Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

In case you didn’t see it, we were recently featured in the Salt Lake Tribune with a very flattering article written by Kathy Stephenson who is the Food Editor at the Tribune. You can read the article here. Right after that, Stephanie Brubaker who writes the popular blog, wrote about her recent order with our farm which you can read here. As you may be able to imagine, this brought a flood of business that has us sold out until early summer. We are also in talks with a couple of larger businesses who could easily double or triple our pork and poultry sales should we decide to pursue these offers. Hollie and I have been very busy just sorting all of the orders we have received. We are not talking about hundreds of orders but a solid 50+. For a small family farm like ours, this many orders keep us hopping as well as feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

As we have explained before, we started our farm only intending to raise our own food and perhaps a little extra to sell to help offset the cost. It has grown like a wildfire! We have been caught up in the momentum and now find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. If we grow anymore, it will require more time than our part time schedule will allow. In order to support ourselves full time, we would need to quadruple our sales. With all the leads we have, we could likely reach this within 1-2 years if not sooner. However, we are also very limited on space. Currently we run our entire operation on just three acres with the cows on leased ground. We are already fully utilizing the land we have and would have to buy more acreage to grow our farm. Most of our money is tied up in animals and we would need to borrow money to buy the land. If we are making a land payment, we would need to double our current sales bringing our total increase in production/sales to five times our current level. We can’t grow without the extra land and time and we don’t have extra land and time because we can’t grow!

Of course there are solutions to this predicament. One is to stop where we are at or even scale back a bit. Another is to seek out funding in the form of a large agricultural loan or seek investment funds. (I don’t like borrowing money nor do I care to answer to an investor.) Another option is to try and find a new job elsewhere in Utah where farm ground is cheaper making it easier to keep more animals while still supporting my family with a steady paycheck and benefits. This way I could just buy another house that comes with more land.

I would like to grow our farm as that is the ultimate dream. My entrepreneurial spirit tells me to grab every opportunity and run with it, take out a loan or find an investor. My body on the other hand, tells me to slow down, I am exhausted. The past few weeks have brought me little sleep. I stress about responding to emails, returning phone calls, updating the blog, finishing the website, sorting orders, taking care of the animals, managing the land, finish applying for more water rights, trying to talk every neighbor into selling me more land at a price we can afford, keeping a steady supply of feed for the animals, projecting sales so that we have enough animals to keep up with orders, contact vendors about ordering chickens and turkeys, figure out where the electric fence is grounding out, finalize with the State of Utah and USDA about processing poultry on the farm, etc… On top of farm duties, I have my full-time job, I am a member of our town council and town treasurer, teach the teenage Sunday school class, and most importantly am a husband and father.

Hollie and I are very passionate about farming the way we do which is why it is hard to not pursue it with all our might when there are so many people interested. It isn’t a high profit venture. Raising heritage breeds costs a lot more than commercial breeds. The heritage breed animals are more expensive to purchase, are slower growing and therefore require more feed. The feed itself is more expensive since we refuse to use slaughterhouse wastes in our feed, as well as donuts, breads, restaurant scraps and other cheaply attained foods. We always buy the highest quality feed we can find that has been raised locally and sustainably. But once you bite into our beef, pork, chicken, or turkey and taste the flavors and feel the moisture and tenderness you realize that it is absolutely worth it.

Since our article in the Tribune we have had several farms or interested future farmers contact us about what we are doing. Mostly they are just trying to find Berkshire pigs to breed because they see the prices we charge without learning about the way we farm. They mistakenly think that we make lots of money, that we are simply marketing ordinary pork using catchy terms like humane, free range, grass-fed, and heritage breed. For the record, last year we lost money. In fact, most of the year we used our own money to help cover the animals’ feed costs to the tune of $800-$1200/month on a very average salary. (You can afford this when you live in an 800 ft2 house) : ) It wasn’t until recently that the animals started paying for their own feed. We hope this year to see our first profit. We have learned first-hand, why most farms offering similar products charge $7-$10/lb. We hope that we are correct in our belief that we can raise our meat utilizing ethical, sustainable, and responsible farming practices while keeping prices at a level that the average family can afford and still be profitable. We welcome anybody who is interested in similar farming principles. We wish every farm in Utah would be conscientious of animal welfare and sustainable farming. There are actually many farms who take very good care of their animals; many just aren’t interested in advertising themselves as such or growing more than they have. I suspect they may be in the same situation we are.

We have been very fortunate with our farm’s growth due to the numerous opportunities we have seen simply fall in our laps. We hope that as we struggle to know which route we should pursue that the best option will again fall in our laps. We recognize that there are many talented and skilled people out there and welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have. While I am tired and sometimes stressed out, we absolutely love what we are doing. Hollie has figured out a good way to relieve the stress she feels when the pigs give her a hard time. She simply marches into the house, opens the freezer and begins cooking pork chops for dinner! We are thrilled and honored to play a small role in raising food that so many of our customers are so passionate about. We encourage others to join us in raising gourmet quality, humane, and natural meats. We sincerely appreciate the huge response that received from the recent publicity. We also want to thank the Tribune and its staff especially Kathy Stephenson as well as Stephanie Brubaker. 

We would also like to thank Crystal Keating a recent photography major graduate for visiting our farm and sharing the beautiful pictures she took for her senior project.  We look forward to her new coffee table book titled "Ripe" which features farm to table farms in Utah.  You can preview her book here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

UPDATED: New Website, Family Packages, and Meat CSA!!!

CSA's have been growing rapidly across the country. They offer consumers and farmers the opportunity to work together and mutually benefit. The way a CSA works is the customer pays up front for the year's harvest. This money is prudently used by the farmer to help pay for costs associated with farming. The farmer has enough cash to avoid loans and saves in interest. This is often passed on to the customer in lower costs and/or larger share of the harvest.

We would like to offer our customers the chance to save money by investing in their food up front with our Family Packages and Meat CSA shares! This will help give us the cash flow we need to operate for the year. Please help support our farm and our farming methods by buying one of our Family Packages or CSA shares. Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to do the same! Your health will benefit, our local economy will benefit, and animals being treated humanely and raised naturally benefit by enjoying a good life. If you are like us and believe this is the way all meat should be raised please show your support.  Buying your meat now will save you on monthly grocery bills while spoiling your family with premium, clean, healthy meats.  Tax returns are coming and this is a healthy, delicious way to use some of that extra money.

Beginning in 2010 we will be offering three sizes of Family Packages as well as CSA shares. Each size Family Package is designed to provide meat for a family for one year. A small Family Package is sized for a family of two. A medium Family Package will provide for a family of three to four. A large Package will provide for a family of five to eight. These are ball park estimates and each family will want to evaluate their own needs. You choose when you would like your beef and pork delivered. The chicken can be delivered all at once or in increments through the months of May-November. Turkey will be delivered in November.

We understand that not everybody has a large deep freeze or even room for one.  If this is the case, then a CSA share may be a better choice for you.  One CSA share will give you 10 lbs of meat per month.  This may include beef, pork, or chicken.  We will try and always give you meat from at least two animals and will disperse the premium cuts the best we can.  Please keep in mind that a beef only produces so many T-Bone steaks but a lot of hamburger.  Regardless, it is all of the highest quality.  If you have a larger family or like to eat meat, then you may want to buy two or three shares depending on your needs.  Each share is $50 and must be purchased in increments of 6 months at a time (Total of $300).  If you buy one year at a time, we can offer a discount of $25 for a total of $575.   CSA shares will begin in May but we encourage you to purchase now as we will only offer 30 shares to begin with.  After that we will go to a wait list.  At that point we will evaluate if we can handle more CSA shares. 

Although our prices are similar (and often less) than that you would pay in the grocery store, we can't compare them as they are not even the same product. We offer gourmet quality meats. We raise non-commercial heritage breeds, that are raised ethically and sustainably, fed premium 100% vegetarian feeds, handled humanely, and processed in clean owner operated facilities. As always, we never use antibiotics, hormones, or any other chemical. A quick Meat CSA Google search will reveal what a value we are offering as most of the results will show prices anywhere from $7-$10/lb. We are pleased to offer our CSA shares at $5.00/lb of actual cuts and just under $4.00/lb for Family Packages.

Below you will find the amount of meat included in each Family Package. The lbs/month and $/month is listed to give you an idea of how much meat you will be receiving. We do not deliver these amounts monthly, nor do we charge on a monthly basis. All the beef in your share will be delivered at one time, the same is true for the pork and turkey. You can pick up your chickens in one delivery or pick them up throughout the season (May-November). Once you have placed your order, we will contact you to get a few preferences. For example with the pork, you can choose if you want the hams and bacon smoked/cured or fresh. You will also get to choose between breakfast sausage and ground pork.

We are constantly hearing from our customers that they didn't realize how dramatically different and delicious pork could taste. Having raised our own beef, turkey, and chicken by the same standards as our pork we have discovered the equally dramatic difference in our own beef, turkey, and chicken. We are excited to share this with our customers by offering these products in 2010. Get ready for meats that are clean, moist, tender, and loaded with flavor! Prepare to experience what beef, pork, chicken, and turkey were meant to be.

A CSA Share will include:
10 lbs of a combination of Pork, Beef, and Chicken every month for the length of time purchased.  (If you are interested in a Heritage Turkey, you will want to order this separately.

A Small Family Package will include:

1/8 Beef (Around 50 lbs of cuts)
1/4 Pork (Around 35 lbs of cuts)
1 Whole Turkey (Around 15 lbs)
12 Whole Chickens (Around 50 lbs)

This totals around 150 lbs of meat for $588. This will give you a little over 12 lbs per month of gourmet quality meat for $49/month or just $3.92/lb.

A Medium Family Package will include:

1/4 Beef (Around 100 lbs of cuts)
1/2 Pork (Around 70 lbs of cuts)
2 Whole Turkeys (Around 30 lbs)
24 Whole Chickens (Around 100 lbs)

This totals around 300 lbs of meat for $1176. This will give you about 25 lbs per month of gourmet quality meat for $98/month or just $3.92/lb.

A Large Family Package will include:

1/2 Beef (Around 200 lbs of cuts)
1 Whole Pork (Around 140 lbs of cuts)
3 Whole Turkeys (Around 45 lbs)
36 Whole Chickens (Around 150 lbs)

This totals around 535 lbs of meat for $2100. This will give you about 45 lbs per month of gourmet quality meat for $175/month or just $3.92/lb.

Our website is very much in its developmental phase but now allows for online deposits, and payments.  Check it out and let us know what you think!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pig Date at Viking Cooking School

The "Pig Date" at Viking Cooking School was a ton of fun!  We learned from the master as we watched Executive Chef Jim Light work his magic in the state of the art Viking Kitchen.  We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of our loyal customers better.  We spent around 4 hours cooking, talking, and enjoying ourselves.  The highlight of the evening of course was eating that absolute best meal, I think any of us had ever had the pleasure of eating.  As the farmer, it was thrilling to see the potential that our pork has when it was prepared by somebody who knows what they are doing.  One of the crown roasts was provided by us and the other two, Jim had bought elsewhere.  Hollie and I felt a sense of pride when everybody there could easily identify which roast came from us.  The marbeling that our pork posesses is easily identifiable.

We were also surprised to see Kathy Stephenson, Food Editor at the Salt Lake Tribune there.  She interviewed Hollie and I and will be featuring our farm in Wednesday's (Jan. 6, 2010) newspaper.  We are flattered to be included in the newspaper and look forward to any response it may bring us.

As I mentioned we enjoyed a wonderful meal and were excited when we found out that we get to take home the recipes!  Hopefully, we will be able to plan another event later this year. We would like to give a special thanks to Jim and his crew for hosting such a special evening. Here are some pictures from our Pig Date!

PS. Check our post again in a couple of days for an exciting announcement!  (Hint: Meat CSA)