Now that we are physically on the property, farm planning takes on a whole different level. I’m finding that some things are clearer, while others have a lot more gray than before we arrived. For this post, I’ll just try to give a sense of what we’re thinking about and planning for, now that the land is laid out before us.
As I discussed in this post, the very first thing we did when we got here was replace the weeds with grass, and get the pasture on its way to recovery. This was priority number one for several reasons. For one, it’s kind of hard to raise pasture-based animals without the pasture! In addition, the cool season grasses we planted (fescue, orchard grass, blue grass) needed to be in the ground no later than mid-September in order for them to germinate, develop a strong root structure, go dormant for the winter, then start off with a bang in the early spring thanks to the “leg up” they are receiving now. It’s the same concept as planting garlic in the fall, you’ll get a little growth initially, but you really see the benefits in the springtime. That way, our grasses will be able to grow fast and strong in the spring, out-competing weeds for sunlight and water resources (at least that is the concept we’re shooting for).
We also chose to re-structure some of the permanent fencing, eliminating some feed lots up near the house and creating several paddocks down near an existing barn. This way, more of the land will be available to include in our rotational grazing scheme, while the land that would be much harder to cycle through is utilized for animal handling, sacrifice areas, and forage for our bachelor males throughout the year. Removing this fence was a difficult chore, but extremely gratifying after completion… it looks awesome to have that little bit of pasture opened back up and included with the bulk of the land!
I haven’t gotten as much done on the perimeter fencing as I thought I would, mostly because I finally realized that the permanent paddocks and handling facilities needed to be the priority in order to successfully receive animals in a few short weeks. I did make contact with the fine folks at PasturePro, and really like their high tensile line posts. Once the permanent paddocks are completed-ish, I’ll return my attention to the perimeter fencing plan. Some of the existing fence is in fine shape, some of it isn’t. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to utilize even some of the good existing fence due the tracts of land enrolled in CREP, so part of the challenge is to decide how to best install perimeter fencing without having to pull it all up in 9 years after the contract has expired. Needless to say, this is one planning area where I still have a fair amount of indecision.
Most of the buildings are top notch, including the house, garage, cement block shop and equipment pole barn. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the poorest quality barn just happens to be the one where I intend to house animals, milk our cow, store feed and hay, and generally run our farm out of! I have a vision for the building, but the real questions are: “How fast can I get it operational” and “What is that going to cost me”? From a planning perspective, this is my next big task after handling the permanent paddock situation. I expect that reality here will have to be a combination of striving for the ideal while embracing the good enough!
The last place that we’ve done a bunch of planning is arguably the most important, which is beginning to develop our market and customer base. We’ve stopped by both the Chillicothe and Lancaster farmers markets, printed up business cards, purchased a cell phone (gasp), visited potential butchers, talked to local farms who are doing something similar to us, etc. A family member of mine recently made an interesting comment, essentially saying “Why do you have a business card when you don’t have anything to sell yet… aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?”. That topic is a blog post in and of itself, but I firmly believe that part of making Pastured Providence Farmstead profitable will be to intentionally develop our customer base ahead of time, in order to successfully sell our product when we do have it available.
As you can see, planning for success takes multiple forms and runs on several different timelines. So far, I feel pretty good about where we are headed and the decisions that are being made. That being said, I definitely don’t feel like I’m ahead of the game by any stretch of the imagination. “Animals on the farm” is my self-imposed deadline for lots of things, and that time is rapidly approaching! Part of me says that I can relax once all of these big decisions and changes are made/accomplished, but the other part of me knows that there will always be something on our farm that requires planning and consideration. Change is going to be a normal part of our journey for a very long time, but hopefully it will at least be driven by the growth and success of selling grass-fed meats in the Chillicothe and Columbus areas!