Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

One last big THANK YOU!

Farmer's Market Update

Last week, I went through a cost analysis of the sunflowers/jams at Market.  I realized this past week that I left out one HUMONGOUS factor...Allan Family Farm gave me space and water for the sunflowers.  In fact, it was Pat that suggested I try to be a walk-on Vendor for the Market in the first place.  This is really an idea that I would have NEVER come up with myself.  So, I really do owe a big debt of gratitude to Pat Allan for helping to get ReMARKable Farms on the map.  Land and water are two of the most valuable resources for farmers and it was given to us for free through Pat's generosity.  


 Garden Update

I do not have room to plant corn but it was on sale at the Co-op so I bought a bunch and blanched it and saved it as little corn-on-the cobs.  I am wanting to plant a Three Sisters Garden next year...more on that in the next blog post!

Also, found a HUGE cucumber in the garden so I made some refrigerator pickles to use it up.

In the Kitchen

The villi yogurt seems to have taken a turn for the worse and was getting "curdish."  I strained the first batch and only got like 1/2 yogurt and so I used that to start the next batch.  It seemed to be turning to cheese.  So, I tossed it and I am starting over (they send you 2 cultures when you purchase it).  I'll keep you posted.  Hopefully, the second batch turns out better.

One last note...the boys start school on Tuesday!  Mark is starting high school and Joshua is going to middle school.  A big transition for both boys.  Looking forward to a great school year!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I was just sure we had made money this year...

...but, after I ran the numbers, we were in the red $87.93.  All the enterprises made money but it was the purchase of the table, canopy and sand bags that put us under.  However, as you may guess, we do not have to purchase these each year.

Profit and Loss

DateOverheadSunflowers GarlicJamsTOTAL
4/16/2015Vendor registration fee15.00
5/30/2015Table, canopy, sandbags260.97
7/3/2015Sugar/pectin, jars38.01
7/11-8/22/2015Vendor fees210.00
HuckleberryJam1/2 pint24.0014.0030.0035.0014.00117.00
1/4 pint6.0010.0015.0031.00
Dandelion 1/2 pint5.0032.0037.00
Red Sunflower1/2 pint6.00 6.00
1/4 pint10.006.005.0021.00
Blackberry1/2 pint10.
Red Raspberry1/2 pint.16.005.0010.0031.00
Golden Raspberry1/2 pint5.0010.0010.0025.00
1/4 pint3.005.008.00
I tried hard to keep track of everything I sold.  I am hoping to do even better next year. ReMARKable Farms is lucky to have a benefactor (me!).  Often I have heard it said that the first 2 years are the hardest for any new business.  I am guessing that is because money has to be put in for supplies and overhead.  Even though I had considered our operation to be fairly low input, there were still some items that we needed and were investments.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the jams sold!  I will probably not bother with the garlic and oregano next year.  

I started to pull out the sunflowers.  I want to thank my friend, Joe, for helping me.  It is a huge task and took more work than I thought.  Hopefully, will get out next week and pull the rest...

Goals for 2016

I have been thinking about goals for next year.  

Goal 1: The first one I want to concentrate on is to grow twice as many sunflowers.  

Goal 2: Continue to plant different varieties to decide which work best.  I already have decided that I am not going to plant the double sunflowers.  They are beautiful but they grow very slow and a lot of the heads were deformed and could not be sold.

Goal 3: Then, a friend was telling me that I should check out the Pullman Farmer's Market.  So, I may look into it.  Especially if I get more flowers growing.  The Pullman Market is on Wednesday so it would be a great way to sell flowers that bloom early in the week (that I would just have to leave in the field).

Planning for our Future Farm

I have started a future farm fund.  If I can set aside $100 each month for the next 4 years, we will have $5000 to start our future farm business when Mark is out of high school.  Most small businesses can be successfully started for under $10,000.  I think we will be able to get some help from Vocational Rehabilitation, in the form of a small business start up monies too.  When I am referring to Mark's business, I am talking about him working as a self employed individual to take care of the chicken operation on our future farm.  I can see where he will be helping with other aspects of the farm but this will be his enterprise for himself to work.  Yes, I will probably be the one selling the eggs, but he will be caring for, feeding, watering, collecting eggs, cleaning and packaging the eggs.  The pastured poultry eggs will be Mark's business.  All our other aspects of the farm (sunflowers, etc...) will be mine.  Mark and I will both be working together on ReMARKable Farms but we will have our own work to do.

When Mark was born, we started a college savings fund for him.  I think we dutifully put in $50/month in the fund until D day.  The future held so many uncertain questions about Mark and his prognosis.  We threw ourselves into learning what was Autism and the best ways to "treat" and cure Mark.  The college fund was put on the back burner  There is still about $1700 in there... 

I was listening to this podcast from the Griffin-Hammis Associates Customized Employment Podcast, and they mentioned that many people save money for their kids to go to college (just like we had started).  If people would save money for their child with a disability to start their own business, they would be ahead of the game when the transition from school to work happens after high school.  This really hit home for me and that is why we started savings for Mark's future farm business (pasture raised eggs).

Here is a great book written by Cary Griffin:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Food science lesson

Farmer's Market Update

I recently found out that I needed to jury to bring jams and jellies to the Farmer's Market.  For some reason, I thought it was just arts and craft type products that needed to jury.  I have no idea why I thought this because it is clearly started that processed foods need to jury to come to the market in the Farmer's Market policies!  I feel just terrible about this and did not mean to break the rules on purpose.  The first step is to obtain a Food Risk Assessment form, fill it out with the items you want to sell at the Farmer's Market and then submit to the Health Department.  I did this and listed all the jams and jellies that I made.  I also listed dried oregano and a new product that I wanted to bring to the Market, wine salt. 

The Health Department approved the jams, oregano and wine salt but would not approve the flower jellies (dandelion and red sunflower).  I asked why.  See, most jams and jellies are considered low acid foods and are relatively safe for consumption.  Also, items such as seasonings, cakes, cookies, and dried noodles fit into this low acid category.  The Health Department said that they did not know if the acidity of the flower jellies was low enough that it would be safe.  So, I did a little research.  Most jellies/jams have 4 ingredients: fruit (or in my case flower petals), sugar, pectin and lemon juice.  Some fruits are low in acid and so you have to add lemon juice to bring the acidity down (so you do not get bacterial contamination in your final product).  The acid and the pectin work together to gel and make the jelly.  It is my understanding that if there is not enough acid, the jelly will not set properly.  I could be wrong on this matter.  This is my understanding from the little bit of online food science research I did.  The Health Department didn't actually look at my jellies.  They just looked at the list of products on a piece of paper.

I had made golden and red sunflower jellies.  The golden did not set as well as the red.  I decided not to sell the golden sunflower jelly because of this.  I am confident that the acidity of the red sunflower jelly was good because it was a very firm set.  I asked what I could do to get the flower jellies approved.  They said I would have to have it tested at the WSU Food Science lab and it costs $50.  Not sure if I want to pay this expense...I know there are other farmers with flower jellies at the Market so I am wondering if they had theirs tested?  Or if I pay to have mine tested, then everyone else can bring theirs and not have to pay...maybe if the Health Department actually looked at the product, then they would be more willing to approve the flower jellies.  I would never sell something that I thought was unsafe.

I then took the Food Risk Assessment to the Farmer's Market.  They said I could bring the jams but not the oregano or wine salt, although these had been approved by the Health Department.  This has been a great learning experience and that is why I wanted to start doing the Farmer's Market in the first place.  I am mostly upset at myself for not following all the rules.  I try really hard to do things right.  The best part is that I feel that I have a good handle on how to procedure (correctly) next year.     

I am not sure if I will have enough sunflowers for next week at the Farmer's Market.  This might have been my last week.  I will go out to the farm on Thursday and make a decision...
Varieties are Double Gold, Gold, Lemon, Moulin Rouge, Sunbright/Sunrich, and Bi-color

From the Kitchen

There were lots of beautiful peaches at the Farmer's Market.  So, I decided to try to can some.  This is something that I have never done before.
Well, let's just say that I did get some peaches canned but overall the project was a flop.  Maybe it is just because my heart was not into it and my mind was not on task.  It just seemed that most of the peaches were rock hard or way over ripe...I ended up freezing a bunch.  I only have a small canner so it was probably good that I did not process too many jars.  There was water going everywhere because I had it filled to the very top!  So, it's not like it was a total fail, I have lots of frozen peaches for pies and cobblers but I just disappointed with the quality of the fruit I had purchased.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Farmer's Market cost analysis

Farmer's Market Update

I can say that being back on the "main" street of the Farmer's Market doubled my sales - mostly due to lots more foot traffic.  So, that was a good thing!  Also, it made me sit down and "run the numbers" which is something that I have been avoiding.  When I talk about "running the numbers", I am referring to the idea that I need to figure out if going to the Farmer's Market with just sunflowers and jams is profitable for our beginning farm business.  Or maybe another way of looking at it is, how much money do I need to make so that it is worth my time.  I have been putting this off because I really enjoy going but I don't want to do something just for the sake of doing it.  Just like I really enjoy making jams/jellies but the profit margin is pretty slim on these items...we really do want to be a profitable farm.

So, I have done my little cost analysis and I am so happy with the results.  I have decided that IF I can make $150 or more on a Saturday Farmer's Market, it is definitely worth my time.  So far, about half of our Farmer's Market booths have met this new criteria.  Also, this involves me figuring out (for future reference, next year), how many sunflowers I should take to the market each week so I can know how many sunflowers to plant...

Farmer's Market Follies

I was asked by 2 different people if I could supply sunflowers for wedding this fall (unfortunately, the answer is no, all my flowers will have bloomed by then).

Someone else came and taste tested the flower jellies (dandelion and red sunflower), they really enjoyed the flavors and said that they were very mild and suggested that I try to concentrate (boil down) the flower petal tea before making the jelly to get more flavor next time.  I love this suggestion and will incorporate it next time.  Speaking of jellies, I only have 1 more dandelion jelly left!  I am running low on red sunflower and trying to decide if I should make more.  I did run out of huckleberry jam but made more today (Sunday!).  It will be my last batch.  I do not have enough huckleberries to make anymore.
Last batch of Huckleberry jam for 2015

Garden Update

Garden is doing well.  My lettuce, spinach and radish that I planted for my fall garden, sprouted!  My cat got into the area where I put my carrots so I am not sure if they are going to make it.

My friend gave me this plant and said it was a winter squash.  This is what grew...does anyone know what it is?


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Forgot to request space at the Farmer's Market...

...luckily, the manager still let me set up but I was not on the Main Street.  Since I am not a regular vendor for the whole season, I have to request space each week as a walk on vendor.  Foot traffic was a lot lighter.  I still covered my Vendor fee (yeah)! and had several good friends come to visit me. Lesson learned and I have made an automatic reminder in my calendar to let me know to request space so this won't happen again!

August 2-8 is National Farmer's Market Week
Last week, the boys and I went to look at a property.  A home on 11 acres.  It seems to be set up just perfectly for the farm of my dreams.  There is a 3-4 acres pasture on one side of the farmstead near a well.  This seems like an ideal place for the You-Pick berries.  Then, the house is situated in the middle with a big barn that has nest boxes and a little chicken door cut into the side of the barn. Then, there are another 3-4 acres on the far side of the farmstead which would be perfect for the You-Cut Christmas trees.  There is also a large shop that would be great for a brooder...anyway, we are going back to look at it again on Thursday...prayers appreciated...

If anyone wants to make a $5000 donation to the Future Farm Fund, I can guarantee a dozen farm fresh eggs weekly for the next 20 years as repayment...LOL!  What a great investment opportunities with edible dividends.

In the Garden

Picked my first cucumber and broccoli this past week.  I had planted my broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage among my garlic.  This was not such a great idea, mostly because the garlic was just too thick (I planted  A LOT) and the little seedlings could not get enough light.  I am not planning on planting so much garlic this fall so I think I am going to try it again and it should work better.  Lots of kale, zucchini and patty pans.  Lots of tomatoes but they haven't started turning red.  Dug some of the compost/top soil out of top of my potato bag and placed it around my broccoli and cabbage.  

Planted my "fall" garden this morning.  The first time I have ever experimented with a fall garden.  I planted some spinach, lettuce, radish and carrots.  Found this baby watermelon growing up in one of our patty pan plants...

We have been enjoying the pastured poultry we got from Link'd Hearts Ranch...made some beer can chicken last weekend...