When we bought this place eight years ago, we (or really me) had high hopes to not only produce our own organic food in a humane way, but to also make it available to our local neighbors. So we set off by getting our first goats, chickens, cattle and even a dairy calf. Along the way, we occasionally raised turkeys and each year, we do raise our own meat chickens. Our main goal was and still is, to grow and raise our own food as healthy as possible.
Our cattle and dairy cow are raised on grass only. Chickens run around the homestead and are also fed organic grains. Goats get a mix of both. The meat chickens and turkeys, were also raised on grass. An enormous garden was planted as well as an orchard. I started to set up a little farm store with hopes that I could have a couple of days a week to offer fresh produce, have an honor system for milk and eggs. And always, sanitation and just doing things the right way, were always on my mind.
Like any business, even though I didn't really think of our homestead as a legit business, I wanted it to earn enough money to have us break even on the cost of hay and feed and if there was extra, then that was a bonus. Unfortunately, being so small and doing things in a small way, is just like any other business when it comes to the cost of doing that business and the amount of work on a small scale. Let me see if I can explain.
The more you can buy in bulk for supplies and feed, the cheaper the price. Since we are small, buying in huge bulk is a gamble. Will it rot, or will something happen to all that feed. We only have so much space with which to store extra feed. We don't have the machinery to move all of these supplies. We do most things by hand and most of the time, it's me doing it. Most people don't realize the amount of work that goes in to raising animals and vegetables. So due to our smallness, we can't buy in huge bulk and it takes just as much time to take care of a few animals vs. many. My time is worth money, too. When it's all said and done, it's difficult to offer really great food at a reasonable cost. Since we don't have the middle man, we can offer it direct and that saves the customer money.
The biggest problem though, is getting the right amount of customers and to have them come regularly. Too few customers, means a ton of work for little to almost no pay and high waste. Too many customers and we can't serve them all. So what to do? Well the State of Illinois solved one of our problems. As of July 1, raw milk sales must be done under a permit from the farm only. No biggie, right? Just go out and get a permit. Not so fast. Here are the latest regulations: http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/077007750000550R.html Just a little bit of light reading. What it boils down to is a permit is needed. The place needs to basically be set up like a Grade A dairy operation and inspected regularly. So long, small time dairy farmer. Since it's important for me to follow the rules, we no longer offer raw milk for sale. Just as well. We lost our dairy cow last year. The eggs? I've been known to throw away 5 gallon buckets of eggs. So I decreased our flock to just serve us. My vegetable garden is a 1/3 of what it was. Our beef is decreased again, to serve our needs. I still may have fruit available here and there and hopefully honey, when the bees cooperate.
We are still very much raising our own food, it's just not for sale any longer. I can only do so much and with Blossom's Barn growing, it's all I can do to keep up, if you want to call it that. It's a lot of work, work that I love, but I only have so much time to give. Choices need to be made and that's what it has come to. Over these eight years, we have gone through many changes. From learning how to do all of this, to doing all of this, to now down-sizing into something more manageable for our needs. It's good. Real good.