July 2016 Newsletter
What's Going On at the Farm
For July 2016
Its hard to believe but summer is more than half over. In just a couple of weeks Sydney will be leaving us and heading to Abraham Baldwin College in Ga. Sydney is Bubba and Rene's daughter and has worked here since she was 8. The rest of the high school employees will be heading back to school on August 15 and will leave us to handle the day to day chores ourselves except for Saturday and Sunday when they will once again take over moving chicken tractors, doing all the feeding, and helping to load chickens while we participate in the local farmers markets.
During the time we have had the students working during the week, Jesse has been spending a lot of time making sales calls to restaurants in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia. Marc has made calls in the Beaufort/Bluffton area but has had to spend a lot of time running to the processing plant with chickens, hogs, and turkeys. Every Thursday and Friday deliveries are made to these areas keeping them away from the farm totally.
A couple of weeks ago we met and jotted down all of the daily tasks performed and the amount of time each task took. We didn't allow for the time required to prepare for each task nor time required for unexpected repairs since that would change depending on the repair required. Once the list was complete we added up the time required for each task and totaled the amount of time for a typical week. We took the total time required and divided the total by 40 hours to get a total number of employees required if they each worked a 40 hour week. We found that it takes a minimum 6.5 full time employees to operate this farm on a weekly basis. The problem is we only have 3 full time employees (Annie, Marc, and Jesse), 2 part time employees that work an average of 6 hours each a day during the summer only, Bubba that does things after he leaves his day job, and 2 other part time employees that help pack meat shares and market orders and work a total of about 15 hours a week on average each year round.
When Kelsey Worrell with Mibek Farms penned the memo announcing their temporary closing of the farm, she stated that Mibek was too big to be small and too small to be big; the same could be said for Keegan-Filion. Daily farm chores and other tasks require more time than family members can contribute during a 7 day week yet sales and gross profits don't allow us to hire the number of people we need to operate. Asking for volunteer labor isn't an option; daily labor must be dependable and a business must be able to financially pay for all its costs, including labor requirements, or it isn't a viable business. Down sizing isn't an option since fixed costs require that current sales levels be maintained. The constant work demands don't allow for the personal and family time that everyone needs. Marc and Annie aren't kids anymore and need time to spend with family and each other. We must make changes now to avoid the pitfalls that several other farm families have faced including those of our friends at Mibek.
We are making a few changes at the farm over the next few weeks that should make things run a little smoother. We expect to have a full time employee in place around the middle of August and have Bubba coming to the farm full time when he retires in mid September. The additional, experienced, people will allow each of us to have specific areas of responsibility and allow us to focus on those areas rather than having to be directly involved in every daily task. Bubba has been a silent partner since 2001 and is totally familiar with the operation and how things are done. The other "new hire" has worked for us in other areas for awhile and is well aware of what we do and how its done.
A major focus is also on how our daiy tasks are performed; are there things that can be done differently that will make things more effiecient. We are looking at each part of the farm and working on ways to make us more productive while not comprimising on the care the animals recieve.
Annie will begin taking a couple of Saturdays off a month from the Summerville Farmers Market. Hunter or Amy will be there in her place.
Marc may begin taking a Saturday off here or there from the Port Royal Farmers Market. If he does there will be someone there to fill in for him.
More changes are expected in the upcoming weeks as we begin to see the results of these changes and evaluate their effectiveness.
The last group of turkeys for the upcoming Holidays will be recieved in the next 2 weeks; this is the only group of Bronze that we were able to secure. Sales of our birds have been strong this year causing us to move to a waiting list effective August 1. Being on the waiting list doesn't mean you will only get a turkey if someone fails to claim their reserved bird, it means that we are only comfortable with committing to a certain number of turkeys and that more may come available depending on death loss and how this years birds grow. Like all waiting lists, the earlier someone gets on the list, the greater the chance they will get a turkey. All turkey reservations must be made on our website.
Raising turkeys year round has allowed us to build a market for our ground turkey products; several customers purchase nothing but poultry products and rarely eat red meat or pork. Recently we added several new turkey sausage flavors including a sage and regular turkey breakfast sausage link along with garlic and rosemary, Andouille, and Tuscan large link sausages. Please try these new flavors and let us know what you think.
Over the past couple of years we have been using Facebook as a means of keeping everyone informed of what is happening on the farm. We post pictures as well as make comments a few times weekly. We would love for you to post pictures or make comments reqarding our products. I know I always like seeing what other families are doing with the products they purchase. Let us know your out there and tell others what you think of our products and service.
A lot of time has been spent in this newsletter relaying the amount of time required in farming and running a farm to table enterprise. We didn't do this as an attempt to play the sympathy card; we choose to farm and live this lifestyle. We did this to expalin the changes that we needed to make in order to continue farming while mantaining our health and providing us time to spend with our family. This has become even more important with the announcement we made this week regarding our second grand child that is expected in mid February. We want to spend more time in our roll as grand parents and enjoy spending time playing with them in the pool or taking them on gator rides. Marc wants to spend time with them, as he did Jesse, teaching them to fish and hunt; Jesse still talks about the time spent surf fishing in North Carolina and 4am breakfast at the donut shop. It will take a lot of effort to insure we can find the personal time needed while continuing to build the farm and secure it for future generations.
We thank you for your continued support of our farm. We nvite everyone out to see how your food is raised on October 2 when we host our annual Family Day on the Farm to benefit The Low Country Food Bank. Information on the event, including where to purchase tickets, will be available within the next few weeks.
Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse