had lost their feed. Corn, hay and other supplies had all washed away.
When I have a bad day on the farm I will talk to other farmers. My Dad in particular will say “Well, that’s farming”. He was raised in an environment where farmers get the short end of the stick. It is hard to make a living when losses like this can diminish your entire bank account. Not only does it hurt the pocket, it hits you in the gut. The demoralization that natural disasters can bring to a farmer and his family could be the end of the road. You don’t even need a natural disaster to have a hard day on the farm. Things go wrong all the time. Farming feels more like problem mitigation than anything.
What this leads me to mention is that farmers work hard and should be paid well for their efforts. Farmers doing the right thing can persevere through a disaster like this. We need to be paid well while times are good, for we cannot help or predict when Mother Nature takes a turn at our farm. Being prepared is our first insurance measure. Doing appropriate planning for each season and having a back-up plan in case something was to go wrong is something I will have to continue to asses. After I am sure I am taken care of and not a burden to anyone else, I then can help those around me.
Some prepared farmers here in Wisconsin put together a large quantity of hay and supplies to help the farmers of the affected areas. I saw a post from the Country Today that showed the convoy en route. I salute those farmers in a good place able to help today.
There are days where we all need to separate our differences and help those we can. So, to all the conventional farmers of Nebraska, although I don’t always agree with your methods, you are in our thoughts……
I feel terrible for the animals affected by the floods in the Midwest. Many have lost their lives in vain. There have also been a few families that have lost loved ones. Our hearts go out to you.
March 22nd, 2019
The Farm Dogs. Preditor patrol on duty.
Our Farm Family.
I’m always impressed by families that have well trained dogs. On the other side of that, I feel bad for the families with mischiefs. No matter what side of the fence you are on. we love all of our furry creatures.
How good they have it.
We have four dogs on the farm. Two of the dogs stay inside. They are long haired Dachshunds. One is about 9 and the other is about 4. They keep Kim happy. Baker our first working dog is a Australian Cattle dog also known as a Blue or Red Heeler. Baker is a Red Heeler. We brought him onto the farm last June with the intentions of having him stay outside and help with the farm. He never quite found his way onto the porch. Inside the house became a big energetic spitfire. My expectations of Baker were unrealistic. He became part of the pack . Fighting against his natural instinct was difficult. This led me to bringing him to work with me quite often.
With the new growing season around the corner my raising concern is the security of the incoming chickens. I had some late season losses to a hawk that hurt my bottom line. While I wait for more tree cover and protection on the pasture something needs to be done.
A farm I follow out in California had almost gone out of business until they brought their dogs onto the farm. Baker the cattle dog is not going to sit and watch chickens all day. Without any other companions around he would just rather be inside with the pack or following me around the farm or to work. His skillset is not even to watch chickens it is to help move the cows or wrangle them up when they escape. Not if they escape, they seem to keep find a way out from time to time.
I hope the newest addition will solve a few of the problems I was having. Two weeks ago we brought Otis a Great Pyrenees puppy home to the farm. He is almost as big as Baker already and he is only 14 weeks old. He was on a farm that had 5 other dogs all outside watching over their animals. With that experience Otis is accustom to being outside. Two weeks into having four dogs we now have two packs. Otis and Baker stay on the porch and have access to the whole property to do the things they need to. So far it seems to be working well. Otis is learning the boundaries. Baker is helping teach Otis the ropes. Now all I am waiting for is to see their natural instincts kick in when a predator stops by. They may not want to because these two lightning rods are ready to go.
Your support is appreciated. It helps me live a life that fulfils my heart and soul. Having dogs on the farm and giving them the job to do the tasks they are bred to gives us all a great home.
PS. I hope the dogs don’t jump on you when you stop by. I don’t want to be that guy.
March 15th, 2019
Planting trees that grow FAST.
Planting a tree and waiting for it to produce a yield can take a long time. I am looking to speed things up a bit.
What I missed.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of this farm is that we plant trees. Over the last 3 summers we planted over 1000 trees. Most of the trees are fruit and nut baring trees that grow slowly. The long term plan with these is that we will be able to harvest and sell the raw goods from the farm. The excess will fall for the animals on the farm. We have harvested some apples, but not much else. In fact, when you stand over the fields you can hardly tell that there are rows of trees if it were not for the fences we put up to protect them from our livestock.
We graze our cows, chickens, pigs and turkey in between these rows as we wait for them to establish. This type of food system is called is a silvopasture. It meets my design needs for biological diversity and grazing pasture. Prior to managing the land the grasses would grow one time and then go into dormancy. Without any animals disturbing the grasses the soil is not living to its full potential. Speeding up progress starts with our animals eating the grasses. This leaves room for growth after they move onto a newly designated space in our rotational grazing system. The manure and urine help feed the soil and the microorganisms in the soil. The microorganisms break down the manure piles. In the life cycles of the microorganisms they help feed the plants the cows will again eat 45 to 60 days later. The whole system is predicated on not tilling the soil and destroying the habitat that these small creatures inhabit. This cycle is helping to heal and feed the newly planted trees as well.
While I was at MOSES farming conference I learned from Steve Gabriel and his experiences establishing a silvopasture on his farm in New York. My largest take away from the presentation was how Steve uses fast growing trees as fodder for his animals. The two trees he leads off with are hybrid poplar and hybrid willow. These trees in the right conditions can grow up to 9 feet per year. After a few years of growth the idea is to cut them down for fodder, or feed for the cows. This is after the early fast growth of the grasses in the early summer while the trees leaves still have a good storage of energy and nutrients. The cut will be quite high at eye level to allow for regrowth for the following years. This will provide shade and wind protection for the other animals more quickly. With the big melt we are experiencing, I will be putting out the cuttings I’ve purchased directly into the ground. I think that this will be a great new addition to silvopasture system were growing and we will be able to shad our cattle and create wind breaks to keep them more comfortable.
Remember, by supporting our farm you’re doing so much more than eating healthy, delicious foods. You are healing the planet through regenerative agriculture, supporting local family farming, and ensuring that humane treatment of livestock will continue here in Wisconsin
March 8th, 2019
A Farm To Table Dinner July 27th at The G Farm
We all have people we look up to in our lives. One of the people in my life is only the most famous farmer in the US, Joel Salatin. He became famous when Michael Pollan interviewed him for the book “The Omnivores Dilemma”. Then a few years later he played a large role in the movie Food INC.
A much less popular and less mainstream movie came out in 2015 called Polyfaces. Polyface farm is the name of Joel Salatins family Farm. When I got my hands on the DVD, I watched it many times. While sharing it with my friend Ken, he jumped up when he recognized one of the farmers in the movie. Ken said that he went college with Dan. Not long afterwards my friend Ken introduced me to Dan.
At Polyface farm Dan was an intern. This is not a position you get into easily. Some 200 plus applicants fill out paperwork asking to participate each season. Dan was one of the lucky ones that had been accepted. In his first year Dan learned about how to move the pigs, chickens and cows around on pasture. He got his hands dirty each and every day. After his first season Dan took it upon himself to see if he could find himself a more permanent position on the farm.
For the next two years Dan took care of a garden and fed all the farmers on Polyface once each day. Dan has since found a farm of his own down in Neshkoro. It is called Stack Farm and Food Co. His goals are to farm full time as well. His context is a bit different in that he wants to stack the functions, bringing food from the farm to your fork.
Since I met Dan, I’ve been interested in having him out to our farm to cook up some goodies. The one problem that we had is that we must have the food cooked in a certified kitchen. We could have the food prepared elsewhere and brought in. We could have held the event illegally too. Doing so would have hurt our ability to have them in the future if we were to get in trouble with it.
Fortunately this past fall Dan acquired a food truck. This summer the food truck will be up and running so we can have an on-farm dining experience. So, this July 27th at 6:00 Dan and his wife Tina will be putting together a dinner featuring our pasture raised chickens. The rest of the menu will be from local farms as well. And we want to make it feel like Wisconsin so Barrel 41 in Neenah will be bringing a few beers to pair with the meal. We have a limited number of seats and I expect they will go fast you have the first oppertunity to reserve your spots. In a few weeks I will create a facebook page when I open the event up to other guests. Tickets are 50 dollars each. We look forward to seeing you here on the farm.
March 1st, 2019
I Cry A Lot. Its because I care and Farmers like me are making a differance.
If you’ve followed the farm for any amount of time, I’m sure you would have learned that I love what’s going on here at The G Farm. I love the farm animals and the work they are doing on the farm to help improve the soils. I love the customers and I love the final products. There is not too much that I can ever find as a negative when it comes to the farm. Sure, in June and July it’s a little hard to find all the sleep I need, but I sleep like a bear in the winter.
Land Acess and Water
This last weekend I attended MOSES and one of the Keynote speakers was my friend Dayna Neguyen with Nettle Valley Farm over in Spring Grove MN. She began her presentation addressing one of the most challenging issues new farmers face – Land Access. She asked all the new farmers that have not put their flag down to stand up. Then she made them stand and asked all the farmers with land they are not utilizing to look around at those sanding before them. Dayna was looking to connect some dots and help those new farmers get over their first hurdle. When she was done with this, I had to wipe my face dry. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have found the space to do the farming I was looking for.
I have done a little work in this area. As I began farming my first season in the garden, Emily had partnered with me to build our first season’s vegetable CSA. We learned a lot and I feel we were successful in accomplishing our goals. Mark, our resident beekeeper, still pops by to check on his two hives on the farm. Recently another young aspiring farmer reached out about worms and castings. I’m not sure where it will go but I am open to working because these relationships can be mutually beneficial.
My tears continued as Dayna discussed how her community stopped a CAFO hog operation from being built. I completely agree and understand why they would appeal such a facility from being put up. The amount of liquid waste that was to be added to the operation’s manure lagoon was appalling. This would directly affect the community’s well water. The seepage and spills would be very tragic. When North Carolina was hit by hurricane Florence last year, the lagoon waste of 60 hog farms in the flood plain became susceptible to spillage by the downpour.
One of the best ways that you can stop these types of operations from being built is to stop supporting them. Instead find local farmers doing the difficult task of raising animals in an inefficient system where they share values and interest in the environment. They are around, not all of them have publicized their progress in the same way that I have, but they deserve credit too.
February 22nd, 2019
Finding Your Tribe
CSA Day 2019.
Today is the day small farmers across the country work together to celebrate the season ahead and to see who’s with them and who is going to wait on the sidelines. Farming is expensive and most vegetable farmers are in the toughest part of their season. They haven’t harvested any vegetables in a few months and if they are lucky and have a greenhouse, they might get a little bit of a jump, but they don’t have any income then either. So, this day kicks off the campaign to help with all the costs associated with the season ahead. Some of the garden’s winter expenses include seed, soil and equipment. The equipment can be used to help with the planting, the harvest, maybe the washing or the distribution. It all needs to be paid for.
We can even out our expenses and incomes with our weekly payment. It goes a long way to helping keep our monthly budgeting a little more even. However, we still have expenses. The largest expense for us going into this season is the cost of feed for each of our 5 runs of 250 broiler chickens.
As I sit here and get ready for the weekend ahead. I can’t wait to make it to MOSES where organic, sustainable and regenerative farmers meet to learn from one another and to share ideas. I am very sorry that due to poor planning on my part Kim will not be able to join me. I know she is sad about it… Sorry =(
While you are reading this I am probably in a presentation paying special attention to keep from losing my head as we work to grow the farm into a full time job. Conferences and events like MOSES are where I get to engage with my community. I find out that I’m not so crazy after all. There are others working themselves into the 11th hour on a regular basis, trying to keep a work/life balance that meets their needs.
I feel that farmers inherently are part of their communities. After all, everyone eats a few times a day and if you’re reading this you have a genuine concern and interest in where your food is coming from. There are other ways to be part of our community as well. Joining a club and volunteering are both possibilities. Participating in local politics could be another direction. Before I decided to farm, I ran for my local school board. Joining a recreational sports league or church league could be a great way to spend a few evenings a week. Lastly you can do what I’m doing this weekend as I work to continue my education.
If you are not finding what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance others are looking for it as well. Be your own lightning rod and build the community you are looking for. It will change and expand in ways that you never thought possible. The key is consistency. This will lead to dependability. Have fun and I hope to hear about it.
February 15th, 2019
Labeling is how you know whats in your beer.
Last week I came across a blog by a very popular clean food advocate. Her pen name is the Food Babe. Her real name is Vani Hari. She caught my attention this week when she wrote a piece on the beer industry and how she helped make a change to Anheuser-Busch.
One of my favorite commercials during the Super Bowl was Bud Light’s corn syrup 60 second spot. It reminded me of a movie I’ve seen a dozen times or more, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Four years ago, Vani sat with executives at Anheuser-Busch and shared her case on why labeling was important to us label seekers.
I understand that drinking beer is not a pillar of health, but if you were to consume some Buds, knowing what’s in it is a reasonable request. The whole premise of Bud Light’s commercial was centered on their new voluntarily posted label.
Just about every item I pick up in the grocery store has its nutritional facts, serving sizes, calories, daily value, fat, and lastly ingredients. Each section gives important information to everyone looking to consume it.
Every time I cross the road, I look both ways. I use the information I’ve collected to decide if it’s safe or not to start moving my feet. On the farm when the cows move from pasture to pasture, I measure with my eye and do my best to determine how much grass they will need each day. My point is that you can’t make a good decision if you don’t have adequate information.
I have had my share of beer. I would consider myself a Miller guy. When the IPA wave hit a few years ago I jumped on that bandwagon. The complexities and varieties of flavors and components are so much more enjoyable then the same Lite beer I grew up on. It also allows me to buy more local and keep those dollars in the hands of small business. All things I appreciate as well.
On a side note a good rule of thumb is to eat things that don’t have labels. And by that, I mean fruits vegetables, meats. Pretty much everything unprocessed. “Real Foods” as Michael Pollard would say.
February 8th, 2019
Our 2019 Buisness Plan.
Durring the past year I had participated in an educational training and savings program called The Farm Asset Builder. This was put on by Angelic Organics Learning Center in Illinois. The goal of their program was to establish better money managment practices and savings stragagies for small farmers. Each month I put away 175 dollars and now that 2018 is over, I am looking to invest those dolalrs into a new farm tool. The program also matched my savings and is helping me in the purchase of a used Kawasaki Mule. I will use this to help feed the animals around the farm and reduce the time that it takes for the daily chores. In order have the funds distrubted from the account I needed to put togheter a business plan. Here is the plan ive written. Its a bit long but is an indepth look into the acomplishments that have been made on the farm and the goals for this next season as we continue to grow.
The Hard Work Ahead in 2019
At one time active small farms scattered the rural country side. Today, not so much. Most eaters have no idea where their food was grown, with what management processes, or by whom. This farm solves all of those issues and gives a healthy local choice to the Fox Valley community. We are making access to the farms product easy. We have a seasonal on farm store for direct sales and online sales with delivery options. The local farmers market is another place to meet us. The G Farm is a diverse farm working to mimic the natural systems you find in nature. These management techniques will improve the soil health and are helping grow a diverse silvopasture. Through the next decade we will have fruit and nut trees and bushes to add to our other products. Everything we sell is produced in this system by your farmers.
On the farm we raise Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit and laying hens. In the garden we grow tomatoes and lettuce along with a long list of vegetables that are good for storage, freezing and canning. All of our methods are natural and regenerative in nature. This means that we are building soil and improving the environment while we raise and rotate the animals across our pastures.
The farm is a member owned Limited Liability Corporation. There are two members. First the founder, Farmer Justin, began the farm in September of 2014. In 2018 Kim became a member when we married and now share everything in our lives together. The Farm is located 20 minutes west of Appleton WI, in the town of Winchester. It consists of 27 acres, three and a half of which are a pond.
Our past seasons successes have been two fold. The farm store is growing in popularity and curiosity. Guests enjoy the experience of seeing and smelling the farm as they make their way into the newly remodeled farm store. The second pillar is our Meat CSA membership program. These two income sources make up over half of the farms income. The other farm income sources include farmers’ market sales, unattended farm stand sales, internet sales and some whole sale.
We use social media actively to share and document progress on both Facebook and Instagram. The most important interaction I have with our customers in the masses is through our weekly email. This is sent each Friday and discus the farms direction, events, news and other opinions. We also remind the readers where and how to do commerce.
Going into my fourth season I expect the growth to continue to be dramatic. This past season the farms income totaled 42,621 dollars. Our 2019 cash flow projection and seasonal farm plans expected outcome will be about $80,000. I expect the growth to be steady across each of the revenue sources. I am particularly interested in increasing our on farm sales. This is in the best interest of the long term farm plan. The CSA membership program has been a huge benefit to continuing to move inventory and the steady income is also helpful in planning.
This farm is located on a highway and is highly visible. The side of our barn lets those that are looking know where to find more information about the farm. This visibility is extended to the internet. I have worked extensively to maximize our SEO (search engine optimization). Our customers are generally concerned with quality of product over price. Most have been drawn in and educated through our weekly email. Another seemingly important factor is the conditions in which the animals are raised in. Having access to grass and adequate space is definitely something that our customers value.
It is clear that our society is trending in a direction that glorifies small farmers. I think that rural life is something that people are looking into building a life for themselves. Having a leg up and producing at scale gives this farm credibility. Our continued efforts to deliver the best chicken in the area are being recognized by the community. This past summer we had two dinners at which our chicken was the focal point of the main course. Guests at each of the dinners were impressed at the full flavor that is produce from our pasture based system.
Organization and Management
My wife’s main role on the farm is as farm store manager. The main piece she enjoys of this responsibility is keeping the on farm store presentable. Some tasks that become part to this overarching responsibility is keeping the freezers stocked, keeping the inventory up to date and helping customers when they stop by to pick up goods. Kim watches the farm store on Saturdays in the summer to allow me to go into town and continue to grow our market base at the farmers market.
Animal management is fully my responsibility. The daily chores are becoming less of a task as the farm builds info structure to accommodate more animals with more ease. The overall season flow is well calculated in the winter months in preparation for the spring and summer. The more detailed the plan is for the season the better the outcomes will be.
Our garden is a shared responsibility. Kim and I work to keep it as productive as we can with the time we have left over from the rest of our busy summer lives. Weed management is much easier when taken care of early in the growth cycle. Sometimes missing planned time to pull weeds is unavoidable. Farming happens and prioritization must be made. On this farm animals are first and sometimes the garden neglected.
Our price points are carefully calculated in the winter. Chicks, pigs, and turkeys arrivals are all scheduled for the season. The processor is notified and feed plans are all set. Using past years plans and measuring the results, I calculate how much time each animal is using to facilitate its growth. This value, is divided by the number of units in production and added to an excel spreadsheet with other associated costs. This spreadsheet gives me an understanding of the necessary prices we need to charge in the season’s production to pay for my time and remain profitable. Price changes can be made each season by making just one simple change in any of management. It could be a change in feed, feed supplier, info structure, hatchery, breed or anything else that you can think of. Each little change will affect both the quality and cost of production. This will ultimately affect the bottom line.
One major change going into 2019 from the past year is that the chickens feed is no longer being milled here on site. We are going to be having this sent to us having already been processed. This change is definitely necessary in scaling the farm to the appropriate size for expected growth. The one drawback is that we are giving up control of the specifics that go into the feed. We will still use non soy and organic feeds but the other inputs such as supplements will not be in our control.
The years overall marketing efforts will continue as they had been executed this past year. I think that 2018 was a very successful year in the aspect that all or most of the product that was grown was also sold. The turkeys are going to be raised in a manner that is similar to the chickens in tractors through their life to help reduce losses to predators.
I am careful not to bombard the newsfeeds of the farms Facebook followers with meaningless material. When changes are made or beautiful images are captured, they are certainly shared, but I don’t need to show chores being done each day. I keep enough content to help facilitate sharing the farm story.
Our best customers are email subscribers. The email list has about 500 subscribers about 40 percent of them are actively reading and following the story. It is a stated goal to have 1000 true fans. A true fan is someone who will pay one day’s wages to you in a given year. Having 1000 true fans support would be a huge help to this small business and small farm thrive. I am somewhere in the neighborhood of having 100 true fans at this point. Some of those 100 fans are participating in our Meat CSA members. When someone signs up for our subscription, participants have an 8 lbs. or 16 lbs. package delivered on the first Tuesday of the month.
At this point I have not been adding equity into the farm business. Over the first two years I did have significant capital inputs that allowed me to grow quickly to a point that I felt was substantial to grow on its own. Just having been married and selling our now second house in the city we are able go forward with shared living expenses and decrease our monthly overhead. As long as we continue to grow at the current rate and avoid any significant losses we will be able to continue to cash flow our growth. A major factor in this growth is growing the Meat CSA membership by one member per month. This is about the rate that we have experienced in the past and need to continue to avoid over production.
There are a few items we will sell that are no longer being used on the farm to help replenish capital. If additional capital is needed we can sell a cow wholesale to quickly raise capital to avoid having to supplement the costs out of our own pockets.
This season will look much busier on the farm ramping up production to keep up with our demand. I expect that this season will have a much larger income then 2018 as well as much larger expenses. One major contributor to this is the added fencing at the D2 farm that I am going to be renting for the next 20 years. This will add 18 acres of grass rotation doubling the size of our overall pasture. This is the only significant project planned for the year. This project will help grow the farm and the herd of cattle. Another project that may occur in the next few years is the addition of sheep. This would give us a little more diversity and manage the surplus of grass that the newly leased property will give us.
Over the past two years we have doubled in sales each year. We are not adding any new income streams this year so the growth will need to come from the sales we generate in the current model. Our full expectation is to continue on this trend. Over the next two years it may become plausible to leave the day time job and exclusively work from the farm. This is the ultimate goal and seems more within reach with each passing month.
March 1st, 2019
NatureWise. Getting what you pay for.
EnergyWise by WPS.
Energy consumption is always in the back of my mind. I get ornery when I walk into a house and see a light on with no one in the room. It’s probably not as bad as it once was with our new high-efficiency bulbs, but I turn off the light anyway.
Make it a WIN WIN WIN!
With weather conditions on the miserable end, I have been antsy and bored stuck in the house. I have nearly wrapped up all my winter desk work and am grasping at strings to keep me busy and moving forward. This week when I was reviewing the programs that are available to me to help improve and reduce our energy use, I found NatureWise. This is a program WPS has available to its customers that give us the option to use cleaner energy for our consumption. They are sold in blocks and each block adds a few dollars onto our bill for each month we participate. The additional funds that go to WPS will, in turn, go towards clean energy production in our state. Mostly wind energy but there are some others too.
This sort of parallels my view on gasoline. I have a diesel truck but when I must fill up a vehicle with gas, I have a hard time using the gas with ethanol in it. About half of the time I will spend the extra money and use non-ethanol gasoline. These types of decisions come down to my perception of the world. I believe the amount of water that is used to produce the ethanol is far above what is reasonable, and I choose to spend a little more to avoid supporting that process. Another practice that is increased with the use of ethanol as fuel is more tillage. There is more soil lost per acre of corn planted than corn produced on each acre. That is not sustainable! Each added acre of corn also removes an acre from another potentially more useful crop. Using land and agricultural practices to make ethanol just doesn’t add up.
Not to mention The G Farm. In running a farm that also has costs that run higher than the food choices from the grocery store we get what we pay for. I have spent several years learning, building and supplying the local community with a more expensive alternative. I am grateful that you have made the choice to support me.
This month on the 19th of February farmers around the country will work collectively to ask our communities to participate in the season’s production. For every new member that signs up for The G Farms Monthly Meat CSA in February we will purchase one block of clean energy. This is just one more incentive to help earth move in a direction that will be more sustainable and resilient.
This is a WIN – WIN – WIN
January 25th, 2019
No Tax Prep For This Guy.
Finding a good Tax Preparer.
I purchased this farm on the back of my tax preparation proceeds. Last year I continued to prepare taxes to help pay for the growth of the farm during the cold season. For almost every year since 2005, I’ve prepared taxes. Not just one or two, but hundreds. This year I have decided not to continue the rigorous working schedule into the winter.
My preperation backround
Now that my life is drastically different, and I am sharing everything with Kim including expenses, sharing a little extra time cuddled up only seems right. So, I am sorry to those that have counted on me for so many years as their tax preparer. Thank you for trusting me to be part of your family’s annual tax filing experience. Over most of my tax preparation career, I had solely prepared, reviewed and submitted every return that was brought to me. This was not always easy. As the sole preparer all the responsibility lied on my shoulders. It was stressful yet financially rewarding.
For the last two years I have had much less time to deal with all the business aspects of tax preparation but still wanted some of the rewards. I applied and was accepted to work at the Electronic Filing Center where I frequently referred clients that did not fit into my packed schedule. One advantage they had over a solo operation is the vast knowledge of the management and ownership of the practice. Overall, they have a low-cost preparation that has a few steps that include a second look from management.
Who knows what might happen in my life’s design? Tax preparation may come back around to help me to achieve the goals of staying home and working on and around the farm. Until then I will be cuddling with Kim.
January 18th, 2019
Viva Las Vegas
Lost in Vegas.
Traveling to Sin City was quite cliché for a honeymoon, but when Kim and I planned our trip, we thought the destination would keep us busy and entertained. That it did.
Today I started my truck for the first time in almost a week. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a break as long as this trip to Vegas. Kim and I had a wonderful honeymoon. We began our adventure by finding some local food at the Summerlin Farmers Market. This was especially helpful in keeping us fed between our dining excursions. The market was quite different from the Future Neenah or even the Appleton Farmers Markets. The Summerlin market had more sampling, more vegetables and less food catering. Its size was very comparable to the Future Neenah market. The largest difference was that it was year-round. What a difference that can make for a vendor.
We picked up some corn nuts, some fruit and salad mixes with a few nonperishable items like seasoning salts. We also grabbed some raisins! What a treat that was. They are nothing like you would find in a super market. These things were big and tasty. You could recognize that they were not factory made. Some of the raisins had a flat side from when they were being dried out. We also came away with some microgreens. Maybe my favorite find was the canned brussel sprouts. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
Later when we made our way back to our room we piled our findings onto a plate for our one-of-a-kind salad. We also found a few farm-to-table restaurants. Two in particular stood out. First was Salt and Honey. They had a huge selection and it was so tasty. The dining area had a farm-like kitchen feel and was designed for the high end side of town. In contrast we found another diner that was very urban called EAT. This was just as good and every bit as enjoyable.
The sinful part of the trip was our breakfast on the way home. We stopped at a Cinnabon and washed it down with some Starbucks. I am only human and my sweet tooth does get the best of me more often than I’d like to admit.
Other than eating we hiked the Red Rock trails, watched the Blue Man Group and Love the Beatles show. We had a couple’s massage and we even tried to get rich quick, but that did not work in our favor.
The premise here is that eating healthy is not easy, at home or on the road. No matter the location or the season, it is always easier to eat less nutritious foods with convenience. If you choose to inconvenience yourself you will find some new treasures while supporting those local farmers and businesses.
That’s all I have this week because that’s all I did and all I thought about.
January 11th, 2019
Brining back the Heavy Machinery
Tractors have problems.
The most powerful tool on this farm is the 1982 Yanmar 4220D. This 42-horse compact tractor has been a huge help on the farm. It came with a fair price tag of $9500 back in 2015 right after I purchased the farm. It ran without any major issues until about the end of July. I was moving some fencing posts down by the pond and the forward momentum completely stopped.
I talked to my neighbors and asked who they used to help them with their tractor issues. That led me to call Steve. He came promptly to pick it up and hauled it away.
After a few weeks I called to see what the problems were, how much it was going to cost and when I might see it again. He had some answers but let me know finding the parts could be difficult. Yanmar is a Japanese brand and back in ‘82 when the tractor was put into service the company was not able to sell them overseas. At some point when the tractor was still almost new it had some major problems and went to the manufacturer to be resolved. It was after it was repaired that it was then able to be imported into the US. This means that there are not many older Yanmars around in the States which makes parts a little difficult to find.
Five months later, now in mid-December, Steve called me to let me know the good news. The tractor was fixed, and he wanted to bring it back. Of course, this was a huge relief. We were expecting snow and as the main tool for snow removal, it was comforting having it back in my shed. This was short lived. After plowing the driveway and moving a few things in the shed, the tractor was again stuck in place.
I called Steve to let him know the disappointing news. When he picked it up to return it to the shop, he asked several questions to pin point what the issue was. He seemed confident that he was going to have it fixed back up in a hurry.
Finally last Thursday I had a smile on my face when I drove into the driveway and saw the tractor. I’ve put a few hours on it since it’s been home. Everything seems to be working well and I’m looking forward to the next haying season. While it was in the shop, I asked Steve to put a rear hydraulic remote kit on it so I can run a haybine instead of the old sickle bar mower. This alone is going to save me a handful of hours each time I cut a field. I have timed cutting with the sickle bar mower and found that I can cut about one acre an hour. The haybine will move at a much faster pace. I expect to cut about 4 or 5 acres in an hour.
January 4th, 2019
Abiding by our Chicken laws
I recommend to anyone that doesn’t have a flock of chickens to get one if it’s legal. They are a blast and the eggs you get from your own chickens are a real easy and fun teaching point to everyone who eats an egg. Feed them scrap, let them help clean up the yard, let the neighbors see how crazy you are…
Abiding by our Chicken laws
My flock is currently on the brink of bending the law. I run my egg operation under what’s called the hobby flock. That means that I have less than 150 birds. Just five years ago I had a mere 4. So to say that my hobby is out of hand is most certainly accurate. Today I have about 70 hens that are 1.5 to 4 years old. These are a mix of many breeds, and overall I appreciate the variety. Most customers’ favorites are the Ameraucana. They lay the blue and green eggs. Then I have another 70-80 that are just about to start laying. These are all Rhode Island Reds. These are my favorite breed. They are heavy producers with good foraging ability and are still quite meaty. It is my expectation that in two years I will no longer be an egg hobbyist. This means several things legally. I will have to get a new processing license. I will have to wash, grade and label the eggs. And they will need to be packaged in my own boxes.
I currently am unable to keep up with the demand for eggs, which is why I’m trying to grow this part of the farm. As far as the sales model, currently all or almost all of the eggs being produced are going to the Meat CSA members. I need at least 28 dozen each month to keep up with that. The chickens are producing about 1 dozen eggs a day right now. This is pretty low, but keep in mind, I do not add heat, light or anything else artificial to stimulate their pattern of laying. The flock is also on the older side. I have been keeping chickens around to help keep up with the overall demand.
Looking at how the egg production curve of a laying hen over her life lays out, it is best to keep hens from 5 months old through their first year and a half. At that point hens will go through a molt. They will lose many of their feathers and their bodies will rest. In the natural jungles they would have lived in without human intervention, chicks would be hatched out in the spring. They would spend the entire year growing and through the next winter they would become developed enough to lay eggs themselves.
Chicken masters have picked their best and fastest producers year after year, developing their own breeds. This has turned chickens into egg laying machines. The highest production egg producers are the white leghorn. These birds will lay up to 300 in their first year. This is after they become mature enough of course. We bring our new hatchlings onto the farm each fall. That makes a good turn around for them to start up as our weather turns nicer. Regardless of the breed, chickens all have an embryo count of about 1000. If a hen’s first year of production totals 300, her next may be 220, then down to 180, and so on.
When my hobby flock is turned over to 151 chickens I am going to improve the rate at which I turn over birds from their production life to the freezer. So I will keep a chicken for their first year of production and then they will become a stewing hen and sold as such from the store.
I do not have a large market for these at this point but some of the guests do come by and ask for stewing hens and stewing roosters before anything else. The reason they look for them is because they recognize the flavor that they bring to the table. The slower an animal grows the better it tastes. That’s an overall rule of thumb, but a good one.
I very much appreciate you following the farm as it grows in size, popularity and production. Your support means the world to me.