Category Archives: News, etc.

We are hosting an event on April 19th, and you’re invited

Last year I was the (wholly ineffective) President of the Wake County Agribusiness Council. This year, on a day when I was absent from the meeting, they decided to have their annual farm tour at our farm. That sounds like a “you missed the meeting so get the bad job” description but it’s actually very cool.

The spring farm tour has always been really cool when I’ve attended. The agribusiness council always picks an awesome place and has a great event. Having it at our place is a really big honor.  Plus, they serve breakfast which makes it that much better. If having breakfast isn’t enough, the fact that the who’s who in Wake County shows up to see what is going, makes it all the more enticing. By who’s who, I mean County Commissioners, Court Justices, local dignitaries, that kind of thing.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

“Why would people like that come to your farm?”

I know, right? I thought the same thing. But then I received the announcement that Taylor Fish whipped up (Hi Taylor!). If I didn’t see my name on the top and already know better, I’d want to go see this place too. Here is a link to the invitation Taylor sent out.

Sounds pretty cool. So I already have to pretend to know what I’m doing at this thing at Fearrington Village. Now I have to pretend to be an adult at my own place on April 19th. That’s not to mention our open barn day on May 6th. Boy, spring got busy in a hurry!

If you want to attend, simply RSVP to 919-250-1053 or email Dale Threatt-Taylor by April 17th so we can order
enough breakfast for everyone.

Open Barn Day May 6th!

Now is your chance to meet the Farmers and Vendors of Ninja Cow Farm. There will be cows and baby goats to feed and pet, tours, samples to taste, as well as a chance to meet many of the farmers and vendors in the Ninja Cow store. Ninja Cow Farm LLC is a small, 84 acre family farm located just outside of Garner. We are the closest large animal farm to downtown Raleigh, just 15 minutes from the heart of downtown. We raise grass fed, grass finished (an important distinction) cows and heritage and rare breed hogs. We utilize no commercial feed in our operation, instead relying on produce we glean from various sources as our primary food stock for our pigs. Our produce recycling/upcycling efforts now divert approximately 7 million pounds of produce from the landfill each year. In addition, we recycle 250,000 pounds of cardboard, 24 truck loads of pallets, and 12 truck loads of plastic totes per year. We sell our products direct to the consumer and to a few select restaurants. In addition to our beef and pork, we also aggregate products from 11 other small family farms and sell the products in our small store. Unlike many operations that pass off others products as their own, we proudly represent our partner farms in our store, giving them equal billing. We are beyond a family farming operation. We actually have five families directly involved in our operation, not counting our employees. We are a true community effort, all working together.

We’ve picked our first new vendor!

I’m placing my first order today, for our first new vendor for the store. As we bring in new folks, I plan on letting everyone know what is coming and why we picked them so be prepared for lots of posts like this. But our first vendor is special beyond being a supplier of goods to us.

We’ve looked at farmers, sauce makers, etc. But the first question SWMBO asked herself when we decided to expand the store was, “What do I buy at the grocery store all the time.” The answer? Peanuts.

You see, I have an affliction. It’s not my fault, it came from my father. My father always had peanuts on hand. He ordered them special from Georgia I think. He gave them out as Christmas presents to his customers every year. He routinely, when walking through the kitchen, would grab a handful. When he ate ice cream, he’d dabble a few on top. He didn’t pour through them. He didn’t eat large quantities, but he always had a few here or there as a quick snack.

SWMBO can’t have bread in the house. Or potato chips. Or chocolate. They all call to her and she must obey. With me, it’s peanuts. Despite my protests that she quit buying them, she lovingly (and evilly) keeps the pantry stocked with peanuts for me.

So when it was time to look for something for the store, peanuts were the first thing she went for. In that search, she came across a very special place. Oberry story, history, slow nuts

Maybe we are the last people to hear about this place. Like most things of this nature, we tend to ignore it unless we have a loved one who is affected. But as we learned more we were very interested in helping the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center.

Potter working pottery at the O'Berry center
The picture located just below the story in their store

They have limited production, as you would expect. They were worried we might ask for too much product. We won’t.

We were worried that some of their products weren’t as wholesome or natural as we’d normally carry. Some of the candied nuts have corn syrup in them (it’s how you make a candy shell). There was much debate over if this was acceptable.

In the end, we found that helping the O’Berry center in our tiny way was absolutely what we were going to do. Plus their peanuts are awesome so I’m happy. The kids, who also love peanuts, are happy. And the Mrs, who is watching my pants get snug, is happy.

I hope you are happy.

We don’t have an exclusive deal and we don’t want one. You can drive to Goldsboro and visit their gorgeous store. Maybe you’ll get to meet Shirley, who is our contact there. At 70 she has more energy than SWMBO and I combined and she is a delight to talk to. (Hi Shirley!) They have peanuts, snack mixes, pottery, crafts, soaps, and lotions. We are ordering a smattering of all of it for the store. It will all be priced at the same price they sell it for. It’s all made by the residents there, with lots of help from the professional staff.

We’ve lowered our prices on beef across the board. Simple as that.

Nothing is actually that simple. Of course there is a story. For the short version, go to our beef page to see the new pricing. Some changes were dramatic. Chuck roast dropped from $12.99 per lb to $8.75 per pound. Hamburger dropped from $9.00 per lb to $7.99 per lb. A few items stayed the same. One actually went up slightly.

There is a lot of change going on with our store this winter and spring. We first expanded our store with a new freezer room. Then we expanded the store itself by nearly doubling the retail space. Then over the past month we’ve been selecting new products and producers for the store. 

While all of that has been going on, we had another set of projects. First, we received this in the mail. 

My first thought is, “This is it. Now I’m going to prison.” Luckily this time it was only a tax rate change, effective April 1st. It’s not the end of the world since most of our products qualify for the 2.0% farmers tax rate. But it did mean we’d need to review all the tax codes on all the items. More importantly there isn’t a way to change the tax codes ahead of time in Square. That meant that I would need to be sitting ready to update all the codes after close of business on the last day of March, after 6pm but before open of business at 8am April 1st. But we had another issue.

We use Square for our point of sale system (POS). Square is great because it lets you start with almost no overhead. It’s easy to use, easy to learn, and a pretty capable system. But it has one fatal flaw.

Square cannot sell you a fraction of anything. It sells 1 coffee, 2 coffees, 3 coffees. It cannot deal with 1.5 coffees. Makes sense with coffee, not so much with a steak. 1.5 pounds of steak is kryptonite. Also, 1.5 yards of fabric, 1.3 yards of mulch. Pretty much anything but a widget is a problem for Square.

On their support boards, this is a well documented and widely known issue and has been for years. There is no fix other that what we’ve done. We tweak our per pound pricing so $8.00 per pound becomes $0.80 per pound. Then when we sell you 5.6 pounds of something it’s 56 instead of 5.6. So 56 x $0.80 equals the correct price. Confusing right? Us too. It’s completely crazy and we have customers routinely call back to ask why they got charged for 56 pounds of meat. This had to change.

So while everything else has been going on, we’ve been evaluating new POS systems. In the end, the winner was NCR. They have a system similar to Square but it is a real POS with all the appropriate abilities. It also has all the real POS agreements, overheads, etc. Luckily with a new POS going in, we could spend the month of March setting up everything, including the new tax codes without messing with our current system which we were still using. Lucy did a great job of setting up all the items in NCR but while we were setting everything up we decided it was time to review our pricing.

I receive a monthly pricing report from the state that shows pastured pork, lamb, and beef for producers in our state. Over the winter, I’d noted that pricing had been dropping on beef. If we were updating the tax codes, and we were updating the items, and we were uploading our customers into NCR. Well we might as well update our pricing at the same time. In pretty much every case, the price of beef went down. Pork stayed about the same, as did lamb. This is reflective of the commodity price of beef, which has collapsed over the past year or so. We aren’t a commodity producer but we are part of the overall market. For those of you who have been holding off buying some beef, here you go.

We’ll be updating the chalk boards in the store today. Stop by and see the girls. They will be using a new POS system that they’ve been trained on but give them a bit of grace when you come. The first day with a new system is always exciting. Don’t worry, I’m here all day to help them along.

How we choose what to carry in the store

I’ve mentioned that with the store expansion, we are looking at new products for the store. Lots of new products. It may surprise you to find out that there has been quite some conversation about what to carry. It’s not as simple as all of the previous 11 farmers we’ve carried before.

In the past, I’ve reached out to farmers directly. They were always small family farms. Someone who was doing what we do, but with a different product than we carry. For instance, our poultry farmer, Brittany Ridge Farm (Hi Kevin and Christy!) supplies our chicken, turkey, pheasant, rabbit and eggs. At the time we partnered with them, we had our own chickens and eggs but with the quality of their product I was able to get out of the chicken business and let the experts do it. Yes, Lucy has chickens again and we have eggs from our farm. But you don’t see me bent over a processing table cutting up chickens once a week, and I tell Christy every time I see her how much I appreciate all her and Kevin’s hard work. We have 11 stories like that. A farmer doing a great job, who we develop a personal relationship with. We go to the farm or meet half way and pick up their products once a week, twice a month, once a month, etc.

But at some point, you can only do so much. I can’t continue to add products and go pick them up from the individual farms every week. I’d need a full time truck driver just going up and down the road. That adds cost of time and money, both in short supply on a farm. So we started looking for farmers and producers who had products we could deliver, or get delivered UPS, or who work through a distributor, or who have employees who live near us, or a customer already in Raleigh where we can meet them to pick up our order. I hoped we’d find 4-5. So far we are sitting at around 40! Not all will survive taste testing and final selection but right now it’s looking awesome for what is to come.

As we have discovered and evaluated different products, it’s called into question just what is our goal? What is our criteria? What is our, God I hate to say it, our mission statement? What kind of store are we going to be? Is it farmer direct only? Are we a farmer’s market? Is it eco, hippie, natural only? After much discussing, some arguments both heated and most simply debated, we’ve arrived at this conclusion.

The store is first and foremost, a reflection of our family. What that means is, if you find it in the store, you find it in our pantry. Period. As I’ve said many times before, my number 1 customer sleeps beside me every night.

So what does that mean to our selection process? It means that almost everything will be natural. It will almost always be from North Carolina, or at least from the South if not. It means if we can help out a small operator, we will do it over purchasing from a larger, more established operator, even if it costs more. It means if we know the people and like them, vs ordering out of a catalog, we are more likely to carry their product. It means if the label is risque or vulgar, we won’t carry it. It means if the label is funny, especially darkly funny, it will have a good chance of making it to the shelf. It means if it’s something we buy routinely, we’ll stock it in the store. Mustard? Pickles? Salsa? Hot sauce? Yep, we buy all of those all the time. It means that we may stock something that you can find at Lowes Foods or Whole Foods. Are we trying to compete with them? Nope. We’re trying to make it convenient, first to SWMBO, but also to you our customer. When you buy a pork chop from us and we hand you a recipe to go along with it, the ingredients are in the store to make that recipe. That means no additional stops on the way home.

But most importantly to all of the above. If we really like the product. We really like the people. We really like the story. We will break all of the rules above in order to carry it. I’m on the hunt for olive oil right now. I don’t think I’ll find a local, NC based, olive oil farmer with distribution to Raleigh. But we use olive oil literally by the gallon in our kitchen. When I find one I like, it’s going in the store. Will that fit in with our “theme?” That has been the source of the debate. Our theme, nay, our mission statement is,

We are foodies, parents, and farmers. We cook 2.75 meals per day on average, 365 days per year. We want the best food we can get that is wholesome, flavorful, local, and practical. Usually in that order but not always. It may not be the cheapest, it may not be the greenest, but given all variables, it is the best we can do.  If you are in our store, then you are standing in our home and in our pantry. Enjoy.

Why that sounds like it should be crafted into a poster. Hmm, give me a minute. Ninja Cow Farm store mission statement

Boy do we have awesome goodies coming to the store!

First and foremost. I’ve gained 7 pounds! Oh the things I do for you folks. Here it is nearly bikini weather and I’m chubbier than ever. But don’t feel badly for me, it has been a hoot. SWMBO and I have been to Asheville, Raleigh, Goldsboro, and points in between visiting and sampling different products, talking to farmers and producers, eating and sampling, seeing production methods, and did I mention sampling products?

Got to be NC festival 2017
The Got to be NC festival in Raleigh was a great chance to meet local producers

I don’t know how many road miles we’ve put in but I know we aren’t even close to being done. Our diets have been out the window and the scale shows it. But I’m super excited about some of the products we have already selected and the ones to come. The hardest part so far has been choosing between this OR that. No sense stocking two equally good products. I’d love to say we are doing well in that department but so far all we’ve done is kick the can down the road and say we’ll decide with a taste off. Ugh, more pounds added.

I can’t tell you what we’ve selected yet, but everything is from NC. Everything is made by a small family or small family company. Everything has a story that will inspire you and make you happy. SWMBO is the keeper of The List. I’m not allowed to touch it. Some of the categories I can remember off the top of my head are:

Pickles, sauces, hot sauces, crackers, drinks (different kinds), salsas breads, and I can’t remember the rest. I think it’s like 40 vendors at this point and still growing. We have culled considerably more than the 40 or so vendors we have now. Ingredients are the number one way we get rid of people. Corn syrup? Pretty much gone. MSG? Are you kidding? Something I cannot pronounce? Better talk fast. I’d say we’ve culled well over 100.

Of what we’ve picked, some of the products are good. They are local, good story, small family, and a great compliment to the products we already sell. Think of mustard. I can only get so jazzed about mustard. But mustard on my beef or pork? Now we are talking.

Some of the products are stunning. I’m not sure I remember the story, or the people we met. All I know is we have to have more of their stuff, like NOW. I’m not sure what they go with, and I don’t care. It’s so good we are going to carry it anyway. Some names you will recognize, some you’ll never have heard off.

So with all these goodies coming, we’ve been spending time as well talking about shelving and storage.

Retail shelving in a store
Retail shelving in a store

It’s not rocket surgery, but it is an area we are relatively new to. Neither SWMBO or I have much in the way of a retail background. It of course seems easy, till you actually do it with no adult supervision.

Please don't make me adult today
How I feel most days

So we are going around, taking pictures of people’s display shelving. Do you know how weird it is to walk around and take pictures of the shelves in the store? Then we have to come back to try and figure out our own version of shelving, which of course changes depending on what items we choose to carry, which is still changing. And to make it even more confusing, our shelving will be bodged together from things we find and build. But don’t let is sound like I’m complaining, it’s actually been a lot of fun.

There will be LOTS more to come on what we have coming. We are trying to get things put together by around mid-April. In between now and then we’ll be announcing new products, showing up upgrades to the store and generally running around like crazy. So stay tuned, it should be fun.