It’s pretty crazy to think that a little over two weeks ago I was in Concord, NC enjoying extended time off with my family. I’ve apparently packed a lot into my time here since I’ve come back, which has made it feel much longer than it has actually been.
Some things I’ve done that have kept me busy were a four course birthday dinner for my cousin Cara and her husband and two friends in an airbnb cabin on Lookout Mountain, a very fun evening. I attended SSAWG a sustainable agriculture conference which was helpful and got my mind back in farm gear. Other things included egg deliveries and meet ups with local famers to generate ideas and collaborate in what we’re doing. Putting together a new website. But I think most notably was an email from my friend Joel Barr, who I interned under just after high school as a garden intern. He’s farming in Minnesota and we keep up some through email, encouraging each other in our endeavors. In his email he mentioned a farm in Sweden called Ridgedale Permaculture Farm and asked if I’d heard about it and what my thoughts were on it.
I unassumingly looked up the farm, figuring it was just another farm trying to get by, or maybe a permaculture homesteader who was using ideas and theories to try and recreate some food forest but wasn’t actually generating any income from the land, or putting ideas to use to be profitable. Instead my world was rocked by watching Richard Perkins show that two decades of experience in design and permaculture and finally settling down in the remote country side of Sweden hasn’t slowed down his amazing ability to create systems that are profitable as well as sustainable ecologically. He has a lot of energy and wisdom and has used both of those to create endless videos on his youtube channel, being open and honest about the farm and how it’s operating and it’s been inspiring to watch him.
I’ll be honest I’d kind of mentally given up on the idea that you can make any decent salary as a small farmer and watching him has changed that thinking as well as inspire passion to continue pressing on. I guess we all need that person who’s gone a little bit (or a lot!) farther than us, we have to know it can be done before we can believe it for ourselves.
I’m all about permaculture, don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of the ideas and philosophies but if you can’t take that and make a profitable farm than I don’t want to listen to you, honestly. I’m not here to homestead, though there’s nothing wrong with that and I enjoy raising my own vegetables and meat. I’m here to farm, and those things are different. Homesteading is doing things smaller scale with the main purpose for sustaining yourself, farming is making a business out of it with the intent of living on that salary. I’m not here to bash any small farmer or homesteader just trying to make it, not at all, but that’s not what I want to do. I’m an all in kind of guy. If I’m going farm, I’m going make a living out of it, and if not then I’ll do something else, run a coffee shop or bakery.
So all that to say I’m excited for this new season. Last year I ran myself ragged, got into a traumatic accident that cost me lots of time and mental energy and tried to do too many enterprises that were not well enough planned and therefore not executed neatly. With too many bills and not enough cash flow it made it stressful and not very encouraging. This year I’ve cut down on what I’m doing, especially time wise, but also large enterprises that cost a lot of money without generating a lot of income, like pigs. They cost me 8 months of expensive feed and then I didn’t have the market to sell at a high enough price to make it worth it. Also our vegetable CSA, not super costly but very labor intensive. With no way to make the garden more organized and scale up in size we had to say no.
So this year my main focus is going to be our Egg Layer Hens. We’re expanding our flock even more and looking to make them the main enterprise for now until its self sustainable, economically and paid off infrastructure. We’ll also do some batches of broilers because they’re quite profitable and I want to be able to offer a pasture-raised meat to our customers. Instead of a large garden I’m focusing on growing a few things in our High Tunnel greenhouse, most notably heirloom tomatoes.
We’ll continue to do our Farm to Table dinners and watch where those take us this year. While I thought about moving a lot towards just farm dinners for farm revenue I’d rather take it easy for another year, keep up with what we have, intensify it, make it more efficient, and focus on our layer hens.
While I’m open to interns or volunteers most of the daily work load and all the business side of things will be my endeavor as I seek to get the farm off the ground even more this year. I’ll certainly have help on chicken process days, and maybe even help here and there throughout the season, but without the means to pay someone, and with me still trying to figure out systems and get them in place I feel it’s important for me to be doing most of the work load. As most people know when starting your own business you're kind of expected to be putting in 80-100 hr work weeks for the first couple years. And honestly, I’m kind of excited about what this year has to offer, I can’t wait to move our chickens to pasture, to start raising chicks, and planting tomatoes.
So here’s to Richard Perkins who has been my inspiration this year to continue farming, to not have a victim mentality, and to really push hard and be determined to do what it takes.
And if you’re so inclined check out their farm at ridgedalepermaculture.com, or Richard Perkins on youtube.