In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Joel Salatin’s seven rules for starting a successful farm business.
- What type of farm enterprise Joel would choose to start today if starting over, and why.
- Why someone should want to trade jobs and start a farm.
- Ways for new farmers to get experience and get up to speed.
- The critical importance of building a team, and why most farmers don’t do it.
- How Polyface uses standard operating procedures and sets performance expectations for apprentices.
- The risk-free tactic Polyface used to grow their Metropolitan Buying Club from only 30 families to over 1,000!
- And lots more wisdom from Joel.
- Don’t forget to check out the Small Farm Nation Academy whenever you’re ready to GET GROWING!
This week Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms and I have a provocative discussion about how to quit an unfulfilling job and start a farm business. Joel offers some real gems in this episode, as he outlines his seven rules for starting a profitable farm. We talk at length about his latest book, Your Successful Farm Business, which can be thought of as a graduate course to the book that got so many people started in farming, You Can Farm!
You’ve heard Joel and you’ve seen him in movies discuss the importance of regenerative agriculture. Now listen as he outlines step-by-step how to quit your job and start your own profitable farm.
Joel is always a treat to hear, so listen in.
CLICK HERE TO READ FULL TRANSCRIPT
Tim Young: [00:00:00] Small farm nation is sponsored by Farmers Web software for your farm. Farmers Web helps farms inform buyers of available product handle orders simplify customer interactions and reduce the administrative load so check them out at farmersweb.com. So you’d like to quit your unfulfilling job and start a farm business. How do you go about doing that. Hey it’s Tim Young a small farm nation dot com today. You’re gonna get seven rules for starting a successful farm business from America’s most famous farmer Joel Salatin.
Tim Young: [00:00:41] Joining me today is the man the legend and the master himself. Joel Salatin a Polyface Farms. Now if you’re at all interested in sustainable farming and haven’t heard of America’s most famous farmer. Come on out from underneath that rock you’re under. Joel welcome to small farm nation.
Joel Salatin: [00:00:57] Hi Tim it’s a delight to be with you.
Tim Young: [00:00:59] Well you know I introduced you as Joel but I can’t see what name is actually on your shirt are you going by Carlos or Eddie today.
Joel Salatin: [00:01:07] Let’s see what Mitch is on my shirt today.
Tim Young: [00:01:13] Joel you know you’ve authored so many books I mean you’ve been so inspirational for all of us and I know you’ve off authored a dozen or more books including you can farm which is now over 20 years old and that book inspired me and countless others to start farming. But just over a year ago you released a new book called Your Successful Farm Business. Was that an update to You Can Farm! or why did you feel the need to write it.
Joel Salatin: [00:01:38] Yes absolutely. At 20 years I realized wow you know a lot has changed. But as I look back through that you can I mean it’s still that the information is current. As I said you know there’s nothing. There’s nothing wrong here. There’s nothing incorrect. It’s just we we know more we’ve refined the message more we our culture of change than 20 year witnessed that was that was written on a typewriter.
Joel Salatin: [00:02:07] And and so so I got to thinking well you know what’s the way to update it. And I toyed with you know with a lot of different things and I decided you know I’m to leave that as it is because it’s a great you know perhaps that’s elementary but let’s just let’s just move on and do basically a graduate you know a graduate level. And so that’s where you’re successful for business. Yes it can be read as a standalone obviously but it but it’s it’s actually helpful to I think have you can farm under your belt before you go to your successful farm.
Tim Young: [00:02:45] I thought the same thing when I read them. I’ve read them both of course a couple of times and I felt that You Can Farm! was is as inspirational today as it was back in I think 1998 when you wrote it but you’re your next book to Your Successful Farm Business that came out last year was more about it talked so much more about the importance of all the business aspects of actually having a profitable farm.
Joel Salatin: [00:03:10] Yes that’s that’s exactly right. And and again you know how many times can you say This is beautiful it’s wonderful you should be able to drink the Kool-Aid they’ve got the Kool-Aid you know and so either I don’t need to go back and rehash the you know the inspirational aspect that’s going to grab people that philosophy and all that and I felt like you know what.
Joel Salatin: [00:03:34] What we really needed was and was in fact some of the really practical business things that I’ve learned since you know since you can farm. And as the farm business has grown you know over time we you know we now you know 20 years ago we were just on the cusp of starting the apprentice program. And now it’s you know it’s a full fledged deal with interns and everything else. And the farm itself has grown a lot. So you know you your growth you learn you know and unless you’re going backwards.
Tim Young: [00:04:08] So before we dive into our main topic today we’re gonna we’re going to talk about helping someone you know go to. We’ll take a fictitious example of a person who wants to swap a depressing job for a rewarding farm business. But before we dive into you know your your tips for doing that. Why why should a person even consider wanting to leave a typical job to start a farm business.
Joel Salatin: [00:04:32] Well a couple things. I mean thing is you might not make much money but it sure is a wonderful office to work in. I mean to be to be able to go out and. And for me you know participating in abundance participating in healing participating and in just the you know the vibrancy of life you know a lot of jobs are kind of a dead end in fact you know right now 80 I think the statistic is 80 percent of Americans hate their job. And and so you know as creative as a culture as we are apparently we have not found a way to make sole goal satiating vocation vocational model.
Joel Salatin: [00:05:15] Now you know sometimes the work itself is not fun. Sometimes the environment is not fun or satiating soul satiating. And so so you know there’s a real desire to you know to work for yourself to participate in the awesomeness and mystery of a life of biology. And there’s a great healing effect. I mean you know we are we are human we are human. And and dust of the ground and so there is a very primal intimate yearning I think in the human spirit to to touch the touch humor as part of our human.
Tim Young: [00:06:00] You know that’s a really interesting point because you know you said you know statistics of 80 percent of the people are dissatisfied with their job. And I’ve met you know a number of struggling farmers and I know you’ve met way more than I have but I’ve never met a farmer who struggled who said they hate farming. The irony is that people who struggle with farming still love farming.
Joel Salatin: [00:06:22] Yes because I think when you’re working all day with growing living things it my goodness that that’s a that’s a fix for a lot of hurt. And you know just as when you look at wellness therapies you know we know statistically people with a pet for example or oh elder people or impaired people that have a pet live longer. Why. Because my dog needs me. You know my cat needs me. And one of the most foundational elements of human life is to be needed. And when those when those tomato plants need me to be jealous when the grape vines need me to be pruned or picked them the cows need me to be milked or moved or Fed. There’s the human spirit yearns for for need for meaning for you know for affirmation that way and and a farm for all of its troubles and hurricanes and floods and whatever happens it beckons the new each day with with a call to be needed to be affirmed and wanted and that’s that’s powerful in the human heart.
Tim Young: [00:07:37] It sure is. So let’s see if we can help people who either want to adopt this lifestyle or you know the number of farmers that are struggling out there and let’s let’s say that someone wants to start a farm could be a mid-lifer or could be a man or woman doesn’t matter who’s had some career success or could even be someone approaching 30 that’s tired of cubicles in an unfulfilling job and they’ve just become enamored with the idea of starting a farm and then they hear about you and they come to you for advice for creating a successful farm. What’s the first thing you tell them. How does that person get started?
Joel Salatin: [00:08:12] Well yeah. The first thing is to is to find out how to make sure that you and your significant other. Usually people don’t come to this alone. They come with either family or spouses or something some sort of partner. And to find out where your partner is on this way back and you can fire us at the number one failure of farmers when they fail is a lack of agreement on vision. And so so you have to you have to agree on vision or else it’ll just be him every day. And and that includes you know things like are we going to be a people centric farm i.e. you know direct market do we do we want people here we’re going to be hermit you know introversion extroversion those kinds of things. You know what. What are we. What are we comfortable with. And and a lot of that I think can be sussed out actually without quitting your job. I’m huge on on on incremental success.
Joel Salatin: [00:09:25] It’s not spontaneous success. And so just like I I encourage people to start doing things before they feel comfortable doing them. I also don’t want people to jump off a cliff before they’re before they have a little bit of some wings. So I like folks. So very practically I like folks to have at least a year or two of nest egg saved up. That means you’re debt free and you have some savings saved up so that when you say that you’re not struggling for capitalization and you can devote all energy you know for more on this thing now until then there are lots of things that you can do. I mean even if you’re an apartment you can get rid of the dog and the cat put in two chickens you know. And you could put a vermi-composting bed under the sink with a beehive on the roof you can put a you know a pot. We call them pot gardens. It’s a little bit a funny thing but you can hang pot gardens on the patio legal or otherwise. And the point is to to to do something to start something it doesn’t have to be big but to start something because the point is the single biggest thing that a person needs is experience and.
Joel Salatin: [00:10:53] And you can’t Google experience you know like like riding a bike you can read and read books about riding a bike forever and ever and ever. But until you actually get up and and straddle that seat you know you’re never gonna figure out riding a bike and and farming is a lot like that. And there are a lot of things that you can do. I mean you could. Goodness you can volunteer with somebody you know somebody at your church or civic club or work that has a piece of land and hey can I come out and build some fence with your chops and weeds or plant some gardener or involved with a community garden. There are a tremendous number of things that you can do in the urban sector in your own apartment at your own house. If you’re in the suburbs. Goodness gracious you can. You can run portable chicken shelters you know in your suburban acres you can turn it into a permaculture nest of fruit and nut trees and bramble fruits and gardens and rabbits and you know systems and drip irrigation and hoop houses and cold frames and solariums on the side of your house and sisters and you know bicycle pump powered water system.
Tim Young: [00:12:08] But it seems like the reason you would do a person would do all those things really relates to that first thing you said. I mean basically the step number one in terms of advice you would give that person is you know you mentioned you know being on the same page with a spouse but you’re really talking about a roadmap. You need a vision and a mission statement what would you advise that person to look write down your vision and your mission statement for what you want to do and then get your significant people on the same page with that.
Joel Salatin: [00:12:35] Yes. Yes. That that’s the disagreement of purpose. Disagreement of vision is the number one reason families fail businesses fail that sort of thing. So don’t don’t enter into that lightly. Don’t do it fast. And and again I think that that sometimes that can come as you poke around. I think sometimes you’re kind of your experience and your roadmap kind of go together as you learn as you learn from things you find out. Well maybe that wasn’t a very good exit to take. And so they go together. But you do you do have to have a an action plan.
Joel Salatin: [00:13:21] How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, and those that the roadmap gives you your mile markers so that you can you can see where you’re headed and you know everybody build castles in their minds. We’ve got an imagination that’s up the wazoo. Most of us. And so we build these castles in our minds. But those those castles don’t happen spontaneously. They happen incrementally. And that’s where that’s where a clear understanding of what kind of what kind of a thing do we want. Stephen Covey talked about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when he says start with the end in view. You don’t you don’t put footers in for your house before you have blueprints you have. You start with an idea what kind of a house do I have. Then you have blueprints and then you start in with a backhoe and in the right you know the footers. And that’s that’s the way this is.
Tim Young: [00:14:17] Well I think that’s such an excellent point and it’s problematic for so many people. This whole idea of having realistic expectations and starting with the end in view because let’s face it the city look at what you’ve done. Let’s look at Polyface or they look at another successful farm what they’re really looking at is the after picture they’re not looking at the before picture 20 years ago 10 years ago what that person was like then. And all the work that went into creating that. And so they they kind of go out with the after picture mine and they say I want to build that I want to go to Polyface. Well you’ve got it you’ve got to have you’ve got to have incremental targets to even think about getting to that stage.
Joel Salatin: [00:14:56] Yes. In fact it was when three and I started here. Our goal was very simple, to farm full time. You know just pay the bills. You know we didn’t have. I mean there are our mission statement today is to develop you know ecologically emotionally and economically enhancing agricultural prototypes and facilitate the duplication throughout the world. That was not the original mission statement. You know your mission statement can grow your vision can grow with your own experience. So you know keep it simple at the outset don’t don’t make a vision you know we’re going to change the world or we’re going to you know whatever build an empire. You know I’m not about you know big and scale. The first thing you have to do is feed yourself pay the bills. And that means you might have to take some side jobs. I mean I mean I did I helped the guy plant trees for oh four or five years there. Early on I I put in some fence for a guy there. The second or third year you know just look around for for some for some things. But if you’re out of debt and you if you’re out of debt and you’re you know and you’re feeding yourself you know that’s the first thing to do is feed yourself all the food you possibly can and reduce your energy use. The biggest surprise for treason out when I left outside employment came back to the farm. The thing that we did not expect was how are our just our living expenses would drop. You know we went from filling the gas tank in the car once a week to filling it once a month. We didn’t have to wear good clothes.
Joel Salatin: [00:16:51] We could wear like you know clothes don’t even have our names on it. But you know and so so that was one we really dropped our living expenses. And the second thing was man when I was here every time the green beans needed we or for every cow that cap or timeliness is so valuable and so slippage dropped. So we had two things happen. One was the living expenses dropped because we weren’t going anywhere and we didn’t go to movies. We never ate out. I mean we didn’t we didn’t go on vacation. We didn’t do anything for five years now.
Joel Salatin: [00:17:33] Was it fun. Absolutely time of my life. We look back on that with nothing but fondness. We didn’t have any money but boy were we happy. We were as happy as could be. And so money does not make happiness. And and and so you had the the the reduction of of cash requirements on the one hand and on the other hand a reduction of slippage you know in the in the home base. And look if you’re out of debt and you have your own heat you have to cut your firewood. That sort of thing. Grow your own food don’t have to wear fancy clothes and you don’t have Netflix and don’t go out to eat and don’t go on vacation. You can live free cheap and so we were you know at that time we’re going back almost 40 years. But at that time you know people were you know average income was let’s just say twenty thousand. We were very comfortable living on about 4000 dollars a year. You know it was. It was it was not bad.
Tim Young: [00:18:39] Joel what I love about that mission that you guys first had you said your mission in the beginning was we wanted to farm full time. Now what’s brilliant about that is contrast that to what a lot of people do today like this fictitious example we’re talking about. They see a farm like yours and they want to go out and they want to have that when you have that is your mission. What you start doing is you start spending money because I have to spend money to have that kind of farm. But when you have the mission that you started with I want a farm full time. You do the opposite. You start conserving you don’t waste money. You do everything it takes just so that you can farm full time.
Joel Salatin: [00:19:16] Yes. Yeah. And I think that that is part of the roadmap that we’ve talked about is being really destination focused. You you can’t do everything and you certainly can’t have everything at once. So you have to you have to say we’re only going to take this road we’re not going to take that side road we’re not going to take another one. And so many people head down this and they they they you know they want to. They want a big house or they want you know a fancy equipment or or goodness a big which is building a barn. We’re going to see we have this fantasy in my mind of build this barn thing. And before you know it they’ve spent 15 20 30 thousand dollars on some equipment a couple buildings and that just chewed up their capital which takes the wiggle room that the the forgiveness out of their financial situation. Next thing you know you know they’re out of money on their homestead or their farmstead and they’re in their know washing dishes down at the fast food joint. Well I guess fast food places don’t have this do it.
Tim Young: [00:20:33] We wouldn’t know, Joel.
Joel Salatin: [00:20:35] But but but you get you get the point. And and I’ll tell you for me you know when you’re when you’re living so cash cash low a couple of odd jobs. I mean a lot of people are handy enough to put a deck on for somebody what cleans clean roof gutters for somebody. I mean there are so many handy type things now that especially baby boomers as they get age and don’t want to go up on a ladder or things like that are just are just desperate for and and those skills pay extremely well. And and there’s nobody around to do them because they’re all you know punching punching a laptop at the end of a Dilbert cubicle staring out the window wishing they could figure out a way to get outside.
Tim Young: [00:21:31] All right. Yeah. You know and so you do see people who a lot of times you see people who have way too much expense on their farm for look for the reasons you said they want a big house. So they want a big truck with dually tires or whatever maybe. But I also hear you also hear people who say you know just give me people who say well I’d love to farm but I don’t have the money at all I don’t have any money and I I totally agree with you about being out of debt and having a year or two a savings. But I was speaking with you know Greg Judy you know a month or so ago on the podcast and he was talking about when he got divorced and had eight dollars in his pocket and you know he’s now he’s farming sixteen hundred acres on other people’s property. And the point is that there are many ways to success. If you start with your vision and your mission and you really really want it yes you have to stay singularly focused.
Joel Salatin: [00:22:21] You know my greatest mentor next to my dad was Allan Nation founder of Stockman grass farmer and he always said he always said you’re known you are known as much for what you say no to. As for what you say yes to and all of us get pulled when we get pulled by noble things. I mean there are lots of good sacred noble things to do in life. I mean we live in the most abundant choice era of any time on the face of the planet. And and that’s a it’s an asset but it’s also a liability because it it’s easy when you have that much choice to spin your wheels and not really get singularly focused. And so since we were both singularly focused you know we were we were very compatible. People say What’s the secret to your success. Married a lady that’s more frugal than I am. And and that’s. I mean I say that funny but it’s absolutely true.
Tim Young: [00:23:27] So let’s let’s talk about that issue for just a second about frugality because I got a question for you on that. You know when I was a kid people used to I remember people said that my grandma was frugal because she could stretch a dollar and she could pinch pennies. But when they said she was frugal where I came from in north Georgia they meant it as a compliment but it seems to me that today we live in an age where frugality is associated with being poor or cheap. I mean when did frugality become such a bad thing.
Joel Salatin: [00:23:58] Well I think I think it’s easy to confuse frugal with cheap. It’s just you know cheap cheap indicates. Here’s the difference here’s the difference when I go buy when I go buy garden hose and we have a lot of garden hose right. We got water troughs and water things going on. So we buy a lot of garden hose Keep it as you go down you buy the cheapest cheapest garden hose at Lowe’s or Home Depot or whatever the cheapest thing you know that plastic and frugal is getting the best value for your money. And so I actually buy the most expensive you know heat cold rubber. You know what those things last for 30 years. They don’t crack. They don’t break you’re going to run over him. I mean you might poke a rock through all but patch it put a couple again and go on. The point is that those things last forever and those cheap ones don’t laugh. And so to me that illustrates the difference between frugal and cheap. Brutal doesn’t mean that you don’t spend money. It simply means that you’re looking for value. Cheap is just whatever trinkets.
Tim Young: [00:25:14] Yeah. I think you see that. I think you see the same example you gave the hose example I’ve seen the same example many times when it comes to people using PVC on farm for their infrastructure because they can create a chicken tractor or something and then you know the sun just beats it up a year later and they’re doing it again.
Joel Salatin: [00:25:29] Yeah. Yeah. Whenever anybody asks me what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in farming. My first one is my first answer is always building anything structural out of PVC. That is no its purpose.
Tim Young: [00:25:46] But that’s not what PVC is for.
Joel Salatin: [00:25:47] No that’s right. PVC works great in the ground to take water. There’s nothing like : PVC for that but boy you start putting structure and getting movie on it and stressing it and pushing it and it cracks and you can’t patch it. You can’t break it. I mean you can’t you can’t coupling it. Oh my what. What a mess. So yeah. Yeah. PVC out of place.
Tim Young: [00:26:08] So. Back to giving advice to these people who want to start a farm. Step one is create a road map make sure you’re on the same page with your significant other have a vision and a mission statement a statement of purpose. Step two you touched on a number of ways they need to get experience because as you said you can’t Google experience and you know whether it’s doing some apprenticeships going and doing numerous farm tours starting their own. Yeah they’re own potato gardening you know course today with social media there’s farms you can reach out to those podcasts you can listen to those you’ve got you’ve got tons of books that you’ve offered you know that you offer on this but they’ve got to they’ve got to get experienced to do this well what about you know the third issue that we were talking about what about this issue of honest accounting on the farm Yeah well that’s one of the that’s one of the biggest problems because farming is so conducive to to financially cheating.
Joel Salatin: [00:27:01] You know we can we can put in our salary into the farm we can not pay ourselves we can not pay the kids we can you know we can put a capital value in not not really depreciate it. I mean there are a lot of places that we can fudge and so on. So when we talk about honest accounting we’re talking about actually you know keeping your invoices keeping your records putting down your your figures so that you can run true financial analysis on different enterprises and what you’ll find is that some enterprises are are profitable and some aren’t. Some private some things you’re doing or subsidizing the others.
Joel Salatin: [00:27:50] And so the the re-evaluation in in where to go is constantly looking at you know where’s our margin. That’s that’s where we start looking at that margins and you know can I if I if I have a negative margin can I change it or do I need to just abolish that enterprise And and that way we make our decisions on on what to continue or what to put to do more of you know if you’ve got something. You have a good margin you’ve got a good market and you can do more of it well then then do more of it. And then the third one is our goal.
Tim Young: [00:30:07] One of the questions that I see you know a fair amount. You know if I’m ever on social media in a Facebook group or whatever that I see a lot from farmers. What should I charge for my chicken or what should I charge my quarter beef or whatever. And it always suggests to me like wait a minute you don’t know your numbers if you’re asking that question. What do you what do you think it tells when you see people ask those kind of questions.
Joel Salatin: [00:30:28] Yeah I think it tells most people most people have zero training in an actual financial record out of how to run a margin. When I say you know when I say gross margin net margin overhead you’d be surprised how many well college educated people look at me like I’ve got two heads don’t know you’re 17. Yeah. Yeah. GROSS margin. So when you have an enterprise and you’re so in your in your financials you have to categorize so that you don’t mix your layer feed with your broiler feed with your pig feed. You know if you’ve just got feed how can you break out on on what you’re you know what your enterprise margin is. And you know it could be that you’re losing money on the pigs you’re making money on the chickens but you don’t know that if you don’t categorize your accounting so you have to you have to categorize it. And I mean this I know we live in the day of electronics but when you’re when you’re small and just starting literally a a piece of notebook paper. Big ticket your expenses and your income down it so you can actually tease out your you know your your margins and then so so your your your margins come from the actual costs and income that would that would all go away if you limit that margin. For example if you’re growing tomatoes the cost of a trellis sticks and an seed would go away if you didn’t grow tomatoes. All right.
Joel Salatin: [00:32:23] And and so that’s what we’re talking about. We talk about Enterprise margins then what you what you have to do is have it when you get to all the end of all your margins of all the different things that you’re doing those margins then have to be high enough to pay for your your overhead in a way I like to look at this and this is this is kind of a backwards way but it’s the way holistic management does does their budgeting. I love it what they do is they sit down and say how much my how much money do I want to make. You say how much money do I need. Do I need to live on next year. Who do I need. Twenty thousand thirty thousand forty South. You put that down you start with that and you work backwards from things. OK. If I need to end up with thirty thousand dollars at the end of next year to keep shoes on my feet and and you know the car up and running and things and I need thirty thousand dollars what will it take for me to put that in my pocket at the end of next year. How many times do I have to sell. How many carats. How many apples do I need to pick. How many jugs of apple juice that you know.
Joel Salatin: [00:33:38] And what you do then is you work backwards rather than just starting in and hoping for the best. And that’s the real.
Tim Young: [00:33:51] And you break it down into monthly weekly and daily goals and then I get into the mindset of selling something every day.
Joel Salatin: [00:33:56] Yes absolutely. Which is which is you know cash flow that you know most businesses. Most businesses fail not because they don’t have a good service or good product they fail because of cash flow.
Tim Young: [00:34:09] Absolutely.You know on this issue of honest accounting so clearly they need to you know do a really good job of tracking all their numbers because let’s face it I mean you can spend the fortune in farming there’s all kinds of fun toys there’s all kinds of ways to waste money and be inefficient. But let’s talk about this one other area of honest accounting or you know make sure we understand the numbers. Small cars may not get subsidies but a lot of small farmers subsidize their farm with off farm jobs. Is that an issue that you see with struggling farmers or how should they deal with that issue.
Joel Salatin: [00:34:43] There are a lot of different ways to subsidize a farm and you the numbers are not the real about the numbers. And so as you know as you start in with any enterprise no matter what it is. If you’ve just got 10 chickens What did you pay for those. What are you paying for the feed. What are the eggs worth and what you start getting them is a sense of of your of your enterprise function and we’ve certainly tried things in the past that we tried and for two or three years and we just we couldn’t make what we couldn’t make them pan out we couldn’t make a profit there were issues beyond our control or maybe even that we didn’t want to deal with. And and so for example we’ve and we’ve even run a margin on how much predator loss can we have in our open air chickens before we have to enclose them in a in a shelter that we move every day that you take your you take your time and motion time and motion studies are huge. Run a stopwatch. Keep a benchmark. One of the most common things that I see on places is people don’t know they’re their benchmark. How long does it take you to put away a dozen eggs. How long does it take you to put in a hundred feet of carrots to prepare you know a four by 12 foot bed and what what kind of time does that take. How how long does it take to pick pack wash and have bundled up ready for market 50 bundles of beef. Okay. I mean these are these are all specific you know business elements that the problem is Tim that that the kind of the people you’re describing that you know the 30 year old that says man I’m going to take my family we’re going to go farm a there they’re doing it for wonderful reasons altruistic reasons and I totally get that.
Joel Salatin: [00:36:55] And the and the the call the yearning is so mission oriented mission straw I’m doing this for the health for my health the health of my family the health of my community health you know all sorts of cool things there’s these wonderful noble righteous sacred reasons and what happens is that that cloud the reality that all that altruism does not keep us in business or pay the bill and so so you see imperative here is yes be inspired to be goodness be enthusiastic all those wonderful things but realize that you’re going to have to be a business as well you have to make business sense and businesses keep records businesses keep financial records they keep performance records they keep time records and so on our farm we have S.O. I mean when I say go move a chicken shelter we have a six page standard operating procedure manual that explains what move the chicken shelters means there’s a there’s a there’s a direction that we want the little hose coming out of the bucket on the top of the shelter it’s not to be at eleven o’clock it’s not to be at one o’clock it’s supposed to be at 4:00 o’clock that’s where it’s that’s where it’s supposed to come out when you’re looking down at it you know in orientation.
Tim Young: [00:38:33] Does that page does that six page Standard Operating Procedure document you have do you include things like time expectations so that when you’re training new apprentices or in terms they know what the expectations are?
Joel Salatin: [00:38:44] Yes absolutely. The expectation is 60 seconds for shelter and you know we have the best interns in the world we absolutely get the cream of the crop but you know what about one in 10 actually takes a watch in town themselves. And so you know if even as necessarily you know good as our young people are and they are fantastic I have to ride them my. Who’s who’s keeping time. You know you get the benchmark right here. Sixty seconds for shelter. Who’s making it. No. 1 One minute one minute four dozen eggs to put away eggs one minute four dozen. Who’s who’s watching the clock. Are you timing yourself. And I can tell you know in the past the the apprentices interns that we’ve had in the past who have taken this and run with it and actually do friendly competition. I remember one time I was out in the field and I was moving on a lot of movement twelve shelters and the apprentice was moving twelve and.
Joel Salatin: [00:39:47] And I didn’t realize he was racing me you know. And and yet he actually you know he actually beat me by about a half a shelter you know and I was watching him and I sped up and I saw him going you know set up but you know yes it is a beautiful morning to do a sparkling on the grass like diamonds the trees the birds are singing the grasshoppers or you know it. Yes it is a pastoral bucolic beautiful wonderful setting but at the end of the day if we’re going to make this profitable and make it enjoyable we need to hustle and get the work done get the chickens fed so they can be about their business as efficient as possible and having that having that time and motion benchmark benchmark having that that record keeping benchmark is critical.
Tim Young: [00:40:47] So to recap to this point we have you know basically you know rule number one in terms of TTIP is have a roadmap vision. You know you need to number two as you’ve got to get experience. Number three do honest accounting. Number four is you’ve got to be efficient do time and motion studies of whatever your your your key actions are. Let’s move on to your next tip which is an interesting one because a lot of farmers love to work in isolation. Is that good advice or should they be looking at teams and other people to help them out.
Joel Salatin: [00:41:20] Yeah well when I when I said a little bit ago that first when people say What’s the biggest mistake you know I always say that number one building is the PVC. Number two is always you know being being so stubbornly independent that I wasted a lot of time on things that were not my skill set. And and fortunately early on and we were short we had friends. And of course by direct marketing we had customers that had skills and things that we weren’t good at. And yet I am not an engineer. Now I have you know I design a lot of things but I’m not an engineer as far as making switches and figuring out electronics and and and all that. But we wouldn’t have any solar panels yet why I’m not. You know I’m not a I’m not an electronic geek. And so you know when it’s turnkey then I’m ready but. But if I’ve got to go out and monitor batteries and a bunch of dials and equipment that’s not my deal. And so anyway if you’re the all the gifts and talents that are necessary for a successful business do not grow on the same pair of legs. They just don’t. And all of us have skills. If you’re reading business books you’re probably familiar with the strengths finder series and the whole thesis of the strengths find your series is. That’s when we heard long time ago work on your weaknesses. That was actually bad advice. The better advice is work.
Joel Salatin: [00:42:58] Leverage your strengths and find partners who can who have strengths where you’re weak. So the first thing is to be honest about what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. Be honest about this. Don’t try to cover it up. Just go. I’m not going to do this. Don’t worry it’s OK. It’s ok to not be giving something anything and then and then building a team is about creating partnerships. Now this is not about hiring employees. This is a lot of times you can trade. I mean early on we you know we gave away a couple of Thanksgiving turkeys for a guy that you know that’s the design that put together our first automatic watering trough that had a toilet float valve and it clicked on and off. You know I could I can do that but he did it gave him a Thanksgiving turkey. He was thrilled it could be you know so a lot of this is just more you know informal collaboration with with you know with comp. that’s kind of catch as catch can. But the point is if you’re no matter what you’re doing you will have hardships. You will have those days that you want to quit. My question anybody is when you have a hardship you want to face it alone or do you want to be holding hands with someone. And I have never met someone that says when I’m in hardship I want to be alone. I don’t want to be with anybody else.
Tim Young: [00:44:23] I mean some of this relates to the rules you’ve already gone through. We talked for second ago about you know for example about honest accounting and it could be that you’re somebody who wants to have a successful farm but you’re not good at accounting. You don’t like accounting. There’s a perfect opportunity to team up with somebody outsource your accounting find somebody who loves accounting and make sure you get it done properly.
Joel Salatin: [00:44:44] Absolutely. The little you know a little help help pages whatever Craig’s List or different things. They’re full of little bookkeeper type accounting type folks that do this on the side and you know especially when you’re starting out. And it’s not that difficult. I mean some of the most successful startups that we’ve helped launch performer apprentices and things they literally hired a bookkeeper. Day one I mean even when they were just nothing you know work to day to two hours a week. And everyone said that’s the best money I ever spent. You know it’s been in that spending that whatever you know 50 60 bucks a week to get to make sure that the checkbook is balance and the bills get paid and all that you know best thing in the world. So yeah. So these these partners are not are not you know full time employees or anything like that. They’re they. They can easily be just just friends or neighbors or family or somebody at church somebody in your you know civic club that you know about that has a skill that you don’t have.
Tim Young: [00:45:57] And it’s sometimes sometimes it can be a stylistic skill to them and we’re talking about a a discipline when we talk about accounting versus not accounting but you know stylistically there are people that are really good at starting things. You know they’re entrepreneurial but they’re lousy at managing or finishing things and there’s other people that would never start something up but they’re really good at managing something. So let’s say you want to start up a new enterprise. It might be good to partner in advance with somebody that you knows could be able to help you manage that enterprise once you start it.
Joel Salatin: [00:46:26] Absolutely and what you do then is you you your compensation package is always based on performance so you’re not there’s no guarantee. You think you you rise and fall together. And so I mean even today are our farm generates you know there’s about 20 others that are getting full time salaries from the whole operation. And and nobody works by the hour. Everybody is either on salary with bonuses and built in performance commissions or straight commissions i.e. you get paid so much a dozen eggs you get paid so much a day for taking care of a herd of cows. You get paid.
Joel Salatin: [00:47:08] And and of course all sales. You know we have three people who do sales and all of them are on straight commissions. If they don’t sell they don’t get a penny. And that makes people hungry. But the beauty is that it it it really incentivizes people to perform if all those people were on an hourly wage then then I would have to live under the tension of well I’m really am I really getting what I’m paying for here. The beauty of being commission based is hey they can get their own salary and they can work as little or as much as they want know as much or little as they want. And and if they make more than me that’s fine. You know that means my boat floating too and so performance oriented commission oriented type of remuneration packages are critical for unleashing the creativity and incentivized Asian and eliminating the tension that come with you know with Will. Is she hanging around a watercooler too long you know is these you know are those two guys over there telling football stories you know they’re on her own time. Fine. But for all my dime that creates tension.
Tim Young: [00:48:27] Yeah it’s a really good point because a lot of the farmers I talked to there they’re dealing with livestock. They’re trying to set up a metropolitan buying club or drop sites or whatever and they have trouble actually you know setting up more sites and getting more customers and there asking you know how to do it. And they try to take on everything themselves. And I think I read in your successful farm business that you know example of you know especially back in 2002 or whatever but you know when you were starting your MBC you had maybe 30 families and Sheri took this over and you know on a commission structure and you know and then because it was going nowhere at the time and then you know lo and behold a few years later doing over a million dollars a year.
Joel Salatin: [00:49:06] That’s exactly right. Yeah. See that. That’s our that’s our you know our not person number one paradise commission story but that’s true. And so she was able to really crank a nice income because she had the confidence. Yeah. 30 families is not very much but I can grow this thing and and she did. If we had taken her on by the hour on a on a wage deal if she hadn’t been able to do it then we would have we would’ve had to fire our daughter in law which wouldn’t have been a good thing. And by the same token we probably probably would not have raised her pay as fast as she deserved. Based on what she was selling. So it was really better for all parties to to share the risk and for us not the guarantee. And for her not to be you know not to be guaranteed. And for her to be on her own to be able to you know so much as you want. Yeah. She she put it on the map.
Tim Young: [00:50:21] Yeah. And so that’s a great example and turn it for point number five of building a team that you don’t have to go outside you can go in your core family or your extended family to get help in doing that. So let’s move on to point number six which I know you’re really passionate about and we’ve kind of touched on before which is cash flow so what what kind of advice would you give to this potential new farmer about the issue of cash flow.
Joel Salatin: [00:50:43] Well in a farm especially you know there’s a lot of seasonality. And boy we certainly struggle with this early on. And so if you if you want to just you know visualize this visualize a chart where you’ve got your months at the bottom and your income is up. So the horizontal axis is January through December and you’re vertical axis is income. And you can just draw a line there for your income. And the point is that as you develop your farm what you’re looking at is is you are trying to think of enterprises that fill valleys so that your so that the the the eventual goal is to be selling something every day or at least something every week. You know the old the old butter and egg money adage. The reason that everybody talks about butter and egg money butter an egg money it wasn’t because butter an egg money was the mainstay of the business. But what it was was every day you got butter and every day you got milk. And so it was cash flow through the through the winter until that you know till the wheat harvest or the you know the big the big thing. The pigs were harvested or whatever. And so that’s where we need to look at this and to realize that that you have to budget you know you have to budget for your cash flow and there are. So if you’re if you’re leasing land try to make your lease so that it’s so that the lease so that the lease payment coincides with your month of income. Don’t put your lease payment on the month where you don’t have any income. You know those kinds of things so you meter out and you don’t get you don’t get over a barrel with your cash flow. I mean it’s a it’s a huge deal. It also includes accounts receivable. Know one of the things about selling food is that you can’t you can’t repossess Yesterday’s meal.
Joel Salatin: [00:52:47] The guys who are selling cars they can come in with you know with a dirt an old and dark of the night grab your car and take it away and repossess it but you can’t repossess last night’s supper and votes. That’s why when you’re in the food business you have to really ride herd on your accounts receivable. And we have what we have. I think it’s a 60 day COD policy with new restaurants with service about 50 restaurants and they notoriously go in and out of business. They’re the most transitory things in the world. And so when we get a new one we we require them to pay cash on delivery for 60 days. You know we kind of build a relationship and get in the groove and then we’re glad to go to net 30. But we’ve been we’ve been hurt more than once by that. Bye bye. You know letting accounts receivable build up and with the thing is we’re so excited about a client about a customer. Oh boy we got a sale. If you don’t have a sale you got the money in your pocket right.
Tim Young: [00:53:55] Very very good point you’re totally right about that. You know one of the tricky things here and I’m talking about all these things that you’re saying is you know complementary enterprises on farming you know obviously makes ecological sense but it really makes business sense to us one of the ways that you can smooth out those valleys because you have competent companies or enterprises. I mean the old you know butter money today could also be agritourism could be farm events or whatever.
Joel Salatin: [00:54:18] Absolutely.
Tim Young: [00:54:19] I’m wondering your point on one of your view on this. Is it important for somebody to develop one enterprise well before bringing on others or should they start with multiple.
Joel Salatin: [00:54:32] In general, I’m the one at a timer and I’ll tell you why because developing an enterprise is is expensive because everything new has a high failure rate. I mean that’s that’s the Peter Drucker Business Right learning curve. You come in on a certain level then you actually go into the flow of this on and and and that there are normally three to five years and then you develop mastery and then you poke out the other side and wow we’ve got this thing that you’re now. The problem is that if you’re trying to do several new enterprises at the same time it sucks your emotional energy your frustrate because there’s a lot of failure and it sucks your capital down because there’s a lot of failure and so you generally what you want to do is get one down one done well and then when it’s profitable then it helps to finance the RFD on the on the next enterprise.
Joel Salatin: [00:55:35] You guys you guys did this for years with your broilers basically I think which is what really lost everything else for you is that right.
Joel Salatin: [00:55:43] Yeah. The broilers. The broilers were a turning point although you know they didn’t come until Ah well I’m trying to see we’ve been here a year. They were our second year here we started with those they didn’t really they didn’t really kick in until about the third year. But but but remember you know I I did some off farm yes and some cash if you can go off farm if you’re living on for 5000 hours here and you can go off farm for a couple of weeks and and then you know spend a few days and taken a thousand dollars that goes a long way. And so you know we were. So we were we were least cost producers for sure but we were direct marketing and because our expenses were so low we were you know we were able to squeak by. It was it was tight but we squeak the once the once at a time thing. I think this is is good. I don’t want that to be a I don’t want that to be a cultish thing for somebody because there are things that do go together very well. I mean things like an egg mobile behind cow or things like sheep sheep and cows or. Things like. You know making making compost with eggs things like poultry under orchard you know chicken turkeys any kind of poultry ducks chickens turkeys under under orchard.
Joel Salatin: [00:57:20] So there’s a there’s a vineyard pace means Ranch in California and they’ve developed a muzzle for sheep so that they can mow the vineyard with sheep when the sheep raises his head the muzzle goes down he can’t nip at the grape vine is it’s quite it’s really wonderful. And so you know if you’re doing grapes for example the faster that the faster you can quit mowing under them the better off you’ll be if you can do that with animals. And so I don’t I don’t want to be cultish about. Don’t do too many things at once. But but but the point is well taken. You can’t be you can’t be creative at every single enterprise at the same time. You can’t be starting all of them from scratch at once. You’ve got to feel you’ve got to feel like you’ve got some mastery in one or two before you start adding. Other enterprises in and they do grow. You know that the synergy you mentioned agro tourism. My goodness you know we have 15000 visitors a year here at the farm now. And that’s become a new you know a new enterprise as this whole you know people coming out to the farm to get tours and things like that but you’re not going to do that day one because there’s nothing to see.
Tim Young: [00:58:34] That’s right.
Joel Salatin: [00:58:35] So once you you know you have to have some athletic you know differentiate create creative things up the front end you know in order to get that. Now if if you’re a couple and you love people let’s say you know you really have the gift of hospitality you love people you’re both gregarious and all that. It may be that you you maybe don’t grow the farm production as fast as you do grow the farm experience. Know there’s a book selling the invisible and the whole point of that book is nobody buys the actual product they’re buying. They buy the fantasy the memory the thinking behind that. And so it may be that as you brainstorm what can we do. What are the things that we can do that if you’re you know if you both are very gregarious love people outgoing it may be that you know an on farm playground and and and kind of an interactive thing. I mean I’ve talked to a guy once had a couple pigs in a pen and he had bamboo poles there with baler twine and ear corn. And kids could come and then go hog fish and you know and they’d take these bamboo poles dangle them out in front of the pig like you know in the big gum and grab onto the ear corn kids squeal was the life when they you know jerking on this.
[01:00:00] I got a big one and I got a big one and you know I mean people people in city people pay big money for experiences like that. Another one had had a little chicken out there and had had a platform that kids could stand up and look inside. And he put a PVC pipe with one of these and then next to it one of these you know wild feed dispenser he put in a corner and it gives you a little handful of feed like fish farms and stuff. The fish and he just put a corn in there and they could get a little handful of corn for a quarter and a drop it down the PVC pipe for the chickens and I’ll come of course and peck the corn kids you know. I mean to to to interact with animals like that is just mean it’s better than it is. And so depending on your gifts your talents your location all those kinds of things. It may be that you actually develop that faster than the hardcore production and that’s certainly possible.
Tim Young: [01:01:02] Yeah yeah. There’s so many there’s so many possible enterprises and things you can do and again that’s going to also go back to the very first thing that you said which is what’s your vision what’s your mission what is it that you want to do and why do you want to do it but there’s so many possibilities there. You know the one chapter you wrote in your book your successful farm business that I want to just touch on for a second because I think it makes a really good last point here in these rules. I think you called the chapter stay nimble basically. Can you tell because some of this has changed over the last few years about the the the option the opportunity to lease land versus owning land the they need for multi-purpose mobile infrastructure versus fixed infrastructure like silos and barns. Can you just talk about the what your what advice you would give to a new person on staying nimble.
Joel Salatin: [01:01:54] Yeah. Well the man the main thing is don’t don’t lock yourself in to a building to a you know to a capitalization project until it’s absolutely either essential or you know there’s no alternative. And so one of the you know one of the things that if you have a home base rather than dumping all your money for example in buying land just get the smallest hub that you need to to watch and what’s happening is a lot of land is coming up for lease. Now as farmers age out I mean in the next 15 years 50 percent of all America’s agriculture equity is going to change hands. And so we’re just seeing an accelerating pace of vacant farmland that’s available. It’s really quite unprecedented maybe even since the Homestead Act of the early nineteen hundred so so we’re you know we’re seeing this this time where land is becoming available. So leasing rather than owning. So you keep your capital freed up. To you know to capitalize things on land rather than dumping in the land elevation used to say land ownership is economically defensive. Other words that’s what you do when you’ve already got money and land management is economically offensive. and and so.
Joel Salatin: [01:03:26] So that that’s part of being able to be nimble infrastructure you know mobility rather than building stationary stuff. Always think about how do you have it. How do you have it mobile one of these is for example with fencing. Well one of the single biggest issues that the newbies do and they come out to a farm it’s a mistake putting in a bunch of you know expensive physical fence 90 percent of the time it’s all in the wrong place. So this is where function should drive form. Don’t worry about what it looks like. Worry about does it work. Does it function. And so our rule of thumb is never build physical fence first put it all in temporary and then what you haven’t moved in three years. Then make that temporary. That’s where a function drives form. That’s part of nimbleness if you if you go early on and you capitalize a bunch of non mobile infrastructure two or three years down the road you find out Oh man that barn’s in the wrong place.
Joel Salatin: [01:04:35] Oh man that that fence is in the wrong place. Oh that Gates in the wrong place that you know it’s too late because it’s too expensive to move it. Whether it whether it’s really expensive we’re just emotionally. Oh man had that put it there. And so then yeah you spend the rest of your life working around this infrastructure and stuff that that it’s immovable. So all of that you know the fencing the shelters you know Feeding situations my goodness you know mobility is is huge in this in order to keep your so that you can move things around. I mean even our our chip brooders you know we build them on the mobile home chassis and we can put them on leased land we can put them in different places here. We don’t like the propane taking me there anymore. We can move the propane tank and the egg and the egg and the breeder house over somewhere else and you can be on skids it can be on wheels. But being able to shift things around is is critical.
Tim Young: [01:05:52] So those are really seven great rules to give a new person have a roadmap you know get experience honest accounting efficiency building a team cash flow and staying nimble. Now this is gonna be you know obviously this is gonna be an impossible question for you to answer because you know there’s just you have all this experience but I really want to ask you like if you were starting now if you were this person and you were going to go to start a farm. I want to ask you what you would do so I guess the best way to phrase that is knowing what you know now. Out of all these possible farm enterprises and given that you said you really should pick one first to become expert at Which farm enterprise most excites you what would you be interested in.
Joel Salatin: [01:06:39] Well the wonderful excites me is that pastured broiler you know one of the one of the beauties of of the pastured broiler is that it really is incredibly different than what’s in the supermarket. I mean no body. We have never had a person in 40 years. We’ve never had a person say oh this is I can’t tell this from a store. It’s really different taste different handles different textures different. So one of the things when you’re starting an enterprise is different change. You don’t want to be like everybody else. You want to stand out. You want to be different. And so the pastor brought from a cash flow standpoint look how fast your turnaround is it’s eight weeks and that’s almost as fast as a radish. You know in the garden and another element of the broiler is that that you’re handling it and this is kind of a little bit esoteric but but hang with me the if you’re small and you’re doing things by hand and much of your labor is by hand. So you’re actually you’re actually you’re not moving up with a forklift and a front end loader you’re actually moving your beach or your tomatoes or your ticket or whatever.
Joel Salatin: [01:07:54] The beauty of the pastured broiler is the stuff that you’re handling when you’re picking up products to the package and the cell it’s it’s expensive product. You know it’s 3-4 bucks it’s not it’s not like lettuce where it’s 40 cents a pound and so you have to you have to move two thousand pounds to get a hundred dollars you move two thousand pounds of chicken and you know you’re you’re a lot more a lot more value there for your pound. And so there’s that there’s an ergonomic advantage there in what you’re doing. So so you know it’s easy to get into it keep America’s eating chicken. Not very many. I mean not very many people are doing it. It’s it’s it’s just a good it’s just a good cash flow.
Joel Salatin: [01:08:48] Now if you are with this single caveat If you are in a state that allows you to sell raw milk easily and you know a lot of states do now then the only thing that I know from an animal perspective that would compete with the broiler is a milk cow where you’re selling milk at retail to a neighbor. The beauty of gardening of going into produce. The beauty of that is that there are no rules and licenses. I mean it’s you know you can pretty much pull off any wives part of the road sell tomatoes sweet corn. The negative is that everybody is doing it. It’s it’s a pretty it’s a pretty competitive thing right now. There are a lot of you go down to your farmer’s market CSA. I mean there’s a lot of that going on now. If you happen to live right next to a big urban sector you can probably pull that off. Certainly people have and are. So it’s an unlicensed thing but generally people gravitate either toward animals or plants. You don’t normally see. You don’t really see mastery of both plants and animals. You see people tend to gravitate to one or the other and that’s you know that’s just human nature. And so you know if if if animals scare you and if you know slaughtering animals that sort of thing just turns you off then you probably want to head toward something that you know that’s a special that’s a you know that’s plant oriented and it could be it could be specialty.
Joel Salatin: [01:10:33] I mean things like goodness you know blackberries strawberries raspberries. I mean those kind of things. There’s an insatiable demand for those. They’re very highly seasonal. So then you run into your cash flow. The beauty of a pastured broiler is that they’re not nearly as seasonal as some of those specialty little you know tender perishable fruits like strawberries or or Blackberries or raspberries. They’re very expensive. And boy they sure bring in a bunch of cash at once but it’s you know it’s a one month sprint. And then you’re done.
Tim Young: [01:11:05] So you’re still very passionate about pastured broilers and it makes a lot of sense why you would be what. What’s your position what’s your perspective if you’re if you if your goal is to build a profitable pasture poultry business where do you come down on heritage genetics and would you look at that. Or is that just too hard to sell and is that adding unnecessary complexity to the business who.
Joel Salatin: [01:11:33] That’s a that’s a bit of a minefield because I don’t want to be you know I don’t wanna be accused of being anti heritage. I mean we we don’t use. We don’t use hybrids in our Lange operation. We use all you know heritage type birds. In fact we’re hatching our own now. We’ve been doing that for about six years and we love love love what we see again functional genetics. Keep the old ones and and you know and get their genetics but on the broiler the heritage bird.
Joel Salatin: [01:12:03] Here’s the thing the. The more exotic you become the smaller your market pool. And so my my sense is that it’s much easier to sell a much better product that is close to what people are used to than a product that is so different from what people are used to that they’re not quite sure what to do with it. Also you know prices and everything but it is something that we have tried. Some of these heritage birds and we have just so like things like Yeah I mean there’s there’s the Cornish cross which is the industry broiler and then you’ve got the the freedom Ranger that’s the French la belle rouge genetics that grows about a little bit slower.
Joel Salatin: [01:12:55] And then you have actual heritage birds. And so they’re kind of those three divisions and the heritage birds are gonna have a major breast all dark meat. Gross So that you can’t cook them fast and what happens is as Allan H’s to say you know in marketing you can be a nudist or you can be a Buddhist but you just can’t be a nudist Joel Salatin: Buddhist.
Joel Salatin: [01:13:17] There comes a point. There comes a point where you’re weirdness is so far out that the marketing becomes very very difficult. And so so that the heritage have have issues with that. You back up to the you know like a freedom range of the furnish La Belle Rouge the Red Bird grows a all but slower. We tried those for several years and and our customers couldn’t see enough difference that they grew they grew slower. So we had you know we had 20 percent more lay rooms. We had to charge more but they weren’t enough different than the Cornish cross to make a difference. Then we back up to the Cornish cross. CORNISH cross course industrial bird. I can tell you that there are good strains and bad strains and all I can tell people is just start getting them from a couple of different hatcheries when you start out get them from one hatch another has to hatch and then we’ve used we’ve used I don’t know what eight different hatcheries over the years and we finally found one that really gets us good birds. And they you know they are very active. They walk around they’re not just you know totally lethargic and and the thing is when a person buys this chicken when when you know Jane home Jane customer buys this chicken
Joel Salatin: [01:14:38] It looked enough like what’s in the store that she’s not asking. Oh man. I’m not sure how to cook this. Not sure what to do with this thing now. It does cook faster but that’s not a problem. And and it tastes a lot better. That’s not a problem. The you know the broth is ten times better. That’s not a problem but there’s nothing about the look of it. And the actual use of it is that much different than in the store. And so we call it every man food and and if you can produce much higher quality every man food that there’s already market boards you don’t have to overcome all these whatever prejudices in the marketplace. Marketing becomes a lot easier.
Tim Young: [01:15:27] Right. And I didn’t mean for that to be a minefield at all. I understand the issue and and no one believes that you’re against heritage breeds or anything like that. I get that completely. The point I’m really trying to make is you know it’s hard enough building a business.
Tim Young: [01:15:39] You know let’s say a pastured poultry farming business it’s hard enough building any business any way. The more you the more you add things like that like heritage breeds you make it more complicated now. If you are innately a very talented marketer or if you have resources that can help you market effectively then you have an element of differentiation there that can really help you be unique in the marketplace. But if you don’t have that you’re really making a hard on yourself by choosing something like that because it’s far less efficient as an enterprise to run and it is not familiar to consumers.
Joel Salatin: [01:16:15] Yeah well goodness you know we we collaborate with several market gardeners in the area who service these restaurant. They all come with their stuff and it all goes on the truck the same day we’re going to the restaurants with our stuff and and all that and we watch these over the years we’ve done this for a long long time and we’ve watched these market gardeners come and go come and go come and go come and go and and the single biggest problem over the years has been they all want to do these real specialty a little you know blue gnarly Peruvian potatoes or whatever like that. And when we go and visit our chefs they’re always sitting here you know frustrated look I can only use them you know five or 10 pounds of blue fingerling Peruvian potatoes a week when I really need is five hundred pounds of compost grow really great tasting kind. Can you find me somebody to grow me five pounds of potatoes a week and we go to the garden to do that. That’s you know that’s what that’s what you bit down the store I want to do something.
Joel Salatin: [01:17:20] And so again we were kind of circling way back to the top of the program we’re coming back to this just this altruism and I appreciate heritage and all that were heirloom kind of stuff. But listen if you want to farm and you actually want to have a profitable farm and quit your town job and quit that commute do you you have to let you have to be willing to submit your altruism at least at the beginning to what the market is dictating that’s not selling out to the devil if you go if look if you go out of business if you go out of business because of your altruism all that shows is the world wasn’t as altruistic as you are.
Joel Salatin: [01:18:09] Well we all receive any help no one. Yeah. You know what I mean we already know you’re more altruistic and noble than righteous and sacred and beautiful you know than the rest of what you don’t have to go out of business to prove that. So just set that on the shelf.
[01:18:27] Well I think this actually I think this point actually of the goes back to your your very first point when when you talked about your advice you’d give someone you start with a roadmap and a mission now. In the early days your mission might have been. We just want to farm full time.
[01:18:39] But I’m willing to bet that today if you started again your mission would be something like. I want to eliminate factory farming with a credible alternative. And if that is your mission then Cornish crossing helps you to accomplish that.
[01:18:53] Yes because they’re every man food the price the price point is not so difficult. And and they’re easy there they’re cheap they’re cheap to buy. They’re easy to grow. And you know what’s not to love about it. It’s great. And yes actually that you nailed the you know yes we did start wanting the farm. And now one of the reasons that we stay with the Cornish cross is because they are the they are the ticket in to offering a truly credible viable alternative to the entire factory farming thing. And we are we are committed to to actually offering credible alternative to the entire factory farming paradigm so that nobody can can credibly say we have to have factory farming or wool all star. We can’t be the world or whatever and we want to. We want to break that story. And it’s not gonna happen with you know 5000 other pigs and 40 dollar chickens.
[01:20:09] All right Joel I’ll just go like one. One last quick question for you. Do you do you and Teresa have a TV.
[01:20:15] No I still don’t have a TV so.
[01:20:18] So you’ve never seen an episode of The Sopranos. No. And yet life goes on.
[01:20:27] Yes life goes on. Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we know that we enjoy. I mean we you know we do have laptops that we can we can get a C.D. if we want and we can watch a YouTube if we want but we don’t. We don’t do much you know because it’s not sitting there on the wall hanging there that with a click of a button we can turn on we actually have to think about it. And so we probably. I mean everybody’s got screen time than just doing e-mails right. I mean I spend my time doing that. But but that’s you know that’s part of business and part of all what we love and you know it’s if you draw three concentric three not concentric three circles and let them all intersect and one is one is what you love one is what you know and one is what you’re good at. So. So knowledge skill and love. And that’s the spot where those three intersect. That’s everybody’s sweet spot. And if you can ever figure out what that is a goal in life is trying to spend more and more time in that spot. And so we’re fortunate that we love what we do. We’re good at it and we know a lot about it and we can just immerse ourselves in that sweet spot. Life is good. Who needs TV.
[01:21:46] That’s a beautiful vision. And you’re inspiring so many people. And you know both you can farm in your successful farm business are excellent books and belong not on the shelves but in the hands and in front the eyes of anybody who wants to run a profitable farm business. Joel just thank you so much for being part of small farm nation.
[01:22:06] Thank you for having me. It is a delight.
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