DECEMBER ON THE FARM
So much has been happening lately that I really don't know where to begin. The biggest thing that's happened is the launch of the new website. Amy and her dad, Mike, have worked countless hours on designing and building the site. We love the design, especially the store, and are looking forward to adding things that we couldn't have dreamed about just a few years ago. It's hard to believe that in just 4 years, the old site went from being full of the latest technology, to being old and out dated. Things are moving way too fast for me.
One of the first features you'll notice when you log in and set your user profile is the opportunity to pick and choose the correspondence you wish to receive from the farm. You can choose to receive the order reminders and the newsletters or either one or none, it's totally up to you.
The website combines both Keegan-Filion Farm and Pastured Pantry. This makes ordering from either of us a quick and simple task. The order forms have changed as well. Amy has added average pack sizes next to each item to provide you with information you might need when ordering. This also provides a more accurate estimate of your order total. As we've done in the past, your invoice will be based on the actual package size.
When placing your orders, make sure to check the top of the order page to see what we have on special at that time. These specials will only be available for customers placing orders on the website and will not be valid for farm market or on-farm sales.
When discussing the website, we decided to not allow invoicing through the site. We felt that this could compromise our customers credit card information which is something we didn't want to have happen. We decided it would be best to continuing using Pay Pal as our invoicing platform. Pay Pal has systems in place which protect your credit card information and keep it private. Credit card sales at the farm or the Port Royal Farmers Market will continue to be handled through Square.
At this time the calendar on the website isn't functional. In the future we will use the calendar as we have in the past, it will be updated monthly with the market schedule at the farm and when we will be at the Port Royal Farmers Market. Once set up, the new calendar will also show the delivery days for Pastured Pantry and when the dairy orders will be due. I hope you found the calendar helpful in the past and will continue to use it once it is set up.
At this time we have no farm pictures loaded into the site. We hope to have this done in upcoming weeks and plan to add pictures from time to time to insure you are seeing what the farm looks like today and not several years ago. Not all of our customers have the opportunity to come out and visit the farm. Some have made it to our annual family day at the farm but that is held only one day a year. To help people see what the farm is all about, we are planning to add video and provide a virtual tour of the farm. Hopefully we can get some free time before hot weather returns and can get the video completed.
The website is capable of doing so much more than in the past. We do have a list of the restaurants we serve and links to their websites, a page with frequently used terms and questions, and a listing of upcoming events. But we also plan on adding recipes for our market customers that want to try something new and a "chefs portal" which will be designed to be used only by the restaurant chefs we serve.
We hope you enjoy the new website and find it user friendly and informative. Please feel free to contact us if you experience any problems or would like to make suggestions for additional things to be added to the site.
As I write part of this newsletter I've been preparing for a "board" meeting that we will be holding this evening. Our "board" consists of Amy, Jesse, Annie, and I along with a financial consultant we have been working with for a year or so. The focus of the "board" is to discuss the current financial status of the farm, what our plans are for the upcoming 6 months (our business plan runs from August to August), did we follow the plan for the past 6 months, and what changes, if any, need to be made. This board was set up to help us secure the farms future and help us navigate what needs to be done in the transition of the farm from us to Amy and Jesse. We are now in the 4th year of what we think will be a 7 year process. We aren't planning on walking away in 3 years but do want to insure things are in place in the event anything happens to Annie or I. The truth is I plan on driving Amy and Jesse crazy for many more years and am taking great pleasure and joy in doing so. I especially enjoy showing Emmy and Joey the things that make mom and dad cringe. Being a grandparent is a lot of fun!
Later in the month the family will meet again to discuss each of the farms enterprises and make sure we are spending our time and making the financial investments in the right parts of the farm. Current plans are to build 4 or 5 new hog lots and make a couple of small changes in the farrowing house during the winter months. We had planned on building a new cattle handling facility as well but think we will put that off for a year or so.
In 2005 we started building a pastured chicken and hog operation from scratch. We designed our first chicken houses, found they didn't work as well as we thought, and designed and built more. We have spent the past 14 years designing and building and have finally built a system that will allow us to grow a little more without the need to build new facilities. Once the new hog lots are completed, we can increase production in hogs by up to 25% or 30%, and already have the ability to increase chicken production up to 25% without having to build more infrastructure. We can finally see a time when we can simply operate the farm without having to be building it at the same time. It's the construction projects that caused us to work 7 days a week for so many years and to spend every extra dime that the farm made on new infrastructure. After this year's winter projects are complete, we can farm, and enjoy some family time again.
We have made several other changes over the years that have played big roles in making the farm what it is today. Something we started doing in late 2018, grinding our own hog feed here on the farm, has probably been the biggest change and has helped us raise the quality pork that we have always wanted to raise. Having the ability to grind our own feed meant we had to find sources of corn that could supply us. We buy corn from 2 farms, one is located about 5 miles from the farm and the other 12. We pay both farms a $1.50 a bushel premium based on the current market price of corn. That adds up considerably when you figure we use at least 150 bushels a week, but it helps those farms remain profitable and insures we will have a local source of corn for years to come. Farms need to work together whenever possible, it's good for everyone.
During the years we have experienced very little turnover in our full time work force. Back in October we lost someone that worked here for several years; they decided they wanted to do something else for awhile. I think we can all relate to this feeling and have all experienced it. Though unexpected, we found that we could complete the same tasks by me taking over a few of them and Hunter, Delenn, and Victoria taking on some of the other responsibilities. I don't think we were shocked by what we were seeing, but more convinced than ever that the systems we set up were working as efficiently as planned. A farm doesn't have to raise animals in confinement and produce large numbers to be capable of surviving and supplying the local community. Small farms can farm in a sustainable manner, raise animals humanely, and use technology, even some of the old technology, to help the farm succeed.
What a small farm can't compromise on is quality, they have to sell a product that is hands down better than what can be bought in the store.
I hope that you can tell when reading this newsletter that we are as excited as ever about the future of the farm. Though there may be a few challenges ahead, as there are every year, we know that if we continue to work hard and, as a family, openly discuss the issues that we will face, that we can continue doing what we love, farming, for many years to come.
From our family to yours, we pray that you have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. May your family be as blessed as we have been.
Oh, I hope Santa brings everything you've asked for. Me, I'm still waiting for him to bring me a John Deere with a cab and air conditioning but, once again, I've been told I haven't been that good. I still don't know what qualifies as "being that good".
Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse