New Partners, Braden and Daniele

October 23, 2017

 

For mid-life reasons I don’t care to discuss, my direct-marketing partners decided to get out of this gig and sell their farm.  It was a good partnership for about nine years and I was sad to see it end.  I wish them the best.

This summer I upped my marketing since Eric wasn’t active in the partnership.  I sold most Saturdays at the West Side Farmer’s Market and I made many restaurant deliveries.  I fully intended to take over the business and buy out my partners’ shares in the LLC.

I guess we should have talked price earlier in the process, as when we finally did, we were so far off it wasn’t even worth negotiating.  I’m glad I didn’t buy them out as I knew I couldn’t do it all on my own, and I wasn’t thrilled to think about managing employees.

So when my disc golfing buddy Braden mentioned one day that he and his significant other, Daniele, would really like to have a small farm someday, and raise chickens and vegetables, the idea germinated that perhaps I could find some new partners.

I’ve been reading and rereading the Joel Salatin books on business and marketing.  He says that if you are in your 40s or older and there is no one younger in your business, your business is dying, or something to that effect.

So I approached Braden and Daniele about partnering with me.  I could give them access to land and a market and a few years experience which I hope has been distilled into wisdom.  They could give me youthful energy and help marketing.  Each offer other skills as well, (Braden is an electrician.  Daniele is an elementary teacher).

To their credit, it took them a week to get back to me.  Because I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer as this opportunity I’m presenting them, to quote Thomas Edison, is “dressed in overalls and looks like work!”  But that’s what most opportunities look like, and I think by the end of the first year they will at least know if this is still a dream worth pursuing for them.

The first thing we did as partners was to go to my old partners’ farm sale.  We ended up making a bulky purchase of chicken crates, which we will need if Braden raises broiler chickens as he plans.  After we made the buy we had to figure out how to get the crates home as we only drove a truck to the sale.   I said I would go back to my farm and get my cattle trailer.  They could stay at the sale and bid on a couple more items we were interested in.

When I returned, the sale was over.  By myself I would have been stressed gathering up all the purchases and loading and unloading the trailer.  But they already had our purchases gathered in one spot.  We loaded quickly, drove back to the farm, and unloaded quickly.  I understood what Joel meant by youthful energy.

I like to strike when the iron is hot, and even though I am not ready to sell meat under our new name as we don’t have labels, etc.  I thought it would be good to check out our spot at the Dane County Farmer’s Market at the capital.

We could have just drove up and walked around, but we got on the ball and gathered up some fall decorations to sell.  Daniele made a sign and business cards.  Our stuff didn’t sell very well, but we made some more contacts for Thanksgiving turkeys and started getting our new name out there.

Even though it was a long day with an early start, Braden and Daniele seem as enthused as ever.  I plan to document this partnership with this blog and video, the new medium I’m exploring.  I made a slide show of our first market.

 

 

 


Boar, Boy, Dog

September 21, 2012

I’m kind of sad.  I sold Bewilder today, (pictured).  He was one of the first two herdboars used on my new farm, (Able, the other boar, died).  He weighed 680 lbs. and I received 14 cents per pound for a grand total of 95 dollars.

If he would have been doing his job better I would have kept him longer, but he was no longer consistently settling sows.  It’s amazing how much he grew.  Look at him in this post from last year.  He gained over a pound per day since then, and I’m feeding less grain than I ever have.

Alas, I run a business and I can’t keep any dead weight around even though I would like to.  This is something that is giving Shepherd some distress.  He just can’t continue to butcher his showpigs.  I thought we had reached a fine compromise by designating some species as pets, (goats, alpacas), and other species as business, (cattle, hogs), but this doesn’t work for him.  He gave it a fair shake, showing and butchering hogs at the fair twice, but he doesn’t want to anymore and I’m not going to push him.

We want him to stay in 4-H because we think it’s valuable and he likes it.  I asked him what he thought he could show at the fair.  He said crops, so I’m going to help him grow and sell sweet corn next year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


New Truck, New Haybine

May 6, 2012

I made a couple of new purchases recently.  The truck is a 98 Dodge with 4-wheel drive.  I bought it specifically for hauling my animals to the butcher.  It does have a cassette player though, so I found my old cassette tapes and have been rerocking the 90’s.

The haybine is a New Holland 488, made in the 80’s.  A friend found it for me on Craig’s List.  It’s in great shape.

I paid $8000 for the truck and $2400 for the haybine.  The truck gets terrible mileage, less than ten miles per gallon when pulling the stock trailer.

Sixty miles round-trip to the butcher with about one load per week equals 3,000 miles, and maybe another 1,000 miles picking up supplies, means I may only drive it 4,000 miles per year.  If I get eight miles per gallon, I’ll use 500 gallons of gas.  At $4 per gallon I’ll spend $2000 annually on gas.

As much as I think grazing animals are part of the solution to global-warming, using this much fuel to get my animals to the butcher leads me to believe I’m not part of the solution.  But alas, I’m part of a system.

I would love to keep all my animals in one herd, schedule a kill date at my butcher, then sort all the animals I want to cull and walk them to the butcher once per year.  This isn’t the world I live in, though.


March 2012, Fertilizer Prices

March 14, 2012

We priced fertilizers with our local dealer.  Most prices have increased from last year.  I referred back to last year’s post to compare prices.  All prices are per ton.

Product:     2012 Price  2011 Price  % Change

Urea            $650           $462           +41

Am. Sulfate $418           $343           +22

Potash        $620           $537           +16

MAP            $640           $673           -5


Commodities, Food, Inflation

November 20, 2011

The office of Lynch Livestock, Iowa.  We sold cull sows last week.  Leroy always treats us well, but I was shocked with our price.  He paid $.61 per pound for the heaviest sows weighing over 600 pounds.  It was about $370 per sow.  I can remember when I was pleased with $200 per sow.

Hog, cattle, corn, and other commodity prices are at or near historic highs.  I’ve been trying to understand why this is happening and if it’s going to continue.  Our direct-market meat used to be priced at a premium, paying us for the extra costs involved with hoop-house pork and grass-finished beef.  But the commodity markets have narrowed that premium, and I’m rethinking it.  Maybe grass-finished beef should be cheaper, since the cattle aren’t being fed high-priced corn?

A buddy turned me on to Chris Martenson.  Chris says there is unprecedented levels of money and debt.  Inflation is just more money chasing after the same amount of resources.  The USA and world carry so much debt, there are only two ways out; default, or print more money.  If more money continues to enter circulation, inflation will ensue.  Inflation erodes wealth, because a dollar today buys less in the future.

Is this what’s happening in agriculture?  We are certainly handling more money.  But the costs of our inputs: fertilizer, corn, soybean meal, metal, wood, machinery, have all risen.  Should we save for a rainy day or buy now?

Toasted Tofu sent me a link about how Goldman Sachs created the food crisis.  It said that these huge hedge funds have been buying commodities, and only buying, and this has driven up the price of commodities.  An error in the article says that corn prices just kept going up.  Actually, in the last few years, corn went up to $7 per bushel, dropped back under $4, and then went back up over $7.  There is definitely more volatility.  My grandfather remembers when corn was $1 per bushel, only moving a few cents up or down for years and years.

As you can probably tell by this disjointed post, I don’t really understand what’s happening, or what’s going to happen.  I guess I’ll continue to use this blog to post what is actually happening to me, and the prices I incur and receive.  History always becomes a clear, concise, obvious story, but the future is always uncertain, with only fools and experts making obvious predictions.


March 2011, Fertilizer Prices

March 24, 2011

We priced fertilizers with our local dealer.  Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K) are the macro elements we are usually most concerned with.  I’ll list the fertilizer, the percent of each nutrient, and the price per ton.  The percent of each nutrient is listed in this order: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, and Sulfur.

Urea 46-0-0-0 $462/ton

Ammonium sulfate 21-0-0-24 $343/ton

Monoammonium phosphate (MAP) 11-52-0-0 $673/ton

Potassium chloride (Potash) 0-0-60-0 $537/ton

Which source of nitrogen, Urea or Ammonium sulfate, is a better deal.  We need to calculate the nitrogen cost per pound.

What is 46% of a ton?  Multiply .46 times 2000 equals 920 lbs. nitrogen per ton of Urea.  Divide $462 by 920 lbs. equals $.50 per lb. of nitrogen.

Ammonium sulfate is 21% nitrogen.  .21 times 2000 equals 420 lbs. nitrogen per ton.  Divide $343 by 420 lbs. equals $.82 per lb. of nitrogen.

The Ammonium sulfate is higher priced per lb. of nitrogen.  Ammonium sulfate also contains sulfur, which is needed by plants, and it is more stable, releasing its nitrogen more slowly than Urea.  Urea will volatilize, turn into a gas, in hot, dry, conditions.  Urea is best spread before a rain, or when the ground is cool and moist.  So someone may want to use Ammonium sulfate even though it is more expensive.

I realized when I started writing, this is part of a much larger post about the philosophy of fertilizer.  For our farm, animal manure is our preferred fertilizer.  We just purchased a new manure spreader which I’m excited to use, and will show in a post soon.


Farmer Genius

April 12, 2010

This is a guest post from my good friend, James Miller.  James grew up on a hog and dairy farm near Wiota, Wisconsin.

James authors the blog Quantum Devices Inc.

Comment and let James know what you think of his Dad’s ingenuity.

“How much do you want for the radiator out of the old Chevelle?”

This was my Dad, so I’d like to be able to say that I told him he could just have it.  After all, he was the man who milked cows twice a day, every day, to feed and raise us. He was also the man who paid the $326 for the speeding ticket when I was pulled over for doing 96 miles and hour in the family Bonneville.

I’d like to tell you that I just gave it to him, but I was a kid and went more like:

“How’s twenty bucks sound?”

I never even bothered to ask why he wanted it.

The next day I noticed that there was a section of garden hose strung from the old well to somewhere down in the basement of the house.  Another long section of hose ran back out of the basement into a dry dusty field.

I walked out into the field and saw the hose had been punctured so that, instead of water gushing out the threaded brass end of the hose, it trickled out evenly all along it’s length.

Dad was using the water from the old well to irrigate the field.

I walked back to where the hoses entered the basement and flipped on the cobweb covered ceramic light switch.  I followed the two hoses down the steep and narrow concrete steps. They led to the furnace where they both connected to the old radiator.  The radiator was temporarily fastened to the air intake of the furnace.  The furnace’s blower was running, drawing air in past the fins of the radiator and distributing the cold air though the house.

Dad had made a poor man’s version of air conditioning.

Here were the problems Dad had faced:

It was a particularly hot, dry summer, and it was difficult for mom to cook large “meat and potatoes” meals for the field help in the sweltering kitchen.

There was the even larger problem of no rain, which besides making it difficult to grow the crops, could also lead to wind erosion of the top soil.

Some people may have spent some money on a window air conditioner, or even converted the furnace over to central air.  Some may have even paid someone to come in and irrigate the field.

But Dad, like most good farmers, was both thrifty and clever.  I think that all those who tend to land and cattle have to have a certain level of farmer ingenuity that, in its higher moments, borders on genius.

So what is Farmer Genius?

Farmer Genius doesn’t check out a library book, know how to play an instrument, or the difference between Shakespeare and Voltaire. Since animals can’t read, Farmer Genius doesn’t really concern itself with spelling. I remember mom pointing out an ice cream bucket in the machine shed, saying “Look at that bucket of ‘NIALS’” over there.

Farmer Genius doesn’t know what happens when two vowels go walking.

Instead, Farmer Genius tends to be one of physicality and inherent understanding of math and physics, where one can mentally work out the right answer but not be able to prove with paper and pencil. Farmer Genius understands how a discarded shopping bag blowing across a field can frighten cattle into running through fences.  Farmer genius knows whether an engine is running rich or lean by the smell of the exhaust.  Farmer Genius doesn’t pay too much attention to the labels given to “screwdriver” and “hammer”; but instead sees everything and anything can be part of his toolbox.

During calving, Farmer Genius knows the moment when you need to tie the twine to the calf’s front legs to assist in pulling it from the mother; and do it in a manner that causes no harm to the calf or the cow.

The Farmer has a strict sense of right and wrong, but Genius is the part that always chooses to do right.

Dad’s Farmer Genius solved the problems a hot summer presented by using only what was on hand; an old well, some garden hoses, and a kid who would give up a radiator for twenty bucks.