As we move from the farm building stage to the farm operations stage, Kathy and I are turning our attention to the basics of running our farming business. We've filed articles of incorporation (Unity Farm LLC), created a formal land management plan for review by the town of Sherborn, built basic processes for recording income/expenses, documented options for selling our products and formulated a multi-year strategic plan leading to full recognition as an agricultural enterprise.
Creating a brand is an important step for us as we begin to build awareness of our apples, honey, mushrooms, alpaca fiber, handmade soap, and blueberries. This morning I heard the 1970's New Seekers song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and it comes very close to the Unity Farm vision (replace Turtle Doves with Guinea Fowl)
"I’d like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves"
Since that song is so closely associated with soft drink sales, we'll need another approach.
At the entrance to Unity Farm, a large specimen-quality sugar maple greets visitors to the property. We've used its silhouette, shown above, to create a logo and label for the farm.
For individual products, we'll use silhouettes of apples, bees, Shitake mushrooms, alpaca, etc providing us name recognition and a standard labeling platform for everything we sell.
We have a Facebook page and we'll create appropriate twitter, pinterest, and other social media sites.
We've already collected this season's alpaca fiber and are spinning it into wool. We're harvesting our first honey over the next few weeks. We'll have our first berries in August and apples in October. Our quantities of everything this first year will be very limited. Likely our first real sales and the possibility of a "mushroom CSA", selling guaranteed shares of Shitake mushrooms, will be in 2014.
In the meantime, we're continuing farm development. We'll finish the hoop house (a kind of plastic sheeted green house) in July and have another mile of forest trails completed by the end of Summer. We're also picking peas and strawberries from a nearby farm, making our own jam as we await the maturity of our own berries and other produce.
I'm off to Kyoto this weekend, so my next post will be dispatch from Japan, where I'm keynoting the IEEE conference this year.
Does your plan include any chance at online sales, or shipping products via UPS or FED EX?
Please also put up a regular website in addition to the Facebook and other social media stuff. I dropped Facebook over privacy concerns and other items (like the hideous Timeline layout). My mom would use some of the wool and I need an online way to order it.
John - you are developing quite a business. How do you manage the chores when you are away? Does it fall to Kathy?
Have a good trip.
Kathy and I run the farm by ourselves - I do chores early in the morning, late at night, and weekends. When I'm away, Kathy runs everything full time. If she needs help, the farm hands from the horse farm next door are always available.
I'm interested in getting some honey and berries, and apples in October. Is the farm open for business.
We're not quite ready for sales but hopefully this Spring we'll have several products ready to ship and sell at local farm stands.
I'm curious how you were able to harvest so much honey in your first year. In my first year my bees are a bit slow to build up and I read often that leaving the honey first year is good practice. I'm using top bar hives but I'd be curious if you had any tricks to share?
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