New Small Farmer, too much to learn......where do I start?

by Sherri
(Dunnville, ON)

My husband and I raised 100 meat chicks last year (we are the ones who used dual purpose) our biggest struggle was pricing!. We decided on $2.30 a pound. We searched on line for any price we could find and found that to be the average.

That price was way too low and we lost money and even had a few nasty emails from other small farmers complaining that we lowered the fee bar. I wrote back and explained the reason for our error (there are too many obstacles for a small farm, so we all need to be friends)

I even had someone place a large order and then mysteriously disappear (all signs/details led me to believe this was a fellow farmer) We did not under cut on purpose and told all of our first time customers what a deal they were getting and that next years birds would be priced differently.

The questions: What is a fair price? if you go to kiiji etc most are advertising in the $2.00/lb area but there is no way to make money at that price!. and what type of advertising would you suggest for a modest budget (close to free:)

This year we are jumping in with both feet and are doing : berkshire pork, 2 meat cows, chickens & heritage turkey we will also be selling garden overflow. So we want to advertise to not only our chickens. We want to start attracting "whole farm " clients. This maybe a hobby now but we have plans on this replacing one of our incomes in the next 2-3 years.

Also I love the website and the gardening ebook. I also previewed the meat chicken book and really wished I had it last year. It has already caused me to re think and redesign next years plan. Wish my family was close so I could see your farm, some pictures on your website would be wonderful.

Sherri



ANSWER



Hi Sherri

You're right, it can seem overwhelming to learn all you need to know about running a small farm. We've been here 10 years and are still surprised by something every day.

A small farmer has to be her own Master Gardener, Animal Husbandry expert, grazier, Director of Marketing and Chief Financial Officer for her farm. And 'city folk' have a perception of farmers as 'unsophisticated'! Hah!

Let me try to answer your questions, which are excellent by the way. Every new farmer has to try to figure this stuff out.

In regards to pricing, we have always chosen to be a 'price maker' rather than a 'price taker'. In other words, we keep good records of our costs, then set a price that gives us a good profit. We established those costs with the first batch of birds that we raised just for ourselves.

We believe (and we make sure we TELL everybody) that our chicken, beef, pork, veggies, whatever, is superior. They are organic, pasture-raised, the animals are treated humanely, and we only use licensed, inspected abattoirs. Therefore we command a superior price.


When you are selling your farm goodies, remember you are NOT 'convincing' people, you are sorting them; that is, you are sorting the people who believe in real food and are willing to pay for it, from those who don't. By the way, organic chicken in the stores in Ottawa sells for AT LEAST 50% more than I charge for mine, and I sell all I can raise at $3.75/lb.


99% of families in my area ignore me and what I have to sell. The remaining 1% are making me a nice income on the farm.

How did I 'sort' those people out? Since you have read my How to Raise Chickens book you know I recommend starting by telling everyone you know about the great food you are raising, and that they can get some but 'hurry because you have limited quantities'.

If there is a community newspaper where you are, they are almost always looking for content. So write an article about starting up your new farming enterprise, title it with a catchy headline ('Former computer geek starts organic farm'), include your contact information, and when it is published you basically have a free newspaper ad targeted at your local market.

When it comes out get some copies made of the article and post them around your local town, or include it as part of a mailout flyer.

Mailout flyers are (relatively) cheap, that's what we mainly use. My last mailing cost about $0.16 per flyer, including printing and distributing through Canada Post. If you distribute them yourself, you save about $0.11 per flyer.

We get a 1% - 1.5% response rate; i.e. 1,000 flyers will get us 10-15 CSA customers, each of whom pays us $500-$900 for a share of farm goodies (good payback on a $150-200 mailout.)


And, later on, I would seriously consider a website; the tools available these days make it easy. I get over 3000 people a month coming to my site; some of those folks become customers for farm goodies, some buy books, and some leave great questions in the forum!

Stick with it, rest assured we ALL went through the learning curve you are experiencing; keep good records, then set your price to make a profit. The customers you WANT to have will pay it.

Scott

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Good news about raising meat chickens
by: Scott K

Thanks, Jo Anne

That is very encouraging news about your poultry prices and the methods you use to promote your farm business.

My experience has been similar, i.e. once people get to know you they tend to keep coming back. That's promising for 'newbie' farmers; just keep producing a superior product and getting the word out, and you will build a loyal following of customers.

Also Jo Anne, (if you haven't done so already) you can list your farm in our free directory. Just go to this link to submit your information


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re: what should I charge for my chicken?
by: Jo'Anne

Hi,

Just wanted to let you know that I sell chicken, turkey, duck, goose and pork. I get a good price for my poultry and people do not have a problem paying my prices.

I grow 300 chickens a year and run out. I sell for $4.35 lb for both chicken and turkey. Once people get to know you and your product they will develop a trust and always come back with their friends. I pay minimal for advertising. I like the free advertising, Usedottawa or Kiiji.

I also attend a farmers market in summer where I sell my jams, jelly and other canned items and there I hand out flyers of the farm.

I will also attend COG functions or even the radio. This year I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Thanksgiving segment of CBC Radio 'Raising Turkeys'. It was great and got a bunch of new customers.

Word of mouth is the best and fellow Organic farmers are a great help too.

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