Farm Flows - Leveraging Your Fixed Costs

I think a lot about how we’ll manage the cash flows at Little Seed during the first few years of operation. It’s an extremely important topic because it can literally make or break your business... no matter how well you appear to be doing. Fast growing, seemingly profitable companies go under all the time and the culprit is typically poor cash flow management. One way to prepare for (and hopefully avoid) that unfortunate circumstance is to understand your fixed and variable costs. In this post I’ll cover what that means and how it can impact your business and in a later post I’ll expand into how it applies to various circumstances (debt load, working capital needs, etc).
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Farm Hopping: Milking and Cheesemaking at Sprout Creek Farm

In the latest installment of Farm Hopping, Scrapple and Sweetbreads go to Sprout Creek Farm! Twice!

Sprout Creek Farm - Photo by Sprout Creek's Georgie Blaeser Sprout Creek Farm is a highly diversified farm with farm enterprises including dairy cows, sheep, pigs, meat & laying chickens, turkeys, an on-farm retail market and more. The farm is structured as a non-profit and is operated by the Society of the Sacred Heart. Sprout is most well-known for its cheese and youth summer camp. The farm produces 15 varieties of cheese from approximately 400,000 pounds of milk from herds of ~40 cows and ~65 goats. As if Sprout’s excellent cheese wasn’t enough of a highlight, the farm also offers kids the opportunity to spend the summer on the farm participating in all aspects of farming. Gardening, milking, animal husbandry, you name it! The staff’s ability to teach 10 yrs olds about farming turned out to be perfect for getting us up to speed!
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Work-Life Balance? Isn’t That Why We’re Starting a Farm?

Over the past year we’ve spent a lot of time reading books and chatting with farmers of all shapes and sizes. Veteran farmers, young farmers, former farmers, aspiring farmers, urban farmers... if it ends with farmer we’ve found someone to tell us about it! Aspiring farmers, including ourselves, tend to have a romantic view of life on the farm. We may tell you that we understand it's hard work, but no matter how many farms we visit and how many farmers we speak with I still can’t get that image out of my head.
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Rhubarb - Step Away from the Strawberries and Get Your Stalk Out of That Pie Plate!

After last week’s CSA share pick-up we had a serious rhubarb explosion going on in our kitchen! Before berries are officially on a roll we’re blessed with this uniquely sweet-tart treat to start off the season. Although usually prepared and eaten much like a fruit, rhubarb is a leafy vegetable. The plant grows up to 3 feet tall with gigantic leaves unfurling in all directions. The red and green speckled wands you find in the market are the leaf stalk of the plant. The leaves themselves are toxic, containing oxalic acid crystals, so don’t try to cook ‘em up if you’re harvesting your own. The root’s popularity in ancient Chinese medicine aided Rhubarb’s migration from Asia to Europe and finally the Americas. Ben Franklin is credited for bringing rhubarb seeds to the North American east coast in 1772, but eating the stalks did not catch on until the early 1800s, when it became a popular ingredient for pie and home made wines. 

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Farm Flows - Understanding Gross and Operating Profit

Image from cover of “Slow Money”, by Woody Tasch.

If you’ve read our first blog post, you probably know that I have a background in finance. Whether I like it or not, numbers are always on my mind. That means I think a lot about Little Seed and how we’ll manage to stay alive in an industry like farming, which is notorious for bedeviling even the most astute financial planners. Probably the most important aspect of our financial plan is understanding our costs and our cash flows. Not just thinking about them, but actually writing (typing) them all down and planning a few years ahead. I can't emphasize how important it is to actually sit down and write it out. Until you do, you won't know what you don't know.
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