We’ve been told that our prices are too low. After all, we charge around $5 for a gallon of raw milk, $3 or $4 for a dozen free-range eggs and, as we announced today, $5 for a pound of grass-fed beef. Yes, that’s lower than many others charge, but it’s not too low–and boy does it sell fast!
This is how we want our farm business to work. We really don’t care what others do because they don’t share our goals.
The business model of most “farmers” today aims at turning farm products into cash. They are farming because they want cash. They don’t care about the food they’re producing. They may not even eat it. They are just hoping that they can get some cash for it. They buy feed and supplies from the local feed shop, set things up to be as convenient for them as possible, and then charge a bunch more than what they spend to make some profit.
This, however, is not farming and it will never be profitable unless customers can be duped into thinking that there is some good reason why everything costs so much.
On our farm, we have worked to grow our own family food and to do so sustainably. We did not build our farm to be a commercial farm, with a commercial business plan. We designed it to be self-sustaining and beneficial for our family. We did this because we wanted to provide our children with healthy work that produces healthy food and allows everyone to eat well and enjoy good culture. That’s a very expensive project, but that’s what we’ve been doing, little by little, over the past fifteen years.
Now, having succeeded in producing much of our family’s food on the farm, it’s relatively easy to produce more of that food. If we’re already milking two cows, it’s not very difficult to milk six more. If we’re growing six rows of potatoes, it’s not a big deal to grow ten more. If we’re raising a few beef cows, it’s doesn’t take much to raise a few more. That’s what we’re doing.
Therefore, when we sell our produce, we’re not asking our customers to pay for our farm. We’re asking our customers to pay for their food. We don’t care if every sale makes a profit, but that our whole farm, as a complete system, is profitable–and sustainable. This requires much more thought than comparing the cost of producing a product with its sale price. There’s much more to the farm than that.
For example, while we’re selling our dairy shares and sharing our milk with other families, our cows will be giving us new calves–pure-bred Jersey calves. Each calf is worth a thousand dollars if you want to talk cash value, and this is not considered when we compare the cost of production of a gallon of milk with its sale price.
Second, our cows produce manure which we collect and add to our gardens throughout the year. Manure is the best fertilizer there is and it costs $5 per 50 lbs. at Lowe’s. If a cow produces a bag of manure a day, that’s $1800 worth of manure a year, per cow. Now, turn that into tomatoes and watermelons and potatoes and salads, and the value multiplies.
Third, our sales provide for all of the feed costs on our farm. Our family of 12 enjoys all the milk, eggs, meat and produce we want–for free–and it’s delicious food.
Fourth, our children are growing up healthy and strong on the farm. We have no medical expenses because no one in our family is ever sick. We have ten children and, over the course of 19 years, I can name the four or five times we’ve seen a doctor. Isn’t our family’s health worth anything? I think so.
I could go on and on explaining the benefits of our family’s farm life, but it should be clear that when a farm is judged by how much cash it produces on an isolated sale, everything is turned upside down. The beautiful, challenging and satisfying life of the farm, which reveals to us God’s goodness, wisdom and power in making everything just as He has, which I personally find to be the greatest benefit of the farm, is replaced by a limited, unhappy factory that tries to squeeze an extra dollar out of every sale. Then, when the farm sales can no longer pay for the cable TV and vacation, the farm is shut down because, really, no one there is interested in farming or the benefits of farm life. They are just using the farm to get cash, which is not what God intended it to be.
We are enjoying great benefits from our farm and are happy that we can share quality products at low prices. We may not make much profit on every gallon of milk, but that’s not how our farm is designed to work. There’s much more involved in the overall business plan of a farm than cash. We’re happy to allow families to enjoy the same food our family does and to do so affordably. That’s the way we want our farm to work.
God bless you all,
Michael Family Farm