Why Do Small Farmers Fail?

As a small farmer, I have been alarmed at just how many small farms close down. I mean with all the hype and excitement over eating real food, connecting with food, and becoming more aware about what we are eating, you’d think all these new startup farms would be wild successes, but they’re not and I predict this will be a continuing trend.

I was listening to a farm entrepreneur podcast recently and this statistic blew me away, 80% of small farms will fail in 2 years and in five years it becomes 98%! When I heard that I had to rewind it to make sure I heard it right. The reason? Cashflow, plain and simple. The reasons for the cashflow problems vary; a catastrophe strikes that they can’t recover from, their chosen specialty is too narrow of a niche market, they have no marketing/business plan, or family (usually spouse). I think most often it is a combination of these but the one that seems to be a most common denominator is the family/spouse factor. I’ve heard of cases w

here one spouse was willing to give it a go but after moving out to the country, watching the bank account dwindle, and not too distant memories of how life was before keep surfacing.

Several years ago, a fellow named Kevin came out to volunteer and help out on the farm. One day while we were cleaning out the chick brooder, Kevin posed a question that went something like this, “What would you tell someone who wants to farm but his/her spouse isn’t into it?” My reply was, “If you love your wife, don’t start a farm. Nothing will test a relationship like farm life.” I think Kevin only came back one or two times after that. I don’t mean to be a gloomy gus about it, but I have seen marriages and family ties broken because of a failed farm venture.

Here’s a list of farms who in our short existence have either completely ceased operation or downsized to the point that they are no longer operating as a business.

One farm made award winning sheep’s milk cheese closed their creamery and sold all their sheep at the beginning of 2017. Apparently award winning cheese doesn’t mean you’re destined for success, even if you’re in Chattahoochee Hills.

A vegetable farm with a growing CSA lasted about 4 years until severe flooding destroyed their vegetable farm. They had just expanded and built a greenhouse near Rockmart, GA.

Another vegetable farm in Douglasville, GA closed up not long after I had met with them about partnering with us to sell their organic vegetables.

A farm in Ball Ground, GA was a small family farm focused on pastured poultry and pastured pork. They closed down about a year ago and I got the impression that they as a family were just worn out.

Most recently a small farm founded by friends of mine also in Ball Ground, just closed up after three years. They blessed us with an eggmobile complete with chickens.

Finally, one of the most horrendous instances was the family who took over our lease at our previous location. I gave them a good deal of advice that they did not follow and a year later, they had vacated the property, abandoning not only their lease but also goats, pigs, and chickens. Sadly several of these animals starved before they could be rescued.

So how are new farmers supposed to succeed? What does the successful beginning farmer look like. Well, that’s going to be for another post because I need to get busy doing the things necessary to keep East West Farm afloat.

Advertisements

Blizzard 2017

For us in the South, this is a blizzard. Because this is such a rare occurrence, I took a walk around the pastures and climbed up to Cannon Ball Gap where I explored some ruins.

We get some enjoyment from the snow for the first few hours and it stops being fun after the heifer escapes because the electric fence has been grounded out, or the chickens fill their feeder with shavings. Any way, I hope you enjoy the following photos.

Are you a new, beginning or soon to be farmer? Do you have the necessary tools to market and operate your farm business? Is your farm flourishing or floundering? Most new farm operations fail in 2-5 years. This is where we get our helping hand.

Farm Marketing Business Academy – Small Farm Nation – Farm Marketing & Business Courses

https://smallfarmnation.com/academy/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03sJO3kXwb0&feature=share

A friend of mine from way back drove across the country to deliver a very precious package.

Children are our most important product.

Yeah I know, children aren’t a “product”, but of everything that comes out of our farming endeavors, our kids (or the adults the will become) have the highest value. I don’t say that just because they are my kids and I’m biased. It’s a sentiment that is common throughout agriculture. Farm kids as a whole become some incredible people. This didn’t become evident to me until I heard it from a dairyman I was buying a cow from several years ago. He’s the one who told me the most important thing we produce is children.

Even if none of them choose the farm life, I’m confident that we’ll have raised some of the most honest, ethical, and compassionate people.

Here’s a few photos of our kids at work.

img_0293

img_0228-1img_0263-18448aed8-8746-4da9-9f2d-0ef857b559ce-1img_0096-1img_0081img_0077-1

img_0076-1img_1407-1

No More “NON-GMO” Feed

As of 2018, we will no longer be feeding feeds that are NON-GMO. Oh, we’re not switching to GMOs if that’s what you’re thinking, we’re switching to Organic.

Some folks make the mistaken assumption that because Genetically Modified Organisms aren’t permitted in certified Organic products, on equates (or comes close to) the other. That’s far from the truth. I’ve recently learned the truth and it makes me sick. I have long believed that organic feedstuff contains far superior nutrition and would be the best choice for our animals, namely the ones we would be eating. We actually fed organic feed several years ago and suffered a financial loss when one of our freezers that was packed full of organic fed, pasture raised chicken quit working. We estimated that we lost about $3000 and for a very small operation, that was a huge loss. It was a loss big enough that we became hyper-cautious with our budget and sought out an alternative.

When I found Non-GMO feed from Tucker Milling, I thought I had found the holy grail. Well not holy but I believed this was the answer to all of our feed problems, but not just ours, this could be the answer for all small livestock producers. There’s no gmo corn, gmo soy, gmo cottonseed, gmo rape (canola) and it was so much more affordable! I thought that I would never look back, but here I am. After feeding it for several years, I can definitely say that it does not deliver anywhere close to the nutrition that an organic feed does. First of all, the birds we raised did not perform as well as the organic fed birds we raised in the past. They seem to be much more susceptible to environmental extremes and were not as robust. Plus, I have been able to do a near side by side comparison between the birds we raised this year and the ones raised by a friend who feeds organic.

Now when I first made the decision that we were not going to use feed from Tucker, I initially considered other Non-GMO feeds. Both Hiland Naturals and Resaca Sun Feeds are certified by the Non GMO Project. I was speaking with a friend about this and she shared with me an experience she had while picking up feed from Resaca’s feed mill. While sitting in their parking lot, she observes a tanker truck pull in, on that truck is the name  Monsanto. This tanker is delivering Glysophate (Roundup) and she watches as they fill the tank of a spay rig on a tractor, which then goes out into Resaca Sun’s fields and starts spraying. After hearing this, I called the Non GMO Project to ask if they certify products regardless of pesticide/herbicide use. Their answer, “Yes we do.” So even though they certify a product as being GMO free, it very well could (and probably does) contain grains that were sprayed with Roundup prior to harvest. Here’s a video I did on our YouTube channel about this.

So what are we supposed to do? How can I feed something I now know to be poisonous? I can’t. There is no other choice but to go Organic.

Companion Planting Information and Chart – The Permaculture Research Institute

It’s never too late to start a garden, but you have to arm yourself with knowledge first if you are like me and you don’t have an elder family member to go to who grew up gardening. We’ve gone from a nation of vegetable gardeners, who would never starve provided we have land and seed, to a nation full of lemming-like simpletons who don’t know what to do if left to our own devices. We’ve lost valuable knowledge in the course of a hundred years and now we must seek it out. Below is an excerpt from a good website about companion plants, this is extremely important for a successful garden. Are you ready to get dirty?

An updated chart of basic companion plants we’ve grown successfully over the years We recently received an e-mail from a gentleman in China looking for… … what plants you may have in your garden that you can transplant next to your rose or your apple tree to see how they nurture each other over time. As a result I thought I would post our own updated list of companion plants […]

Source: Companion Planting Information and Chart – The Permaculture Research Institute