Archive for the ‘East West Farm’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

New Pickup Site 

We are now offering a new pickup site for our pasture raised, soy free, non GMO fed chicken as well as our pork, which is raised to the same standards. To place an order, go to our products page, fill out an order form. 

The new pickup location is 2559 HWY 138 SW Conyers GA 30094. 

All dates and times can be viewed on our events calendar. 

Pallet Projects

Pallets are awesome and scoring any in usable condition is like an unexpected payday. Here is how I built a gate to the new Rabbit/Chicken/Piglet/Calf house. Continue reading

Metamorphosis

If you follow us closely on Facebook or subscribe to our emails, you’ve heard the news that we are moving. This is due to a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is financial and physical exhaustion. When we first chose this location 3 plus years ago, we believed we could make it work by renting the small house that was also on the property and renting a portion of our pasture to board a couple of horses. As far as growing food goes, our primary focus was going to be on feeding our family and then selling our excess. After putting in 18 hour days for several weeks fixing up the house, replacing all the walls and the complete floor system, we offered up the cottage (as we call it) for rent. After a few potential tenants fell through and then a brief stint with a tenant from the netherworld, I realized that the caliber of person who was willing to live in such a small house might not the type of person I would trust around my family or our animals. Sure there’s plenty of folks who are moving into tiny houses, but they are few and most are wanting one to own, not rent. I also abandoned the prospect of pasture boarding horses as I met with those interested and found it wasn’t going to be compatible with our pasture based farming.

With these developments, we realized that we needed to farm more than homestead. At the time, the common pastured chicken practice was to raise commercial hybrids in chicken tractors, fed on a conventional feed of GMO Soy and Corn. The best thing we could say about the feed was that it was customized to not include antibiotics. The birds grew great and we made a decent profit selling them for $15 each. Then I started to learn. People started asking about the feed ingredients and if we would raise chicken without soy. The only way to do it was to mix our own feed or to feed a Soy-free organic feed. I found a Co-op that ordered bulk feed from North Carolina. When I spoke with the farmer who coordinated the orders, he talked me out of feeding organic saying he no long fed it because it wasn’t profitable. He was almost right. There is a number of folks who WILL pay the price of an organically fed chicken, we just couldn’t find enough of them.

I always wanted milk cows for my family and myself. I knew that if we were going to start providing milk to those who seek it, we would have to be 100% married to the farm. Milking a cow solely for one’s self and family allows for once a day milking and letting the calf take care of the rest.  The only way to get a break or to be able to tend to other family business, if milk is going to be a product offered from the farm, is to have deeply loyal friends who want to farm one day and are willing to take care of the farm and milking duty. Fortunately we have been blessed with such folks as Tiffany and Korey Wood, Sandra Walker, Amanda Conner, Jill Hutchinson, and Mary Jo Beck who have also been die hard regulars for nearly every single chicken day as well as relief milkers. But it’s not just the milking of cows every morning, every evening, rain or shine, sickness or health. It’s learning about nutrition, breeding, training and buying appropriate milk cows. Just the search for a milk cow is arduous and time consuming. They’re not exactly being offered for sale on the Marietta Square.

The more I read on pastured pork, the more I want to raise pigs. I struck up a deal with my mother to keep a boar and sow at her place where piglets would be born and then I would grow them out. This just proved to almost be too much for my mom as these hogs grew to be several hundreds of pounds and while very tame, if they got it in their head to roam, roam they did. Sadly, early one morning, they made it into a neighbor’s yard who shot first and asked no questions whatsoever. We did raised up one litter and this past week we harvested the feeders and I see a much better profit margin than raising chickens or milking cows but we shan’t quit either. We’ll raise fewer chickens and for the time being, we aren’t going to add any more cows to the herd.

So we find ourselves very much at square one due to the loss of investment in breeding stock, a new cow who just had her first calf and has yet to let us have any of her milk, a change in ideals on how chickens should be raised, and then just realizing the fact that family has to be considered first. My amazing and incredible wife never dreamed of a farm with cows, chickens, rabbits, and certainly not pigs. She’s already a mother, teacher, and care giver to three children and she does it all on top of farming single-handedly every third day I am working a 24 hour shift at the fire station. I fear that I’ve asked too much of her.

So the news is we’re moving 30 miles west to family land, we have someone to lease the Cobb County farm for vegetable production and we will still be able to use it as a drop site. Our current farm members who choose to may still pick up just as they have been, or they may choose to pickup at our new location. While the winter is usually a time for slowing down and relaxing before the busyness of spring, we’ve much to do to get everything ready to move.

So there it is. We’re changing. We’re still the same, but we’re a little different. We’ve matured. We’ve undergone a metamorphosis.

 

Metamorphosis

Final Chicken Day and Veggies!

Click the link below to read our latest email.

 

Final Chicken Day and Veggies!.