Talking Breads LLC

Farm in Shermans Dale, PA

Farm Facts

Type: Farm/Bakery

Years in operation: 6

Annual revenue: 100k-250k
(Average over last three years)

Overview

Hi! My name is Shana and my fiance's name is Joe. Together, we own and operate a 45 acre farm in Shermans Dale, Pennsylvania. We are first generation farmers who literally built our farm and bakery business from scratch. We have an Austrian stone flour mill on our farm and bake traditional European breads using our whole grain flours. We have a small garden which provides seasonal produce for our baked goods as well as for our own consumption. We also raise pigs out on pasture for meat, pastured meat chickens and free range laying hens for eggs. We are in the beginning stages of growing heritage wheat to use in our bread. Until we can grow enough wheat to sustain the bakery, we are working with local farmers and mill their grains into fresh flour. We sell all of our products at three weekly farmers markets, one local to us and two in the Washington DC area. During the summer months we have 2 - 3 part time employees and 1 volunteer. We are now baking more than 500 loaves of bread a week along with hundreds of small baked goods like veggie pasties, turnovers and scones. We love what we do and want to be able to expand our business to share our bounty with more people who are passionate about local and sustainable agriculture. We would love to be able to offer products in the near future that compliment our bread such as charcuterie and sausages made from our animals.

Inside the Farm

How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Joe and I work hard to be as sustainable as possible here on the farm. In order to have a financially sustainable farm we must be creative and offer value added products that are very specialized. Most markets are flooded with produce which is a great thing. But there isn't much attention on a very important agricultural product, grain. Years ago I decided to capitalize on this and used my experience as a baker to bring great bread to market. There are many grain farmers, millers and bakers, but these are usually separate enterprises. Baking, milling and farming go hand and hand and I am passionate about each one of these processes and am fully dedicated to the collaboration of all three. We strive to make the freshest most nutritious bread around. We want to be able to tell our customers exactly what variety of wheat they are eating, how it was grown, milled and baked. It makes them have a genuine appreciation for what they are eating and they can taste the value in the bread. A farm also requires diversity to succeed. We try to utilize every acre of our land and that is why we raise livestock and not just grow wheat. We have two bred sows, six feeder pigs, about 400 laying hens, and will be raising about 1,000 meat chickens this year. The animals are rotated throughout the season to feed them and to build up our soil, making it fertile for when its time to plant wheat in the fall. Once the wheat is harvested, we plant a cover crop that contains a mix of grasses and legumes for the animals to enjoy.

How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
Our approach ensures financial stability for our farm and life. We offer a products that are of the highest quality. Our bread is made with whole grain flours that we stone mill within days of baking, guaranteeing our bread to be the most nutritious and delicious around. Consistency and quality has always been at the top or our list. That is why we are involved with every aspect of the bread making process from field to loaf. We also strive to offer the best tasting meat which requires daily interaction with our animals and constant care. We have made it a priority to always be there for our customers, never missing a market and we continue to offer them a diverse variety the fresh products. By demonstrating this over the years, we are confident that we will continue to have strong customer base. Our strategy has been not to take on debt unless we are positive we have the cash flow to support it. We have started small and are steadily growing each year. As we grow a little more each year we would like to be able to provide more products to our customers. We would also like to provide a few full time jobs and hope to inspire people in showing them that farming can be a sustainable business.

How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
We would use the Mortgage Lifter Lift money to help construct a separate facility here on the farm to do our milling, baking and processing. Right now we have a Home Processing License, which allows us to make foods such as breads and baked goods. Because we use the bakery as our personal kitchen and it is part of our house, we can not get a commercial license. If we build a separate facility, we can make a number of value added products using our meats like sausages and charcuterie. We can also make other products like farm fresh eggs salad (using our eggs), pastured chicken salad (from our chickens), pot pies, tapanades, jams, preserves and anything else that compliments our fresh crusty bread! A new facility will also increase efficiency and production. We would like to host a number of farm days where customers can come see our farming operation and attend different workshops. The new facility would act as a food hub where customers can pick up special orders or any of our farm products. We would also like to work with local chefs in hosting summer time farm to table dinners. We would use some of the money to purchase a walk in cooler to store our produce and dough while it ferments. It would help with the purchase of sausage making and meat curing equipment. We would buy a used, but in good shape, grain drill so we can seed our own wheat each year. And lastly, we would use some of the money to develop a website that will connect our farm to a larger audience and entice people to come out to our farm events.

Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
Our labor of love provides so much nourishment for us and many families. It is important for us to educate our customers; our farming practices allow us to show them where their food is coming from. On top of this, here's nothing more satisfying then standing back after a hard days work and seeing how much we have accomplished. We have grown to love every cycle of life here on the farm. Watching the animals enjoying life on pasture creates a deep appreciation for what we are eating. Planting a small seed of wheat and waiting for the next season to harvest has taught us the true meaning of patience. Farming continually challenges us, keeps us determined, demands our commitment and exercises our creative minds and bodies.

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