So far

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:


Salad bar

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4 Responses to So far

  1. Everything is up – we grow about 2 acres of corn, which is enough for us to feed our 10 head of cattle (and steers, and heifers and…you get the idea) with leftover corn each year, but prices on bean meal and mineral are going through the roof. Glad you’re hanging in there. Hopefully the hard rains won’t hit you again!Kris

  2. Bobbi says:

    Wow – sounds like you are super busy! I wouldn’t feel guilty about raising the price of the chickens – everything else is going up. I’m having to pay a little more for the organic chicken I buy, but right now,it can’t be helped!Good luck on the farm!

  3. Twinville says:

    Thanks for updating on what’s going on around your farm, and also for giving some information and financial facts on the business side of farming.I’m glad to hear that your farm business is mostly making a profit and mostly successful.Farmers should never feel bad about raising their prices when the cost of feed and gas go up.I get so annoyed when people complain that my eggs are too expensive and I charge less than factory farmed eggs cost, only $2.50 a dozen. The organic, free range eggs go for more than $3.00 a dozen in the store.We spend at least $17 a month on the cost of layer feed each month. I’ve got to sell 9 dozen eggs just to break even from my 17 hens.So basically, we aren’t making much of a profit.And the cost of hay is getting so pricey, close to to $10.00 a square bale here in NM. Our horse, llamas, goats and sheep eat mostly hay because ours rains haven’t been too productive in the grass-growing department because the temps have been so low this summer. Can you believe 60-70 degrees in July….in New Mexico???Our peach, apricot and apple trees aren’t producing any fruit either.It’s really got me down.

  4. Russell says:

    Enjoyed seeing this post! Love the zinna!!I noticed you go to the Charles City farmers market. I was there two years ago and it was quite nice. I remember a family who were Mennonites had a big display of produce and maybe jams (I forget). But I do recall the market was very nice.I had spent the day taking pictures of county courthouses and was trying to figure out how to get a photo of the Floyd County Courthouse with all those trees around the building!! I finally walked across the way to the farmers market and that was much nicer!Take care and I do enjoy your blog.

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