Tuesday, November 10, 2009

class and chickens

I should be writing more about our Farm Beginnings class. We had our second class this past Saturday. We are learning a lot. Our homework for class #1 was to write a personal aim. Mine is: Mesh the farm rhythm and seasons into work, life and art. This is to be our daily goal - kind of like a daily affirmation. This past Saturday's class (#2) featured a lecture on biodynamics - wow, that is a lot to think about and definitely a motivating topic for future study. I confess all I knew about biodynamics was that a horn was buried. I didn't know that there are so many different preparations. I really liked it. I think it compliments my personal aim.

Then we visited a pastured based chicken farmer. They had these neato portable pens which are moved to fresh grass every day. They have ropes on the front and little lawn mower wheels on the back to allow them to move. They do cover these with tarps and face them appropriately with the sun and the wind so that the pens get the cross breezes. I also liked how they shorted the side so that they aren't as low to allow easier access to the birds without having to bend over so far into the corners. She raises cornish cross. It was interesting that she said that her customer base didn't want/like heritage breed.

This week's homework for class is writing a mission statement for our farm. We have also had exercises where we are drawing our farm (everything: house, growing beds, greenhouses, washing stations, coolers, housing for help, alternative energy) - it was a fun and thought provoking exercise. We have also been asked to think about finances. One worksheet had us actually qualify how much money we want/need to make at farming. That is a really hard thing to do. We settled on between $750-$1000/month. I'd love feedback on that number if anyone has any thoughts. It seems like not much - but like Bill said, if we were interested in the money we would just keep our current jobs and stay in the city.

All in all, we are greatly enjoying the class, hearing stories from real farmers and networking with other students.


Jena said...

Thanks for sharing what you're learning. I know I already said this but I think a class like this would be great for my husband and I to attend. Let me put a little thought in to the $$$ part of it and get back to you.

Barb said...

Thanks for posting a pic of the chicken tractors. Great design. I really think we could benefit from these classes too. Money isn't everything (as you already know). Wish we could live without it :-)

Jena said...

So I've thinking about how much a farm really should make as I ready our books for the end of the year. I think there are a couple parts to the equation.

First, any farm venture should be at very least self supporting. Each project should produce enough income to keep it self going. Depending on the project I like to get my initial investment back in the first year or season of a project. For example, say it could me $300 for my setup and first batch batch of broilers. I expect the income from the sale of the broilers to cover their feed and pay me back for the birds and equipment. The second year that can be called profit, unless I choose to invest it in expanding the broiler setup.

The second thought involves the amount of profit. Many of our crop farming ventures produce about 100% rate of return. I suspect some of our animal ventures do not perform nearly that well although I haven't done the math on them lately. However, I'm fine with a lower profit margin as long as those projects are enjoyable, are improving, and are in line with our values and long term goals.

I hope this helps a little and would love to hear more of your thoughts on the matter. During your class do they recommend striving for a certain rate of return?

angie said...

Hi Jena,

We cover the finances more in depth this week (Thurs night). I will let you know. I believe we are using the example of broilers for budgeting.

Thanks for your thoughts!