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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

The Value of What You Grow

The Value of What You Grow

The Value of What You Grow

by M. Sakran of Porter, TX
www.msakran.com

It’s a beautiful morning in September. It’s a little cool, but starting to warm. The sky looks clear, and there’s a breeze. You woke up early that morning and loaded the truck. Box after box of beautiful produce. The colors were deep, they seemed to glow, and there was a scent that you just couldn’t describe.

You’re standing there now, at your farmer’s market booth. Baskets of beautiful pears, peaches, zucchini and squash are laid out. Your little hand painted signs clearly display the prices for each kind of produce and each size of basket.

People come and go. You have conversations with regulars and meet new people. Everyone is delighted by what you have for sale.

But then someone comes up. You haven’t seen them before. Maybe they’ve never been to a farmer’s market. They stop, at a distance from your booth, and look at what you have. Maybe they go by a few times. They get a little closer and pause for a moment. Something is wrong though. As they stand and look, they look at you with questioning eyes and say, “I know all this looks great, but I can get pears for half as much at the grocery store in town. Peaches too. Plus the zucchini’s on sale. This all looks good, but why should I pay twice as much for what you have?”

This has probably happened before. Maybe more than a few times. It’s a legitimate question. People want value in what they buy. It’s a very reasonable thing.

When this question is asked, you are probably flooded with answers. You know intuitively why what you sell is not like what they can get at the store. You know it is worth the price because you know what it is, where it came from and what it took to grow it. You are standing there, overwhelmed, because you are so enthusiastic about what you want to say. It can be a bit much.

While you want to let this person know about the value of what you sell, you don’t want to be pushy or sound like you are debating. What you want is a person who becomes a happy customer, not someone who leaves after being talked to for five minutes. What can you do?

Well, it’s not really that hard. You really just need to know two things: the value in what you sell, and how to tell someone that the right way.

There is a lot of value in the produce you sell that contrasts it from what someone can buy at the grocery store.

First, you probably sell varieties that are different from what the grocery store sells. Hopefully you know what they sell, and you can tell the customer that they can’t get this kind of produce at the store in town. With pears as an example, the grocery store probably sells Bartlett and Bosc, but you sell Pineapple and Tennessee pears. You can let the customer know this. As you’ve probably tried dozens of different varieties, you can let the customer know why yours are different. Be brief and talk about things like taste and texture that are easy to get across.

Speaking of taste and texture, that is probably what your produce is grown for. It isn’t grown so it can travel five hundred miles and ripen for six months in a warehouse. This is important. There isn’t a comparison between what you sell and what’s at the store. Obviously you can tell this to someone, but the best way to get this across is with a free sample. There’s no better way to let someone know something tastes good, than to let them taste it. There are rules about giving someone food, things about safety and hygiene and things, so be sure and follow them.

Third, your produce comes with a connection. You aren’t selling something grown on a thousand acre farm, five states away, and owned by a multi-national corporation, that was picked three months ago. You are selling something grown here, picked yesterday, down the road, by you, on land you own, where you work, where your family lives. You are selling more than produce. The best way to get this across is just to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Answer any questions the person has and be able to describe, very briefly, the story and connection of your produce. It might not hurt to think about this ahead of time. Don’t rehearse or memorize (you don’t want to sound corporate, right?), but just think about how to talk about what makes what you grow special.

Fourth, is your produce certified in any way? For example, by being organic or something like that? If so, let people know. Your synthetic pesticide free produce is a far cry from the traditional produce at the store. If you aren’t certified in something, that’s okay too. If you grow your produce using certain practices, just be able to talk about those. Know what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides you use. Learn to talk about them simply. Let people know how what you use could be different from what they can buy in town.

Fifth, you come with knowledge. For example, with pears, some pears are best eaten as a dessert. Others are better for cooking. Other’s still are better for preserves. If you know this and grow different varieties, let people know. Be able to talk about how to use what you grow and the different ways it can be used. Maybe have recipe cards that you can hand out. You know a lot about how your produce can be used and this is valuable to someone. You can easily get that across.

Sixth, while your produce might seem more expensive, it probably isn’t. Not to use a pun, but the person you are talking to probably isn’t comparing apples to apples. When the person saw the produce at the store, it was one of two or three varieties, grown using commercial agriculture techniques, shipped in from miles away. That’s the produce they saw for a dollar per pound. Had they wandered a little more in the store though, they might have found, depending on the store, locally grown, organic, heirloom produce. If they had seen this, and the price it costs, they would realize that what you sell isn’t really that expensive. In fact, it might be cheaper. The best way to get this across is just to know and be able to talk about what makes your produce different from what is traditionally sold. If you can let someone know they were comparing apples to peaches, they might not think your apples are really that expensive anymore.

When someone genuinely questions why they should pay more for what you sell than for what they can get at a large grocery store, it’s not really that hard to be able to tell them why. Just be able to talk about the difference between what you sell and what they can buy at the store and what makes your produce special. You already know all you need to. Just take a little time, think about how to say what you want to say, and watch as that person understands the difference and becomes a happy customer.

The Value of What You Grow

Spotlight On: Livestock

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

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Establishing the age of farm animals through the appearance of the teeth is no new thing. The old saying, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth,” is attributed to Saint Jerome, of the fifth century, who used this expression in one of his commentaries. Certainly for generations the appearance, development, and subsequent wear of the teeth has been recognized as a dependable means of judging approximately the age of animals.

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing, though apparently simple, involves many difficulties, owing to the fact that the hoof is not an unchanging body, but varies much with respect to form, growth, quality, and elasticity. Furthermore, there are such great differences in the character of ground-surfaces and in the nature of horses’ work that shoeing which is not performed with great ability and care induces disease and makes horses lame.

The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

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In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.

On The Anatomy of Thrift Fat & Slat

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 3: Fat & Salt

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Fat & Salt is the third and final video in the series. It is the conceptual conclusion to the illustrated, narrated story that weaves throughout the entire series, and deals instructionally in the matters of preserving pork.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

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The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

The Big Hitch

The Big Hitch

In 1925 Slim Moorehouse drove a hitch of 36 Percheron Horses pulling 10 grain wagons loaded with 1477 bushesl of wheat through the Calgary Stampede Parade. It is out intention to honor a man who was a great horseman and a world record holder. The hitch, horses and wagons, was 350 feet in length and he was the only driver.

Raising Chickens on the Schekel Farm

Raising Chickens on the Scheckel Farm

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We kept our eye on this rooster. He was high entertainment for 3 boys and 3 younger sisters on that farm. We didn’t give him a name, just called him “Rooster,” and Rooster ruled. Other roosters moved out of his way. Hens cowered when Rooster appeared. My dog Browser wouldn’t go near Rooster. Rooster was invincible. Or so he thought.

A Gathering of Comtois in France

A Gathering of Comtois in France

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I was soon planning for a stop in the town of Pontelier, the main hub in one corner of the country I had never been to and was bent on exploring: the Franche-Compte. As luck would have it, this region has its very own breed of draft horse, the Comtois. It was to an “exhibition” of this horse that I was heading, although thanks to my lousy French, I was not sure exactly what kind of “exhibition” I was heading to.

Sheep A Logical Choice

Sheep: A Logical Choice

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Sheep have numerous uses on a smallholding. They are excellent grazers and are ideal at revitalizing old pastures as well as an excellent follower of the cows in a rotational grazing system. Cropping the grass at 2-3 inches that the cows have left at 8 inches encourages new growth in the spring. Their manure is usually in pellet form and is spread throughout a pasture as they graze. A sheep shares a ton a year of fertilizer with the earth.

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

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Three different parcels of land were committed for a series of tests to directly compare the impact of tractors and horses on the land. One side of each parcel was worked only with horses and the other only with tractors. There were measurable differences between each side of the worked areas; the land’s capacity to hold water and greater aeration were up to 45cm higher in areas worked by horses as opposed to tractors.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

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In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

Praise for Small Oxen

Praise for Small Oxen

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Every day in the winter, and a fair number of days in the summer, I choose to work with a team of Dexter oxen, just about the smallest breed of cattle in North America. Harv and Mr. Whistling Sweets are three years old, were named on a half-forgotten whim by my young children, and stand 38” tall at the shoulder. Sometimes, perched on top of a load of hay, moving feed for my herd of thirty cows, I look and feel comical — a drover of Dachshunds.

The Equine Eye

The Equine Eye

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The horse’s head is large, with eyes set wide apart at the sides of his head; he seldom sees an object with both eyes at the same time and generally sees a different picture with each eye. In the wild, this double vision was a big advantage, making it difficult for a predator to sneak up on him. He can focus both eyes to the front to watch something, but it takes more effort. Only when making a concentrated effort to look straight ahead does the horse have depth perception as we know it.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT