We plan to take a bit of time to recoup and spend time with family before we head off in another direction.
Our next step is to start raising goats. Goats will help us keep our pastures clear of weeds and shrubbery. These will be meat goats and at some point we will sell them for just that.
Below is the letter we wrote to all our market family in April. It explains why we have stop producing chicken, pork, eggs, and turkey after doing so for 6 years.
It is with mixed emotions that Mary and I announce the shutdown of Haskins Family Farm to the world at large. As you might expect, this has been a very difficult decision for us since we have worked very hard since 2006 to produce what you see at the market. The process of shutting down our business has already begun and is almost finished. Much of our chicken raising equipment and laying flock has been sold, with the rest up for sale with active buying interest.
We expect to sell out of all of our available pork by May 30, 2013 (or before) and will not have additional product (chicken, turkey, pork or eggs) going forward. We will cease selling our products from the farm and from Farmers Markets we sold at last/this year (Leesburg, Palisades and Crystal City).
The only reason we have stayed with this little experiment so long is due to you, our loyal customers. You have kept us going when the times got tough. If it weren’t for the extraordinary support we have received over the years, we would most certainly not have made it this long. We consider you, our customers, each to be friends of the family.
You might be wondering what caused us to have to wind down our beloved farm business. In November of 2012, we had two events that significantly impacted our ability to continue:
1) Our USDA chicken cutter informed us that they would no longer be cutting our chicken
2) Our farm helper, who committed to working for us until December, 2013 told us she was leaving us a year early, at the end of December, 2012
Of course, both of these problems can be overcome. But, both would take additional time and money which is where the problem lies. In addressing the issue of USDA chicken cutting, we could use the processor we used for turkeys for processing our chicken but there are a couple of issues with this plan:
1) We would have to drive many more miles in order to accomplish the chicken cutting, requiring a large expenditure in equipment (trailers)
2) The alternate processor is much more expensive than our existing processors combined
As for interns, we have found finding a good one problematic. Furthermore the cost of paying a fair wage and offering housing is an issue. We have tried to work through this but money is really at the heart of it. Our little farm does not make enough to support hiring help and building more infrastructure.
Both of the issues outlined above would cause us to have to outlay more cash. We were in a time crunch and needed to find someone quickly to replace our intern, as we only had about 45-60 days before the preparation started again for the 2013 season. We were getting burned out and needed help desperately.
In addition to all of the above problems, when we looked at the return on our investment, it was very small and doesn’t support all of the required funds/cash flow to fix the above problems. Basically, we could hire someone and give our meager return to them and not have anything to invest in the farm for the future or to keep for ourselves.
Without some help (labor), the amount of time required to keep this experiment going was also problematic. As many of you know, Bob has an off-farm job that in fact pays the mortgage. This required a lot of late nights caring for the 4000 chickens/year and 50 hogs/year that we raised. While Mary was doing the daytime chores it was Bob who came home from his job and did the heavy work. In most cases we were working alone. Most nights we would throw some dinner together (usually after dark), eat, and head to bed. Bob took up a Mountain Dew kick and Mary drank Coke...not exactly fitting with our lifestyle. We were tired A LOT! Let’s not even talk about time together as a family. Getting everyone together for one of the kid’s concerts was about all we could manage.
So we came to the very difficult decision to shut our farm business down. We know that we are impacting our customers, but we have no other choice available to us. We will do our best to refer you to other producers who use similar methods to ours to help you with the transition.
So what will we be doing now with all of our free time? We hope to stay in the agricultural arena by raising meat goats. We feel that goats are a good fit for our property (lots of rocks, brush and hills) and for our marketing goals by not attending farmers markets. Our sales will be in the form of live animals for breeding, meat and wholesale carcasses to restaurants/etc. Bob is interested in performing vendor inspections for market operators to ensure each vendor adheres to the rules of the market operator. Also, we plan to stay in the farmers market scene by blogging with a unique perspective about all aspects of the subject. (Before we were farmers we were, and still are, farmers markets junkies of the first degree!!) So stay tuned, as exciting times are ahead!
In closing, we would like to thank every one of the customers who have supported us over time, as well as all of the people who have helped us get going and stay going over the years. We will most certainly miss you, but we expect to be seeing many of you as time goes on. We will continue writing about our adventures on our new re-designed web site and our existing Haskins Family Farm Facebook page.
We’ll end this writing with what Bob has ended each and every electronic communication since the start of our little adventure:
Thanks for your support of our farm!!