Flowers from last week’s farmers market
I haven’t really had a lot to say about the farm lately, have I? That’s mostly because things are relatively quiet around here. Which is good, since June & July are so busy for our kids!
Sure, the pasture has flooded 3 times (and fence has been rebuilt 3 times.) There’s one particular steer that has somehow wound up in the garden. Twice. The third batch of 150 chicks arrived today. But nobody’s calving or farrowing, the garden is just starting to crank into high gear, chores are the easiest and least time-consuming of any time of the year.
One thing we’ve been dealing with is these crazy grain markets. It’s not really possible to try and time anything – if the animals are hungry they’ve got to be fed, even if corn is $7.03/bu today. Yes, we really did pay $7.03/bu for a load of corn last month. In the month of June we made 3 feed purchases from our local elevator. Between the first and last purchases corn went up $1/bu, and soybean meal went up $3.20/hundred. I about passed out when I opened our bill. How to deal with such rapid and dramatic increases in our costs?
We didn’t raise prices on chickens last year, and we should have raised them 20 cents/#. So this year we raised them 30 cents/#. As the price of grain has risen this summer we’ve raised our price on chicken 2 more times, 10 cents/# each time. So now we’re 50 cents/# over what we were last year. And part of me feels bad about that, because I know what it’s like to try and feed a family on a budget. The lovely thing is that people are entirely understanding. “Well of course you have to raise your prices,” they say.
Despite the increases in price we’ve made, we’re making half the profit per bird we used to 3 or 4 years ago. So even with grain prices back down a bit lately, we probably won’t readjust our chicken price downward.
We’re waiting to set a final on-the-hoof price for pork and beef until closer to butchering time, when we can see what we’ve got into them. But it’s hard when people inquire about ordering a whole hog or quarter of beef. Of course they want to know what it’s going to cost them, and I hate saying “I don’t know yet.”
The main farm activity right now is attending our 2 farmers markets. With the economy I wasn’t sure what kind of year we would have there. We’re first-timers at our Saturday market, so it’s hard to tell. But this is our second year at our Friday market, and we’ve already exceeded last year’s total gross sales and net profit for the entire season. This is encouraging, especially considering how much our feed and gas costs have increased over last year. Of course looking at gross sales is a little bit flukey, because simply raising prices increases your gross sales for the same amount of meat. And of course net profit is probably the most important, but doesn’t give you a true picture of sales volume.
One thing I haven’t done is compare total pounds of meat sold last year compared to this year. I know it’s higher, but the computer scientist me wants some numbers. Matt’s been keeping track of this year’s pounds, number of packages, and gross sales broken down by beef, pork & chicken and also by market location broken down by week. So Madeline’s going to input last year’s numbers into a spreadsheet for me and then we can compare. I think for our business pounds of meat sold will be the truest measure of our business for year-to-year comparisons.
So that’s the state of the farm, so far this farmer’s market season! The unpredictable grain markets get me down, but our farmer’s market customers keep me optimistic. I’ve got a few ideas in my head about possible changes to our business for next year. But that will have to wait for another post
2 years ago: