Monthly Archives: May 2009

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man

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Project Start-a-Farm is looking for land.   Those of you who know me well will be quite impressed with my daring.  I’ve been driving around  the Western and Southwestern Corvallis countryside, scoping out pasture land and knocking on doors. You heard me right…I said knocking on doors.   The bravery of it astounds even me.

So far, I’ve talked to a lot of landowners including some really ancient old farmers.  They generally cock their head and wonder aloud “isn’t there some other type of business you’d rather get into than FARMING?!”  I keep plowing ahead.  I’ve got a few people who might be interested in leasing me some acreage, but we’ll have to see what shakes out.

Today I hung up some “Pasture Land Wanted” signs in small town taverns.  That was so awesome I did a little dance.

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Yes, I know it’s tacky.  But I was all the way in freaking Alpine when I got the idea, and I didn’t care for the idea of driving all the way home to print off a nice, professional sign.   Sharpie in the glovebox is what it’s all about, baby.

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Free Stuff

I’ve been on Craigslist a lot lately, looking for various farm-related things.  I recently discovered the Craigslist “Free Stuff” category.   I’m sure Danae gleans hours of entertainment from this category on a daily basis, but I’m a little behind the times.

I am just cracking up at some of the freebies people are posting on this site.  Here’s a smattering:

Toilet Handles

Toilet Handles

Needing something a little more “ergonomic” and “comfortable” attached to your potty?  Look no further

Junk

Junk

This guy will give you a 1/2 pound of copper pennies if you take his junk in a “free-for-all” that he’s throwing.   Um, good deal??

Pea Crab

Pea Crab

Someone is SE Portland found some little pea crabs inside his gaper clams.  Common occurance.  But he’s willing to give them to you for free because “in short they need a some luck”.   What a bleeding heart.

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That look on the Gerber baby’s face will be one of horror when you feed it the expired baby food this person is trying to pawn off on clueless mothers.   But it was free!!

crappy x-mas tree

crappy x-mas tree

Ok, last one.  This person has a Crappy X-Mas Tree that you can have for free.  I would never hire him for sales and marketing, that’s fo’ sho’.

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How ‘Bout them Cowgirls?

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It’s that time of year again!  The rain is pounding the plains of western Oregon, but down in Bishop, California it’s 95 degrees and the mules are awakening from their long winter slumber.

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It’s the time of year when all good cowgirls and cowboys get in their pickups (and compact cars) and migrate towards the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

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Saddle up your ponies…we’re going to Bodie!

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The biggest, baddest gold-mining town of the 19th century, Bodie was all saloons and no churches.   It’s a three day ride on horseback from Bishop, California, through high desert plains still populated by wild mustangs.

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See those little ant-sized dots?  Those are mustangs.  I know this because all our riding horses ran away with them last year and became little ant-sized dots themselves.  True story.

After the Bishop to Bodie ride, we’re gonna get ourselves back down to town for Mule Days in Bishop.  We’ll proudly carry the Red’s Meadow colors in the Mule Days parade,  create chaos in the drill team, and win lots of packing and shoeing events.   Just doin’ what we do best.

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Howdy Pardner

Proof exists:  I am not the only person willing to abandon an uninspiring, vaguely ag-related job for crazy farm-starting adventures. Unsurprisingly it is not difficult to find Animal Science majors sitting on their degrees thinking, “now what?”.  So, I may have convinced my friend Savannah to sail off into the wild unknown with me.   Details are still being worked out.

The real reason I asked Savannah to come work with me

The real reason I asked Savannah to come work with me

The first order of business yesterday was to walk all over the Oregon State Campus (fine grazing land in the MU Quad, by the way) following Extension Office rabbit trails.  We were looking for platte maps or aerial maps of Benton County, in order to locate available pasture land for potential lease.   Have you ever noticed how un-useful university offices are when it comes to anything really practical?  We were finally told to contact the NRCS in Tangent.  Have done.  Have not received a  return call.  Savannah will go bang on their door today on her lunch break, and see what she can find out.

There are so many decisions to be made before I can even buy one cow.  What kind of beef operation will we have?  Who will be our buyer?  How many cattle will we run?   The general consensus is that we will buy as many stocker cattle as we can this year  without going into debt.  If direct sales are simple, we’ll go that route, otherwise we’ll try to find someone to buy our feeder/finished steers at a premium for the grass-fed beef market.

Anybody want a side of beef?

Grilled_Steak

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Project Start a Farm

It turns out I am a little bit of a procrastinator and an over-analyzer among other faults.  What I will have you know is this:  I’m skeered to death to start a farm.  I’m afraid of failure and more than that, I’m worried about what you all will think of me.  My natural inclination is to research this project into the ground and resist taking any active steps toward actually beginning.  Eventually I’ll get sick of sitting in my duplex living room reading ‘Ranching for Profit’ information packages, and I’ll go get a unsatisfactory “real job” with some vague tie to agriculture.

So I have decided to give myself a little accountability by posting my fears, failures and succeses on the internet for everyone to see.  Gulp.   You know how you see a successful person and wonder how they got over the “hump” and made their way toward success?  I’d like to document the process of starting a business from square one with the hope and intent that someday I will make it into a successful venture.  Maybe I’ll fail but I have to take a risk, right?

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This is what I’m starting out with:

1. A Bachelors of Science degree in Animal Sciences

2. Two years industry experience in row crop farming and processing

3. Four years of experience raising 4-H steers, hogs, sheep, laying hens and llamas (they eat llamas in Peru, so I’m going to go ahead and throw them in there as meat animals, so as to pad my resume).

4. Four years of experience managing a flock of sheep for reproductive physiology research at Oregon State University.

5. A pile of books on pasture-based farming by Joel Salatin, Julius Ruechel, and Greg Judy.

6. A laptop computer for research

7. A strong pot of coffee, fed by intravenous drip.

8. A wild vacillation between debilitating fear of failure and ridiculous “I Can Do It!” optimism.

Please note that nowhere on that list is any more business knowledge than what is required to not overdraw my checking account.

Way Back When

I believe this all began at age 8 when I developed a Bug Business from my home in Toledo, Oregon.  I had a little book of money-making ideas for kids, which I referred to pretty much every day because I suffered from Chronic Boredom/A Need for Constant Stimulation.  Over the years, I utilized my love for organizing other people (some might call it bossiness, but I prefer to think of it as just plain management skills) and roped my siblings and neighborhood kids into my start-up enterprises.   I had a lemonade and popcorn stand on Highway 20 (no slow-paced neighborhood sales for me), a Beneficial Bug Business complete with home delivery via Radio Flyer wagon, a chocolate chip cookie business, and a pie business.  Eventually I graduated to 4-H market animals.  I’m not sure I ever amassed much wealth, but I learned to record profit and expenses in a spiral notebook and how to work up the nerve to knock on doors and market my products.

Now

A few weeks ago I headed down to The Business Enterprise Center in Corvallis to take a class on beginning a business.  It was $10 well spent, learning the preliminary steps required to get a business idea off the ground.  I have a lot of work to do but there is a world of resources out there for entrepreneurs.

I stopped by Afton Field Farms booth at the Corvallis Farmers Market and chatted with Tyler and Alicia.  I got some good advice from them and worked out a time to go visit their operation.  On Monday, I did that and learned a lot.  Most importantly, they assure me that it can be very profitable and it is not an impossible thing for me to undertake.  I got a stack of books from them (See above list of authors), and advice on how look for leasable land.

Today, I worked on establishing my goals for personal life and business.  This is paramount to the success of any business.  Keith and I will go over them tonight and make sure they represent our desires.   I read a bunch of Joel Salatin’s book by the cheesy title of “You Can Farm.”

Tomorrow

Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated with my 30 minute cycles of panic attacks and optimism.  Stay posted.

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Wining and Dining

I can hear the cries of “snobbery!” already, but here’s the story.  Last night Keith and I joined a bunch of upper-crust, 50-something Corvallis folks at WineStyles and participated in a Wine Appreciation workshop.  We were definitely the only people under 40 years old.  Does that make us cool or weird?  I’m not sure yet.

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I like wine pretty well, but that’s all I can say about it.  I can barely pronouce Pinot Noir and don’t try me on Sangiovese or Scheurebe.   My tasting vocabulary has consisted thus far of: “good”  and “ugh”.

Last night, we learned (and we actually did figure it out!) how to distinguish the aroma and taste of pineapple and musk and propane and wet dog and vanilla, etc. in any given wine.  I hope I never get all those things in one wine at once, that’s for sure.  It was a pretty cool experience.  I still don’t really have a handle on what I like and don’t like, so don’t worry…I won’t get all “judge-y” about the wine you serve me at your house.  Unless of course it has a bouquet of pineapple, musk, propane, wet dog, and vanilla.   Then I might discreetly water your houseplants with it.

On the wine note:  I have been made aware that Eola Hills Winery in Rickreall organizes a Bike Oregon Wine Country tour every Sunday in August.  I am super stoked to do this (maybe for my birthday, can I get an amen?!).  I have never ridden a bike 50 miles in my entire life, but I believe a glass or two of excellent Willamette Valley Pinot Noir might help in that department.   Put it on your calendars, cuz we’re goin’!

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Doing Something With My Life

This is for everyone who wonders what I’m doing with my life since I no longer have a J-O-B.  Mostly I just sit around and watch the rain come down.  But occasionally I come up with a brilliant idea and then I sit around and think about it while I watch the rain come down.

This is Project Start a Farm.  (Also known as Project I Guess I Should Use that $75,000 Degree For Something).

The Office

The Office

The idea, thus far, is to lease some land and purchase stocker cattle (300-700 lb weaned calves) and maybe a few sheep for good time’s sake and maybe a couple chickens ’cause everyone knows how much I love poultry.   I’d graze the cattle and finish them and direct-market them as grass-fed beef.  Maybe I’ll grow some turkeys too, for your Thanksgiving pleasure.

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So…I think I’ll be in the market for a Ford Pickup and a couple cows pretty soon.

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