Novermber 2017 Newsletter
Whats Going On At The Farm November 2017
November is always a busy month. We start processing our turkeys for Thanksgiving around the middle of October, usually 2 or 3 processings, with the last processing done the week before Thanksgiving. The plant has limited capacity for processing turkeys which means that we can't process all of our turkeys on the same day. The packing plant is also the only plant in a 5 state radius that processes chickens and turkeys for producers like us making it very difficult to schedule processing time. Each processing is timed to allow us to process birds that will meet our customers size requirements. Once processed, Annie goes back to the plant and begins the long task of matching the turkey to the customers order. Once done, the birds are put on pallets and put back into the freezer to wait for us to pick them up. Depending on the number of turkeys that are ordered and processed, the task of assigning turkeys to the customers orders could take multiple trips to the plant to complete.
The size of a turkey makes transportation problematic. Once on the trailer, the birds tend to move around a lot causing bruises to the wings and scratches on their skin. Neither of these are painful to the animal but are not allowed to remain on the processed bird. Turkeys that have had some skin removed are used to make ground turkey and turkey sausages. Turkeys that had bruised wings will have the wing tip or the complete wing removed and will be offered up for sale as a damaged turkey. Several people have ordered a damaged bird for Thanksgiving and we should have any extra damaged birds up for sale at the farmers market on Saturday Novemeber 11.
Pick up of pre ordered turkeys willl be Saturday November 18 at both the Summerville and Port Royal Farmers Markets. As we have done in the past, the Summerville pick up will be from 8 until 10 only; Annie needs to leave right at 10 to allow time to make turkey deliveries to our restaurant customers. Pick up at the Port Royal market will be during the normal market hours of 9 until noon.
Jesse and Amy will be making the monthly meat share home delivery and the pre ordered Holiday turkey home delivery on Saturday November 18. Delivery times will be based on the number of deliveries that need to be made and might cause your normal home delivery to be a little later than usual. I'm sure they will contact you the day of delivery if there are any problems or delays.
Customers that have chosen the farm as their pick up point can pick up their turkeys on Friday November 17 or Monday November 20 during the normal farm market hours.
The market at the farm will be closed on Friday November 24 for the Thanksgiving Holiday. We will resume normal market hours the following Monday.
The Summerville Farmers Market will close for the season on Saturday November 18. We will begin our winter schedule on Saturday December 2. I expect the meeting place will continue being where we set up during the market season with the hours being 8:30 to 10. Annie doesn't bring anything extra to sell off the truck and all milk sales are pre order only. If interested in getting our winter delivery reminders, please contact Annie via email and request to be added to the list.
Several weeks ago Jennifer Graham contacted us to discuss the future of Farm to Table Delivery. Jennifer was the first service in the area to offer home delivery of local farm products when she opened over 4 years ago. Things went well for the first few years but started to decline about 1-1/2 years ago. Since mid summer sales have dropped further making it impossible for her to continue. We appreciate what Jennifer has done for us over the years and are sorry to see this business close. The final home delivery for Farm to Table Delivery will be the first week in December.
At the time of this newsletter, we are unsure how we will handle home deliveries. Jesse and Amy have handled the home delivery of our meat shares but haven't really pursued building Pastured Pantry's customer base. With Jesse working on the farm full time, Amy having a full time job as a speech therapist, and having 2 young children at home, there isn't a lot of time left available to dedicate to building a business. I know we will continue using Pastured Pantry to make home delivery of our meat shares but will have to discuss what will need to be done if we plan on building this enterprise.
For the last few weeks our Facebook posts have been geared to what is considered "local" and a discussion of the current situation in the "local" market. As mentioned in a few of our newsletters, farmers market attendence has declined as has market sales. Though the community says they want to purchase local vegetables and meat, market attendence and sales don't reflect a commitment to purchase on the part of the community. At the Summerville Farmer Market attendence is way down, over 50% or 60% some Saturdays, and several vendors have begun coming every other week. Over the past year, several of our farmer friends have shutdown and a few more have stated that this may be their last year. Our post was an attempt to find out what the disconnect is and what can we, as farmers,can do to make it easier to purchase from us.
The response we recieved was overwhelming. On one post we received as many, or more, comments as we did likes. Most of the comments were about price and convience which was expected.
As we stated in the Facebook posts, costs of producing pastured chicken, turkey, pork, and grass fed beef is extremely high when compared to raiseing animals in confinement. The very fact of providing space for the animal to roam costs the farm additional feed. The free range chickens and hogs basically work out every day playing and running in the fields burning calaries. Free ranging chickens and pasturing hogs doesn't allow the farm to utilize automated feeding systems which greatly increases labor costs. Because grass doesnt provide the calaries that corn and soybeans do, cattle that are grass fed can take up to 30 months or more to finish while a feed lot steer can be ready to process in 18 to 20 months.
Processing costs are another big factor in why pastured meat, from local farms, is so expensive. Our processing charge for killing and plucking a chicken is $3.90 without taking into consideration transportation, feed, cost of the chick, or any labor; a whole chicken can be bought at Wal Mart for under $6. We will never be able to compete with the large corporate integrators nor do we want to.
We are not whinning. We know there are things that we can, and must, do if we expect to retain old customers and gain new ones in both the near and distant future. Here at the farm we are busy trying to find things that will make us more effiecient and help us provide our customers the best prices possible on our products.
We embrace the fact that we are small farmers but realize that doesn't give us a license to overcharge for our product. We have to invest time and money in ways that allow us to handle our daily tasks more effieciently, raise more animals with the same amount of labor, order feed at levels that provide us the best price possible, and commit to continue to search for ways to get better all the while maintaining the best possible envirnment for the animals. In other words, the farm must grow so that we can acheive some of the economies that larger operations are able to obtain.
Several weeks ago we began working with a local CPA with a goal of finding problem areas in our operation and reviewing our production costs. This is a very long process which will take weeks to complete. Once finished, we will look at every part of our production systems to insure that we are following the best procedures possible. We are working to have the review process completed by early to mid December and will begin working towards having a completed operations plan by the end of the year.
Winter on the farm is always a busy place. We spend a lot of time working on construction projects and working on equipment so it will be ready come spring. This winter promises to be busier than usual with nights filled with looking over reports and developing budgets. We are going into year 3 of transitioning the farm from us to Jesse and Amy, and are planning on turning more of the decision making and planning over to them in the not to distant future. As busy as we know we will be, we couldn't be more excited about the future prospects and changes we know we will make.
All of us at Keegan-Filion Farm have alot to be thankful for including all of you that have been faithful supporters of our farm for over 12 years. We pray that you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and safe Holiday travel.
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse