Hi! I just got back from yet another weekend at Rowland’s Row Family farm, putting in my time, and I wanted to give just a brief overview of what I’ve been up to farming-wise, and then delve into a topic about something I’m REALLY working hard on at the moment.
So, Friday night I had a date with a lovely young coed from Davidson College, and we went out and had dinner and a bottle of wine at this little Italian restaurant called Gianni’s Trattoria in Concord. It was fun, we had some good conversation, and you know I like wine! I hope to see her again? I’ll let you know! Afterwards, I drove straight out to the farm. Joe and Dani had gone to the Panthers pre-season game against the Bears, so they weren’t there when I arrived. I went out to put the chickens in their tractors and closed them in for the night, and made sure everyone else was doing ok, then settled down on the couch to continue reading “The E-Myth Revisted” by Michael Gerber, which is a great book that I would highly recommend for anyone considering starting a business or already running their own business (I will surely be writing a review on this blog upon completion!). The kids got back from the game safe and sound, and we all went to bed (we sleep in one big bed when I’m out there, which I thought was pretty weird at first, but now I’ve grown accustomed to the companionship…psych!).
The next morning, Joe got up early to do his deliveries, Dani got up early to go run the Atherton Mill’s Farmers Market, and I slept in! Well, sleeping in for me these days consists of sleeping until 8:30am, which makes me feel old… I then got up, let the chickens and ducks out, fed them, fed the chicks and turkey poults, and fed the rabbits, and then headed off for my first shift at the Peachtree Market, the small grocery that Joe and Dani run in collusion with some other local farmers (my shift is from 1pm-6pm on Saturdays, and the address is 363 Church St. N., Concord, NC 28025, if you want to come visit me and get some awesome local food!). I think it will be a good experience for me, not only for the added bit of income (which goes straight into savings), but also to get a feel for marketing produce and other value-added goods. There really wasn’t much training involved with this, they kind of just threw me into it. However, having worked retail in the past (I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch and Papa John’s in high school and was a manager of a Papa John’s for a year after dropping out of school), I was pretty confident I could handle it. All in all, it was a good shift, and I’m looking forward to learning more through this experience as I go along!
At the end of the day, Joe came in and helped me close up shop, and we went back to the house, had dinner, put the animals up, and settled on the couch to watch “Zero-Dark-Thirty”. It was pretty good, albeit very long, but I know for a fact that in the military they don’t say “zero-dark-thirty,” but “oh-dark-thirty,” so that didn’t sit quite right with me…
This morning, I woke up once again with Joe’s alarm going off in the other room, and once again, he did not. I got up and let the animals out and fed them all. Once Joe arose from his slumber, we harvested pole-beans, okra, crowder peas, and corn from the plot next to his house. I’m pretty proud of the crowder peas, as I sowed that row, and they are producing a ton of peas! Harvesting them is back breaking work, but that’s what I’ve signed up for!
We then went to Lomax and harvested some more okra and some hot and bell peppers that he has growing there. I’m really excited to be starting the high-tunnel project at Lomax, which is coming up this week. Joe is also acquiring more plots on the farm, which he was saying I could definitely help him out with, which is totally awesome too. We have the monthly meeting this Thursday, so hopefully I will learn what the actual plan for the high-tunnel will be, and HOPEFULLY learn what I can do to get my own plot! Anyway, after we were done at Lomax, we brought produce to the store and got that set up for the shift today. After all that, we moseyed on back to Rowland’s Row, got our grub on, parted ways, and here I am!
Now, after that not-so-brief summary of my weekend on the farm, I’d like to get into the meat-and-potatoes of this post. As I say in every post, I am so excited about this path I’m now taking, so much so that I just want to jump in with all my time and energy! However, I realize that the smartest thing to do is to take things slowly and let momentum build naturally, as opposed to trying to force things, and I keep having to pull back on the reigns to keep myself from getting too far ahead of myself. My oldest brother, Josh, who has always been a positive role-model in my life, keeps telling me to wait until the journey pulls me out of my current circumstances. This is sound advice, but I think it needs to be a combination of letting things happen naturally and proactively seeking out new options. That said, there are certain things that I can begin to work on right now that aren’t directly related to farming, but will definitely help my business in the long run.
I have come to realize that in order to run a successful farming business, as well as any business, and I would even venture so far as to say to be successful in life in general, there are certain “life-skills” that must be developed. With farming, I have determined that the two greatest skills that will benefit my future business are economy and efficiency. Farming is a very capital-intensive business, especially for the beginning farmer, what with the initial expenses required in the acquiring of land, equipment, seeds, animals, etc., and, therefore, money management is key. The majority of small businesses fail because they run out of money. I determined that it would therefore be advantageous for me to start practicing economy, or getting things done with as little expense as possible, and efficiency, or getting things done, not necessarily as quickly as possible, but correctly the first time. I proposed that it would behoove me to begin practicing both these skills in all aspects of my life, and the way I have determined to do this is very simple: get organized! Organization is the key to staying on top of every facet of your life, and not let things pile up unnecessarily, which only lends these things to be thrown to the wayside and forgotten about. Life is about balance, but how can you gain balance if you have no clear understanding of what there is in your life to be balanced?
So I’ve developed an objective to get organized and find balance, and let me tell you, it ain’t easy! It’s definitely something that requires the development of positive habits and the breaking of detrimental ones.
The first thing I have been working on getting in order are my personal finances. I have never been very good with my money, mostly because I hate the pedestal it has climbed to in modern society. If people try to discuss money or the current state of the economy with me, I will usually reply with the iconic lyric from the Beatles song, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love!” And it’s so true; money won’t make you happy. That said, it is an essential tool for living this day and age, and is especially necessary for starting and operating a small business!
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted over the years, either through over-draft fees from over-drafting on my checking account, not canceling memberships to things that I don’t even use, like gyms or on-line subscriptions, and continuing to pay the monthly fees, letting unsettled debts go to collections, or just through the purchase of unnecessary things. I’ll say that the sum probably accumulates to some ungodly amount over my lifetime. Since getting my current job in Charlotte, it hasn’t been as bad, most likely due to the fact that I am making more money than I ever have before, and therefore can’t spend it as fast! I have succumbed to many impulse purchases, however, which is probably due to that same position I’ve found myself in. I was putting some money into savings at first, but soon stopped that, and eventually whittled it down to just pennies. I then came to realization that I wanted to become a farmer, and what is the one thing that I will need most and will most likely never have enough of in order to achieve this dream? Money!
I immediately began cutting down my expenses: I cancelled my membership to the Planet Fitness I was no longer using, I stopped making impulse purchases (mostly), and I even worked out a deal with the owner of my CrossFit gym wherein I clean the bathrooms once a week for a reduced membership. I’ve also become more conscientious of where my money goes, utilizing the on-line budgeting website http://www.mint.com, which I highly recommend, and I also now carry around a little moleskine everywhere I go, in which I write down all my transactions, and use it as a reference to know exactly how much spendable money I have at any given moment (I don’t include my savings; out of sight, out of mind!). I have made a habit of doing this, and I am now able to put money into my savings account every week. As a result, I have been able to put away over $1200 into savings in less than three months, which is not much, I know. But hey, it’s a start! I also just purchased QuickBooks today, to keep closer track of my finances, and I also wanted to start learning how to use the software as it will also be a valuable tool for keeping up with my business finances once I actually start my business! (I really have no idea how to use this program though, so if anyone reading this has any tips or references, or would like to teach me the whole shebang, let me know!)
In much of my research on farming I’ve read about a practice shared by many successful farmers that help them stay organized, and that is the habit of starting each and every day by sitting down and writing a plan for the day. In order to develop this habit, I’ve downloaded this app called Any.DO on my iPhone, which is a great to-do list app that has been very helpful in keeping track of upcoming responsibilities, like appointments and bill-payments. The downside, however, is that I’ve found it all to easy to just push back other things that are not so set in stone. What I have done, and I stole this from John Suscovich of http://www.farmmarketingsolutions.com and http://www.foodcyclist.com (who is starting a farm himself and provides an awesome resource for beginning farmers that I utilize a ton, and also has an awesome podcast that I listen to all the time), is I went out and purchased a composition book, which I carry around everywhere I go now, where I can write down my plans, to-do lists, take notes on articles I’m reading or podcasts I’m listening to, and jot down any ideas as they come to me. You may argue that I can do all this on my iPhone, and I won’t argue with that, but I have this romantic affinity to pen and paper. I haven’t gotten to the point where I am planning out my day every morning, but I’m working towards that!
Those are just a couple of the habits that I’ve been working on developing. I’ve come to realize that life is one long thread of habits developed, good and bad. There are many other habits that I will have to develop in order to be successful in both life and farming, but I feel like every step I take is progress! I think the next habit I need to develop is cleaning up after myself… my apartment is a wreck! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it. I wish you a glorious end to this weekend and a wonderful start to your week!