Hi! I enjoy the farm posts too; my daughter and her husband have a farm near Blacksburg, Virginia (gladeroadgrowing) so I can really relate. She raises ducks for eggs and got an egg-washing machine, and it has made things so much simpler! If your sister doesn't have one it might be worth considering. Sally got hers (and most of their farm equipment) on craigslist. I really like the flower pictures too!
oh man. Brother-in-law is a consummate master of Craigslist; the current Ongoing Situation is that he’s been trawling Craigslist for grain and corn-harvesting equipment, and they discovered that a lady in Ithaca is selling a perfect combine harvester, and that’s what they’re almost definitely investing in. They have a microloan (micro! twenty thousand dollars is considered a microloan!) from the USDA to cover improvement of the livestock operation, and since the slaughter facilities came in on time and under budget (amazing), the rest is going toward them raising their own feed, which could lead to a side-business of selling feed, and if they can get copacetic equipment (that works with both corn and wheat, see) they could even start down the road toward raising wheat for human consumption, i.e. flour, which is an underserved market in the locavore community. The closest flour provider is in Lake Placid, which is some hundred-odd miles out of Troy, which isn’t bad but isn’t great for the hardcore locavores. Plus, there’s a lot of room for improvement there.
The flower pictures– my sister inherited basically nothing from the woman she bought the business from, pertaining to flowers. (Nothing for the holiday decor business either; the woman had TWO wreath-making tables, and took BOTH, because she might want them. How the fuck is that selling a business, to take all the equipment? but they were not exactly clear on the concept, those folks.) So she’s been kind of trying from the ground up to figure it out– Aaron is in charge of the veggies, which she did last year, so that she’d be more free to work on the flowers, but then when her husband did the books he allotted her like, $200 for seeds, and she was like, buddy. And at every turn, it’s been really hard to get the necessary time and labor to spare. it’s really hard, because his purview is the livestock, and if you don’t address a crisis with the livestock as it comes up, you have dead animals. Dead flowers and missed selling opportunities are a lot harder, in the moment. But the flowers are a big steady cash income every week without fail, and the livestock is mostly lump payments periodically when they process. And so every time it’s his turn to watch the baby and he can’t because the waterers are leaking so the broilers have no water, or somesuch, her flowers get shorted, and–
Anyway. She’s done a ton of research, and most of the time when I was there, I did the Farm Wife shit that otherwise falls to her by default (or doesn’t get done, and it’s a disaster; women’s unpaid labor is the underpinning of literally the entire world), and like the #1 thing she found is that you gotta, you gotta use Instagram. You just have to. And one of those things is that every time you make a bride’s bouquet, you gotta take a picture with someone holding it. People just don’t react to a bridal bouquet in a vase or lying on a surface. You gotta get someone holding it.
Aaron, she has found out, is not the ideal model, except he kind of is.
But. Everyone loves photos of flowers, so there’s no hardship in Instagramming the fuck out of flower farming.
And last time I was at the farm, there was a tour– there’s a local network of organic farms who all have apprentices, and every so often all the apprentices meet up and are given a tour of different farms in the network. So this day, it was their farm’s tour, and so these kids came (well, all ages) and were given insider-views into how it is to run their particular kind of operation.
Some kid asked, “why do livestock at all?” and Brother-in-law gave a literally twenty-minutes-long answer (enough time for sis to take the kid in and change her poopy diaper, nice timing there baby; she doesn’t like it when I change her diapers so she finds her mom and then poops, it’s kind of awesome and largely terrible actually)– but a big part of it was, “the land here is not good enough for us to make it on vegetables alone.”
It’s not. It’s true. There’s a lot of great river-bottom land that other farms are sitting on, and they’re killing it at the farmer’s market, and that’s great. But it means we have to diversify. So, flowers, and eggs, and meat, and animal feed, and grain.
Which I love, but as a spectator mostly. And as the one who’s definitely going to ghostwrite their eventual book about it. :)