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Successful Crowdfunding for Agricultural Pursuits

With bank loans hard to come by, many farmers are looking for alterna­tives, and one of the new models is online crowdfunding, a form of Inter­net-based donations, loans and invest­ments. Many of the online platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, attract large numbers of entrepreneurs looking for funding.

Barnraiser founder Eileen Gordon with Rob Keller of the Napa Bee Company.

According to Eileen Gordon, founder of Barnraiser, hers is the only crowdfunding platform devoted spe­cifically to funding the sustainable food movement “one farm or healthy food business at a time.”

Speaking at a recent EcoFarm con­ference, Gordon told attendees, “We’re trying to connect with the 40 or more million Americans who care about sustainability, health and wellness, yet they don’t often know how to affect change. There are still many parts of the country where consumers don’t have the opportunity to vote with their forks at the grocery stores by choosing sustainable foods.”

Gordon asserts that crowdfunding is rapidly changing the way we drive innovation, personal aspirations, new products and social change.

“No group is more deserving than those on the front lines of the food movement, leading us toward health and sustainability,” she said. “Barn­raiser is a place to meet and back the thousands of food and farming innovators and put better food on our collective table. When one farmer gets a new barn, the whole community gets better food.”

Gordon is also co-owner with her husband, Michael Chiarello, of Chiarello Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. About 12 years ago, she and Chiarello acquired a 100-year-old vine­yard in the Napa Valley and converted the land into a sustainable farm. It was an old historic farm that had been planted before prohibition and hadn’t been farmed in over a decade.

“In the process of taking this old farm and rejuvenating the land and converting it to sustainable farming, we met some fantastic people in the realms of organic and biodynamic farming. As we saw our property come back to life as a healthy ecosystem started to thrive, this was incredibly exciting to us.” Continue Reading →

Book excerpt: Honor System Marketing by Jeff Mcpherson

The book Honor System Marketing, by Jeff Mcpherson, shows you how to implement honor system marketing into your own operation. It offers multiple honor system examples, and details how to avoid common pitfalls, manage finances, and maintain a sense of optimism. This book shows how an honor system payment method can become a useful tool for doing business and reviving our spirit of trust in humanity.

The excerpt below introduces the concept of honor system marketing, and explores the author’s philosophy of why this system is good for the farmer, the customer and the world.

Copyright 2011, softcover, 200 pages.

 

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Veteran Farmers Making a Difference

Veterans are once again taking up the call for our country as veteran farmers. Charley Jordan stops to listen to the quiet and to feel the breeze as his cattle graze in the distance. The silence is a stark contrast from the thunderous helicopter rotors he knew in the Army.

Tom Bennett has removed his staff sergeant stripes and left the Marines, but he now brings the same gung-ho attitude to sustainably raising his pigs and chickens.

Richard Gwilt no longer breathes the cordite he once did as a range master and paratrooper. His days in the 101st Airborne are over. Today he serves as director of operations for the Desert Forge Foundation, a nonprofit located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that is dedicated to transitioning veterans to farmers. The former chief warrant officer raises horses, cows and chilies, among other crops.

Tom Bennett has removed his staff sergeant stripes and left the Marines, but he still has the same gung-ho attitude, which he has been able to apply to raising pastured pigs and chickens. He has found a vocation that allows him to apply the problem-solving skills that he honed in the military.

Many veterans come home to a life completely different from the one they grew accustomed to in the military. Some aren’t lucky enough to adapt. For thousands of veterans, farming has become that new life: an occupation that is saving both them and agriculture.

There are currently more than 23 million veterans in the United States. When their service ends and their tours are over, veterans often have no place to turn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s vets are more likely to be unemployed than both civilians and veterans of prior conflicts. Through 2012, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent — compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Continue Reading →

Marketing & Selling Pastured Pork

Raising pigs on pasture is wonderfully rewarding work, but it will not lead to a viable farm enterprise unless we take the time to develop our marketing program for effectively selling pastured pork. In this article I share some key points and tips I have gleaned in five years of pork production.

Before you start marketing your pork to potential customers, it may be worth your time to go through the logistic hurdles that ensure that your pork can be USDA approved: the time, energy and money you invest in this can give you access to the entire U.S. market. This was the first hurdle that I tackled this spring in order to open up my market to every direct consumer interested in buying my pork.

To be honest, I would rather be harvesting my pigs on my farm, as I believe that on-farm slaughter leads to a more humane and peaceful ending for my pigs. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t allow you to legally sell cuts of meat to off-farm customers, such as restaurants, grocery stores or families wanting certain cuts of pork. Continue Reading →

Wool Artist Supports Fiber Farmers

Lani Estill at the Warner Mountain Weavers shop in Cedarville, California.

Lani Estill met me at her shop in downtown Cedarville, California, and showed me pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We sat in the store, surrounded by brilliantly colored yarn, soft and earthy colored scarves, hats and rugs, and Estill shuddered as we scrolled through picture after picture of the pile of plastic the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.

“The sixth-graders wrote essays about it today,” said Estill. As is common in rural communities, she wears many hats. In addition to being a fiber artist and rancher, she is also a substitute teacher at Surprise Valley Joint Unified School District, where her son attends school.

“Some companies boast that they make products out of recycled plastic. But it is still plastic. It still goes into our rivers, oceans, land and our bodies,” she said. Continue Reading →

Farm Smarter: Time Management Tips

Even if we don’t expect to get paid for all the hours we work on the farm, tracking how we spend our time, in order to employ smart time management strategies, provides incredibly valuable information on the viability and efficiency of our production models and helps us and other sustainable farmers innovate the methods and infrastructure that will be needed to bring about a new and sustainable food system.

Sustainable farming is by definition a model that can continue for the long-term and that stewards finite resources that are often neglected or taken for granted.

There’s a myth that permeates the community of sustainable farmers, especially among those that are new, young and passionate. It started innocuously, but it has the potential to jeopardize the long-term viability of the new sustainable food system.

The myth is that sustainable farming is above all a way of life characterized by a devotion to the land, and that those who are focused on making money are missing the point and bound to be disappointed.

This sort of thinking is dangerous because the stories we tell ourselves matter. When we half-jokingly remark after having a tough year or working an 18-hour day that we “aren’t in it for the money” or when we let another season go by without seriously tracking the time we spend working on the farm because it would “be depressing” or because “everything is going to turn around anyway next year,” it undermines the future of sustainable farming by perpetuating the deleterious myth that as farmers, where we put our time doesn’t matter so long as we’re busy.

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