Type: Sheep Farm
Years in operation: 4
Annual revenue: 10k-50k
(Average over last three years)
Two years ago we moved from a dusty, rented 5 acres in Sonoma County, California to a 56.18 acre farm located in the Helderberg Mountains in Upstate New York. Not only did we move across the US, we moved 65 sheep as well as other livestock with us! It was quite the move... to say the least! This perfect location at 1400 feet gives our flock of over 100 White Dorper Sheep a perfect view of the Catskills and access to an artesian fed spring as well as an abundance of lush meadow grasses and legumes. Our family farm is also home to a sizable flock of laying hens, a large garden, and our three Anatolian Shepherds. These gorgeous rescued dogs guard the ewes and lambs from the coyotes in our hills who are always on the lookout for an easy meal! We are also a proud WWOOF host (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and host eager farming students from around the world! At this current moment we have Norway, Switzerland, the UK, California, and Pennsylvania represented on our farm! We love hosting and find the symbiotic exchange of ideas, labour, and passion exhilarating. As well, our neighbors and the small town of Berne realizes the effects of our guests as we all help on other farms as well! It really shows the impact of teamwork and creates memories that last a lifetime! Also, we get the hay in on time! :) One of our past WWOOF'ers loved it so much that she is now the farm's garden manager and is staying on full-time.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Our farm is more of a working host farm. We always have a few live-in students who are passionate about farming. Farming is not just a person raising a couple hundred sheep or vegetables. Farmers must have a well-balanced multi-faceted knowledge base. We stress the importance of knowing your target market and honing your marketing to that market. We also stress the importance of learning at every opportunity. For example, if a vet comes out to the farm it is a learning experience. Every time the county gives a class on rotational grazing or worming (Cornell Cooperative Extension) or ways to implement a studied Best Practice (SARE) we try to incorporate these into our farming strategies. Farmers need to be mechanics, weather forecasters, and problem solvers! Most importantly, farmers have to prepare for the worst to negate loss. We feel that through hosting we are bringing up a whole new generation of young farmers and also impacting people who will be able to effect and change governmental policies towards our environment and farming. By cultivating minds, we are fortifying that next generation that is so vital to our future accessibility of local and safe food. To this end our farming practices are fluid and are easily changed. We find that this open receptiveness helps us to stay engaged and eager to improve our farming practices!
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
(1) Growing the core business. We currently have a multifaceted marking approach and sell meat and live sales through private buyers, on-line local farm stores, a local butcher, a local large grocery co-op, and a restaurant in NYC. We also offer farm pick-up and tours. (2) Growing by sub-segmenting customers We also realize that local, fresh, organic food is usually cost prohibitive for underserved customer groups. Our goal is to produce a quality product for less costs in order to be able to sell at a lower price while still retaining profitability. As a farm, I believe that we are well positioned for exponential growth. With the addition of a fencing system, our costs in hay will be cut in half helping us to instantly realize a increase in ROI even while lowering our pricing. (3) Growing adjacent opportunities We are looking at marketing our premium lamb sausages in NY Thruway Farm outlets in the future. We really value farming in New York and find that New York as a state and the inhabitants as a whole are very pro-farming. New York knows how to market for their small farms and the state is always looking for a way to aid the NY Farms! We signed up for Pride of NY right away and are a listed farm on the website. We are also going through the process of becoming Humane Certified. We feel that additional certifications will be tangible proof to our customers as to what we produce and will reflect in an increase in sales. (4) Saying "no". We are young and eager. We are open to new ideas, marketing strategies, and changing the direction of our farm! To this end, we can utilize resources to maximize long-term profitable strategies. If something doesn't prove to work for our farm we are flexible enough to change! We are also flexible enough to say "no".
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
We have been approved for a USDA - NRCS grant to put up conservation grazing fencing, a new well, two water crossings, and a livestock watering system. NRCS pays 100% of the well, watering system, and water crossings. The drawback is that they pay 50% of the fencing system! 50% would be roughly $15,000. We cannot start the much-needed project until we have the personal funds needed to complete the fence. With the grant completed, we would be able to properly keep the sheep out of the waterways on our property and more efficiently graze the pastures! This would save us in labour hours, hay costs, and reseeding. We calculated that they payback on the $15,000 investment towards the grant would make us 20% more profitable per year. Additionally, it would help us to more easily meet future Organic Certification. With the extra $5000 we would use it to assist us in purchasing a much-needed used tractor in order to maintain our fields and hay our pastures for winter hay. Currently we hire a local farmer to hay the fields. This cuts into our profits and is not completed at the desired time due to weather constraints. A tractor would be a HUGE benefit to our farm!
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
My grandparents farmed during the Great Depression and were share-croppers. They did not own their own plot of land and were beholden to the landowner. This caused great hardship in their lives, yet they persevered. I know if my grandparents were alive right now they would be so proud that we have already overcome quite a few obstacles including the purchase of land and a great flock of sheep. Farming makes a country healthier both physically and economically. To know where and how one's food is produced is becoming more and more important to the consumer. To this end, we market to those people who already understand the importance of local food security and, at the same time, try and impart knowledge to those who are less aware. Farming has taught and continually teaches us some hard life lessons... both the good and bad. Farming has also put us through the fire and shows true character. and has made us better people... compassionate, loyal, and dedicated. When we have WOOF'ers we try and teach them that farming is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards and relationships built are worth all of the input!
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