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Darby Simpson

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About Darby Simpson

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  • Joined: 07/29/2017

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  1. Darby Simpson

    Understanding NRCS EQIP Grants

    David I’m not certain, but I think that is a safe assumption. I guess it stands to reason that most acreage large enough to graze with animals would be in a rural (ag) zoning area. Even if residential zoning qualified, local zoning ordinances wouldn’t allow you to have grazing animals most likely.
  2. Darby Simpson

    Starting Spring Chicks

    Chris, I have heard good things about Cackle Hatchery, but I have never personally used them and I’ll only refer folks to vendors I have used. But yeah, from what I hear they are good folks. As to the note about heritage breed cockerels growing fast as a cross rock, I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree 100%. And grow faster? No way. To what breed are you referring? Do you have personal experience and numbers to back that up? If so I would love to see it. If that existed, every pastured poultry producer in the country would be using that chicken! Nothing, and I mean nothing, will grow as fast as a cornish cross. If I wanted to, I could produce 5lb dressed birds in 7 weeks on pasture. It’s true that some of the heavy breeds will grow fast, but they don’t grow that fast. The breed I am using now was developed from Plymouth’s but they still take more time than the cornish.
  3. Darby Simpson

    Farm Business Essentials: November Workshop

    If you follow my blog at all, you’ve no doubt noticed that I have not had the time to write any posts this summer. We have been busier than normal with the farm, and most of my “spare” time has been invested into the podcast that I’m doing weekly with Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices called “Grass Fed Life“. For those of you who really value the information I’ve put out on the blog over the past three years, hopefully you’ve found the time to the listen to the podcast. Episode number 22 (8 Reasons Why You Might NOT Want To Start A Pastured Poultry Enterprise) came out today, and with it there are now over 23+ hours of audio for you to listen to. Contained within that audio is a lot of what I hope you would agree to be very valuable information. In all sincerity, there is way more content there than I could ever write for the blog during the same time period. We have covered everything from production on poultry and pork, to marketing dynamics and business basics. All in all, I think it’s a pretty solid replacement during the growing season for the written blog. But rest assured, I’ll get back to writing more blog posts this winter. Many of you have been e-mailing and asking about when our next workshop would be scheduled and I’m happy to announce that we have one on the calendar for November 3rd-5th near our farm in Martinsville, IN. The Farm Business Essentials 3-day workshop is going to be intense, and I’m extremely excited about it! My excitement stems from two main sources: First, the curriculum we’ll be covering in this workshop is the meaty stuff that really matters if you want to make a legitimate go of farming for profit. This is the teaching that I really get into and enjoy sharing because it is so profoundly important to your success. Second, I’ll be co-teaching this workshop with my friend Diego Footer. Diego brings a lot to the table in terms of transitioning from one career to another, as he is currently working to build an income source that will allow him to work from home and spend more time with his young family. On top of that, he has spent countless hundreds of hours talking with and interviewing farmers in the regenerative agricultural space. The knowledge base he has to share in a workshop of this nature is incalculable. I want to be clear that this workshop is specifically aimed at for profit farming, and not homesteading. The main focus will be aimed at helping aspiring farmers and existing farmers create a personal plan to transition towards an intentional part-time or full-time farming venture. We’ll certainly spend some time (about 25% of the workshop) on the “nuts and bolts” of how-to produce poultry and pork as well as an exhaustive tour of our farm. But the majority of our time will be focused on things like selecting the appropriate enterprise(s) for you on your farm at this point in time. We’ll also cover things like how to set realistic expectations for your farm, how to get your family on board and how to create a comprehensive year to year growth plan. We’ll also talk about balancing family with farm business startup, running a business, scaling up production while balancing marketing and refining your farm venture to decrease costs while increasing profits. This is not a class you will sit in and simply listen to the speakers talk – this will be an interactive experience where your participation will be expected in order for you to get the most value out of the workshop! You can read the entire itinerary on the Permaculture Voices website. We also have hotel accommodations listed as well for those of you coming in from out of town (please note the group rate discount code!). So what’s included and what is the cost? We have worked very hard to try and pack a lot of value into this workshop, and I think we have done just that. Please note that our three days together are going to be long and intense! But if you are serious about farming for profit, then please consider investing into yourself! For an in depth conversation about the workshop between myself and Diego, please listen to Episode 22 of Grass Fed Life. $499 PER PERSON – EARLYBIRD PRICING ($599 after October 1) $449 PER PERSON WITH TWO OR MORE REGISTRATIONS ($499 each after October 1) We also have 12 VIP Spots Available (as of this writing only 3 of these remain available): There is no extra costs for these spots. The first 12 registrants will be given VIP status. Each VIP attendee is invited to a special dinner on the farm on the night of November 5, will receive the whole PV3 Broadacre Video Package ($99 value), and get a free 1/2 hour of consulting with Darby AFTER the workshop. Darby will answer any questions that you might have and address any issues that you might need help with. These VIP spots are limited to the first 12 registrants. There are a total of 25 workshop tickets available. The attendance of the event is limited to make the event more personal and allow a more customized and tailored content for the attendees. What is else is included: Lunch provided each day. Local and organic, meat provided by Darby’s farm. Snacks, coffee, water, and tea are provided throughout the workshop. Printed workbook containing all workshop notes and worksheets. Pre-Workshop Videos- Available immediately upon registration. Darby Simpson: Farm Marketing & Business Planning: Real World Proven Strategies (3HR) Greg Judy: Successful Implementation Using High Density Planned Grazing (3HR) Greg Judy: The Economics For Leasing Land, How To Find It and Develop It For Maximum Income (3HR) Farm tour of Darby’s farm. See the systems in action. Access to 3 monthly follow up webinars AFTER the workshop to help keep you on track and answer any follow up questions. 30 minute consult PRIOR to the workshop to help make sure that your concerns are addressed during the workshop. Please note that this is the only workshop and/or speaking event that I currently have on the calendar. If the above content sounds like a good fit for where you are at with your farm, then please join us for this upcoming event this November! I’ll look forward to meeting many of you in person and I promise you’ll get way more value than you pay for at this event. Knowing what I know now, if I could travel back in time and attend something of this nature I would do it in a heartbeat. I feel strongly that this is one of the best investments you can make into yourself, your family and your farm business! The post Farm Business Essentials: November Workshop appeared first on Darby Simpson. View the full article
  4. Darby Simpson

    Workshop Registration Deadline: June 1st

    NOTE: This event has been cancelled If you have been considering signing up for the June workshop at our farm, we still have seats available for this two day event. However, in order to plan our event we have set a registration deadline of June 1st. If you are thinking about coming, you’ll need to sign up before date. Learning the skills that will be covered from our host of instructors will save you the time and pain in learning to be your own butcher, and show you how to confidently and successfully raise your own animals. The meat in your freezer will be of higher quality and quantity due to having gained the skills and confidence over these two days rather than through trial and error on your own. On top of that, we’ll simply have a blast during our two days together here at the farm! You can read all about this workshop and see for yourself the value that is jam packed into these two days. To see the complete schedule for the workshop, checkout our weekend itinerary page. The cost for this workshop is only $375/person or $725/couple, but please note spaces are limited. Please visit our registration page for complete details. For additional details including where our farm is located, lodging options, directions, on-farm policies, etc. you can visit our general information page. We look forward to seeing you in June at this fun, exciting, learning filled event! For questions please email us directly. The post Workshop Registration Deadline: June 1st appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  5. Darby Simpson

    Introducing: The Grass Fed Life Podcast

    As many of you know, I had the pleasure of being asked to be a presenter this past March at PV3 in San Diego. In addition to speaking at PV3, another opportunity was extended to me from Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices. Diego asked if I would be interested in doing a weekly podcast with him this season in which he follows our farm week by week from April thru November. I love to speak and teach, and jumped at this new opportunity to share an in depth look into our farming lifestyle. On April 4th, 2016 the first episode of “Grass Fed Life” debuted on the Permaculture Voices podcast and was downloaded over 3,000 times in the first 24 hours (extremely humbling to say the least). Since then, three additional episodes have been released covering a broad range of topics from the nuts and bolts of pastured poultry to the ins and outs of farmer’s markets and how we plan our whole farming season. So far the feedback on the show has been fantastic, and I’m having a great time doing it with Diego. He asks such great, insightful questions that really prompt me to dig deep and think. As a result, we’ve had some great conversations that many listeners have found to be very helpful. Please take a moment to check out the Grass Fed Life podcast. Also, please consider supporting what Diego is doing with PV by contributing to keep the content both free and void of commercials. You can contribute as little as $1/month, equaling only .05/episode. I’m pretty sure there is at least a nickels worth of advice in each podcast on Permaculture Voices! There is a new show every Monday, all season long and we’ll cover a broad range of topics – topics that don’t get discussed in this space nearly enough (or at all) and need to be. So tune in, have a listen and give us some feedback. One final note: I’m doing this podcast because I love to teach, and I want you to be successful. It will be a long farming season, come along for the ride with us each week. I hope that you learn something new and can apply this knowledge to your own farming endeavors. The post Introducing: The Grass Fed Life Podcast appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  6. Darby Simpson

    Meat Production & Butchering Workshop!

    We have put together a spectacular workshop on our farm for June 10-11 that will show you everything you need to successfully raise and butcher poultry, pork and rabbit on your homestead. While the information presented will be aimed at personal production, all of the information and mechanics are scale-able for those interested in starting a profitable business. But don’t take our word for it, take a look at what one of our students had to say from our 2015 workshop: “As my brain is decompressing I’m trying to wrangle, slow and organize my thoughts. My prior workshop experience consists of 3 Mark Shepard Restoration Ag courses, PV2 (Permaculture Voices 2) and a (Geoff) Lawton online PDC. What you did this weekend stands tall with those and in many ways stands taller. The notebook of slides (which my wife loved), your personal approachability, seeing how you do your farm by being there on your farm and your open book approach on management and finances sets your approach above the rest. Be proud.” Instructors at the workshop will include Darby Simpson (Simpson’s Farm Market), Greg Burns (Nature’s Image Farm), Patrick Rhoerman (MT Knives) and others including local homesteaders Seth Ross and Andy Higginbotham. You’ll also get to meet Rob Kaiser of Deliberate Living Systems who will emcee our barter blanket session at the end of our event. The two day workshop will include the following (and much more): Eight hours of classroom instruction that include: Raising pastured meat broilers How to build a chicken tractor How to make and assemble a poultry killing cone Raising pastured pork Low-cost infrastructure for pigs Breeding and raising pastured rabbits How to make and assemble a rabbit tractor Proper selection of knives for butchering How to properly sharpen and maintain knives Costs associated with all of the above Eight hours of on-farm instruction that includes: How to butcher chickens (broilers and old laying hens) How to process a hog from start to finish How to butcher rabbits Required equipment for all of the above An exhaustive tour of Darby Simpson’s farm where you can see everything up close and in action for yourself A spiral bound notebook of all presentations given that will also include lots of how-to photos. This valuable reference material is yours to keep and take notes in as we go thru each presentation. You’ll have it on your bookshelf to reference once you return home! We’ll also be providing all three meals for each of the two days with GOOD FOOD (all local and/or organic in nature) that will be prepared by local chef Joshua Henson (Fermenti Artisan). The food will include all meats raised by Simpson’s Farm Market, local/chemical free veggies and fruits, homemade dessert, snacks, bottled water and locally roasted organic coffee (Harvest Cafe). Two nights of informal campfire chats with all of our presenters in addition to our weekend finale: the barter blanket! If you have never attended a “barter blanket” then you are in for a real treat. This session will be hosted by Rob Kaiser of Deliberate Living Systems who has attended other TSP/PermaEthos events and is a TSP Barter Blanket veteran! The barter blanket is just that: A place to barter goods and services with all of the other attendees you’ve just spent the weekend getting to know. Typically, the event host will open up the festivities by offering something of value that anyone can bid on. After hearing all of the offers, they can accept their favorite deal or decline all together. Whoever wins the first item then has the floor to present the next item to barter. This continues until everyone is done bartering and it can last several hours. You’ll often find side deals going simultaneously as well, which is completely allowed and encouraged. Examples of barter items are: silver, seeds, plants, gear (tactical stuff, flashlights, etc), professional services, vacation stays in a guest house, homemade goods (soaps, foods, household items), ammo, HAM radio gear, etc. Please feel free to bring as many items as you would like for the barter blanket! Cost: The cost for this workshop is only $375/person or $725/couple, but please note spaces are limited. Please visit our registration page for complete details. To see the complete schedule for the workshop, checkout our weekend itinerary page. For additional details including where our farm is located, lodging options, directions, on-farm policies, etc. you can visit our general information page. We look forward to seeing you in June at this fun, exciting, learning filled event! For questions please email us directly. The post Meat Production & Butchering Workshop! appeared first on Darby Simpson. View the full article
  7. Darby Simpson

    Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 5

    This article will wrap up the series on Farmer’s Markets which has covered the Market Master, location, timing of the market and how you can research a market before taking the plunge. Today I’ll focus on how you know it’s time to pull the plug as well as some additional thoughts on markets in general. Lets face it: Not every market is going to work out. That has been the case for us and the reasons for leaving have been various. If all you hear is price, price, price, price….you are at the wrong market and need to make a change. We were once recruited to a mid size market of about 35 vendors on the Northwestside of Indy and it appeared to be a perfect fit for us. There were two things in particular that really drew my attention to this market: First they did not have a steady meat vendor, which meant that while this was a smaller pond, we would be the only fish in that pond. Second, this particular suburb has the highest income per capita in the state of Indiana! And to polish it all off, we had a few customers on that edge of town that wanted us there as well. What could go wrong? Well, as it turned out there was plenty to go wrong. The first issue we ran into were the sales hours, as the market was only open for three hours each Saturday. If you spend all that time to pack, drive, setup, tear down, drive home and unpack you want as much time under that tent each week as possible. Three hours cut our sales by potential by 25% right from the get go. We knew going in that this could be an issue but we proceeded on anyhow. Also, the market didn’t start until mid May and wrapped up at the end of September. Most Saturday markets in our area run from the first week of May thru the end of October, giving you a full six months of sales at that market. This compliments our winter market time frame nicely and keeps us in front of customers 50 out of 52 Saturday’s per year. But this scheduling structure cut the length of the sales season by 25%! Next, the city owned the lot that the market operated out of and shut down the market about 10:00 a.m. once per month for a festival, carnival, parade, etc so that they could have the additional parking required for said event. Every time we turned around, our potential sales hours were nibbled away until there was so little left that it simply didn’t make the effort worthwhile. Lastly, and we could have never seen this coming, all we heard up there was how we were more expensive than Kroger and Marsh Supermarkets. Seriously, this city is loaded with wealthy business people who easily have the means to support local food but just chose not too. And in addition to this curve-ball, what we witnessed once there was that this was a social gathering and not a shopping excursion. Ladies dressed to the nines came out and bought cut flowers, a bag of pasta, and a couple tomatoes while drinking a cup of coffee and eating a danish. They weren’t there for real food, that simply wasn’t the culture and I wasn’t about to stick around to try and change that. It was blatantly obvious that the market leadership had no desire to move the location, change the hours or fix any of the other issues we discovered. Even though we did our due diligence in research, or so we thought, sometimes you just hit a dud. If you find this to be the case, don’t be afraid to finish up your commitment and simply find a new market to do the following year. If it is really terrible, then consider pulling out immediately if you can get into another market mid season. You just never now until you try and again, if you don’t fail here and there then you probably aren’t trying hard enough. You may also find yourself wondering if a once good farmers market is worth continuing to attend if you see a major drop in sales due to mismanagement, a change of venue, over crowding of similar products you are selling, etc. Just about the time you get things figured out, things change and this can happen for the worse. You’ll need to continually reassess your options and how your existing markets are doing in order to remain profitable and viable. Marketing is a fluid and moving target and you have change with the times to stay ahead of the curve. Some additional considerations: Only you will be able to decide for yourself what the allowable travel time is to a farmers market to make it worth your while to attend. But it is my opinion that even if you have to drive one and a half hours each way (or more) you can probably justify the time spent for a good farmers market. You will also want to find out what insurance requirements you need to meet in order to sell at a particular market, and what permits might be required by the city or county in which it is located in. Know that at many markets in our litigation happy society you can’t sell if you don’t have liability insurance for not only yourself, but for the market entity as well. The market master should be able to easily answer all of these questions for you. Also, ask what the fees are for a booth space on a weekly and seasonal basis and don’t let a bigger number scare you. Often times, you get what you pay for! If a market only charges $50 for an entire season, expect $50 worth of management and marketing in return! If they charge $350-$500 for the season, then ask how those funds are allocated. The markets we attend use those funds to hire a part time market master that does a great job of managing the market and all of its functions which in the end benefit our business and bottom line greatly. They also use a lot of those funds for advertising and marketing efforts. $500 to attend a top-notch market is a drip in the bucket from my perspective, that investment will pay itself back ten fold if it is well run. It also helps to dissuade the re-sellers and hobbyists from attending, and what you end up with are a solid core of full-time farmers and unique artisan products that draw customers in. While farmers markets are not for everyone it is absolutely the fastest way for you to come into contact with a great number of consumers who are looking for the type of product you have for sale. This is the best format I’m aware of to build a large customer base that you can market all of your products to through the use of a free email list and a top-notch website. While farmers markets are not the only means to sell thru, you should give them ample consideration before deciding to pass. If you want to capture every possible dollar of profit, this is a great way to do just that. The post Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 5 appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  8. Darby Simpson

    Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 4

    So far in this series I have covered various components of how to select a farmer’s market worthy of your time, energy and money. I’ve covered how a Market Master is the single most pivotal individual at the market, how location is key to sales and why the day and time the market is held matters so much. In part four of this series, we’ll cover why the market should marketing for you and what research you can do ahead of time to help choose the best option for your business. Marketing A huge aspect of farmers markets that is often overlooked is that of marketing. You need to dig deep and ask a lot of questions about what any potential market is going to do to help you be successful. You should be doing everything you possibly can do market yourself, but what are they doing to market themselves and hence you? One of the markets that we attend works with local businesses to sponsor a gift certificate giveaway once per month. On that Saturday morning the first 300 shoppers who walk through the door receive a five dollar gift certificate token that can be spent with any vendor in the market. This is a huge draw for shoppers! They show up early and on fire to go shopping just because they have a free $5 token in the hand. You wouldn’t believe how that changes the entire chemistry of the market. You’ll also want to make certain that they have an excellent web, e-mail and social media presence. They should be actively promoting their vendors and what products that can be found at the market, especially seasonally available products. The same market mentioned above sends out a weekly e-mail indicating which vendors will be in attendance, and highlights one of them each week in great detail. This helps shoppers to build a relationship with those vendors. Is a perspective market going to consistently ask you what product you’ll have in stock so they can pitch that to their audience in they days leading up to when you’ll have something available? Also consider any advertising they might do on behalf of the market. Ask what kind of marketing budget they have and how is it allocated. Ask if they seek out sponsors in order to increase revenue for additional marketing efforts. Research! If it all possible prior to applying and attending a market I would encourage you to do some reconnaissance work. Take your family out on a Saturday morning and walk through a handful of farmers markets that you are considering applying to. Consider the following as you stroll about in the market: How busy are they? Do you see a wide variety of products available for sale? Are there lots of actual farmers there, accented by artisan vendors like locally roasted coffee, baked goods, raw honey and mushrooms? Do they have not only veggie farmers, but local small fruits and orchards as well? Are the other vendors happily engaging in conversation with shoppers? Is there an information table that is operated by market staff where shoppers can get their questions answered? Do they have a hospitality tent were shoppers can elect to sit down and drink a cup of coffee or some prepared food they have just purchased from vendors at the market? What is the overall feel and ambience of the farmers market? Do you see any amenities like live music or kids activities? Is it a market you yourself would want to attend and shop at? What are the hours of operation? Is it logistically easy to walk around and see what products are available? Is the product you are raising underserved at this market or saturated? How many weeks is it open? A well run and busy farmers market will be Open from the first week in May to the last week of October. Conversely, a good winter market will situate itself to be open from sometime in November thru April when the outdoor markets are closed. In warmer climates, and outdoor market should be open nearly year round. You also want to inquire of the market master how they balance the number of vendors from each niche that are allowed into the market. There are two modes of thought that I have on this subject. One market we attend in the summer on Saturday mornings is so large and so well attended that the market staff operate it on a true free market basis. In short if you apply to the market and your products qualify for sale at that market you are allowed in – period. There is no discretion given to how many tomato vendors are there or meat vendors or people selling flowers etc. All of that said this market is so popular that seniority is used to divvy out the permanent spots at the beginning of each season. As such a new vendor may not get a permanent spot and may have to move around from week to week for the first season or two. However in time you can earn enough seniority that you get to select a permanent spot at the beginning of the season. Now this may not sound like a great way to run a farmers market, but in this case it works just fine due to sheer numbers. An average Saturday in the summer might see 5000 to 7000 people walk through this market in only five hours. With that kind of foot traffic there are ample customers for all 100 vendors that might be in attendance. The other aspect of how a smaller market might be run in which there is much less attendance is to make certain that there is a balance of vendors allowed to attend. Another market we attend on Saturday mornings usually has about 45 to 50 vendors. And on an average Saturday we might see 2000 people walk through this market in four hours. Since this market is smaller and there are less customers, they pay very close attention to the number of vendors from each niche that they’ll allow to participate each season. If you have too many of one niche, that can cause the sales to be divvied up so much that it becomes not worthwhile for all of them to attend. Any good market worth it’s salt is going to have hard concrete data they can give you as a perspective vendor when you ask these questions. As the market grows, they can add additional vendors based on sales data you provide and requests from shoppers of that market. To that end, you should inquire if the market conducts surveys of not only its vendors but also its shoppers and if it is constantly tweaking the makeup of the market to meet demand. Something else I would strongly encourage you to do while you are out investigating markets is to carefully interview the other vendors who sell there. Be courteous and observe when a vendor is not busy with a customer, and then ask if you can pick their brain about the pros and cons of that market. Do yourself a favor though if you are selling pastured meats, and pick the brain of a chemical free veggie guy, baker or value added food vendor. Because in that conversation you are going to get asked what it is you will be selling, and if you tell a meat guy you are selling meats you may not get all straight answers! Ask them how well attended the market is and ask them if the customers who attended are actually there to shop. While there should be a healthy social aspect of any farmers market, I have seen markets that are so social people are there to be seen by their friends instead of there to purchase real food. No market is perfect and you will have to do your own research, but there are a lot of key little things to consider when choosing a market. And make no mistake about it, you can do all the research in the world and think that you have found a real gem of a market to attend that is underserved in your niche and have it fall flat on it’s face. This is one area where I don’t mind telling you that if you don’t fail you are probably are not trying hard enough. Finding a good market and a good fit for your business is a bit like fishing – you just have to keep throwing lines in the water until you catch a good one. That being said, it does take time to build up a clientele at a market. Expect to spend two or three seasons at a good, well established, busy market before you really start to get things rolling. The lesson here is not to give up too soon and give it some time to develop. Once you think you have found a winner, apply with zeal! Give them every reason you can think of to bring in your farm as a vendor. Supply references, offer product samples, talk about the environmentally friendly aspects of how you farm. You need to sell yourself well in many cases to get into a well established, highly sought after market. And if you don’t get in the first time, take it with class and keep trying each year. Ask to be placed on a waiting list or as a fill in vendor and don’t give up. Be pleasant and communicate with the Market Master that you understand and are willing to wait until they can work you in. You need to be open to selling at a second tier market until you get your shot at a larger market, but remember that is okay! If a market is that tough to get into, then it’s a place you want to be and is worth waiting on. The post “Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 4” appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  9. Darby Simpson

    Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 3

    Late last year, I kicked off a series on selecting a farmer’s market. In part one I discussed the most pivotal part of any market: The Market Master. In part two I covered how location can play a much larger role than you might think towards the success of a market. While summer markets may seem like they are a long way off, applications for those markets could be due as soon as the end of January! You should be doing your research now to determine which markets you’ll apply to. And while you are thinking about which market to select, the next thing to consider when choosing a market is what time of day and what day of the week it is open. Attending a market for six months or more takes a tremendous amount of energy, do your best to make certain you are not spending that energy in vain and that it is well worth the investment of time and money. Trust me when I tell you that I have tried every type of market possible in terms of variation in the time it was open and the day of week it was open. Again while there are exceptions to any rule, generally speaking your best bang for the buck is going to be to attend a busy market that is open on Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. until at least 12:00 noon. In my experience markets that are open on weekdays simply do not do very well, but I’m sure there are some out there that are just the opposite. The ones I have attended do okay and when you’re first starting out you may have to do a midweek market in order to get your customer list built up, or in order to increase cash flow for the sake of running your business. You might also not have any other options if all of the Saturday markets are full with vendors in your niche, which is a distinct possibility. If you go and do a midweek market and only earn $300 to $400 that may not sound like much, but over the course of six months you could be looking at $6,000 to $8,000 in income. Long term, that is a drip in the bucket for a full-time farming income but in the short term it is huge. This is exactly how we started out at farmers markets before graduating to Saturday markets! If you have the time and energy to do a midweek market by all means explore that option. But your long-term goal should be to attend two or three prime time markets that are held on Saturday mornings. If you offer a delivery route option to customers during the week, then picking up a mid-week market located in the same general area could be extremely advantageous. Just realize that you’ll be investing an entire day into marketing and that you or someone have to care for the critters back home at some point. Early on, Wednesday was by far my longest day of the week. I would wake up at 4:00 a.m., go out and do animal care then run back in to clean up for market. I would pack my coolers and head out by 7:30 a.m. to be in downtown Indy by 8:15 a.m. I wouldn’t get back home and unpacked until about 3:30 p.m., precisely the time I had to back out and take care of the animals again. By 6:00 p.m. that night I was beat! But alas, the kids need attention and there are e-mails to return, marketing to be done, etc. Choose your battles carefully! If you don’t, you’ll never make it to the finish line. The post Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 3 appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  10. Darby Simpson

    Consultation Sale: Limited Spots Available

    If you have been considering signing up for a one-on-one consult with me, this is a great time to jump on board! I have decided to run a promotion for two different consults: You can sign up for a two hour session and receive a 20% discount, or a 4 hour session to get a 25% discount. In every consultation I do, it is custom tailored to one person: you. The form you fill out for our time together is very strategically thought out so that we can make the most of your time and money so as to focus on what you need assistance with. Be it infrastructure and production, to marketing and cash flow planning, or anything in between it is all about you, your farm and your specific situation. A consultation is a great investment into your farming operation that will save you way more money and time than you spend on it. But don’t just take my word for it, read thru some of the testimonials on my website to see what others are saying. However, there are only 5 slots for the 4 hour session and 10 slots for the 2 hour session available. And once they are sold out, they are gone! There is only one catch, the consult must take place in either January or February of 2016. You don’t have to use all of the time at once, but simply use it all in the allotted time frame. If you are ready to sign up, simply fill out the consultation form on my website and I’ll be in touch to get our time together scheduled. The post Consultation Sale: Limited Spots Available appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  11. Darby Simpson

    Interview With Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices

    Recently, I sat down and recorded an hour long interview with Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices. The conversation was a blast, and we covered everything from how we started farming in 2007 to what our operation looks like today. We discussed the transitional period while I was working full-time off farm, and dealing with the startup phase of our operation simultaneously. We also talked about how difficult and stressful that time was, as well as the many blessings that come from this type of lifestyle. I think that this interview will give anyone who listens to it an excellent view into what farming full time is really like. If you have ever wondered “how” I got my start, you’ll find this chat with Diego very informative and a bit entertaining. As a teaser there is also some really exciting news at the end, but you’ll have to listen for yourself to discover what that is! You can listen to the interview at Permaculture Voices, and be certain to chime in afterwards and let me know your thoughts. The post Interview With Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices appeared first on Darby Simpson.
  12. Darby Simpson

    Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 2

    Recently I kicked off a new series on how to find and select a good farmer’s market. In part one of this series, I discussed the Market Master and how they play one of the biggest roles in a markets success, or demise. In part two, we’re going to delve into some logistics to consider when you are out looking for the best market to sell your products at. Back in high school I took a basic entrepreneurial class and one of the main lessons from that course still sticks with me to this day. It was true then and it is true now, and it applies to not only a farmers market, but all other brick and mortar businesses as well. The top three things needed for success at a farmers market are as follows: Location. Location. Location. While there are always exceptions to the rule, by and large and successful market will be located in a busy urban area. It will need to be settled amongst lots of upper middle-class neighborhoods and be located along a busy roadway with great visibility to the public. While I think it is fantastic that many smaller communities are attempting to establish their own farmers markets to promote local food, the reality is (at least in our experience) that you must travel to a large urban area with a large populace in order to make a farmers market worthwhile. What we have found is that nothing can make up for sheer numbers of potential customers walking thru a farmers market. We have also found price not to be an issue at most of the markets we do in larger urban areas, but there are exceptions. Conversely, markets located in outlying towns tend to draw shoppers who are very focused on price. If you continually hear how much cheaper Wal-Mart and Kroger are, you are in the wrong place! Fortunately for us we are located only about 45 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis. There are a fair number of larger urban neighborhoods like I have described within Indianapolis that have busy farmers markets to attend. Your nearest large metropolitan area is going to be no different. We are also only about 35 minutes from Bloomington, Indiana which is where Indiana University is located. The Bloomington farmers market is something to behold as it can host up to 110 vendors on a Saturday morning and provides us with a second viable farmers market to attend during the summer months. The final issue to consider when looking at the location of any market is ease of access. You will want to make sure that there is ample free parking for customers to attend any market you participate in. Proximity to customers, ease of access and ample parking or all key things to consider when selecting a market. If there isn’t much parking available, then seek to find out if the market is well attended by those within walking or biking distance. One market in Indy that we do not attend has very little parking and no visibility from the main street nearby. It’s limited to only forty-eight vendors and the logistics are terrible. That said, it’s in a very hip area of Indy and those who live nearby walk and bike to this market in droves. There are no shortage of vendors on the waiting list attempting to get in because it is so busy and well attended. Again, there are always exceptions to the rule but by and large I think our experience will hold true for most markets. The post “Selecting A Farmer’s Market – Part 2” appeared first on Darby Simpson
  13. Darby Simpson

    O’Brien's Fence Reel & Treadaline Step-In Post

    Back when we first began grazing cattle, it was the most labor intensive part of our day. We would painstakingly tear down and set up portable electric netting for our cattle, move a solar energizer, and layout as much garden hose as required to water them. And we did this every single day! Thankfully, our business has come a long way since 2011 when we were last doing that for our cattle. You do what you must to pave the way for smoother sailing, and crawl before you walk. The growth of our business has allowed us to invest into infrastructure which now makes moving cattle the quickest, easiest and most enjoyable part of our day. While building lots of permanent fence and putting in buried water were the big tasks to make our job easier, the day to day tools that have been useful are the portable reels and fence posts. These simple items can quickly subdivide your larger grazing areas into small paddocks for the daily rotation of livestock. Daily rotation is a key management practice used to really keep your grasses in that fast growth stage, which will fatten up your cattle the quickest, and make you the most money per acre. We like to have 30-45 days of rest on a grazing area before we hit it again. By using the portable posts and reels, we can quickly size up or scale down our paddock sizes to meet the current demand of our herd, grass conditions, future grazing needs, etc. These tools are excellent for this task, and have proven themselves the last two and half seasons on our farm. First up is the O’Brien Fence Reel. While you have several choices to pick from, it basically boils down to a geared reel or non-geared reel, with several variations there of. In short, a 3:1 “geared” reel will turn three times for every one crank of the handle. A “non-geared”, or “standard” reel, is 1:1 and turns one rotation per one crank of the handle. We started in early 2012 with the 3:1 geared reels because the 1:1 geared reels were out of stock from a local farm store. As an aside, I was told I didn’t need a 3:1 reel unless I was going to drop the wire on the ground, stand stationary, and reel it up quickly. I’ve used the O’Brien 3:1 reels the last two and a half years and absolutely love them. They are very well built, durable and do the job well. I’ve dropped them, run over them, tossed them around like a rental, and they are still ticking. You can feel the heft and quality in this unit the moment you pick it up. It will also hold nearly 1,400 feet of portable electrified fence wire (twine) which is very handy when moving animals long distances. This Spring, my favorite online farm store (Kencove Fence Co.) was out of the stock on the 3:1 reels from O’Brien (and as far as I can tell, as of this writing, has dropped those completely in favor of a Stafix brand 3:1 standard sized reel). Not giving it much thought, I ordered three of the 1:1 O’Brien reels. Well, evidently that advice I was given about not needing the 3:1 reels was bad! I guess I must walk pretty fast when reeling up fence wire because I figured out pretty quick that I really prefer the 3:1 reels much more than the 1:1. I won’t say I hate the 1:1 reels, but I do dislike them very much. I find that I have to walk much slower when winding these, which slows me down, and it’s also harder to keep the wire taught on the reel (which is a big deal when winding wire). I also feel that the 1:1 reels are a lot flimsier in construction than the 3:1 reels. They are not as well balanced with the wire on them and I can often feel them “wobble” significantly from side to side when reeling. In short, for about $10 more, stick with a 3:1 geared reel from O’Brien. And while I can’t comment on the Stafix reels Kencove now carries, I do recommend the Stafix 9 wire electric twine for your reels from Kencove. Concerning Kencove, I’ve generally been really happy with them and recommend them highly to anyone. However, I recently had a frustrating experience with them when buying the 1:1 reels. The 3:1 reels come with a plastic gate handle that ties off your loose electric wire and connects to your high tensile fence. Not thinking about this, I ordered the 1:1 reels and they showed up without these handles. With no handle, they are worthless equipment! I called Kencove to let them now they forgot my handles, only to be told you have to order those separately on the 1:1 reels. They cost a whooping . cents each, but cost me an additional $7 in shipping and a boat load of frustration in the interim while waiting on them. I still love Kencove, but I let them know in no uncertain terms they either need to warn you when ordering to add the handle or to simply add $1 to the cost of the reel and add the handle as standard! Be forewarned if you order from them to include the handle if you get the 1:1 reel. It’s product number “GPL” on their website, and don’t forget the jumper leads to connect your reel to your electric fence! Next up is the O’Brien treadaline step-in fence post. Let me say up front that I first heard about these posts from a very well known grazer: Greg Judy. Greg once commented in a seminar I attended that he had bought every different step-in fence post style and brand known to man. He also said that everything except the treadaline posts were laying unused and/or broken in a pile in the corner of his barn. When a guy like Greg Judy speaks, you listen! The treadaline posts are expensive (about $4/post shipped if you buy a box of 50 from Kencove) but man do they work. And they last! To be frank, I’m hard on equipment and I’ve yet to bust one of these posts – some are a little bent and twisted, but still working just fine. You can literally bend one around your knee into a u-shape and it will not break. What really makes these things tick however is the extra long spike on the bottom that goes into the ground. A small detail, but big difference in quality can be noticed by how far up into the post the spike goes. It’s a good 2″ longer than most, and goes above the “step” you place your foot on to drive it into the ground. This keeps it from breaking off like many other posts, rendering it a piece of junk for the corner in your barn. Add to that the versatility of 4 electric tape clips on one side, and 8 electric twine hooks on the other and you have a winning product. You can also use these posts for cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. If you know much about me, you know that I like equipment that has multiple uses (function stacking) and this post fits that bill. Personally, I like spending my money on stuff that will take real world farm abuse and keep on ticking. The O’Brien treadaline posts meet the challenge and is worth twice the cost of a cheap post at your local farm supply store. You get what you pay for, and no doubt this will fail on you at the worst possible time: When you are using it for its intended purpose! Remember when buying any equipment, you can’t “unbuy” it. And it’s better to buy something that will last versus something that is cheap and will need to be replaced. I hope you find this review helpful and the equipment productive in making your grazing efforts faster and more profitable.
  14. Darby Simpson

    Pig Drinking Deck

    The first few years that we raised pigs on our farm, our largest struggle was that of drinking water. We didn’t have any issues getting them to use a water nipple connected to a pressurized hose, the issue came from the rooting that occurred around the drinker. This required frequent relocation which was always a pain in the neck, and sometimes extremely laborious if the ground conditions were dry. Since most of our pigs are finished on the farm between May and November, dry ground is usually the rule and not the exception. After years of frustration and testing different ideas and methods, I finally developed what we affectionately call the “piggy drinking deck”. This simple solution has since saved me countless hours, loads of frustration and mitigates large holes (wallows) appearing everywhere. I don’t mind the pigs having a good wallow, and in fact they need one! But they don’t need dozens of them which can ruin equipment and break the legs of both man and beast. Once new pigs on the farm figure out how the drinker works, it doesn’t take them long to make a wallow in short order. I’ve actually witnessed them holding the nipple valve “open” and intentionally not drinking, allowing the water to hit the ground, thereby enhancing said wallow construction. The piggy drinking deck is very simply a 3′ x 3′ x 4″ platform with a diamond shaped hole cut in the center two boards. Materials include one (1) 2″x4″x12′ treated board cut into 3′ long sections and mitered for the base. Two (2) 10′ long, 5/4″ treated deck boards are then used to make a simple platform to stand on. We space the deck boards for water drainage. A t-post is driven through this hole using a 3lb. hammer and a double nipple drinker is then mounted to it using two adjustable pipe hose clamps. This allows the height of the nipple drinker to quickly be changed, based on the maturity size of the pigs. Water is supplied via a pressurized garden hose with a shut-off valve. This is routed and tied to a second t-post on the outside of the pig paddock, which keeps the hose up off the ground and away from the pigs. The nipple drinkers I have found are smaller than the garden hose and come with a male 1/2″ threaded connection. We simply buy a 4′ or 6′ washing machine supply hose and use it to connect between the shut-off valve and the drinker. Be certain to use double rubber washers on each end of the washer hose to avoid leaking. It’s not a perfect fit, but works just fine for pigs. Here the drinker is all setup and ready for use. A small amount of grain is set out to lure the pigs to this area for water. Note the washer hose is up high where the pigs can’t reach it and destroy it! Pigs are a number of things, and one of their traits is a very high intelligence. Even if they have never been exposed to a nipple style drinker before, they are quick to learn. By simply hanging around the ole’ watering hole and waiting on them to come into the area, you can reach through the fence with a stick and actuate the waterer for them to drink. After doing this a few times over three or so days, one of the pigs will pick up on how to use the nipple drinker. Within another day, all of the other pigs will learn from him how to do the same thing. Plenty of fresh water is paramount for good animal health and performance. And after years of toiling with other ideas that didn’t work, this one tip will save you lots of time, frustration, poor performance and, in the end, money! Pigs enjoying a nice, cool drink on a hot day. The hose is connected to a post hydrant just about 50′ away.
  15. Darby Simpson

    Increasing Chicken Egg Laying Production

    This week I had a question about laying hens who are only 18 months old and have dramatically dropped their egg production. The change occurred after their housing and feeding went from a completely free range system to a fixed coop with a large run area. After the move, the hen’s egg production, which had been pretty steady, declined greatly and continued until it was nearly zero. In addition to ranging, the owner also feeds some mixed/bagged chicken feed as well as corn, both of which are from a local tractor supply. He was pretty stumped as to why the sudden drop in production occurred and wanted to know both what had happened and what he could do to fix the situation. So what happened? What occurred is that by moving the birds from their free ranging situation to the coop and run, the owner unknowingly stressed his hens. And when laying hens get stressed even a little, it can show by the amount of eggs they produce (or lack thereof). Layers are extremely finicky about everything in their environment: their surroundings, habits and routine. Even a little change can have a dramatic impact on egg production. A major change like switching up their entire living environment will have profound implications on them. And, in this case, while he didn’t mean to, he also changed their diet greatly because they can’t free range as much as they used to and are eating more grains to make up for the lost grazing. Couple with that with the fact that we are losing daylight as the winter solstice nears, and production will go down this time of year anyway. The changes he made simply accelerated the entire situation. When it comes to laying hens, anytime you make a change – where the nest box is located, where they roost, where they live, what the eat, etc., it is going to negatively affect production. The more you change, the worse it will be and the longer it can take for them to bounce back. Eventually they will get used to their new surroundings and come out of the production slump, but it could be spring before they totally recover. At a year and half of age, they could also be going into a molt, which will almost halt production in and of itself. One other thing I’ll mention is that if the area they were moved to and are now using as a run has at anytime in the recent past been treated with chemicals or roundup, that could also play a role in egg production going down. What can he do to fix this current situation? The short answer is simply don’t change anything else for a while and implement new changes slowly. And when the weather permits, he should let them range outside of the run by using portable netting, if at all possible. They will deforest the run in no time next spring, turning it into a mud lot in short order. If they are out ranging like chickens are wired up to do, they will be happier and hence the more eggs they will lay. And, obviously, the eggs will also be healthier as they contain more nutrients. This also cuts down on the feed bill as well, so it’s the best all around solution. There is nothing wrong with using the fixed run during the day when you are not around to keep an eye on things, but when you are home open up that run and let them out. Concerning the store bought feed I would encourage anyone feeding grain to livestock to buy a high-quality feed that is consistent in content of inputs and nutrients. Pre-bagged, off the shelf feeds can be very inconsistent in quality and quantity of inputs. Try and find a local source that makes its own rations using GMO-free grains and high-quality organic inputs for the fish meal, minerals and vitamins. Sure it will cost more, but your health, the animals health and the production of the animals will all be better off for it. If you live in Central Indiana, I would highly recommend you contact Central Indiana Organics and get a bag of their organic 16% layer ration if you have laying hens. I think you’ll find it doesn’t cost much more than a bag of questionable feed from a box store. In my experience, inconsistency in feed is the fastest way to negatively impact egg laying production. Now while switching feed can be a detriment on production, you aren’t going to get much worse results than you are currently and, if there is a time to change, it’s now while the winter solstice is close at hand and production is already low.