My husband, Matt, and I are devouring a book, right now, called You Can Farm – The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise, by Joel Salatin.
It is hands down the best business book I’ve read – ever! Instead of filling my mind with theory and a ton of technical MBA-type terminology, this book gets down to the nitty gritty, practical, hands-on, nuts and bolts business of getting a small farming enterprise off of the ground. Forget about drawing up 40-page business plans. Forget about raising buzillions in capital through the SBA. Joel’s practical and down-to-earth advice makes you believe that, no matter how much land or assets you’ve got, success is totally possible starting right now.
One of his 10 Commandments for Succeeding on the Farm is, “Do Something.” “Even if it’s wrong”, he says, “Do something.”
He believes that failure helps you zero in a little closer on success.
That is great advice, and we’re taking it to heart.
So, we’ve begun doing a few, new things out at our Happy Homestead, Whit’s Acres.
For starters, we’ve decided to try our hand at raising pasture-raised broiler chickens. We’re expecting our first flock any day, now. As we did with our layers, we’re going to be learning all of the ins and outs of raising these birds as we go along – especially when it comes to processing time (well, I think I may let Matt earn the Master’s Degree in that area).
Also in the chicken area, we’ve decided to increase the size of our laying flock, so that we can sell more free-range, pastured eggs. Our goal is to sell eleven dozen eggs per week.
We’re now making our own feed mix for our laying hens. We just weren’t happy with the run-of -the-mill feed that we were giving our girls because we knew that it was laced with genetically modified corn and soy. Whatever the hens eat, we eat, and we just couldn’t abide by eating eggs that we knew were contaminated with GMOs. We also couldn’t justify the cost of using organic feed, so we turned to the internet where we found a smattering of different homemade chicken formulas. We settled on a mix that is derived from three different sources, is corn and soy free, and is made with whole grains and seeds, which is better, nutritionally, for the chickens, too.
Since chickens are omnivores, we’ve been seeding their pen area with forage grasses, clover, and brassicas. In addition to providing high-energy food for the birds, it helps cut down on the total amount of grains and seed that we need to feed them, as well as increasing the nutritional content of their eggs (you can see a huge difference in the way pastured eggs look – they have really dark orange yolks).
We’re also going to try our hand at raising more grain and seed crops for the chickens in an effort to save even more money on feed costs. The straw from the grain will work as a wonderful carbon crop to add to the compost bin, as well.
Another things we’ve decided to “do” is double the size of our garden, so that we can increase the amount of space devoted to income crops. Our short term goal is to sell 10 “shares” of produce per week – we’re currently doing about 5 – (this includes weekly subscriptions, fruit stand sales, and custom orders). Our long term goal is to provide for 35-40 shares per week, which would bring in a nice second income for our family. If done right, we can expect to do this on a little over an acre of land.
Finally, we’ve picked up a new dog for ourselves from the SPCA – a dog that will, hopefully, “carry his weight”, as Mr. Salatin says, by serving as our trusty rodent patrol. His name is Cashew, and goes by “Cash”. He is a wired-hair terrier, one that is bred for hunting varmint – exactly what we need out here, with all of the gophers, squirrels, rabbits, mice, and rats that threaten our precious crops and food stuffs. Say “hello!” to our newest addition. Ain’t he just the cutest thing???
As we continue to learn and grow in the area of farming and entrepreneurship, not only is it our goal to provide our family with a small source of income, but share, with others, from our bounty, and become the best stewards that we can possibly be of the 2.8 acres, this Happy Homestead that we call Whit’s Acres, that God has blessed us with. Hopefully, we will live up to the challenge that Mr. Salatin has given us in his wonderful book, You Can Farm!