Type: Sweet Potatoes
Years in operation: 5
Annual revenue: 50k-100k
(Average over last three years)
Laughing Child Farm is a fast-growing organic farm specializing in growing sweet potatoes. Located in the Mettowee River Valley, one of Vermont’s warmest places, our farm has the right climate, the right soils, and has the right community to help us grow the best sweet potatoes. In fact, with 10 acres in production, we are Vermont’s largest sweet potato producer and our product can be found throughout Vermont and New York. Laughing Child Farm is owned and operated by Timothy and Brooke Hughes-Muse and kept sane by our four giggling girls. Timothy manages the field operations for Laughing Child Farm and Brooke manages the packinghouse and sales for Laughing Child Farm. Laughing Child Farm has been growing sweet potatoes since 2012, and Timothy and Brooke have been growing on commercial farms for 15 years.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Our company is different in that we specialize in a single crop, which goes against recent trends in Vermont vegetable production. However, our growth in production matches the nation wide increase in sweet potato consumption. Already we are Vermont’s largest sweet potato producer but we do not plan to be Vermont’s only sweet potato producer. We hope that our business model, one with a focus on reduced costs, livable wages (the lowest wage we pay is $15/hr, and we do not use interns or apprentices but rather paid employees), profitability for owners and affordability to consumers, can be duplicated. We also plan to help other growers produce sweet potatoes through technical advice.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
There is market saturation at Farmers’ Markets and in the CSA market, leaving new and upcoming farmers slicing up the same pie in smaller and smaller pieces. We started our farm with the objective to create our own pie so that we are not competing with our neighbors, but rather work cooperatively with other growers to meet the increasing demand for sweet potatoes. Our business model helps to bridge the gap between ecological production techniques and sound economic opportunities for our customers and employees. The many years working in farm fields have shaped our outlook and our farming techniques. We do not want to make our living on the backs of under-paid employees and we do not want to overcharge for our product (the reason we farm is to feed people). Therefore, we had to make our profitability on efficiency of scale and specialization. Growing a single crop allows Laughing Child Farm to invest in cost saving and time saving equipment, and technologies that provide the best quality sweet potatoes with the least amount of inputs. Furthermore, we hope to support and encourage our neighbors by sharing equipment. One of our short-term plans is to begin a Mettowee Farmer’s Co-Operative that can share equipment among area growers, which will significantly reduce to obstacles to starting a farm in our area and may help ease the transition of our local economy as the commercial dairy industry changes.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
Laughing Child Farm will purchase an efficient root crop harvester and administer a low-cost rental program for Rutland County growers that will lead to an increase the quantity and quality of root vegetables grown in Rutland County VT and increase the profitability of farmers growing root vegetables. This project will increase the root vegetables that are grown and marketed, expand the farms that can grow root crops, and increase the regional competitiveness of the small farms, by enhancing and improving the harvest efficiency on farms. These three outcomes will ultimately increase the profitability for small farms through increased sales and lowered expenses. For Laughing Child Farm, this project will result in increased yields, improved product handling, increased profits (through increased sales, but also through an increase in product quality, which will lead to an increase in customer satisfaction). For other farms, it will result in similar outcomes. The seasonal demand for labor is an increasing challenge for vegetable growers throughout Vermont, and is often the most worrisome issue that producers face. The fieldwork is hard and physically demanding and is often seasonal, limiting the pool of potential employees. Other regions of the US rely on low-wage migrant workers or seasonal H2-A employees to harvest crops. In Vermont, farmers often want to pay higher wages and do not have access to a migrant work force. Mechanizing the root crop harvesting will require 6 employees from the local community. These jobs will be for skilled workers who will be trained and develop experience on the harvest equipment. The work will be considerably easier and will be able to be preformed by people of all ages and physical abilities, rather than limited to young and fit persons of college age. By developing a network of farms using this equipment, these harvest operators can rely on a steady stream of work throughout the harvest season. An increase in harvest efficiency can increase the quality of the produce harvested. When crops are harvested under optimal soil and weather conditions, the storage life and quality of the crop is increased. Also, harvesting at peak crop value is important for many small farms. Currently, because it takes 6 weeks to harvest 8 acres, Laughing Child Farm starts harvesting when some potatoes are a little too small, sold as fancy. By the time we finish harvesting the potatoes are too large, sold as jumbo. Additional business planning, including expected outcomes and budgets, can be provided for this project.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
One reason that we are so passionate about our farm and farming is that we have learned what it means to be part of a community. It is only through the generosity and community ethos of our neighbors that we have been successful. Our farm has connected us to our community. Farming is a practical application of art, skill, knowledge, ingenuity and physicality that is rare in other professions and provides challenges and rewards on a daily basis. On top of all that, it allows us to be a great family together, which is the best reward.
Share & Support
Want to spread the word about this small farm? Here are some ways to connect and get the word out. And be sure to tell your friends to vote for this farm using the button below. The eligible farm receiving the most votes will be awarded our Readers' Choice prize.
Link to this page: