Ready for 2014

In our all-day year-end review Cherie and I carefully reviewed all the farm’s 2013 operations.  Last year was the first year we diligently kept the data in a way that enables us to evaluate each component of the farm.  The results were interesting.

I’ve been planning to significantly expand our egg production.  We have more demand than we can meet, so my plan to was to add an “eggmobile” (and a lot more hens) that would generate more eggs and help us with maintaining soil fertility.  But we lost money on our egg sales last year.  In fact, we would have had to charge over $10/dozen to break even.  Even excluding the cost of the new coops and based only on the cost of feed, we’d need to charge over $6.50/dozen.  We’re charging $4/dozen now and I don’t think our market will bear much more than that.  So we scrapped all plans to increase egg production.

I have a friend who raises his hens the same way we do ours and he uses the same feed.  He says $4/dozen was profitable for him in 2012.  I’m not sure what their results were in 2013.  We gave away a lot of eggs last  year, and our number doesn’t account for what we ate ourselves, but even with those things factored in I’m sure we were still selling at a loss.  Part of our problem may be that we have aging hens and we have never culled the old ones out.  We try to add young hens periodically and overall our flock is young.  But we’ve always let the old layers just live out their lives.  That doesn’t help the bottom line.

The pigs were a success, so we’re planning to expand that part of what we do.  Goats were a disappointment.  I think I overestimated the capacity of our pastures.  We had more revenue (and fewer expenses) when the herd was smaller.  So we’re going to slowly reduce the size of our herd.  We’ll have to find some other way to generate the revenue we were expecting from the goats.  We’re planning to offer goat meat this year, for the first time.  Previously we’ve only sold them live or at the livestock auctions.  I’m not expecting a lot of demand, but we’ll see.

On the vegetable side the results were just OK.  If labor was included in our analysis we’d have been deeply in the red.   But as a farmer/friend told me recently, “A farmer’s labor isn’t worth anything.”  By that he means we don’t count it when adding up expenses.  We had impressive revenue growth with the vegetables though (notwithstanding a brutal summer season) and I’m optimistic about 2014.

We’re going to be making some significant changes to how we market our vegetables, but they haven’t been announced to our customers yet, so I’ll hold off blogging about them for now.

Overall Cherie did an excellent job of managing the household.  The farm broke even, which isn’t easy for farms to do.  If this experiment is going to work, we need to move the numbers into the black.  Hopefully that will happen this year.

Ready for 2014!