BACKGROUND: Our small farm operates as sustainably as possible. Prior to this project we have raised more traditional poultry – chickens and turkeys.
GOALS: We wanted to market geese as an alternative poultry. Not many people consume geese and/or ducks anymore and we would like to get people to try it. We used a rare breed of geese – the American Buff hoping to create some demand to help save this breed.
PROCESS: We ordered the goslings after doing research on several breeds of geese. Marley chose the American Buff because of the gentle temperament and pretty color.
The geese had to be penned up instead of free – ranging as we found out they are very curious birds. They ran away from home once and dug up shallots in the garden. We may experiment with another breed to see if this is a trait more common in the Buff breed.
PEOPLE: This project was a family effort with Marley’s mom, dad and brothers all helping out. Marley found out that even a few geese are a lot of work. We did talk with several people including a chef at a local restaurant on the best methods to process and prepare geese. As we had thought it was mostly older people who had experience with cooking and eating a goose.
We processed seven of our geese and had two of those smoked. We found that one strong objection to people purchasing the processed birds is that they did not know how to cook them. So by having two smoked we were able to overcome that issue. There was an additional cost but marketing them as a Holiday specialty food helped with that. We were able to break even on the geese sold but did not make a profit.
One change we would like to make is to offer free samples – we need to investigate the proper way to do this.
This project taught our family that it is important to be willing to change production methods – even in the middle of a project if needed. We had a plan starting out but had to quickly go to Plan B so “learn as you go” was an important part of this project. Marley learned that the geese would not weed the garden like she planned but they were a fun addition to the farm and diversity is good for the environment.
Marley and her mom gave a presentation at the NCR-SARE regional Farmers Forum at the 2009 National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in Columbia, Missouri on November 6, and at the NCR-SARE sub-regional Farmers Forum held at the 2010 Michigan Family Farms Conference, “Holding on to Good Food, Good Families and Good Farms”, on Saturday, January 16, 2010 at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, MI.