Marketing- The Local Farmer’s Market

We have been attending the local Farmer’s Market selling our cuts of Ossabaw Island pork and fresh brown eggs.  We have enjoyed meeting new people, and it gives our back a break from the farm work.( With a big thank you to my parents for their time spent helping set up and tear down.) Our time spent at the market is one way we are marketing and branding our farm in the local community.

There are hundreds of ways to market your farm. But our main goal is  to increase brand recognition, and produce some cash flow.  A Farmers Market in a small community can be a great place to sell your products, but use it to network and generate sales directly from the farm as well.

In our community it seems that meat vendors  have been very spotty at the Farmer’s Market.  And from customer reaction they are not use to the level of care we put into our animals. Customers are pleased to learn that our meat is raised with no antibiotic, no vaccines, and no added hormones, but are not educated on why it makes a difference. We spend time with our customers giving information on why our pork is better. Not every customer is in the market for pork at that time, but hopefully our information will bring them back to us when they are.

Tent at the Farmers Market
Burnin R Farms set up at the Monett Farmer’s Market

I am not the best at decorating, but I am very good at being unique. Our tent is very noticeable among the other vendors. I am also using computer cut vinyl letters wherever possible to make clear, readable signs. No one should have to decipher my handwriting. Our pricing board has vinyl letters on a whiteboard, so we can adjust prices without recreating the whole board.

Burinn R Farms Sign
Burnin R Farms Metal Sign

I made a farm sign out of an old metal sign I had made when I was taking motorcycles to bike shows. I cut the vinyl and applied it to the sign. Recognition is a great way to create credibility, the more someone sees your “look” in a positive atmosphere the more it is perceived as credible.

We are increasing sales every week. We are gaining repeat customers and we have even scheduled a sale of a whole hog in September.  I am surprised at how the egg sales have really taken off, I am needing to add more hens to the coop now.

Marketing is like a marathon, you may sprint occasionally, but a steady gain is the best.

 


 

 

 

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New Guard Dog for the Farm

Our old trusted farm dog, Chewey, who in his old age became blind and deaf wandered off a few weeks ago. He was very loved by our family, but I didn’t know how much his presence meant around the farm. Since he departed I have been seeing coyotes getting increasingly close to the main part of our farm. one sighting was less than 30 yards from our main barns. Even blind and deaf I now realize his presence and occasional bark kept the  sneaky night thieves at a comfortable distance.

Well we decided we needed another dog to protect our farm. since we have a lot of different livestock, we wanted to get a livestock guard dog. There are many different breeds to choose from. We took into account stories from friends and their experiences with dog breeds that they like. We became particularly interested in the Great Pyrenees breed.

I searched on Craigslist for a couple of weeks doing some research on the average cost of a new puppy. I looked at the local humane society and a local shelter just for the chance I could help a one in need. I realized that in our part of the country this breed was a working dog in demand. Litters sold out fast, and ranged from $50 to $300. There were a few pure bred litters available, and there were a few Great Pyrenees crossed with other breeds available. A Face Book group post caught our attention, they had a Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd mixed litter that they were going to sell.

Now it was time to contact the seller. Trish happened to be going to the area where the litter was for sale the very next day, Perfect! She  contacted the seller to find a time to meet and look at the puppies and the puppy’s parents. It is always a good idea to inspect the location and get a feel for the temperament of the parents. Since we wanted a livestock farm dog, this farm had pigs, chickens, goats, cows, and cats. This early introduction to animals on the farm allows the puppies to understand what animals are good and need protecting, and what animals should not be there.  Also,  seeing the temperament of the parents will give you an idea if the puppy could be a good fit on your farm.

Trish was impressed with the farm that had the puppies for sale, and the parents of the puppies seemed to be the type of dog that we would want our puppy to grow up to be. Now it was time to pick a puppy. The only request I had was for her to try to get the biggest puppy she could, and she could go from there. She had her eye on two male pups from the start, but eventually picked our new little guard dog,  Max.

LGD Max
Max the guard puppy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We haven’t had a puppy for quite a while and we have forgotten the mischief and fun the get themselves into. We are thoroughly enjoying our new addition to Burnin R Farms. And we are exited to see how “Max” grows and learns as the time passes.

Max Watching his Baby Pigs
Max Watching his Baby Pigs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Animal Husbandry- Doing What it Takes

As a farmer with livestock I feel it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to try to keep my animals in the best of health.  Part of raising livestock is dealing with reproduction and the difficulties that may arise. Nature is not perfect, even with the best preparation, things we do not like, happen. Injuries, abnormalities, and even death can occur during the reproduction process. Having good animal husbandry means we need to deal with it the best we can and error in favor of the animal.

At Burnin R Farms we raise Pigs, Cows, Chickens, and Horses. Having babies is how we increase our herd and have stock to sell. Sometimes Mothers do not accept their babies and we need to bottle feed them until they take to solid food. There are times that we need to take in a baby that was injured and bottle feed it until it is healthy. The babies are our livelihood, their survival is very important to our business, but it is more than that. Our love for the animals makes us do whatever it takes to help an animal in need that is under our care.  When a farm gets too big to feel that need, then I believe that business stops being a farm.

New Babies Just Born
New Babies Just Born

We had 2 litters of pigs born within minutes of each other.  Due to weather coming in we decided to pen and shelter them together.  Unfortunately,  due to the mothers size and the number of babies, a couple were injured. Several babies were stepped on, one had skin torn away from its hip, another received a swollen and sore leg. It was our duty as the animal’s caretaker to do what we could to heal both babies. We are bottle feeding both, we stitched the one up and continue to rest the other. Both seem to be doing well and will eventually return to their litter at weaning.

This attitude towards the treatment of animals is the glue that has held many small farms together. Saving one animal can mean earning a profit on that litter or breeding. Even though almost all of our livestock will eventually enter the food market, while they are in our care they will be taken care of to the best of our ability. These  values  are lost within most big ag corporate farms, so I am proud to be on a small farm. If you support these values, it gives you one more reason to support your local farm.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Hay and The Window of Opportunity

 

Spring Pasture
Loving green grass again

 

 

 

 

 

 

One farm task in the spring has more to do with winter than spring. Every small farm handles hay in some form or another. The current  popular method is baling large round bales to feed to livestock, but the method has changed considerably with the advances in technology. In order to have enough feed for the winter, hay must be put up starting in the spring.

We use hay to feed our horses, cows, and  on occasion our pigs. With the horses, the old standard small square bale is the easiest and best version of hay bale for us to use. This old standard is also the most time consuming and labor intensive bale to produce. Each 60 lb. plus bale is handled at least 7 times by hand. From the baler, to the trailer, to the hay loft, to the animal, this bale is mostly handled by hand.

Hay Handling
Hay Handling

When baling hay you have to find a window of opportunity, a span of several dry warm days to complete the process. There is no formula to follow or exact times to go by, the hay dries according to the weather. We have to plan according to past experience and hope the weather that is forecasted stays true.

 

 

 

 

Mowing with Old Tractor
Mowing with Old Tractor

Last night we started cutting our hay. We saw that we had 5 days with sun, not super hot but a span of dry days. The longer we wait the more the grass matures, if the grass forms a seed head then the protein content drops. Our goal is to be able to put up hay with the most protein as possible. That is not always easy to do when you have to find a window of opportunity with no rain, when the ground is not saturated from recent rain, and when there is sun to dry and cure the grass into hay.

Tonight we will continue to cut our pastures. We will also rake and turn the hay that has started to dry today. Since we only have evenings during the week to work, we will be both cutting and raking in stages over several days. We started cutting on Tuesday and plan to actually bale the hay on Saturday.

Raking Hay
Raking Hay

 

It is a lot of work, but completely satisfying to know you have food going into winter. Plus there is no better olfactory stimulation on the farm than the smell of fresh cut grass curing into hay.

Check back for updates on how our first hay cutting progresses.


 

Ossabaw Island Babies are Here!!

Our Ossabaw Island pigs are having some very nice looking babies this year. we have had some very nice colored litters. All the babies are healthy and plumping up well. They have started to eat with momma, and are running around all crazy at any noise they hear.

#12 Litter2016

 

 

 

Ossabaw Island Babies Starting to Explore

Ossabaw Island Piglets with Momma

Ossabaw Island Babies with Momma

Our spring babies are almost all spoken for this year. I may need to set up another breeding just for me so I can hold some back. I am toying with not selling any as breeding stock next year. We are moving in different directions with the farm, and I am not sure the added time required to sell as breeding stock will be available next year.  The last few years we have tried to sell as many pure bred babies as we could at weaning time.  Time will tell I guess.


 

 

 

 

New Tent for the Farmers Market

We have found a perfect new pop-up tent for the farmers market. not only was it priced affordably, it is styled to our liking. Burnin’ R Farms will be well represented this summer.

New Farmers Market Tent

 

I love the flames on the tent. It fits in well with our brand.

 

 

 

We had to add a new freezer and coolers to our equipment list to be able to properly hold the meat we will be selling.  We are also in the process of adding new T-shirts with logos and other branded farm items.

Look for us at the Monett, MO farmers markets on Saturdays this summer! We will have pasture raised Ossabaw Island pork by the cut, farm fresh eggs, lye soap, and any extra vegetables that we can bring. Plus, as soon as we can, we will have gourmet mushroom to add to the list. Shiitake, Lion’s mane, and several Oyster mushroom are in various stages of growth and will be available soon.

 


 

New Income Stream For Burnin R Farms

I am always looking for another good way to add another stream of income. When something catches my eye I do a lot of research to see if it would be a good fit for our operation. One day I stumbled onto a story that I just couldn’t get out of my head. The more I researched it, the more it made sense to me to give it a try.

Mushrooms!!  Not the kind made famous in the 70’s, but the kind that are showing up in farmers markets across the country. There are many different kind of edible mushrooms but the most popular are different varieties of Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms. These are often referred to as gourmet mushrooms and are not usually available in local grocery stores because these varieties are delicate and do not ship well.

Europe and Asia have had a large industry farming gourmet mushrooms for many years. In some 3rd world communities mushrooms are a great source of food and revenue.  But in the United States, we have been slow to grasp the value of mushrooms. In recent years the U.S.  has slowly been increasing its consumption of mushrooms, making now a perfect time to get into this industry.

I could write a book from what I have learned about the health benefits of mushrooms. They have been studied for heart health, diabetic health, nerve health, and for their anti- tumor properties. Eastern Medicine is full of references to different mushrooms. Mushrooms have even been found in archeological studies of ancient cultures.  I have also learned that the gourmet types that are raised are included on the list of mushroom that are known to improve health.

I have chose several varieties that I will be growing, but I have started with Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). Lion’s Mane is a very aggressive grower and it loves to produce the fruit that we eat. I have been told that the flavor is reminiscent of lobster, but it reminded me of eating morels as a kid.

Lion’s mane in nature grows on hardwood trees.  This year I saw one while deer hunting in Southern Missouri, so they are also a local mushroom for most people and can be wild harvested. I will be growing mine on hardwood pellets with supplements in a bag.

The mushroom forms a mat of mycelium  in and around the hardwood sawdust in the bag.  After it has fully colonized the bag, it ready to fruit.

Lions Mane Mushroom Fruiting
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Fruiting

 

 

By cutting a small slit in the bag the concentration of oxygen spurs the mushroom to fruit. It starts to grow outside of the bag. In the picture, there is a small ball on the front of the bag. That initial start will grow to beautiful mushroom.

 

 

It takes several days to grow to full maturity. While it is growing it is important give it a small misting to keep it moist and hydrated.

Lions Mane Mushroom starting to grow
Lion’s Mane Mushroom starting to grow

 

Lion’s mane, when young looks like a cauliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is really hard to patiently wait for this mushroom to grow

Lions Mane Mushroom Still Growing
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Still Growing

 

 

Wow, it just keeps growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lions Mane Mushroom Still Growing
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Still Growing

 

 

Boy, this mushroom is looking great!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lions Mane Mushroom Almost Mature
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Almost Mature

 

Almost a week of growth. You can see the hair like projections starting to grow. When fully mature these hairs will flow down giving it a mane like look, Hence the name Lion’s Mane.

This project is just begun and I am so excited to expand the operation. I am also excited to finally be able use my degree in Biotechnology to to benefit the farm.

 

 

 


 

Building a Backyard Chicken Coop

It has been almost a year that our coop build was started. With a lot of help from family, the coop finally took shape and is now working very well. I will recap the process that we used to decide what coop to build and how we built it.

We wanted a multi use chicken coop. I personally wanted a coop that we could have separate breeding pens for different breeds, plus a main section to house our layers. Our end goal was to be able to be somewhat self sufficient and have the ability to breed, hatch, and raise our own chickens.  After weeks of looking at coops on the internet and purchasing a book on coop plans we made our decision on a plan.

We chose a coop that had a 10′ x 15′ center section with two 10’x5′ lean-to areas, one on each long side. The center section would be for our laying hens and the two side pens could be used for breeding, isolation, brooding, or acclimating new birds. We chose to use as many wood pallets as possible in the framing to cut down on cost, and to use a steel sheeting exterior to make it maintenance free.

We started our build with 5’x5′ wood pallets to make up the floor.  Our coop dimensions were limited by, and directly planned according to the pallets we had on hand. Our site was on a slight slope so we used cement blocks under every corner of every pallet as support and to level the floor. We nailed, and screwed the pallets together the best we could to tie the floor together. the struggle was in tweaking the used pallets into square so they would fit together. Not all of our pallets fit perfectly together but for the price they worked great.

Starting our Chicken Coop Floor
Starting our Chicken Coop Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then covered the floor with a layer of 1/2″ particle board sheeting.  This served to tie the pallets together and to give the coop a solid floor. We painted the flooring to help against moisture and because we know it would be in the elements until we got the roof on.

Finished Chicken Coop Floor
Finished Chicken Coop Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were able to use a few pallets in the walls as well, but we had to finish the framing with 2×4’s. Our pneumatic nail gun came in very handy and speeded up the process. The pallets used in the walls also determined the wall height of the lean-to sections as we attached the short end of the sloped roof to the them. We did use all 2×4 wood in the framing of the main section and the roof frame. We framed a slanted roof with the high end  towards the south to hopefully use the extra wall space for light.  (It was great in theory until raccoons found how to gain entry from climbing onto the lean-to roof and into the window that we didn’t think needed to be screened. They are smart little boogers.)

Chicken Coop Front View
Chicken Coop South Side Being Framed

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found some metal barn sheeting at a discounted price. We located a construction company that sold their left over sheets and cover sheets for small projects. The panels were mixed colors and sizes, but that is how our whole project was anyways. We put the darker colors on the north side and the lighter panels on the south to try to keep the sun from heating up the coop too much in the summer. We even had some silver ones that we used for the roof.

After all of the steel was up, it was time to finish the interior. We separated the 3 sections with chicken wire and put in doors, we added one outlet and Led light with a switch by the door, and hung the nesting boxes and roosts. All we lack are the doors to the outside runs that we have yet to build.

We have successfully hatched out 2 clutches of eggs collected from this coop. One clutch was a barn yard mix and the other came from one of our side breeding pens of pure Barred Rock Stock. I added a brooding box with a heat lamp to one of the walls. The box can be removed for cleaning and the lid secured out of the way when not in use.

Added Brooder Box with light
Added Brooder Box with light

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in All we are very happy with how are coop turned out. I know we will be able to use this for many years. And the 3 section design is perfect for our farm as we grow.


 

Spring Rains

I love the smell of a good spring rain. We are on target to get a fair amount of rain in the next couple of weeks. It is welcomed and needed.

The farm relies on rain to refresh, clean, and feed the soil. The rain carries needed nutrients into the soil from the droppings of the pasture animals and from the added chicken litter that comes from the coop. It also washes away minerals or waste that have may built up over the winter.

Afternoon Rainbow
Afternoon Rainbow

I don’t look forward to doing chores in the rain, especially in the pig pens. Pigs love to dig and make holes that fill up with a good rain. With 12 pens to feed I don’t take the time to look at every step I take, and inevitably end up with a boot full of water. It is also great when a sow knocks your feet out from under you and you end up on your butt in one of those holes.

Even if you can escape the holes and the pushy sows, pigs love mud and love to share it with you. They rub against you, they wipe their nose on you, and they love to run between your legs to get the first shot at the feed bowl. So, no matter how careful you are, when it rains you get muddy.

Lost a Farm Truck- But Could Have Been Worse

Last Thursday on my way to my day job, I was rear ended on the highway. The morning traffic was moving fast as usual, and was fairly heavy with everyone trying to get to work on time. I was stopped behind a vehicle waiting to make a left-hand turn. There were a few cars and trucks ahead of me and two behind. I saw in the rear view mirror a truck with a trailer coming in fast and not slowing down. The rest happened fast and is a blur.

The truck hit the two cars behind me throwing one of them into the back of my truck. I had enough time slam mine  into park so I did not roll into vehicles in front of me, but my truck took a hard hit. When the parts stopped flying, there were 4 vehicles totaled. Although no one was seriously hurt, the aftermath will be felt hard on our farm.

My Farm Truck After Being Hit
My Farm Truck After Being Hit

 

 

 

 

 

MyMy Farm Truck After Being Hit- Profile
My Farm Truck After Being Hit- Profile

Because of the accident we are now having to deal with insurance, being short a vehicle, scheduling how to pick up our feed for the farm, locating a replacement truck, and wondering if we will be able to afford a decent replacement. We have always kept full coverage on every vehicle, it is expensive but a necessary evil. Without full coverage we would have to fight an unknown insurance company and try to not get taken advantage of. Being involved in an accident never betters your situation.

A farm is in perpetual motion, it does not slow down or adjust itself for your hardship. You have to make quick adjustments and hope it goes smooth. Luckily the trunk of my little daily driver is able to handle a few bags of grain, and we are not needing to purchase straw or shavings for bedding until the weekend.

We are still negotiating with the insurance about the value of our truck. I am not looking to gain from this because accidents are a part of life, but I do not want to be left with uncovered expenses. I was taken to the hospital to be checked out, and we will have to get those charges covered as well. Our insurance office has been great, and got things going right away. I am sure this will take several months to work everything out.

We always say, things could have been worse. That definitely applies with this as well. No lasting injuries and only material things affected make this situation a hiccup in life. The farm has taught us to  adapt and persevere, keep moving and get things done.


 

 

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