Posts Tagged ‘Family Farm’

The Time to End Farm Subsidies is Now

I try to avoid discussing and mixing politics with my posts but frankly it’s impossible when government is so heavily involved in agriculture. The very existence of government subsidies (read tax payer $) is what keeps destructive, corporate agriculture alive and thriving. I see it all the time, other small farmers and consumers calling for equal or greater subsidies to small farmers. The thought seems to be that it’s only fair that if the government is going to help the big guys, the little guys should get “help” too. It doesn’t make the farmers more prosperous, it brings in corporate interests who, like hyenas following the scent of blood from a dying animal, see an opportunity to line their pockets and grow their portfolios. This is how we got the Archer Daniel-Midland, Cargill, Tyson, Smithfields and others.

There are several government programs (tax $) that give small, beginning, and minority farmers money to “help” them get started or to implement practices that are conservation minded. Now when we first got started, I did look into some of these government grants and programs. What I found was just more ridiculous bureaucratic foolishness that wastes money, time and resources. For example, I had a well on the property we were leasing. I wanted to explore the possibility of using that well for irrigation and for watering livestock. Our government would not allow for that, they required that  we drill a new well. Not only did they require a new well be drilled, but that we install a pump that is twice as big as we needed!

I don’t advocate for applying for such programs simply because of how infuriatingly wasteful and inefficient I found them to be, but I came to the conclusion that they are unethical. Several years ago, I met a family who farms as their sole source of income after losing their construction business.  They shared with me that they refused to seek any government funds because it was not right for them to take money that had been taken from fellow tax payers for the sake of helping their farm pay for fencing, seeds, equipment and such. I couldn’t agree with them more. If I want to be a farmer, let it be by my own merit, not by looking for a hand out.

 

But back to the whole ending subsidy idea. There are many who will say that I’m an uneducated idiot for suggesting such a thing and that doing so would force farmers out of business and that the corporations would just get stronger.  Well, they’re wrong and I can prove it. Back in the 1980’s, New Zealand was in a financial crisis. Government spending was 44% of the GDP and the national debt was 65% of the GDP. A newly elected government recognized that some drastic had to be done and one of those drastic measures was to eliminate agricultural subsidies immediately. They didn’t slowly phase them out or put them on some 10 year reduction plan. Overnight the money stopped, cold turkey.

New Zealand’s economy is even more dependent on agriculture than the United States and many predicted a disaster. Well a disaster never happened. The corporations didn’t take over, corporations love welfare and since the government wasn’t handing out any more, small family farms stepped up and the corporate conglomerates lost power. Read the following excerpts with links to articles.

“The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can’t afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming.”

<a href=”https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259″>https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259</a>

Today, New Zealand’s farmers are some of the world’s most productive and innovative.

Removing government assistance completely, New Zealand officials say, freed farmers to produce what people really want, and to do so in an efficient way that could turn a profit.

Since the reforms, New Zealand farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, and developed new products, Clark says.

Additionally, productivity in agriculture has grown faster than the New Zealand economy as a whole.

http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/22/what-happened-when-new-zealand-got-rid-of-government-subsidies-for-farmers/

By 1984, New Zealand sheep farming was receiving about 44 percent of its income from government subsidies. Its major product was lamb, and lamb in the international marketplace was selling for about $12.50 (with the government providing another $12.50)per carcass. Well, we did away with all sheep farming subsidies within one year. And of course the sheep farmers were unhappy. But once they accepted the fact that the subsidies weren’t coming back, they put together a team of people charged with figuring out how they could get $30 per lamb carcass. The team reported back that this would be difficult, but not impossible. It required producing an entirely different product, processing it in a different way and selling it in different markets. And within two years, by 1989, they had succeeded in converting their $12.50 product into something worth $30. By 1991, it was worth $42; by 1994 it was worth $74; and by 1999 it was worth $115. In other words, the New Zealand sheep industry went out into the marketplace and found people who would pay higher prices for its product. You can now go into the best restaurants in the U.S. and buy New Zealand lamb, and you’ll be paying somewhere between $35 and $60 per pound.

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Rolling-Back-the-Government-Lessons-from-New-Zealand-April-2004.pdf

If you ask me, this is what the American Farmer needs.

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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.

So You Want to be a Farmer… Revisited

Today a friend of mine shared a post by a small farmer in West Virginia on Facebook. It was about the passion and ideals that drive one to farm, and about what to pursue and what to let go. Small sustainable farming is starting to gain popularity as a new way of life for suburbanites, city folk, as well as those who think of themselves as country but have decided to start growing food. Sadly there are a number who jump in without realizing just what it is they are getting into, and within a couple of years time they dust themselves off after falling face first more times than they can bear and go back to their old life. Maybe to try again later but they are definitely changed with a greater understanding that farming isn’t for everyone, namely themselves.

So here’s a list of free advice from a guy who is still something of a newbie with 4+ years under his belt.

#1. Consider your family first. Not mom, not dad, or grandma or grandpa (unless they are considering joining you), but your spouse if you are in that stage of life. If your spouse is not on board, just don’t do it. Garden, keep a rabbit hutch, get a couple of laying hens, but don’t move her or him onto a farm. Unless mom and dad are going to GIVE (not loan) startup money or land, keep them out of the picture too. Hopefully they’ll at the very least support you by buying your products and not expecting a family discount.

The Seedorfs

The Seedorfs

#2.Pick a passion. A passion, not several. Pursue it, perfect it, and you will profit from it. After that, add to it. I believe the very best farms are multi dimensional but don’t try to be Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms over night or in the next decade. What I mean is, pick one, maybe two products to sell (I suggest veggies and eggs). Get a milk cow and or pig for yourself, but only if you’re really able to.

Our pasture produced, free range eggs.

#3. Be brutally honest with yourself, but don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all a risk so be ready to fall flat on your face. Hopefully you’ll fall in manure instead of fire ants.

#4. You don’t NEED a tractor. Life is easier with one, but life is even better without debt. So if you buy an old $2000 Ford Jubilee (just an expample), know that making repairs will be a regular occurrence. Friends of mine got a nice big tractor with a front end loader on a trade but it was months of mechanic bills before they could use it reliably. You do need a truck.

Tilling the first garden.

#5. Find someone local to hire for tractor and heavy equipment work. You can get a lot done for $500-$1000 if he really knows what he is doing. 

#6. Before you do any of this, find a few local farms to support and volunteer your labor. You will learn more than any book, class or seminar can ever teach you.

Help from friends.

Help from friends.

#7. Be frugal but don’t buy cheap. Cheap hoses bust so get commercial grade. Rubber boots at Walmart are $20 but farmers live in boots, so get some that will last a year (I wear Bogs).

#8. Your first livestock should not be breeding stock. Dairy cows/goats are an exception, you have to breed them to get milk, just make sure that first few you buy are already bred and hire out a bull or buck or an AI tech.

#9. Price appropriately. Don’t try to match the grocery stores. Be familiar with what other farmers who’ve been around a while sell for. Anyone selling eggs for $4/doz isn’t even paying for their feed.

#10. Do not expect to be 100% grass fed or to produce all your own feed unless you have 100+ acres. We

Chaffhaye Alfalfa.

don’t feed grain to our milk cows, but we import a lot of hay and alfalfa. If you are raising any animal for production, you will have a significant feed bill.

#11. Expect discouragement, disappointment, and sadness. But take heart. There is nothing more satisfying than to hear someone say “thank you for what you do” and then to bite into that first morsel of food that you produced.

#12. Be transparent. Tell people what you do and why. Be ready to answer lots of questions.

#13. Fence. No matter how good your fences are, add electric fence. Electric fence is invaluable in keeping your livestock in, and protecting them and your garden from10306480_852392631496767_5349172154882013398_n predators and vermin. You will get shocked, I’ve lost count of the jolts I’ve received. You can build good strong fence from pallets.IMG_0975

 

 

 

 

#14. Make your own compost. No commercially produced product will ever compare to what you make yourself. Wood chips are free, leaves are free, and manure is

Making Compost.an invaluable byproduct of eggs, milk, and pork chops.

 

 

 

There’s really so much more I could say but this is a fair summary I think. Farming is a lot of work (think 12 to 18 hour days, 365 a year). There will be critics. There will be as many dissatisfied customers, or more, as loyal ones. Some folks just don’t get it. You are already brave, daring, and courageous. Make sure that you are also wise, fair, and industrious. You can do it.

Oh, one last thing, close the gate.

IMG_20120106_171918

Fun for all ages

Why Would You Get Your Food From Us?

There are a variety of reasons to get your meat from a small family farm such as ours. Here’s a list of of our standards and values.

No subsidies, grants, or other tax payer funded “freebies” for us. Corporate welfare is rampant in agriculture which creates an illusion of low prices. Typically, the larger the “farm” (think Tyson, Pilgrim, Smithfield) they greater their tax breaks and handouts. Sadly many small farms get suckered into participating in government funded conservation programs in order to get their own slice of the pie. While conservation efforts are commendable, and we strive to have as positive an impact on the environment as possible, I don’t believe that we should be seeking to take hard earned money from fellow tax payers to do so and further contributes to a national debt that continues to spiral like a never ending whirlpool.

Speaking of conservation and the environment, we seek to be the best stewards of our natural resources that we can be. Just because we have opposable thumbs and the gift of being at the top of the food chain, does not mean that we can rape and destroy the ecology for our gain. We do not apply chemical fertilizers to our soil, we do not spray any insecticides, and we do not use any herbicides on our farm. A farm should also serve as a sanctuary to all manner of insects, birds, and other wildlife. Don’t get me wrong, we do use measures to control vermin such as rats and mice or else we would be overrun but poison has no place here.

We believe in raising food as naturally as possible for the utmost in nutrient density. When we work within the design of nature, high yields of nutritionally superior food is possible. We fertilize only with compost and and animal manures. We allow our animals to demonstrate their inherent behaviors and instincts. Cows are ruminants and should only feed on forages such as grasses and legumes. Chickens are omnivores and should be allowed to hunt the pasture for bugs. Pigs are also omnivores and should not be housed in barns on concrete but should be outdoors with access to woods and pasture. Biodiversity is of the utmost importance to a healthy ecology and it’s elimination by the modern food system is causing untold damage.

We’re local and support local. We do business with other local businesses so when you support us, your dollars stay within your community rather than supporting the bottom line of a foreign corporation or to fund the dividends of Wall Street investors. We also do business with other small farms and even work with them at times.

We believe in animal welfare. It is our duty to care for them and treat them with respect and dignity. Just because they are destined to be our food, does not mean they should be denied compassion and humane treatment. When price and convenience are your sole standards for your meats, you are supporting a system that subjects animals to cruel, indecent conditions.

It is up to you the type of world future generations will inherit.

NoWeirdStuffNatRaised360

East West Farm Header

Calling All Good Samaritans

Our new friend from China, Yang needs some help. Below is a sample of one of the many emails I am sending to farms to see if we can scare up someone to host him for the rest of his stay in the US. He is also in desperate need of funds since the owner of the farm he worked at in Hawaii with held about three months of his pay. If you can help in any way, be it by taking him in or making a donation for the remainder of his travel costs, please let me know.

It was wonderful to have Yang here with us.

It was wonderful to have Yang here with us.

Hello,

This is Daniel Seedorf of East West Farm in Marietta, GA. We are a small family farm raising Dexters & Jerseys for milk and meat as well as heritage breed chickens, rabbits and pigs. I am reaching out to other small farms to try to find a last minute host for our friend from China, Yang (pronounced Young). Through the Worldwide Farmer’s Exchange, Yang has spent the past year working on a tomato farm in Hawaii. He’d thought that it was organic, but on arrival he found that it was not. I fear that the farmer there has severely taken advantage of him and possibly other students by withholding pay. I am actively seeking a resolution through the WFE to ensure Yang gets the money that is owed to him.

So why am I contacting you? Yang has until the end of the month to travel the US and visit with other small family farms so that he can help grow the local food movement that is starting to stir up in China. I am asking if you would be interested in hosting this honest, hard working young man and teaching him a little about how you operate your farm and what you’ve found to be the key to your success. Yang leaves for Washington, DC Tuesday morning and has a room for two nights at the Washington International Student Center. I’ve already checked and there seems to be a couple of bus stations in towns near you. Yang is especially interesting in dairy and I can tell you he’s very comfortable with cows and has worked with mine wonderfully. Please feel free to call me at the number below and let me know if there seems to any way you can help me ensure Yang’s overall experience is the best that it can be. If you do take him in for a few days, I promise you will be sad to see him go. We’ve grown quite fiond of him. I do hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you so much for your time.

Daniel

East West Farm
Daniel & Katie Seedorf
3842 Ernest Barrett Parkway
Marietta, GA 30064
678-223-3869
EASTWESTFARM.COM
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East West Farm is now on Word Press

So here’s our first post to our new WordPress site. We’ll import our blog posts from blogger so that all the new followers and fans that visit us here can see how we arrived at our present position. We are really looking forward to the opportunities to grow our online presence as an opportunity to further our mission to educate people about food, the environment and animals. We don’t claim to be authorities on any subject, but  we want to share what we learn from others and from our real life experiences.