Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taking the next (baby) step

As I'm sure there are people in my life reading my last blog post (Lucas? Dad?) and wondering what I'm getting myself into now, I wanted to reassure you that despite my enthusiasm, I'm doing my best to be smart about this small farm gig. So while I think it'd be noble and admirable and exciting to launch a 50 family vegetable CSA, raise heritage turkeys and sell honey, all while knitting handspun alpaca wool sweaters, that's not going to happen this year. I'm also not going to start tapping maple and birch trees, growing grapes or getting any more animals (though I've decided I definitely want to add 'shepherd' to my farming resume. There, I've said it. I want to raise sheep.)

While I'll write more over the next few days and weeks as I start sorting out The Plan, I can pretty much guarantee that year one will be filled with getting some big projects off our 'to do' list, before I even contemplate hanging out our farm business shingle. We've got fences and paddocks to move and fix, run-ins and a hoophouse to build, a water supply system to figure out, a barn that needs cleaning out & repairing, etc. -- and that's before I put any seeds in the ground! And there's still that writing/editing career to manage and those two farm kids to raise. But as we're making decisions about this year, I'll be considering 'expansion' plans for the future.

Besides all the fixing and building that needs to be done, I want to use this year to get really good at growing some of the basic high demand food items, start our orchard, get some bees and optimize our current farm practices; whether I sell anything this year is anyone's guess -- at this point, at least. I'll probably put up a roadside sign (our farm is close to a main thruway for cottagers) directing folks to a farm gate stand and/or I may get a booth at the local farmer's market, which is very small but would serve as a great way to network and gauge interest for future years. Or maybe not. People who want to eat will always need farmers and it's not like I plan on being anywhere else in the next two -- or 25 -- years.


Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

Wow, I'm excited to hear about your soon-to-be progress. Sounds like you're being very smart about the planning phase. Keep us posted!

Annie's Granny said...

Whew! That made me tired just reading about it!

Mama Pea said...

For your farm stand or booth at the farmer's market, you'll get the greatest return from berries . . . raspberries or strawberries. Of all the things we've sold, people are willing to pay the most for what they consider a treat such as fresh berries. You'd think carrots or potatoes or onions would/could create more actual "food" on the table, but people feel those staples should be cheap and don't want to pay much for them. My point is if you're going to go to the trouble to raise a crop to sell, get the maximum return on your time, work and effort. (Goldang, I'm bossy tonight!)

Fiona said...

Will do, Ruth -- and thanks!

Granny -- me too!

Mama Pea - not bossy at all! And thanks so much for your input. I'm absolutely interested in learning what's going to give us the most bang for our buck. The reason i mentioned grapes is one of the presenters at the conference mentioned that grapes are Canada's #1 fruit import and people are willing to pay top dollar; berries are up there, too. You're also right about people not valuing staples such as carrots & potatoes, which drives the prices way down. I've already seen this with eggs... I don't know how many times I've heard, "But eggs cost X at the grocery store..." There's a big strawberry farm nearby, but I was considering black raspberries for next year. Looks like I'm on the right track, so please keep the tips coming!

Mr. H. said...

I like that you will be starting an orchard...that is always a great idea. We have been procrastinating about bees for years now and still have not made the leap, I look forward to hearing more about this. And sheep, how exciting.:)

mtnchild said...

Oh boy Fiona, how do you have room for all those ideas in your head. They are all wonderful do-ables! Will you also shear the sheep for wool to knit with, in your spare time of course. LOL

You go Girl!!

Erin said...

Fiona, I agree with Mama Pea, other things sell, but berries is what gets the people there! Starting to be signs for eggs too, down this way. I would have no problem driving up to about 15-20 mins for fresh eggs and I know many people are starting to feel the same way. When the berries come it and you are selling, make sure to have a flyer that has items that "will be coming in" and the approximate dates to check back for i.e. "look for heirloom tomatoes in July" or, "don't forget to come back in time for the pumpkins", or "bring your kids to pet the goat", etc....People will hang this stuff on the fridge and see your flyer all the time and so will their friends!

Fiona said...

Mr. H -- I'll be writing about the orchard soon. I just put in a pre-order with a nursery in Quebec.. I'm just waiting to find out if they have the varieties I want in stock. Stay tuned!

Yvette -- ideas are the easy part! It's the implementation-without-losing-my-mind is what's tricky! :)

Erin -- thanks for your input, too. We've got a solid list of folks who buy our eggs, and we did very little advertising, which is great! My concern about the berries, raspberries especially, is our small patch was decimated by Japanese Beetles last year. I don't know if the canes were old and susceptible or what, but until I get that figured out, I'm hesitant to grow more. Great idea about the flyers, too. I'm sure the goats will love the attention!!

Dr Bruce said...

Sheep...I can hardly wait!!!!

The Barefoot Crofter said...

Hi again - just got a few moment so i am scrolling through your blog. Agree about the berries, but according to the growers on the Crofter's Market stall in Stornoway - they can never supply enough carrots. They literally fly off the stall and are gone by mid morning. That may be just here, mind you.
Good luck anyway. Sheep are great fun, and I have ordered bees for this summer. xx

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