Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Age Old Problem

The problem that has plagued farmers since...well probably since the beginning of commercial agriculture-or agriculture for profit rather than sustenance- has come to haunt Barnyard Organics, or at least the livestock side of it.
Farmers want to farm and those who do it well, do it very well.  It takes all of yourself and requires a lot of love and attention to produce whatever it is you produce.  So farmers who want to farm, don't want to market.  It has become somewhat of an understanding with this 'new generation of farmers' that farming is now a "BUSINESS" and not just a simple farm.  We're all supposed to have degrees in something or other and have a deep understanding of commodity pricing and international policies and always finding "NEW MARKETS", because hasn't that been the demise of old farms?  Well, no actually it isn't, but if we keep telling everyone that that's the case, then we'll keep making up crazy new markets that last just long enough to get to the next one.

But that's a different post.

This one is supposed to be about me not being able to sell lamb.  I can raise lamb. I have a pasture full of some of the healthiest, organic ewes you've ever seen.  I have another barn with my lambs that are finishing and because they did so well I shipped four this week.  They really should have been shipped a month or two ago, but I hadn't heard from anyone wanting lamb, so I held off.  I realized that I was feeding them for nothing and they were only costing me at this point, so I shipped them.  And now I have a butcher asking me how I want them cut and no one to buy them.  So I'm making my best guess at how most people might want them cut and hoping I can find a customer or two (or four, or eight ideally).  I've contacted all my customers from last year, to no avail.   

This is not productive, or profitable farming.  It's backwards, discouraging and awful. I just want to raise sheep. I want to take care of little lambs and manage a healthy pasture and look out at my flock as they graze happily on the lushest clover around.  I don't want to pester people to buy.  It makes me want to get out of sheep altogether, which I've never wanted to do before.
I actually believe I'm pretty good at it.  It's been nearly four years of 'shepherding' on my own and I'm pretty proud of how well I've done.  Mark is mostly to thank, but I think we produce a good product and I think we're good sheep farmers.

And nobody likes to quit something they're good at.

So what's next?
I guess I bring home a truck full of lamb, cut to my specifications and start the sell.  Thankfully we have lots of freezer space, until the next chicken shipment (September 1). 
Don't even start on the chickens.
They sell. 
People will buy chicken. 
But when they have the option they like to buy 1 at a time.  and "come back for more later". 

But every sale counts and chicken sells better than lamb, so we'll stick with that for now.

Ugh. Not a very uplifting entry in all this glorious late August weather is it?
Apologies all around. 

I'd probably feel better if you'd buy some lamb though.  :)





  1. I'm spreading the word :)

  2. We don't drive, but if you can deliver or help us coordinate delivery (Summerside) and give us pricing, we'll happily consider buying some lamb!

    We usually buy everything from the Spring Street Farmer's Market because we can walk to it. But, Jedidja has treated us to some other local farm spoils so we know there's more out there. :)

    Email us and we'll talk!

    Sarah and Joe Rainsberger
    us AT rainsberger DOT com

  3. Hmmm. An ongoing problem, but one that many producers face. I don't buy lamb because my longsuffering spouse won't eat it, my son isn't at home anymore, and I rarely eat any red meat now, and when I do, it's usually local beef. I think one problem is that many people are scaling down in their storing of foods; they are buying smaller freezers, or only have the freezer in their refrigerator to use, so they buy what they need a week at a time. I know that's the case with people like my mum, in her eighties, and my son, in his twenties. That doesn't help, I'm sure, but I'll keep thinking positive thoughts about your lamb and hope people step up soon.

    I just had another thought--maybe it's the season? I think of lamb the same way I do ham (sorry for the Suessian rhyme); more of a fall-winter meat than a summer one. I haven't cooked a ham for hubby since early June; he prefers to barbecue during the summer. Anyway, food for thought.

  4. I will buy some lamb!

    collier (dot) andy AT gmail