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At the beginning of every year we make goals that we like to accomplish for the coming year. Projects to start or complete, financial goals, adding animals, selling animals and so forth. This year we have a resounding theme: simplify.
When we started our farm, we wanted to try it all. Do all the things! Get all of the animals! We knew we couldn’t do it all, but wanted to see what we did like. We had experience with poultry, rabbits, dairy goats and gardening. We added pigs, sheep, cattle, dairy cows and meat goats to our farm. In addition to the garden, we added an orchard. Now that we’ve had these animals for a while, it’s time to look at which direction to go. It’s time to simplify.
Wait, simplifying the simple life?
The “simple life”, which doesn’t always seem so simple, needs a reevaluation every once in a while. Here are some things we took into consideration:
What absolutely must be done to keep your farm running? Basic daily chores and the daily routine around the farm are part of this. What else can be done to make our life easier, simpler? Our property had existing fence when we purchased it, but in very bad shape. Putting up new fence is an ongoing project on our farm and probably will be on the list for quite a while. But with every pasture we fence with good fence, the easier and simpler our life gets. Continuing to put up new fence is one of our goals this year.
Another essential here is continuing to work on our house, our goal is to move into the basement this year. We’re very close and seems quite doable. It’s a juggling act building a farm and a house at the same time, but we’re getting it done bit by bit.d I’m confident that this is a goal that we will be able to reach.
Do what you love
Do you enjoy the animals on your farm, and the dirt on your hands as you work in the garden? It seems like a crazy question. If you chose this life, of course you love what you do! Our goal with living this lifestyle is slowing down, knowing where our food comes from and enjoying the sense the accomplishment of doing something meaningful. We have attained this goal. However some farm animals are less enjoyable to care for than others. We have enjoyed all of our animals with the exception of one. Pigs. We were so excited to add pigs initially, we had big plans to have a breeding pair and sell piglets as well as pork, but the market here is saturated with piglets, we practically have to give them away! On top of that, we just don’t enjoy them. Their only redeeming factor is bacon. We will continue to raise feeder pigs. No more boars and sows here!
On the flip side, we have found that we love working with cattle. We practice intensive rotational grazing, so we move our cattle to a new paddock every day. Spending time with the cattle during the daily moves is something that we both enjoy. We plan to continue to grow our cattle herd and look forward to it!
To market, To market
Is there a market for what you raise? Prices always fluctuate, but if you can’t break even, it’s time to rethink things. We have a few animals that we do enjoy, but haven’t found a profitable market for them. With the goal of simplifying things, we have decided to let meat goats go for now. There is definitely a place for meat goats on our homestead, just not at this time.
Our small community has a farmer’s market and a small health food store, which are great places to start looking for a place to sell your products. To make good money, we really need to go to the bigger cities in the surrounding areas to sell our products. We haven’t done this yet, but are strongly considering this in the near future. One of our money makers in Colorado was selling eggs. We sold eggs at the local farmer’s market here as well, but soon learned that everyone had eggs to sell and most were selling their eggs at extremely low prices. We couldn’t compete, so decided to bow out of that market and keep enough hens to collect eggs for our family.
We are learning all that we can about marketing our products so our farm will be successful. Doing what we love help make this process easier, but knowing what sells and how to sell it is crucial.
Could our time be better spent elsewhere? The priority list around here is always changing. We can have a plan of how we will spend our week, but something inevitably will come up and blow that plan out of the water. Being flexible is part of living on a farm.
Last summer I planted a market garden with full intentions of selling produce at the local farmer’s market like we had done the year before. It soon became apparent that a better use of my time was helping Travis work on our straw bale house. I was able to can quite a bit of produce from the garden for us and we had a bumper crop of watermelons despite my change of focus. A market garden will happen again, once our house is finished and I can devote more time to it. We will be more successful when I’m not feeling spread thin.
We are big believers of diversifying, we don’t want to rely on just one product. We also don’t want to feel like we aren’t doing a good job at anything because we are so busy that we simply don’t have time to do our very best. There has to be a balance and we’re figuring that balance out.
Going into this new year, our focus will be on finishing our straw house house, learning high tunnel gardening and continuing to raise cattle and sheep. It feels great to have a good handle on what direction we’re going and have some goals to reach. Bring on the new year!
What goals do you have for this coming year?