Marketing of Small Amounts of Organic Grains through Alternative Broiler Feeds and Direct to Consumer Sales
We had complete crop failure of the field peas, and most of our barley. Our yields of standard row crops were severely depressed due to the wetness and deer pressure.
Expenditures from grant funds were for some electric fencing, and field pea and barley seed. We’ll be buying new seed this year. We purchased one bulk bin, and borrowed a grain wagon. We held off on other purchases when we realized we were facing crop failure.
We did gather a bunch of information on direct marketing of grains and have worked toward wholesale marketing (at retail prices) to local food coops & buying clubs and currently have three wholesale customers, as well as many direct-to-consumer customers.
We are actively looking for small size grain handling equipment (cleaners, etc.). It is a struggle to direct market grains without adequate equipment to produce flours fast enough, and it is slightly scary to spend thousands on equipment that may not pay back.
There seems to be a disconnect between the state regulations, and county health regulations. Apparently, as long as one only wholesales flours and meals, or sells at farmers’ markets, state regulations apply, which are much less restrictive than our county. State regulations generally require:
1. Washable walls and ceiling
2. Floor drain
3. Hot water, etc.
There was some indication from the inspector that some of this might be waived if the facility is flour production only, but we are looking at a mixed use facility that also includes honey production.
Once flour/meals are sold from the farm, it becomes a ‘retail’ operation and one must adhere to more restrictive county rules. We’re hoping to find a loophole on this.
We also came to realize the importance of drain tile this year. This past year was an extraordinarily prolonged flooding event (we were hit in a fairly narrow belt of above average precipitation even in our area) and crop failure may have been inevitable.
WORK PLAN FOR 2009
• We hope to accomplish the bulk of the project outlined in our grant application.
• If another unfortunate year of crop failure happens, we’ll try to source field pea from somewhere else and decide they don’t work in this area.
• We plan to move aggressively forward with direct marketing.
• We’re desperately hoping for cooperative weather. Outside the grant, we’re working on drain tile, which should help with both our produce production, and field pea production. Our plan is to drain into a pond, so that we can filter water before it leaves the property. We’re also hoping to install valves on our tile so that we can stop flow when we want to.
• We have had almost no sharing so far.
• I did teach a class on starting a small farm, and described some of our direct marketing work to students, trying to illustrate the difference in value between commodity wheat, and retail wheat.
• We’ll get results on our website when we have some, will host a field day for our customers and others, and will give results to our beginning farmer class when we teach next spring.