Start Small and Observe the Locals

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin NC
You’re smart to start gradually and small. Kinda like learning to play the piano – go slow. Accuracy and speed (or in our case size) will come.

The mistake I made at first (aside from excessive ambition and hence scale) was always blaming myself when things didn’t work out, until  I found out some companies sell bad seed, sometimes it’s just the wrong variety for my area or soil and sometimes the weather just ain’t right…..I’ve learned tons from the natives here and watch what they do closely. Especially other old men in bibb overalls. I have been fortunate to make friends among the locals and we share what’s worked this season or not. If you have a problem with beans or what ever, often you’ll find everyone else did too.

 

Advice on Market Pricing

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin, NC

The best advice I ever got on market pricing was from Robert Plamadon who raises eggs and broilers in Oregon. At first he tried to ‘be price competitive’ and realized that as soon as he had to raise his price a nickel,  the ‘price shoppers’ were gone. No loyalty to your brand. When I was selling eggs I charged about the same price as premium organic eggs in the local groceries because I was selling premium organic eggs, produced locally and my customers became my friends. My profit came from eliminating all the middlemen. That’s where most of new regulations are coming from too. ‘Local Food’ is hurting the bottom line of those who don’t sell direct. .

I would occasionally have someone say, “right now I can get eggs for 99 cents a dozen”.  My response was essentially, “Have at it, it’s your body”.

Another great suggestion on pricing comes from an ATTRA marketing sheet.

“If at at least 10% of your potential customers aren’t walking away shaking their heads, you aren’t charging enough. 20% is better.” I retired from a career in sales,  marketing and branding and that is absolute gospel, no matter what you grow or produce and sell.

We are all producing unique, high quality, locally raised products, and we touch every leaf or root or stem and the customer gets to look the producer in the eye-person to person. They don’t want agribusiness, they want us. Charge a fair price for your work, smile, be polite and charming and let the cheapskates and chiselers walk. Give up on ‘selling everyone’.

 

DIY Pumping System

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin, NC

I have poor water pressure and a variable well, but 400′ of year round creek on one side of my property. I also have a friendly neighbor who is also a subsistence farmer that spent 30 years on oil rigs in the Gulf fooling around with pumping systems. He showed me how to set-up an impulse head system using an inexpensive trash pump (>$200), tubing and hose and clamps from Lowe’s and a little work. Now customer service at the pump manufacturer will tell you there’s no way to use a trash pump because of ‘back pressure’. Not true! Just have to know how to do it, or know a guy who does.

Check out this link – GlobalBuckets. (www.globalbuckets.org) Simply put, it’s a low tech syphon-fed watering system applicable to developing areas that have very limited resources.(water, power and money). Two extremely bright teenagers motivated to help the world feed itself. Cool kids, and cool experiments.

I hate it when kids young enough to be my grandchildren teach me things, but I do take notes! And it gives an old man hope for the world. Watch their videos, and check out the links( to see how their thinking has evolved). And all that from high school kids. Wow!

Drip Irrigation Setup

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin, NC

With your ‘Mediterranean’ type weather system long, dry summers are your problem. Evaporation and plant scorching from any type of over-head system is going to be challenging. I would think some conformation of drip would be a natural for you.

Drip is fabulous. I highly recommend Drip Depot. They’re located in Oregon so they’ll have a solid grasp on your climate challenges.( www.dripdepot.com/ )

I installed a system in my Blueberry patch 4 years ago and have hardly touched it. We can have very wet periods as well as protracted droughts. A lovely lady on the phone patiently helped me design my system, (Ten one hundred foot rows, ten feet on center with bushes five feet apart in the rows). Installation took me about four hours, no tools, all hand tightened connectors. She helped me select materials that can be used for our pressured house system or changed to gravity feed later (simply unscrew the in line pressure regulator and reconnect).

The whole thing cost me $235 including freight, and it covers almost a quarter acre. It had taken 8-10 hours of hand watering each time (about once a week when the plants were small; 2-3 years old and very tender). After I put it in I was resting on the porch having a cold beer(or two) and the wife came home and asked, “What’cha doin”? “Watering”. Now that’s farming!
They now also have pre-set lines for row cropping that have ’emitters’ (pre-formed holes in the line every 12″, 18″ or 24″, your choice) that I am thinking about. You’d have to move and modify over the season as your rotations changed so you could cultivate, but I would rather move a hose 3x a season, if need be, than every week or two. My tiller cuts an 18″ bed, so I reckon that two lines with 12″ drip emitters would do the job for my beds