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Adding Value to Small Farms

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The economics of conventional agriculture are simple: grow a lot of a popular crop as uniformly as possible, then compete on the basis of price. Smaller farms, however, are often threatened by this model, since they can rarely compete with large agribusiness operations on the basis of price alone. Further, growing uniform commodities is often contrary to the goals of small farms, who seek crop diversity, enrichment of soils, and a feeling that they are expressing their values and regional character through the food they grow.

What can independent growers do to increase their income while bringing more of their personality to the market? Here are examples of two farms — one that is nearly a century old with over 1,000 acres to manage, and the other that began as a tiny backyard start-up — who are succeeding financially by “adding value” and bringing a handmade aesthetic to the crops they nurture.

Since 1919, the Lafranchi family has operated a dairy ranch in California’s sheltered Nicasio Valley. The family is so deeply connected to the history of the area that local roads and even the town square — which doubles as the community’s little league field  — bear their name.

But in 2009, the volatility of milk prices put the survival of the family’s farm into serious question. Small dairies like theirs were losing close to $100 per cow per month, and the Lafranchis had more than 400 cows.

Family members found a solution to this financial dilemma by returning to their ancestral roots. Cheese, made with heirloom recipes from their Swiss heritage, became a venture for the newly formed Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, an organic operation run by three Lafranchi brothers, Rick, Scott, and Randy.

“Our goal was to use all the milk that would go for a lower price,” Rick says. “We tried to position the ranch where it could consistently thrive instead of consistently be uncertain.”

“You might get $2 for a gallon of milk,” adds brother Scott, “But if you make cheese, you might get as much as $10.” Granted, the jump from $2 to $10 includes a lot of expenses and labor along the way, but value-added products — products that transform low-priced raw commodities into premium, handmade, branded offerings — might just be the key to boosting the economy of small agricultural businesses.

Today, only two years into its operation, the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company offers six cheese varieties, available in stores and from the creamery they converted from a former barn. There, they proudly display the two gold medals they won at the 2011 California State Fair.

Nearby is another value-added operation, AllStar Organics, a small specialty farm owned by the husband-and-wife team of Marty Jacobson and Janet Brown. “When we started about 20 years ago,” says Janet (who I should add is my big sister), “we wanted what a lot of people want — to work where we live. We had no business plan, and limited resources.”

Starting with a difficult backyard that was almost too steep to mow, the couple dug some terraces and planted tomatoes, herbs, and heirloom roses, three things that already grew in their home garden.

“For us, value-added production emerged entirely from our mistakes and failures,” says Janet. “It was all an attempt to salvage something out of what had gone wrong.”

“For example, I tried selling fresh rose bouquets, but the high-end florists I worked with were very particular and the flowers had a shelf life of only 24 hours. It was just too difficult. Then, someone suggested we try making an authentic rose water, so we found a fabricator who could build a still for us.” Through trial and error, Marty and Janet gradually developed a line of aromatic hydrosols and essential oils that are sold in stores and spas.

What today is a successful line of dried herbs and herbal products resulted from another “mistake.” “One day we picked 22 pounds of Thai basil to fill an order that turned out to be for only two pounds,” said Janet. “Rather than composting 20 pounds of ‘leftover’ organic herbs, I tried drying them by hand on sheets of newspaper with a house fan. Over time, we expanded the drying operation step by step until we built what we have today — a drying facility, a line of herbs, and an organic certification as a ‘simple on-farm post-harvest handler.’”

As AllStar grew, Janet joined with other farmers to form the region’s first organic marketing association, Marin Organic, a very select group of growers who met with sustainable agriculture advocate Prince Charles on his most recent trip to the U.S.

Allstar’s growth eventually required that it expand beyond a backyard operation. They now lease land from the Lafranchi dairy. The gate to their field is just steps away from the door of the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s tasting room!

Here are few of Janet’s ideas for anyone thinking of launching a value-added operation:

Be “too small to fail.” The first herb I ever sold was spearmint because I had a patch of it growing outside the kitchen door. In 15 minutes I could cut about a dozen bunches that sold for $2 each at a local market. A dozen bunches translates to $24 a week, or about $100 a month, or $1200 a year — for only 15 minutes of pleasant work. The mint didn’t cost anything to grow because I already had it. I was so small I couldn’t screw up. From there, we gradually added more herbs and more markets.

Capture sunlight in a jar. There is no business more solar-driven than a farm. Your highest production is when the days are the longest and financially your darkest days are literally your darkest days. How can you spread that sunlight prosperity throughout the year? We do that through drying and distilling so that we have products we can sell all year, especially during the winter holidays.

Remember that you are the value in value-added. Ultimately, it’s the time, energy and creativity that you put into something that people will pay for. Products where you can see the hand of a human being — that’s very attractive to me and I know from doing this for almost 20 years that people will pay for it.

Karen Brown is an award-winning designer and creative director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and on Today on NBC. She believes that the handmade movement is a fundamental force for transforming society and the economy.

4 Featured Comments

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  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    TheLittleRagamuffin says: Featured

    I feel this article in my bones. This was the very reason I began offering my organic heirloom seeds and herbs on Etsy. The growing season in Upstate New York is so short, trying to make a living off of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers for a few short months was not enough. Now I am able to support our small scale farm year round by selling our harvest in the form of seed. It's true what they say, necessity breeds creativity and It's wonderful to hear the creative strategies of other farmers.

    2 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says: Featured

    This has been going on for years in my area, which is filled with small family farms, we call it diversification. Farmers are raising rare or exotic breeds of animals (wild boar or ostriches for meat, llamas for wool, etc) creating trout ponds for fishing, restoring their old & neglected orchards for traditional cider production, there are even fields of sunflowers here & there for organic birdseed. Most of these things require a slightly different approach & the ability to think outside the box whilst still utilising traditional farming skills, the added "value" is mainly hard work & the willingness to do something that your farming neighbours might see as slightly odd. I believe it's the only way forward for small farms, they can't compete with huge agribusiness on a level field so they have to concentrate on something the large concerns just aren't equipped to do at all.

    2 years ago

  • DonnaWalker

    DonnaWalker says: Featured

    Wonderful article!! Small and local and sustainable--- all of these are so important. Farmers today have to be innovative to survive. And consumers need to be made aware of the importance of supporting local growers! I love painting farms, ranches, fields, and farm animals...there is a quiet nobility to what they do and what they provide to communities.

    2 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections says: Featured

    What's really important is educating consumers about how small farm products differ than what they find in stores- to have change the paradigm shift of what we choose to eat, people need to be educated on how mass produced foods differ from products created on small farms. Most people know very little about widespread practices such as how supermarket oranges are plucked green, then gassed (or dyed) orange in a warehouse and coated with a layer of preservatives. This all goes back to the problem of people not knowing how the things they consume are made- big business hides the production process with slick packaging and issues like this don't get reported much in mainstream media.

    2 years ago

  • BittyBolts

    BittyBolts says:

    Love these ideas! Wish I had time for them.....great reading!

    2 years ago

  • JodyBallArt

    JodyBallArt says:

    I live on a small farm with my chickens and goats, dog and cats. I have small veggie and flower gardens and sell a few eggs. This was very informative! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm says:

    Enjoyed reading your article Karen about adding value to small farm's. Creative people make it work like the ones you've featured above. We live on a farm as well, the barns now house our metal-steel shop and woodworking area, they once held cattle and hogs. Thanks again for sharing this with all of us, very well done.

    2 years ago

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime says:

    Great read.

    2 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering says:

    Milk is so expensive lately! I appreciate this insightful article!

    2 years ago

  • manvsgeorge

    manvsgeorge says:

    This post is perfectly timed -- today is National Milk Day! What a great story.

    2 years ago

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry says:

    Great post! ~Krista

    2 years ago

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns says:

    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy says:

    Wow, completely rad article! I have always admired small & local agricultural operations, and I think it's very important to support them versus 'big box' operations. This way, you are voting with your dollars you spend everyday or every week, and are keeping dreams alive as well as yourself well fed ~ everyone wins! Inspiring. It makes me think about what I have growing in my backyard. I think if we have many small farms thriving, instead of a few large agribusinesses monopolizing everything, it's insurance for our food supply as well as preserving 'heirloom' recipes that have been a part of our social fabric for generations. Awesome! And now I'm drooling, hehe.... Heidi

    2 years ago

  • VintageLoot

    VintageLoot says:

    I'm jealous. I want a small farm!

    2 years ago

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations says:

    This is fabulous! I grew up in Nicasio and went to school with all the Lafranchi kids. We used to fly kites, chase cattle, and have parties out at their deer camp. Congrats to the entire Lafranchi Family!

    2 years ago

  • JodysVintage

    JodysVintage says:

    Yes, that cheese looks delicious!!!

    2 years ago

  • PrincesaAnastasia

    PrincesaAnastasia says:

    wow, I just want to go there. Some farms have good chance in traditional crafts. Some traditional food and drinks.. Traditional cheese could be surprised.

    2 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Such a great post!

    2 years ago

  • PickUpSticksShop

    PickUpSticksShop says:

    I feel like I've been "BARN AGAIN" Long live the FARM!

    2 years ago

  • verarodrigues

    verarodrigues says:

    absolutely great ideas!

    2 years ago

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy says:

    awesome article. commodity prices even in the are always volatile. farmers large and small have traditionally hedged prices by buying futures on cbot or the chicago mercantile exchange or selling the milk for delivery on a later date to lock in current prices. i'm not sure if the family in this article did any of that, 400 cows would warrant that. farm life is a hard life, but can be rewarding. i looked up profit per acreage. california has the best in the nation, but still. value added does help, and what needs to happen on a larger scale is a paradigm shift from eating cheap, industrial produced and processed foods to healthy alternatives like what small and artisanal farms offer. the big question is whether or not every small farmer can do this, whether there a kind of ceiling before "artisanal" itself then becomes a commodity, too.

    2 years ago

  • hypericumfragile

    hypericumfragile says:

    Great post! When I was a little girl I spent my holiday at my aunt, in a small Polish village. There, I ate a delicious bread with butter. Bread was baked in a real, old bread oven and the butter was handmade by my aunt. I still remember this taste :)

    2 years ago

  • farmtales

    farmtales says:

    I <3 this post...I want to live on a farm!!

    2 years ago

  • PeaceFly

    PeaceFly says:

    Long live the Farm!!!!! :)

    2 years ago

  • AutumnHollowFarm

    AutumnHollowFarm says:

    This farm now sells hand made tools for spinners and knitters. We hope to sell wool and yarn this spring. Value-added and niche markets are definitely where it's at! And what a better outlet than Etsy? :)

    2 years ago

  • giorgiejewelry

    giorgiejewelry says:

    Such a great story!!! Love it.

    2 years ago

  • catiques

    catiques says:

    Great article, and the truths make it even better. Thanks

    2 years ago

  • cottagefarm

    cottagefarm says:

    thank you very much for sharing this amazing article. It hits even closer to home since I am familiar to the companies you mention and the landscape of the area. also thank you for including my farm stool ~

    2 years ago

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    TheLittleRagamuffin says: Featured

    I feel this article in my bones. This was the very reason I began offering my organic heirloom seeds and herbs on Etsy. The growing season in Upstate New York is so short, trying to make a living off of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers for a few short months was not enough. Now I am able to support our small scale farm year round by selling our harvest in the form of seed. It's true what they say, necessity breeds creativity and It's wonderful to hear the creative strategies of other farmers.

    2 years ago

  • reclaimer

    reclaimer says:

    Interesting and informative article! I have tons of respect for small farmers, they put so much work into what they do. There are some great ideas here (I particularly like the idea of starting out "too small to fail".)

    2 years ago

  • MidnightGypsy

    MidnightGypsy says:

    This hits very close to home. Great article!

    2 years ago

  • littlemateja

    littlemateja says:

    Being From A Rural Setting I Much Appreciated This Article!!

    2 years ago

  • dreamaginarius

    dreamaginarius says:

    Absolutely inspiring! I wish one day I could walk in my own land and produce organic items and offer them!

    2 years ago

  • TheHeartwoodStudio

    TheHeartwoodStudio says:

    My family has done small time farming for a few years now, and we love it. Nothing brings you closer to nature then being self sufficient.

    2 years ago

  • mirasolfarm

    mirasolfarm says:

    Thanks so much for beautifully telling the story of value-added agriculture. We set out to do the same thing 5 years ago on a retired dairy farm, and got inspiration and structure from a life-changing class from the Land Stewardship Project. It's one of the ways that our country will retain its rural character and heritage, small farms doing what they do best - growing and weaving and canning and crafting and feeding people! I appreciate what your sister has to say about forging your way by learning from your mistakes. We've done a little of that ourselves. :) Again, thanks for the heart-filled piece.

    2 years ago

  • plainjbodyandhome

    plainjbodyandhome says:

    Love this article...it is a dream of mine to someday have a small farm...:)

    2 years ago

  • adriennebaumann

    adriennebaumann says:

    What a poignant picture Karen's article paints of our local farming and ranching families. Thank you for sharing the faces, places and stories behind our food. Looking forward to more of the same!

    2 years ago

  • erin11599

    erin11599 says:

    Living in tiny,clean Tasmania we have a huge Artisanal food movement.Most farmers can't generally compete with large mainland enterprises so we have made the most of our clean environment (Tasmania has the land mass of England,a population of half a million,a climate similar to Tuscany or Northern California, our main source of electricity is hydro power and we have extremely restrictive agricultural import laws to keep our countryside as disease free as possible).There are small wineries,cheese makers,olive growers,specialist meat producers and one of our bigger exports-farm raised Atlantic Salmon.I live on 5 acres and have chickens,sheep,vegies and fruit-a lot of Tasmanians keep chickens for eggs and grow their own fruit and veg,even in suburbia.It just seems normal.If anyone is interested in setting up a backyard production,I seriously suggest a trip to Tassie-either in person or via the internet.The people who have done their thing here are friendly (it's a Tasmanian thing!!) and are happy to give advice and share their stories.

    2 years ago

  • oldyellowhorsegifts

    oldyellowhorsegifts says:

    THANK YOU ! Very much for this beautifully written story promoting sustainable agriculture and family farms.

    2 years ago

  • biophiliadesigns

    biophiliadesigns says:

    thanks so much for such a great story about the sister of the woman behind the Center for Ecoliteracy! its inspiring to see success in small farms from different parts of the world, and to see how success can be developed through value-addition. i have such a deep respect for the generation that began the sustainable agriculture movement and continue to develop it. Thank you for a great article.

    2 years ago

  • packmatthews

    packmatthews says:

    "Too small to fail" Brilliant. Part of my cash flow is tuning pianos in Mid Missouri and I get to visit lots of small operations like these. I came home yesterday with a complimentary jar of pickled okra. The family I tuned for treated me to lunch made from their own produce. While tuning the piano I get to look out on their pond where they've had river otters slide down the icy bank just like sledders. When I travel up to Amish country north of us to pick up Soul Seats they upholster for me, I'm reminded of how little we need to live rich lives.

    2 years ago

  • DecadenceandDecay

    DecadenceandDecay says:

    This is wonderful. Both of my sisters have dreams of owning a small farm. :)

    2 years ago

  • DecadenceandDecay

    DecadenceandDecay says:

    packmatthews, I wish I could "like" your comment.

    2 years ago

  • misshettie

    misshettie says:

    Wonderful article--great insight into a farming operation! We are 3rd generation farmers, only today we both have other jobs in addition to the farm. My Etsy shop is my way of contributing to the family income. Thanks so much for featuring my hand stamped kitchen towels! My photos will give you a glimpse into my back yard.

    2 years ago

  • scarletbegonia11

    scarletbegonia11 says:

    great article and super inspiring!

    2 years ago

  • headtreasures880971

    headtreasures880971 says:

    I am an artist (not a crafter) and am wondering what I can paint and sell on esty...?

    2 years ago

  • allthingsart100

    allthingsart100 says:

    United by love of nature, we are a family of artisians inspired by the wonders ever present around us. We pay homage to nature through photography,ceramics, painting and sculpture.

    2 years ago

  • good4you

    good4you says:

    really inspiring and the second farm is my life to be !

    2 years ago

  • LittleMissDressUp

    LittleMissDressUp says:

    Bravo, I have a degree in Animal Science with a minor in Food-Animal products. My dream is to have a small organic farm that I can live off of. I love the quote from the article " It was too small to screw up". I commend your work!! You are a true inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • Asarum

    Asarum says:

    "Products where you can see the hand of a human being — that’s very attractive to me and I know from doing this for almost 20 years that people will pay for it." so inspiring.

    2 years ago

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject says:

    Fantastic post!! Thanks so much for sharing - my father had a relatively small farm and eventually had to leave his business behind because he couldn't compete with 'bigger' farms. He just didn't know how he could make it work so he left it all behind and became a landscaper. Wonderful to see farmers taking their future into their own hands and making a success out of it! Very inspiring.

    2 years ago

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ says:

    Having grown up on a small farm myself, I can't thank you enough for writing this article! Recently my uncle had to sell off his farm. Times are tough but I'm glad to see that there are people like you who are still supporting the small farmers of America!

    2 years ago

  • SusanJArt

    SusanJArt says:

    Wish I had this cheese farm in my area - I love Italian and Swiss cheeses.

    2 years ago

  • vtroque

    vtroque says:

    Great article!

    2 years ago

  • SusiesBoutiqueTLC

    SusiesBoutiqueTLC says:

    Nice article. Enjoyed reading.

    2 years ago

  • LittleRedRory

    LittleRedRory says:

    **heartwarming**

    2 years ago

  • alangood

    alangood says:

    Another great blog from Karen. The contrast of these two farming families is fascinating, but the best part is that both of these agricultural operations are thriving in our current economic climate!

    2 years ago

  • johnniebelinda

    johnniebelinda says:

    Having come from a family of farmers i seen the decline of the small farms. It is so good to see that the small farmer can reinvent it's self and bring back a new and unique selling points.

    2 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Interesting post!

    2 years ago

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry says:

    Super Post!!!! Very Informative!!! Love to garden too!!

    2 years ago

  • OneLaneRoad

    OneLaneRoad says:

    I loved reading this!

    2 years ago

  • needleandfelt

    needleandfelt says:

    Karen, Thank you so much for introducing your sister - her information was inspiring and encouraging. My husband and I live on a 4th generation farm and our dream is to be a sustainable farm. After last summer, I realized we had to re-think our strategy - instead of give up. Her ideas gave validation to some of mine. Thanks again.

    2 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Great read, thoughtful post!

    2 years ago

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle says:

    Thanks so much. This has given me some ideas!!

    2 years ago

  • countercouturedesign

    countercouturedesign says:

    Great read. My husband and I are hoping to add goats and chickens to our large urban garden! Thanks for including our brown chicken/brown cow t-shirt.

    2 years ago

  • Ralissa

    Ralissa says:

    i loved this article!!

    2 years ago

  • MagpieQuilts

    MagpieQuilts says:

    Great post! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • whisperingoaksalpaca

    whisperingoaksalpaca says:

    Excellent article! It was a great read. I live on a small farm with my herd of alpacas and chickens and horses. It is a fantastic way of life. I know many people with small farms that can only do it part time (like my family) because in today's world it is a hard way to make a living. I agree that one of the keys is to create something special and unique because you cannot compete with the huge industrial farms. I feel that consumers are becoming more aware and that is encouraging to me.

    2 years ago

  • CoveredBridgeFiber

    CoveredBridgeFiber says:

    Karen, thank you for this inspiring and encouraging article. I like your sister's ideas of "Be too small to fail" and "Remember you are the value in value-added". My daughter and I are handspinners and knitters. Two years ago I came to the conclusion that our flock was producing more fiber than the two of us could handle. I recognized this as a blessing and asked myself what were we going to doing with this gift of abundance. I also wanted my daughter to realize that she had a valuable product and to learn how she could market her product. She is now a high school student, has found her niche with our fiber farm business and is setting goals for the future. Thanks again for a wonderful article!

    2 years ago

  • flower002

    flower002 says:

    Accessorize your personal and seasonal events with marvelous gifts. Your relations are the indispensables to your life, and gifts pay tribute to their contributions. Visit www.flowerstobangalore.com today.

    2 years ago

  • ReclaimedTrends

    ReclaimedTrends says:

    Fantastic article! Loved every bit of it! Love me some small farming!

    2 years ago

  • sunkissedhighways

    sunkissedhighways says:

    i love the idea of ' too small to fail".

    2 years ago

  • andiespecialtysweets

    andiespecialtysweets says:

    Etsy is so "with it". Another great article and advice! Another way to add value to a small farm is to invest in a commercial kitchen or go in on one with a co-op. From there, you can preserve everything that is left over, after your larder is full, and market it to the public -pickles, salsa, pie filling, etc. This can easily develop into a farm store.

    2 years ago

  • andiespecialtysweets

    andiespecialtysweets says:

    And P.S. ....I love Karen : )

    2 years ago

  • jewelsbymoon

    jewelsbymoon says:

    Very nice article. The stories were an inspiration to start off my day! Thanks and heres to handmade small and personal.

    2 years ago

  • saraaires

    saraaires says:

    This is the kind of mentality that brings light to our future, very good article! I am portuguese, traditionally an agriculture dependent country... but so small that can easily be swept away in terms od production versus marketing. The way I see it, this is the only way possible to our fragile balance to thrive and sustain our existance. In a crisis context, with unemployment raising by the hour, agriculture, and specially in small scale, will definitely be our rescue. I wish these thoughts would reach out more in Portugal.

    2 years ago

  • volcanogirlcreations

    volcanogirlcreations says:

    What a great feature...always my dream!

    2 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Great article, I love how sometimes its about working smarter!

    2 years ago

  • TheHickoryTree

    TheHickoryTree says:

    Fantastic feature - I love the motto be " too small to fail". I think most of us Etsyians all started out with this in mind. The path we are on isn't always the path we should take.

    2 years ago

  • ZenBrush

    ZenBrush says:

    I work in land conservation and many farmers preserve their land by selling development rights and use those funds for value added activities. Thanks for an article that highlights some interesting issues.

    2 years ago

  • kimberleeannkreation

    kimberleeannkreation says:

    Great posts! My nephew is a young farmer partnering with a couple who have a nonworking dairy farm with a goal of being operational by summer. He also inherited the gene of crop farming from his great-grandfather and started selling vegetables out of a wagon when he was just a little boy. I love reading of other farming families carrying on the traditions of our ancestors!

    2 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    "Too small to fail" - excellent.

    2 years ago

  • ThePixPro

    ThePixPro says:

    Great "food" for thought! I think you might have struck a nerve. I have been planning to offer the public a place to "raise their own" on our farm. Think I'll go plow some garden plots.

    2 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says: Featured

    This has been going on for years in my area, which is filled with small family farms, we call it diversification. Farmers are raising rare or exotic breeds of animals (wild boar or ostriches for meat, llamas for wool, etc) creating trout ponds for fishing, restoring their old & neglected orchards for traditional cider production, there are even fields of sunflowers here & there for organic birdseed. Most of these things require a slightly different approach & the ability to think outside the box whilst still utilising traditional farming skills, the added "value" is mainly hard work & the willingness to do something that your farming neighbours might see as slightly odd. I believe it's the only way forward for small farms, they can't compete with huge agribusiness on a level field so they have to concentrate on something the large concerns just aren't equipped to do at all.

    2 years ago

  • StitchnSpoon

    StitchnSpoon says:

    I'm travelling a similar path. We have only 7 arces, but as time goes on, it will help support my wholesale a retail business with native wildcrafted herbs. Having a renovated barn as my studio and herbal ktichen, I hope to one day open a small tea house and herbal education center. This way I can spread the knowledge on how to provide medicine from a sustainable backyard source to people that might not be otherwise able to afford it. What an inspiring post! Thank you, Rachel Jane

    2 years ago

  • NannyMadeandfound

    NannyMadeandfound says:

    I grew up on a family farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It helped shape who I am. I went to a 2 room "grade" school, all the way through 8th grade, then right into high school. I love that it is part of my history and the kind of experiences I have that most people don't. Thanks for this post, that there is value and hope for the small family farm

    2 years ago

  • nearerthemoon

    nearerthemoon says:

    'a feeling that they are expressing their values and regional character through the food they grow.' Change 'food they grow' to 'things they make' and that sentence is so true to everyone here on etsy that's competing against the homogenised products on the high street. Very inspirational stories.

    2 years ago

  • StuffByKim

    StuffByKim says:

    Wonderful article and fabo people. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I am not lucky enough to have a farm but I have used alot of these same principles in my business. And I continue each day to strive to bring quality to my customers. And I always try to throw in some of the unexpected!

    2 years ago

  • peacesofindigo

    peacesofindigo says:

    What a beautiful article~

    2 years ago

  • SevenAcreWoods

    SevenAcreWoods says:

    What a great article. Thank you for featuring my egg gourd seeds from our little farm.

    2 years ago

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    maggiesraggedyinn says:

    Yes this is how we should live and work.

    2 years ago

  • TwistedWhimsyDesigns

    TwistedWhimsyDesigns says:

    Great story! It's so much better to know where your food actually comes from. As a society we are so processed and fast food driven we forget how all that factory farmed food is produced. During the summer months I go every week to the local farmers market. It's so fun to talk to the vendors about the food and the love they put into growing it!

    2 years ago

  • newtknees

    newtknees says:

    Fantastic article, thank you! "Too small to fail" should be everyone's working motto. This gives me a little more inspiration for my own farm.

    2 years ago

  • HeatherLucille

    HeatherLucille says:

    Thank you for posting this inspirational and informative story! As a proud resident of Iowa, I have been a witness to the sad state farming has been reduced to (recommended watching: King Corn). Recently, many farms have rebounded in new markets and have received mush support and accolades from their respective communities. While many family farms were lost it is encouraging to see organic, artisinal and specialty based farms thriving again.

    2 years ago

  • shopgoodgrace

    shopgoodgrace says:

    Such a wonderful article -- and I'm further amazed by how it has touched your audience, based on the equally thoughtful comments. Bravo!

    2 years ago

  • PickStitch

    PickStitch says:

    I live in the centre of a huge farm based economy. Farming is intense backbreaking and finger shearing work. With the weather this year it meant several days of 24/7 harvesting and then 24/7 poop speading. It is not the life for everyone. Although tractors do have a/c and rocking stereo systems these days!

    2 years ago

  • NicoleNicoletta2

    NicoleNicoletta2 says:

    great article! thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • BlueMoonLights

    BlueMoonLights says:

    Love the article, what a great post! Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • FayesAttic11

    FayesAttic11 says:

    Great article, enjoyed the reading!

    2 years ago

  • grandmae1

    grandmae1 says:

    Wonderful article, I also live in the country and try to support the local farmers and crafts people. Since finding Etsy I have been not only reading the articles, but paying attention to the other comments! Many of my favorite shops have come from these! Next is packmatthews...he really reads the articles and I usually agree with the very thoughtful comments. (~.~) Ellen

    2 years ago

  • DonnaWalker

    DonnaWalker says: Featured

    Wonderful article!! Small and local and sustainable--- all of these are so important. Farmers today have to be innovative to survive. And consumers need to be made aware of the importance of supporting local growers! I love painting farms, ranches, fields, and farm animals...there is a quiet nobility to what they do and what they provide to communities.

    2 years ago

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery says:

    Interesting article!

    2 years ago

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions says:

    A Great article! So much inspiration no matter how small keep going and grow whatever it is.Love the small farm guidance.Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • CalicoCaprice

    CalicoCaprice says:

    An inspiring article! Letting our failures lead us to prosperity- always a good life lesson.

    2 years ago

  • PapillonVintageShop

    PapillonVintageShop says:

    Love this story. I get brain freeze when I go to the supermarket. It drains every bit of inspiration from my mind. Open air markets, organic farmers, I frequent them & salute them!

    2 years ago

  • AVintageWalkInTime

    AVintageWalkInTime says:

    Love the story. Thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • BlackStar

    BlackStar says:

    *Like*

    2 years ago

  • breedbaby

    breedbaby says:

    Thanks so much! I will read this again and again as we are in the process of saving up for our own small farm purchase in less then 3 years! I can't wait to start exploring the income possibilities!

    2 years ago

  • obraley

    obraley says:

    Wow! I love it! My family and I live on a small farm and have tried a lot of things. Such as raising broilers to sell, raising goats, a pig, laying hens and even more! My dad loves to garden and we have a hugh garden! We have lived on our small farm for 10 years and have gained a lot of wisdom! Farm Girl.

    2 years ago

  • Talking1

    Talking1 says:

    As a working chef of 20+ years I Love the diversity of 'smaller farms'. It is wonderful to get food directly from the farmer... It makes Being the "value in value-added," sooo much easier! I love the AllStar Organics (perfectly) 'Smoked Salt' it is a secret ingredient of mine! What a fun/excellent romp this article is, opening my mind to the world of the "handmade movement"!

    2 years ago

  • CountrySquirrelsRUS

    CountrySquirrelsRUS says:

    Being a country squirrel myself, this article was certainly interesting. Although I've sold countless dozens of certified natural fed eggs from my free-range chickens along with organic heirloom produce both via delivery and at farmers' markets, I have yet to meet a Prince -- that I know of anyway! Again, a great read; always looking forward to the next one. Thanks Karen! Thanks Etsy!

    2 years ago

  • LEFTright

    LEFTright says:

    Wonderful post! I couldn't agree more with this :Remember that you are the value in value-added.

    2 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections says: Featured

    What's really important is educating consumers about how small farm products differ than what they find in stores- to have change the paradigm shift of what we choose to eat, people need to be educated on how mass produced foods differ from products created on small farms. Most people know very little about widespread practices such as how supermarket oranges are plucked green, then gassed (or dyed) orange in a warehouse and coated with a layer of preservatives. This all goes back to the problem of people not knowing how the things they consume are made- big business hides the production process with slick packaging and issues like this don't get reported much in mainstream media.

    2 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says:

    Years ago I had a 15acre farm in northern Illinois. I was my folly, and then became my passion. I learned so much owning a "gentlewoman's farm." Making money at farming is hard. At this point one has to really love it, as it's hard work 24/7. We now have just an acre in New Mexico and I find myself selling eggs from our hens, and produce from our 1/4 acre raised bed garden, and all our fruit trees. I grow more than we can eat, it's organic, and if I wanted to I'd have another business. I teach school children how to grow their own food. It's my passion. Last fall a 3rd grader told me he doesn't think the lettuce from the store is "real lettuce." After eating his own grown. :-)

    2 years ago

  • SewItBoutique

    SewItBoutique says:

    I love it! I want a farm one day...

    2 years ago

  • mbueb

    mbueb says:

    Great article. I've tried the All Star Organic season salts, and now I can't cook without them. I applaud all their mistakes to create such a wonderful product!

    2 years ago

  • rakhiworldwide

    rakhiworldwide says:

    This Rakshabandhan, gift something to your siblings that reflects the true affection and love you hold for them. The Designer Rakhi you gift them is the symbol of the immortal unity of the two hearts, the flowers are the silent communicators of your warmth to them. That’s the magical touch you can have for your Rakhi special gifts, and just a click onto www.rakhiworldwide.com/rakhi_uk_worldwide.asp will let you get them in flash to all over UK.

    2 years ago

  • YellEureKa

    YellEureKa says:

    **********Products that you can see the hand of the human being*********** I love that . I like PEOPLE and i don't like mass production it takes the heart out of things.

    2 years ago

  • YellEureKa

    YellEureKa says:

    who knows what " wana be food " we eat today???!!!!

    2 years ago

  • GrettasGoats

    GrettasGoats says:

    I feel fortunate to be a part of a community that supports local, organic, small farming. I grew up on a small farm and hoped to farm again some day, but was unsure how I could make that dream a reality living near Chicago. We moved to a small conservation community in Illinois that has a ninety acre organic farm at its heart. I am a part of a cooperative of farmers who share the land. My goats are happy to graze the certified organic pasture. Without this type of farm, I would have never been able to make my farm dreams come true. My hope is that more farms, like Prairie Crossing, continue to be the model for smart development across the country and support the urban food systems. Thanks for featuring my organic soap and my sweet little goat, Violet! -gretta and the goats :)

    2 years ago

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl says:

    Nice stories! I'm especially glad LaFranchi was able to stay in business after nearly a century by making cheese. I will be on the look out for it now!

    2 years ago

  • cdelpal

    cdelpal says:

    Very nice article! Thanks for posting!

    2 years ago

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink says:

    I do not live on a farm or own cows but I make my own cheese, bread and grow and dry my own herbs. All it takes is love and understanding of one surroundings. Great article.

    2 years ago

  • JewelMeShop

    JewelMeShop says:

    Great article! I currently live in the countryside breeding some hens and cultivating vegetables to be as self sustainable as possible. I would love to have a farm like the second one!

    2 years ago

  • BeachHouseLiving

    BeachHouseLiving says:

    This was such a great read. Thank you for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • portugal50

    portugal50 says:

    When I started my small farm It was a pure hobby built around my life long dreams. However operating a farm with cows, crops, goats, and a wide assortment of fowl with only three people to tend to it is very hard work. I started to sell eggs, chickens turkeys and ornamental pheasants as a way to pay for their feed. That lead to canning vegetables, jams and jellies to conserve the abundance of fruit and vegetables we grow here. Although it is hard work it pays off at the end of the season when the food is fresh and abundant, and the animals are happy. The northeastern Ohio winters are probably the harshest on our little farm as we have to make sure all our animals are properly tended too- something that larger farms need not worry about because of the factory-type conditions that don't allow them to free range. I fully respect any person who buys from local farms and/or who is driven to pursue the dream of becoming self-sustaining. The work put into it creates a feeling of "Ah, I did that, I helped that grow, I will never have to buy eggs that are months old again."

    2 years ago

  • leslieholz

    leslieholz says:

    Having raised, chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits, alpacas and now a dairy cow, it has been an absolute joy as well as an adventure! We currently have been focusing our attention on cheesemaking and the differences between store bought and "artisan" are astounding!! Also educating friends and school children in the art of "make it yourself" has been quite rewarding. Loved the articl!!. It is both informative and certainly timely!

    2 years ago

  • WeCollaborative

    WeCollaborative says:

    What I love most about buying from a small farm is not only the creative, personal touch that makes you feel confident about your purchase but the honesty that comes with the product. These are products that the owner truly cares about, which can only mean that the product will take care of the customer. My family runs a Cherry Orchard in (Saskatchewan of all places) with the help of a few other farms in the area we are making cherry juice. The juice will be pure tart cherry juice sold as a health product which has been grown and manufactured in Saskatchewan. As a designer and artist I completely agree that the value added to any product is the time, energy and honesty put into it.

    2 years ago

  • PostedProperty

    PostedProperty says:

    The longer I'm on Etsy, the more I love the folks who gather here. What spirit, talent, and heart! My parents farmed (Dad had a full-time job in town, too.) and my husband and I raised huge gardens to give our kids good, nutritious food. Now years later, we have to limit our gardening to small patches here and there, but I can't envision a life without growing plants. Lovely article and great comments!

    2 years ago

  • lizrangbeadart

    lizrangbeadart says:

    Love the article, growing up in South Dakota most everyone was connected to farming somehow ... (and now, ironically, we're right by Nicasio Valle) ...

    2 years ago

  • LostAtticTreasures

    LostAtticTreasures says:

    Great Post!!!!!!!!!!!! Love the farms.....

    2 years ago

  • stonebridgeworks

    stonebridgeworks says:

    We started the first CSA in our area 21 years ago and have had incredible support from our members. But we don't plan to get bigger, just better by expanding what we do here at the farm. Our etsy shop features photocards and handcranked socks that share what we love about the farm. As the land around us becomes more and more developed, we hope we can keep this beautiful land in agricultural production through the community we've created--a very different kind of "development."

    2 years ago

  • WingedWorld

    WingedWorld says:

    With more grocery stores carrying locally produced, specialty foods, it's easier than ever to support local farmers by just visiting the grocer store.

    2 years ago

  • tamaami

    tamaami says:

    <3!

    2 years ago

  • erinlanphear

    erinlanphear says:

    So important. I love this

    2 years ago

  • unflappableproducts

    unflappableproducts says:

    Love this article! I like the too small to fail - I have a small farm and am selling lavender in the summers-I eventualy want to do a PYO lavender farm-the customer will do the labor- and I will use the leftovers in the winter to make sachets. I have sold so much from two plants and now I have added fifty more! I also make grapevine wreaths all winter indoors-nothing in my yard goes to waste! Selling pinecones for fireplaces too. Thanks for writing such a great article!

    2 years ago

  • patradashary

    patradashary says:

    I loved this article! Sometimes life comes full circle-I'm a NC farm girl and so proud of my own son who has built my two grandsons their own chicken coup!

    2 years ago

  • thegentlefarmer

    thegentlefarmer says:

    So enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and love of nature.

    2 years ago

  • nickiefrye

    Nickie Noel from SpunkVintage says:

    My family & I go to Lafranchi every year for their awesome pumpkin patch. Hooray for Marin Organics! There are some awesome farms in Petaluma, too. Thanks for this post! :)

    2 years ago