Category Archives: Marketing

Community Supported Agriculture

As our first growing season here at Good Life Ranch begins to close, we are already starting to think about next year’s production.  This year we’ve been learning the ropes of our new climate and ecosystem, figuring out how to raise the heritage breeds as naturally as possible, building up our infrastructure, and trying out different vegetable and fruit crops.  At this point we are feeling pretty confident in our ability to produce food in a small scale, sustainable way.

So what are we thinking about next year?

Well, here at Good Life Ranch, we are interested in building a local food network.  We want to provide nutritious, flavorful, and sustainably-grown food to the people of Kentucky.  We would rather not grow huge acreages of monocultures to sell into the commodities markets nor mass-produce animals for meat.  Neither of those things is sustainable nor treats the living creatures with the respect they deserve.  Most American farms now do one of those two things, and many small family farms are being driven out of business because of it.

The solution for both the conscientious consumer and the small farmer may be through community-supported agriculture.  In this partnership, the consumers (or “shareholders”) are provided with fresh food from the farm they patronize.  They customers get to know where their food was grown, by whom, and what methods were used.  In return, the farmer gets money at the beginning of the growing season when it is needed most and has a guaranteed market for the farm’s production.

We want to start a CSA program for the 2011 season.  We will target the Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, and Danville markets and hope to get 25 families to sign up for a weekly share.  They’ll pay us before the growing season begins so that we have the capital to purchase chicks, feed, seeds, and tools.  In return, they’ll receive a cooler full of fruit, vegetables, eggs, and meat every week from early June through mid October.  Additionally, we will make one final delivery right before Thanksgiving and drop off late fall vegetables and a heritage breed Thanksgiving turkey.

Why should consumers pay up front, you ask?

The benefits for shareholders in Good Life Ranch’s CSA:

  1. You receive weekly baskets full of farm fresh produce, eggs, and meat delivered near your home.  All your food will be produced here on our farm using chemical-free methods.  Each week will be like Christmas!  One week you may get chicken, arugula, eggs, pears, beans, cilantro, and tomatoes.  The next week you may receive peaches, walnuts, blackberries, strawberries, rabbit, sweet corn, and butternut squash.  It just depends on the season and what’s ripening at that time!
  2. You know that the food you are eating was grown beyond organically – you will be ingesting no pesticides, no herbicides, no fertilizers, no antibiotics, no steroids, and no hormones in the food you receive from us.  We don’t use any of those things.
  3. You will be supporting the environment.  Many farming methods degrade the land over time, stripping it of its topsoil and fertility.  Our methods actually build soils and soil fertility rather than depleting it.  We build diversity into everything rather than relying on acres and acres of the same crop.  You will not be paying your hard-earned money to large agricultural giants dumping chemicals into watersheds or creating dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.  Instead you will be paying the salary of two hard-working beyond-organic farmers right here in Kentucky who want to take care of their land for future generations.  We want to raise our children right here, and we don’t want our children near agriculture chemicals any more than you want those chemicals in the food you feed yours.
  4. You will gain access to a farm of your own.  Good Life Ranch CSA members are welcome to come by anytime to inspect the farm, see how their food is produced, help out in the gardens or greenhouses, or just chat with the farmers!  Unlike large-scale food producers and processors, we believe in complete transparency – we’re proud of our methods and have nothing to hide and everything to show off!
  5. You will be eating “close to home.”  Most food travels thousands of miles from farm to plate and is on the road for days – sometimes weeks – before it shows up in the grocery store.  Our food is all grown on our farm here in Kentucky and was picked just for you – oftentimes just hours before delivery.  You can’t get fresher food than that!
  6. You get to remain a member for as many seasons as you like.  Once you are a shareholder at Good Life Ranch, that spot is yours until you decide otherwise.  You don’t have to reapply every year, you don’t have to worry about other people taking your spot.  We are committing to you as a long-term customer!

The benefits for Good Life Ranch in having this CSA:

  1. We get to know who’s eating our food!  This can be quite motivating for us.  Instead of producing food for “someone somewhere,” we get the privilege of knowing that this last bushel of potatoes goes to the Smith family, or this Thanksgiving turkey belongs to the Martinez family.  This provides a wonderful feeling for us to actually know the people who look forward to eating the food we grow.
  2. We receive the money for the growing season up front, rather than borrowing money against the hope of a good crop.  Most of the money we spend on our farm comes months ahead of sales.  We have to buy seeds, order poultry, and plant berry bushes months ahead of time we sell them.  This CSA will give us the money to buy the food we grow for you at the time we have to buy the supplies to grow it.  In return, our CSA members get all of the produce.  If we have a good year and grow more than normal – you get more than normal because you “invested” in us when we needed it most.
  3. We get to share the risks with the consumer.  Farming is inherently risky.  Some years produce huge surpluses, other years are lean.  Small farmers are hit especially hard by lean years.  In our CSA, we “risk” losing potential profits in a good year because our produce is already sold.  In this situation, the customer receives more produce for their dollar.  In a lean year, we share the risk with our shareholders.  They will still receive all that we produce, but shares may be reduced in volume or variety.  The benefit to the farmer is that he still gets paid for his labor.  The farmer still works hard even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

If you or someone you know lives in the Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, or Danville area and are interested in becoming a shareholder in Good Life Ranch, please watch our website at www.goodliferanch.com.  We are working on a new CSA page and CSA application now and they will be online soon.  The application will include prices and payment options, expected production for the 2011 year, and expectations for us as farmers and you as consumers.

We are really excited about this idea for the upcoming season, and we hope that we can generate enough interested families to put it together.

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Money, Math, and Movie

Part of the money from our very first sale. Lindsey says we should hang it upside down like Chinese restaurants do so it won't run out of luck.

We made our first two sales this weekend!  On Friday we sold one of our “pet type” lop rabbits to a couple who wanted a bunny for their grandson.  They came by the house around 7 pm and picked out a nice black and white lop rabbit.  We boxed it up and off it went to live with a (hopefully) loving child.  The $5 bill above is part of the $15 from the sale of that rabbit.

Then on Saturday we made another sale.  On Monday a customer from Campbellsville called and placed an order for 2 of our meat rabbits.  She wanted to pick then up on Saturday, which is good because after processing they need to chill (literally) for a couple of days to age the meat.  Since we’ve only raised these rabbits for half of the normally required grow-out period of 12 weeks I did the math and figured out that $2 per pound of liveweight would give us a profit and provide us the hourly wage we’re looking for from our farm endeavors.  Because these rabbits dressed out at 60%, that means that we’d be charging $3.33 per pound dressed.  I think that our price per pound will go up on those rabbits that we raise from birth, however.

The customer bought the live rabbits from us, and I dressed them as a courtesy for them.  So on Wednesday I had to process rabbits for the first time.  The processing went smoothly and the rabbits did not suffer, but it’s still a little graphic for me to describe in writing.  If you want to know how to process rabbits there are lots of good books, internet articles, and videos that you can google.  After processing the rabbits and composting the remains, the meat went into the fridge to age until Saturday when the customer picked it up.  I felt like an actual businessman writing up receipts.

Receipt from the first food we sold!

Now here’s where more patience comes in…  I figure that I work around 11 hours a day for 6 days of the week and for 2 hours on the other.  That means I work roughly 68 hours per week.  We’ve been here 14 weeks so far.  That means I’ve worked about 952 hours so far.  I’ve made $39.  That means my hourly rate is…….  4¢.  And that’s without subtracting the expenses yet.  Ouch.

This week has been really busy, as usual.  I’ve chopped and cleared out our bamboo patch to a more reasonable and aesthetically pleasing arrangement.  Tomorrow I’m going to cut all the leaves off of the chopped bamboo to make poles to dry and use for the garden and building Lifestyles Lane structures.  The leaves will go into the gardens to compost for spring plantings.

Fall plantings are in place and finally sprouting after a small rain this week.  We’ve had several weeks without precipitation, so it took a little while for the seeds to sprout.  The plantings include spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, peas, carrots, onions, and parsnips and are all growing now.  Hopefully they can evade the feet of the turkeys who come by every day to debug the garden.  They’ve really dented the squash bug populations.  The butternut squashes are now curing in the office for a couple of weeks until they go into the basement for storage.  Then into pies and soups!

The turkeys also do lots of other fun things.  See below.

They are doing well and their growth rate really seems to be taking off now.  They are also getting bolder and will explore further from the poultry house every day.  They will go all the way up the hill behind the house and halfway out into the front pasture, so their range is now about a half mile from their “base.”  Now we just have to see what we’re going to do with them.  One has been committed to fill an order (thanks Aunt Sheila!) and one will be our Thanksgiving supper.  We have 1 male and 2 females of the Chocolates and Black Spanish turkeys, so if no one else places any orders we may save them until spring and try to breed our own turkeys for next year instead of ordering them.

On to the caprine kingdom!  The goats seem to be doing great!  They are making short work of the  brush behind the house that was too thick to chop down or bush hog.  The goats have changed that.  Each section that they go through is eaten down to the point that I can now go through there with the machete and clear the rest of it out.  They really enjoy the brush and eat it preferentially over the grass they have available.

Maggie, the goats’ livestock guardian dog, is doing a great job watching over them.  She does take a little getting used to, however, because she watches over them at night by announcing her presence with authority.  That means a lot of barking.  🙂  Unlike the other livestock guardian dogs we’ve been around, Maggie really enjoys human attention.  I went into the goat paddock the other day to fix the shelter that the goats had broken a part of and I could barely accomplish any of the repairs because Maggie kept sticking her basketball-sized noggin in between my arm and my body wanting to be petted.  She really is sweet.

So it’s Sunday.  The dogs are sleeping on the couch, the goats are playing king of the mountain on the gravel pile, the turkeys are catching grasshoppers, and the chicks are cheeping.  Good day!

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Exercise ‘n frustration

Dear readers,

I hope that both of you will forgive me for what follows.  In general the last 2.5 months have been a wonderful experience full of learning and enjoyment.  This last week, however, has been trying…

I’m posting this not to gripe but in service of the reason I am keeping this blog in the first place – a map of where we’ve been so that we can remember our successes and failures and so that others can replicate (or not, in the case of this week) what we’ve done.

Where to begin…

1.  The dogs keep murdering guinea fowl.  Every time I think I’ve got the dogs trained to stay away from the birds, they kill a guinea.  At this point the mutts have one last chance or else they are relegated to the small backyard instead of having freedom to romp around.

2.  Did you read about the small chickens?  Man, you follow every pastured poultry guideline to the T and the birds just don’t grow.  Extremely frustrating.  At least we can eat them, because we sure couldn’t sell them.

3.  Our little broiler experiment is not going the way I had hoped.  The Cornish X chicks are already literally twice the size of the Buff Orpingtons.  We will just have to see the experiment through to the end, however.  Right now the 25 Cornish X chicks average 9.3 ounces each while the 50 Buff Orpingtons average 5.1.  However, the 25 Cornish X chicks have eaten over 8 pounds of food while the 50 Buff Orpingtons have eaten only 5.5 pounds.  We’ll have to see if the Cornish X are more expensive even if they are ready sooner.  The Cornish X sure are boring though.  They just sit there unless they are eating.  The White Rocks and Buffs run all over the place playing and investigating.

4.  I can’t keep weight on.  I eat all the time and I keep getting smaller and smaller.  I know that any women reading these does not feel bad for me, but not being able to maintain my weight makes my mood go up and down, makes me get dizzy in the heat, as well as makes me take breaks more often because I get tired more quickly.  My weight’s been the same as always up until 2 weeks ago, now it just plummets.  Even with taking the day off yesterday to rest and eat all day I’m still 12 pounds below my ideal weight.

5.  The Machinery Blues:
A.  Weedeaters.  We’ve gone through 2 of them so far and the third one is now on the fritz.  We’re NOT scrimping either – these are possibly the only thing other than the poultry that we’ve actually bought new.
B.   The mower is out again, and the online manual only says that an authorized dealer should make the repairs I need done.  Grr.  I can see the large bill now.  I know what needs to be done and have the ability to do it, but the company doesn’t make the parts available except at authorized dealers’ shops.
C.  I bought a bushhog mower for a steal, then found out why.  This is actually a cause to celebrate a little at the end, but hours of frustration led to the ability to smile at the end.  The mower seemed to be in good shape.  Then when I got it home I found all of the temporary solutions the previous owner had implemented.  The wheels literally came off the wagon, along with 2 belts, a chain, and half the sprocket.  In the end, though, I got it fixed myself for under $14 and began mowing our shoulder-high front field.

6.  I worked for 2 whole days bushhogging that front field.  It’s a little less than 15 acres of 5-foot tall grass, brush, and weeds.  I was hot, I was sweating, I’d gone through 15 liters of water.  I was making progress and was about halfway done.  Then my neighbor David drove up on his $30K tractor and disk mower and did most of the rest of the field in an hour.  David’s a great guy and it was a super nice gesture that saved me two more days of work.  It’s still frustrating, though, when someone when more “stuff” than you shows you how silly your way of doing it was.  And, yes, I was out-technologied by an Amish man.  In the future, I’d rather mow with goats.  They don’t need gas, you don’t have to push them, their disk mowers don’t break and get left in the field, and you can eat them when the job is done.  Anybody wanna get me a goat?

7.  I have a dozen free-range, heritage breed turkeys running around and not one order from a customer that wants one.

8.  The rabbits are getting bigger by the day, and so far the only people who have shown interest in them only want to come by and “look at them.”  Rabbit window shoppers.  Who knew?

9.  My lovely wife is sad and I don’t know how to help.

10.  The roof starting leaking.

11.  I’ve been working 10-12 hour days for a long time, and always seem to have more work to do than time to do it.  I’m trying to put systems in place that will make the workload diminish with time, but it sure is frustrating to fill in the gaps myself that the animals will take over in the future.  It’s also expensive and I’m worried about whether we can afford to fix the roof, build the greenhouse, buy fence posts and wire, and start building Lifestyles Lane.

I will survive.

It will get done.

One day at a time.

Sorry for that,
Geoff

July 16 – August 6, 2010

In this post I will attempt to fill you in pictorially on everything that’s happened on the ranch since the Great Isolated Internet Earthquake of 2010.  There’s too much to relate in an extensive post, so please read the captions on the pictures. Enjoy!

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What had happened was…

Well I don’t know how many people were offended because there was no way to tell how many readers I had on my former blog, but if you’ve found your way here you have figured out that my blog has moved and that I haven’t posted anything in over 2 weeks.  What had happened was…

We got our domain and web hosting services from GoDaddy.com.  We had TimeWarner as our internet service provider in San Antonio, then had to switch to HughesNet when we moved to the ranch.  For a while after we moved everyone played nice together.  I could edit our webpage using iWeb or Dreamweaver and upload it seamlessly and effortlessly to GoDaddy’s servers using our HughesNet internet service.

Then, sometime between my successful blog post on July 9 and my unsuccessful attempt July 14 (and 15 and 16 and 17 and 18…) something somewhere out there in cyberspace shifted.  There was apparently a cyber seismic shift.  We could not upload our website, nor write the associated blog, nor send emails through the ranch’s account.

No less than 14 phone conversations have occurred since then with GoDaddy and HughesNet.  The good news is that they’ve each assured me that it is the other company’s fault.  Whew!  That’s a relief.  Because if the problem is the other company’s fault then your company has no obligation to try to fix it.  Whoever thought being a rancher would mean 3 weeks of phone conversations with technical support?

We finally solved the problem ourselves by hand-uploading all the files on our webpage.  Yes, all 1119 of them.  That was painful.  In order to minimize future uploading, the blog has moved here to WordPress.  That way I can just upload the photos and videos and the rest will be automated.

The good news is that despite the delay, the phone bills (GoDaddy is so low-rent that they don’t even have a toll-free number), and the tediousness of uploading 1119 files one at a time, the website is back up!  The honor of being the first to purchase from us is still up for grabs!

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Gifts and a finished poultry house

Our wonderful housewarming gift from my parents!

Isn’t that a fantastic mailbox?

That’s one of the presents my parents got us as a housewarming/farmwarming gift.  Lindsey and I think it’s really beautiful, and it was up on the post within hours of arriving via UPS.  It’s a vast improvement over the old mailbox, but I’ll let you be the judge:

Before

After

The postal worker should be delighted to put mail in that box!  My parents also got us a purple (Lindsey’s favorite color) bluebird nesting box – we have a lot of bluebirds that hang around, and we’d like to encourage them to stay.  The final gifts were 4 car magnets with our logo that we can put on the vehicles to drum up customers:

Now we look legit!

Don’t the magnets and the mailbox look great?  Next task:  find a good location for the bluebird box.

Yesterday Lindsey and I finally finished the poultry house / brood house.  I think it will be used to brood batches of poultry in the late spring and summer and then be used for turkey breeding during the late winter and early spring.  One bay of it will also be the guinea fowls permanent home.  Here are the front and side shots:

The front of the poultry house, viewed from the loft of the barn.

A 3/4 view of the new poultry house.

It looks crooked because the whole building is crooked.  It’s from the 1920’s and still standing, so I won’t gripe about it until I’m still standing at 90.  It has chicken wire across the top for sunlight and ventilation, separations inside to divide the birds into manageable groupings, and several tree branch perches of different diameters in each bay.  The bay on the left also has 5 milk crates attached to the back wall in which we hope our laying hens will make their daily deposits.

This took a lot longer than I thought it would because we had to measure everything so many ways and basically experiment to see what would fit where to make this coop as predator-proof as possible while still being comfy for the flocks.  Total cost to us = $219.37.  We did buy a lot of extra wood on accident.  The girl said the boards we bought for the front of the building were 6 feet long.  She meant to say that they were sixTEEN  feet long.  I was very confused when we pulled around to the side of the lumber yard to load the wood up and I saw the 16 foot boards.  I saw a lot of sawing in our future.

Well, it’s done!  Just add bedding, waterers, feeders, and birds!  Next project….. chicken tractor.

Putting up the board walls.

Still putting up boards.

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What’s in a name?

So evidently one of the first things you have to do when you are starting a business (in our case a sustainable ranching business) is name it.  Lindsey and I went through a rather long and drawn-out process deciding upon a name.  Every time one of us would think of a possibility the other of us would hop online and google the name.  Approximately 0.23 seconds later a squeal of glee or a groan of dismay would emanate from the googler as they discovered that the ranch name was unclaimed – at least on the internet – or that there were already 127 farms and ranches with websites or blogs using that name.

We had a list that Lindsey put on her blog and set up a poll for people to vote for their favorite.  The names that made the cut for the web poll were: Good Life Ranch (obviously), The Front Porch Farm, Berry Ridge Ranch, and Hinterland Ranch.  There was also a spot for write-in names.

Berry Ridge Ranch was the voted winner, carrying 27% of the vote.  Since that is far from a mandate we didn’t feel too terrible that we didn’t go with it.  Good Life Ranch finished second with 24% of the vote.  The Front Porch Farm came in third.

There were some quite interesting write-in votes including Welcome Home Farm, Pride Enjoy Ranch, Scooter McBailey’s Place, and the Good Time Bourbon Party Farm.  I know where the last suggestion came from, Ronnie and Jake.  =)

The initial logic behind some of the names during the brainstorming phase:

✵ Good Life Ranch – has our initials, expresses the core belief that we wished to embody

✵ The Front Porch Farm – homey & old-fashioned, house has a great porch, homage to Robert Earl Keen

✵ Berry Ridge Ranch – ridge on our land has tons of wild blackberries and blueberries

✵ Hinterland Ranch – hinterland means a place beyond the borders, or a place from where goods come

✵ Scooter McBailey’s Place – those are our dogs names

✵ Good Time Bourbon Party Farm – I really can’t explain this one any differently than the name says

We ended up going with Good Life Ranch because that’s what we want.  We want to live well ourselves, but live well in a way that does not rely on causing harm to people in the developing world, does not cause harm to animals, and does not cause harm to the environment.  We want to provide a good life for the animals we raise and the plants we grow.  We want to provide a good life to the wild animals that share our land.  We want to provide healthy food at an affordable price in one of the poorest regions of the country.  We want to provide an avenue through which people can educate themselves about the quality of life that people have around the world and what choices they have that can help ensure that every one of us can live the good life.

We like the name.  Hopefully our customers will too.  Otherwise we may have to become the Good Time Bourbon Party Farm, because everyone likes that.

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Logos!

I interrupt this rendering of plans to add livestock to the ranch with the announce that my brother Will, of WillMac Designs, finished our logos today!  We think he did a great job and that the logos look fantastic.  We’re already ordering some stickers made up and, as you can see, it didn’t take me long to add it to the Good Life Ranch Website.

He and Lindsey came up with the idea to have the ranch house foreground, the grass, the sun and spread wing design.  Will then created several mock-ups and four finished versions with different variations on the color and fade of the surrounding circle.  Check out the designs below!

We love these designs and our name for many reasons, so I’ll just tell you a few.  We chose the name Good Life Ranch not simply because our names start with “G” and “L,” although that’s what a few people might tell you.  The Good Life represents the life we wish to live – simple yet with as complete a knowledge as possible of the true cost of our lifestyle on the planet and on the other people and organisms that share it with us.  We want to make choices that allow all people to have a fair chance at acquiring their sustainable share of Earth’s resources.  We want our animals to have a Good Life expressing their physiological uniqueness and living on our ranch as their ancestral forms lived in nature.  Our animals will have a Good Life, with one “bad day.”  We want to be conscientious omnivores and teach others to always examine their choices.

Starting at the base of the logo you can see the grass that forms the base of our food chain, sloped as is our property.  The sun and its energy-transferring rays are in the center.  Everything we do revolves around capturing that solar energy and transforming it into things that humans can use.  We chose a circular shape for our logo to represent the cyclic nature of Nature – the cycles of matter such as water, carbon, and nitrogen; the changing of the seasons and the promise of their return; the cycles of birth and death; and the flow of energy through an ecosystem.  The wings are literally representative of the poultry we’ll raise, but more importantly they are symbolically representative of angels, soaring towards aspirations, and sheltering or watching over others.

And if that got deep enough for you, you can probably get this logo tattooed on you somewhere.  It’s green, it’s black, it’s symbolic, it’s edgy.  It’s great.

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We have a website!

Flowers in our Koi Pond

But if you’re reading this, then you already know that.  🙂

Enjoy the flowers I gave myself for finishing the website for now.  We’ll unveil the logo my brother and Lindsey are working on very soon.

You should also check out Lindsey’s Adventures in Hinterland blog.  She’s much funnier than I am!

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