Being an animal lover, like I am, I can sometimes forget that this farm is still a business. That might be an exaggeration, but it's so easy to focus on the joy of being around animals and focusing on their well-being, that the business side of things is what I deal with in the morning over tea.
We've only been at this for 10 years, and so far, our plan of the farm replacing one of our incomes has not come true. We are well over 40 now, and plans for growing the farm are different now. We are actually looking at what we can cut back.
Some of our little add-ons - like canning jams and jellies - is really just a functional obsession of mine. Most of my batches of canned goods produce more than our family would eat, so I sell the extras. In a long-ago fantasy of mine - I would have grown all the fruit in my jams right here on the farm. I still try very hard to get fruit trees to grow, but at this point, it will be a legacy for my daughter to inherit and not something I will get to utilize in my jam making.
Some of our other add-ons are put in place, whether intentionally or not, to aid in cash flow for the farm.
For the most part, as with many farm operations, cash goes out in the beginning, to purchase and feed the animals we raise. We don't get any of that back until we sell a product. Last year was a bad cash-flow year for us. I ran red most of the year, and was only able to pay off the debt when we got around to our Thanksgiving turkeys. Usually, that turkey income sits in the bank all winter, and allows us to buy hay for the winter, baby chicks for the following year, and our first few batches of chicken feed. It's already gone! So in winter, when there are no eggs to sell, we do still have freezers full of meat. But when a big snow storm hits, folks don't drive out to stock up on meat. It's also not as fun to visit in the winter. Who wants to hang out in the cold watching sheep eating from a hay bale in the wind and cold in Colorado?
We had a tiny save by selling Lando in January. Beef is not our main business, and I learned the hard way between hay consumption and damaged fences, that cows are not for us. At least not over winter! But that gave us a bit of cash flow in January, that again, should have been in the bank from November.
So I have enough to get a small batch of chicken feed in spring when I need it. The eggs are starting to pick back up, so hopefully I'll have a small cash flow to keep up with expenses as we are able to sell eggs.
But with 2 freezers full of chicken, and our first batch of chicks coming in March - I won't be raising as many this year. That's all cash sitting in my freezer, hiking up my electric bill. Either we are doing something wrong and folks don't want our chicken, or we've done such an awesome job teaching people to raise and process their own, that they aren't buying from us anymore! Either way, I will be pulling back on meat birds this year. Staying likely stable on laying hens. I will try to raise more ducks for meat, more turkeys, and I think we have hit the stock rate on lambs, so our ewes flock will stay the same. Meat chickens are time intensive, and I'd love to have some of that time back to put towards more productive projects.