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Anyone have no luck?

 
                              
Posts: 30
Location: Many-snow-ta
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Growing up on a farm (middle of MN) we always had quite a bit of extra produce from our livestock and multiple gardens. We had an elk ranch, chickens, numerous other poultry, dairy goats, rabbits, etc.

It is 'illegal' to sell raw milk for human consumption in our state, so our ads were always advertising for 'pet consumption'. We only ever had two buyers, and only one of then was a repeat buyer. (Not that I can control what someone does with the milk they purchase... LOL)

Our free-ranged whole grain fed chicken eggs only sold when they were priced lower than storebought caged eggs.

Never once did we manage to sell any poultry - dead or alive. The elk went to multiple ranches for game hunts as no one had any interest in this meat.

Our ads about extra fresh organic garden produce, fruits, veggies, etc. amounted to nothing.

The closest 'large' town was somewhere over 3k people, but they only had a farmer's market for 2-3 weekends in the summer - there was no demand and little supply from others. Farmer's markets at larger towns were either too far away or just as bad.

I recently (this year) contacted several stores including a health food store (located in a large city) about selling my varieties of goat milk soap made with certified organic oils. I never heard back from most of them.

The local herbalist closed her small business that she had been trying to keep running for years.


I could go on. My mother used to dream of not having to work out of the home and instead doing what she loved to make money. There is just no interest. We would not thrive financially.

I just found a farm about 45 minutes away that is doing quite well with what we tried to do. I admit I found myself to be very jealous, and at the same time very sad. That was supposed to be us!

Ok, sorry.. end rant. Has anyone else had absolutely no luck in their area with making a farm income? Even before the 'recession'? We now simply maintain what we have for ourselves. I guess the 'go local' mantra hasn't really stuck here.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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with your fruits and veggies do people know you have good stuff? i used to have the same problem until i started giving food away as gifts. people tried them, they heard where it came from and they wanted more. now i have more than a few people who ask me for what i have not even what they want.

as for the other stuff im still in sort of the same boat. lots of crops, no buyers yet.
 
                              
Posts: 30
Location: Many-snow-ta
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Yes - we usually gave our extras away as gifts and to charities/churches/food shelves (back when they would still take REAL food).
Now I live in an apt in the city and visit the farm on holidays and stay during the summer.

When I have my own land and crops hopefully I'll have better luck...
And good luck to you, too, Soil! I try to buy local whenever I find the opportunity - I certainly know what it's like to be on that end of it!
 
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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It took me about 6 years to figure out a way to make a living off what I could produce on my land. At first, any sales at all felt like success even if the farm was losing money. Now I have modest living entirely through growing. It takes a LOT of persistence and the ability to take a lot of rejection. Producing the food is the first hurdle, then you've got to sell it!
 
Posts: 156
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That is one of my biggest worries with farming, can we make it financially.

I thought about going into debt for a small farm (10-20 acres), but have decided against it.
We will keep our 1.5 acre lot and try to turn it into a profitable microfarm.  The most important aspect of this will be to produce almost all of our own food with enough left over to sell (hopefully).

Hope your luck changes in the future.
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Working with what you have (1.5 acre) sounds like a great idea. Even in a short-season area, it is feasible to gross $50K an acre with mixed vegetables. As that system develops you can channel some of the profits into equipment, some of it into a land acquisition fund. Then when you scale up to 10 - 20 acres, you can use the equipment to work small fields on the bigger plot.

Once you have a lot of experience it becomes much more feasible to plan the debt financing of equipment and/or land. But farming is much too risky to be carrying too much debt load. I prefer to buy with cash when at all possible, postponing the purchase until the money is really there. Then you're working for yourself instead of working for the bank.
 
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It sounds like you had a classic 'thin market' Blackbird. Between low population numbers and a culture that didn't value fresh/local/natural products, it sounds tough.

Veggies were traditionally a market-gardening operation that were raised right outside of the urban areas. With oil and trucks, that got shifted to far away places ... peak oil might re-localize things in the future, but it is hard to compete against the agri-giants directly. A person has to have a different niche, which may not exist in some rural areas.

Did you find out any secrets from the farm that was 45 minutes away and doing well?

Maybe elk is too specialized for a local market ... but what about elk jerky or other value added products for sale to people farther away? What about gourmet chefs in the twin cities or Chicago? The Omaha Steaks company ships high-priced meat on dried ice anywhere in the US... maybe there are 'beast-feast' groups that want to add elk to their buffets of deer, razorback, squirrel, and bluegill?
 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: Inland North Atlantic
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We're in the same canoe as you but have a different paddle. What we've done is scale back everything to where we consume our own produce, eggs, and meat. Next we went and talked to the successful farmers around our neck of the woods for advice. They were really helpful. We were told what we could grow that would sell in our market and what  we could do to make our soil more productive without investing a lot in fertilizer or tillage machines. Best of all we were educated in how to formulate a five year development plan. Now we have a ready market if we grow what they suggest - and we will come spring. Funny coincidence, lately there has been an interest in our original produce and small animal husbandry surplus. Go figure. I guess no man is an island, after all when you think about the only thing we really have is each others good will.
 
            
Posts: 77
Location: Northport, Wash.
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One grower in our area (we have not started selling yet) takes all their produce to Spokane, which is a two hour plus drive away, to the farmers markets there.  If you have a larger town within driving distance, you may need to haul your stuff there until you can make contacts closer.
In most rural areas, everyone has a garden seems like, so maybe try alternative produce that is not the "normal" stuff, or other "niche" items.
Good luck.
 
Posts: 115
Location: Eastern Shore VA
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Thank you for the honest and courageous post, Blackbird.  I think it can be difficult to discuss and publicly(as it were) at that when things aren't going well.  I have been a paid worker on two farms volunteered on several others and bought from many farmers when I was a chef.  I have never heard of a farmer who isn't struggling to some extent.  Although nothing like what you describe.  I wish you the best of luck and hope that things turn around for you.  The farm that is 45 minutes away and successful must be very frustrating.  It could also be an opportunity.  If you haven't already can you talk to them and see what their outlets are?  Have you tried to sell to restaurants.  I don't know how far away big cities are but in my experience restaurants like locally source veg and meat.  You might be able to supply two or more and coordinate drop offs as to save on gas.  Maybe start the 'buy local" awareness in your area.
Your experience is eye-opening as we hope to live rurally and have a small farm.  We want to be away from cities but wonder about how to sell our excess.  It seems like quite a trade off.
Best of Luck.
 
                                      
Posts: 22
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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Blackbird wrote:
I recently (this year) contacted several stores including a health food store (located in a large city) about selling my varieties of goat milk soap made with certified organic oils. I never heard back from most of them.



Selling is the most under rated skills, and it's miserable work for folks who don't relish rejection, but I firmly believe this is where we can make a big difference in our bottom lines. 

For example, Blackbird, with your soaps, it might pay to take samples of your soap to the stores you want to sell to.  Make sure your packaging is *beautiful*, maybe wrapped in pretty fabric with a punched label attached in raffia.  Take the sample with a brief flyer with benefits of the product, your prices and you contact info.  Find out who has authority to buy, and return when you can talk to that person.

A whole-hearted sales approach will not work with everyone, but it will work with *someone*.  Sales is a numbers game.  Every rejection takes you that much closer to the first sale.  And you'll get feedback from the folks who aren't interested as to why they're not, and might get ideas about another product that would sell, or someone who would buy this one.  You'll also be setting yourself apart from all the other folks who sell soap.  You become an added value to the product.

Best wishes to you!
 
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