PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Before receiving this grant, were you involved in any sustainable agriculture activities? If so, briefly describe them.
Yes. I helped in the family garden by weeding and picking the fresh produce. I also participated in a “Square Foot Gardening” seminar after which I planted my own square foot garden. I had already purchased chicks and raised them for a few months prior to receiving the grant.
I wanted to explore raising poultry for egg production in a way that was economically viable for both my business as well as my customers. I needed to be able to make my business profitable while providing a service that enabled my customers to purchase eggs locally rather than traveling the 30-60 miles to the closest grocery store. My other goal was to keep my practices environmentally sound and humane for the poultry. I did this in a number of ways: from building a coop of mostly recycled materials to repurposing unwanted grain materials. I wanted to do my part to show that even on a small-scale I can have a profitable business that benefits not only me but my flock and the environment as well.
First, I built a coop using repurposed materials from my home, the Habitat for Humanity store, and Craigslist. Then, I developed a promotional campaign to market my eggs. I had such a good response, that I had to stop advertising because I had more demand than supply. Next, I researched my options for feed and decided on using a mix of store bought feed supplements with corn screenings that would have otherwise been wasted. I also supplemented their diet by allowing them to free range and by feeding them garden and kitchen scraps. All-in-all making for a fairly economical approach, the entire reason for using this method.
* Linda and Harold Narum, family friends, assisted me with writing the grant and advice for raising poultry for eggs.
* Andrew and Teresa Braaten, parents, helped with construction of the coop and when I was unavailable to do chores.
* Cara Cody-Braun, school teacher and family friend, educated me on the importance of a well balanced diet for the poultry. She is also the one who inspired me to raise poultry for egg production.
* Harlan Isensee, grandfather, helped me with construction and advice that was ripened with experience.
* Colleen Svigen, Richland County Extension 4H agent, sent me relevant information such as information for the grant as well as any other poultry publications that I request.
The results were not what I had expected. After a little more than a year of being in business, I was barely profitable. I realize that my initial expenses would have been reduced the more I was in business. However, the cost of feed outweighed my potential to be profitable. I do believe that there is a way to provide a humane and profitable environment for egg producing poultry. However, I believe it must be on a much larger scale than I am currently able to handle. This project taught me about business, bookkeeping, hard work, marketing, commitment, problem solving, and much more. I would not have been able to have learned this much if I had not participated in this project.
I became much more aware and appreciative of sustainable agricultural practices and products. Now, I am much more aware of the value and hard work behind sustainably produced products. I learned about being environmentally sound while also profitable. I definitely learned that just being profitable is not enough for me. My mom has a new appreciation for organic and sustainable food products. At the grocery store and farmers markets, she purchases them whenever possible. As a 4-H member, it has made me appreciate the 4-H motto more which ends with “… for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
To spread the word about SARE, I made and exhibited a poster in my local 4-H county fair July 9-10. The judges were very curious about my project and asked many questions. The poster was on display during the fair for public viewing. I also informed my egg customers about my project with my SARE grant throughout the year. I was featured in the local paper this year along with other grant recipients. At the awards banquet for 4-H in October, one of the speakers spoke about my grant, eliciting several conversations about my project. During the winter months, I presented in several FFA competitions featuring my project.
My project was presented to approximately 150 people during the past year. In addition to these planned events, I had numerous conversations with people in the community, teachers, friends, etc. I have no plans for future outreach at this time. However, I am mentoring a friend that is raising poultry for egg production and I will encourage her to apply for a SARE grant.
It was hard to know exactly what was expected of me. Therefore, I would like to see more definitive guidelines for the grants. However, Joan Benjamin answered all of my questions that I had promptly and fully. It was a great learning experience for me to participate in this program. Thank you for including youth in your operation.