We won the Next Door challenge!

Cow with a halo, Holy Cow
Holy Cow! I can’t believe that we won!

It isn’t like it was the mid-term election or anything. This was actually important! Top choice in the NextDoor.com local favoritesOur customers have voted us the number one activity and farmers market! Our competition was the State Farmer’s Market, amongst others. That truly is a David and Goliath competition. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us. I have absolutely no idea what to do with this information except feel warm inside on this cold, rainy day.

If you want to see the full recommendations list, you can click here.

marketing for dummies front cover

Looks like it is time to blow the dust off and read chapter 2.

Seriously though, thank you everyone for supporting us. We have ZERO dollars in advertising budget, we don’t go to farmers markets, have a stand by the road side, or heck even have a real sign telling you we are here, so things like this are huge for us.

Exciting new dairy products in the store

With the advent of herd shares in North Carolina, we are now able to offer products in the store you’ve never seen before (because they were illegal).

For members of our herd share, you will now be able to purchase raw milk butter, honey butter, and yogurt. All of these products are made from our raw milk at our dairy farm.

These products actually showed up for the first time last week. However I didn’t announce them when they came in because almost immediately it all went back out the door, so there wasn’t much to talk about. 

We’ve had requests for years for raw milk butter. I’m glad to finally be able to help out our customers.

We’ve also had requests for raw milk yogurt, but of course all I could offer there was that you could make it yourself. Now we have ready to eat yogurt in the store!

In addition to our raw milk products, next week we’ll have our holiday favorite, egg nog from Simply Natural Dairy, back in stock. As always, Simply Natural products are pasteurized, but they are as good as it gets for traditional dairy products. Egg nog is only available during the holiday season and we only get a gallon or so a week so if you know you want some, make sure to put in a special order with Jeanette or the girls. We will have some for you the next week.

No milk today

Two gallons of milk on the counter

Just a quick note. One of my farmers I meet on Mondays suddenly couldn’t meet till Tuesday this week. That means my normal trip to our dairy farm that I do at the same time will now be on Tuesday as well.

Therefore, we will not have fresh pet milk in the store today but will instead have it on Wednesday. My apologies to everyone, these things are out of my control.

Vote for us on Nextdoor.com

I received an email over the weekend saying that NextDoor.com was holding an annual best in the area contest and that I should vote for who I liked. I took a moment to scroll through all the choices and saw that we are listed as one of the choices!

I don’t know how you go about being on the list but I’m thankful to be there. I know as I was looking through the choices I was paying attention to who was listed and maybe getting some ideas for date night.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help on things like this, at least according to all the requests I get to go vote in this or that, which I rarely do. So with that black hole of karma, I’m asking you, our customers, to give us some love and vote for us in the farmers market category. We are up against the State Farmer’s Market, so I doubt we’ll be winning anything but at least having a good showing would give us some notoriety which would be great for our little store. The biggest obstacle we have as a business is simply getting the word out to people that we are here so something like this is huge for us.

This is the link that was sent to me in my email, CLICK HERE. I hope it works for people that are not me. The link is about 1000 characters long so who knows? If it doesn’t, go to Nextdoor.com and click on the left side for “recommendations.” You should be prompted to vote in the contest.

Thank you everyone for your help.

Herd shares at Ninja Cow Farm are starting, here are the details

Senate Bill 711 became law on October 1st, 2018. This means that for the first time in my lifetime, herd shares are legal in the state of NC. There isn’t a lot of detail in the law concerning what is and what is not a herd share so it is left up to us farmers to implement the law as best we can. As I see it, we have several choices.

  1. Setup a monthly payment plan for the “purchase” of your milk cow. (i.e. $50 a month, plus extra fees like delivery, storage, container fees, refrigeration, etc.)You get a picture of your cow and you can say this is Bessie’s milk. Whether you want milk this week or not, you get your gallon.
  2. One time purchase of a fraction of the cow. A milk cow is worth about $1500. So we’d charge each and every person who buys in a portion of that figure. Then there would be associated fees for the milk just like the above. You’d have to purchase your milk each week, as above. The result would be the same as for ownership, but the upfront cost would be much higher. The paperwork for the farmer would be less though.
  3. We combine all fees, costs, etc. into an ongoing per gallon fee that works for the farmer and the consumer. We need to charge a fee for the buy in, but after that we charge based on demand. For a completely different example; if you want to go to the private bar, you pay a membership fee. Once inside, you pay for each drink you consume. If you are the designated driver, then all you pay is your membership fee. If you are the regular at the bar, you pay the membership fee plus your bar tab each night. The membership fee stays the same, the bar tab changes depending on your consumption. We would handle herd shares exactly the same. There is a membership fee, plus a cost per gallon (instead of per drink).

We did look at all three options, but in the end we’ve elected to go with option 3 for the following reasons.

  • Our costs are already built into the current price of milk. That means that what you are paying now would be what you would pay going forward. Per gallon costs would not change.
  • The administrative expense of maintaining our current setup, plus a list of herd share customers, is fairly minimal.  We would not be adding much in the way of costs.
  • We are not going to sell the entire animal to the customer, nor rights to sell fractions, or have authority of the management of the animal, including its outright sale. What we are selling is the rights to the animal through one lactation. Technically we are selling you the animal, but each lactation cycle devalues the animal as she gets older. By buying in, you are part of the herd share, but there is no need to buy you back out at the end of the lactation. We will simply retire the current list of herd share members, who forfeit their buy in price as a depreciation on the cow. We then start a new herd share list the next year with everyone who is interested buying in anew.

With all of the above in mind, here is our plan:

A gallon and a half gallon of cow/goat milk will remain at its current price for herd share members.

To buy into the herd share, we will charge the cost of one gallon of milk.

Once you have bought in, we will add your name to the herd share list and you will be free to buy milk and milk products (we have butter and yogurt coming from our cows!)

For those that do not want to buy into the herd share, we will not charge the herd share buy in fee. We will instead charge one dollar more per gallon than our current pricing. This will be to offset the cost of the pet milk label that must be affixed to the container under NC law. We will not discuss what you are doing with said milk, other than to hear how much your dog/cat/goldfish likes the milk. If you tell us you are drinking it, we will refuse the sale as it is still quite illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption outside of a herd share agreement.

We hope that you find this arrangement very easy to understand and more importantly easy to implement. As you come in expect to be queried about herd shares. We truly do not mind which option you chose, but we will try to make all options available to you, our valued customers.


No turkeys this year due to Hurricane Florence

After much back and forth, I’ve just received work from our chicken farmer. Sad face emoji

No turkeys this year for Thanksgiving. The losses from Hurricane Florence were just too great to be able to supply us and this late in the game there just isn’t time for a plan B. I’m terribly sorry that this happened, and that it has taken this long to get word out to people. This post is up not more than two minutes after I found out.

For those of you who we’ve put on our pre-order list, we’ll be contacting you directly to make sure you received the word. But I wanted to get the broadest word out first which is via a post to the blog.

The mud run is tomorrow

After our return to summer this week, the forecast for tomorrow is 81 degrees and cloudy. There is a chance of some widely scattered showers, but they look to be more in the afternoon. That is simply a perfect day for a mud run. Warm enough to enjoy the run, cool enough not to sweat to death.

Scaling a wall at the DragonOCR mud runThere is still time to register and run tomorrow. Just visit Dragon OCR to register and run. We’ll have our full complement of parkers on site to get you to your spot, and the store open as usual with fresh made cookies from the girls to celebrate your successful run.

Obstacle at the mud runI’ve had some people say they wanted to run, but they didn’t think they could make it over some of the obstacles (that they haven’t even seen). Rest assured, this isn’t the olympics. If an obstacle looks too tough, just run right around it. The idea is to have fun and get some outdoor exercise. So come on out and give it a try.

The parking crew will be running it tonight as a test run, and a thanks for doing the parking job. I’m sure they will be able to give you tips on which ones are the most fun when you get here.

The mud run is this weekend!

Yes I know we already had a mud run scheduled. But then this lady named Florence showed up and things would have been a bit too muddy.

So October 6th is our new date, this coming weekend. The good news is that has given our mud run people some extra time to get things ready so the course should be even better than we’d expected. As before, all the signup and detail information is available at their website, DragonOCR. To participate just go online to their site and signup.

We will be open for regular business next Saturday in the store, but we will not be scheduling tours as we normally do. Tours will be offered every 30 minutes and will be group tours, which is our normal method when we have a large event.

I have had a few people tell me they’d like to come but they weren’t sure they could get over some of the obstacles. I’m not in charge of the event, but we aren’t running the Boston Marathon here. If the obstacle is too hard, just run around it and continue on to the next one. The idea is to have fun, not set a new record.

Spots are still available so sign up and come see us on Saturday. The weather looks great!

Cow milk is coming!

Bottle and glass of milk

It is official. We are back to milking and I will be, Lord willing, picking up our first load of cow milk from our other farm this coming Monday. This first week I’ll only be picking up 10 gallons but I’ll also be picking up our regular order of goat milk as well so we should, for the first time in months, have plenty of milk for everyone.

If you need to know if we have milk before you come out, you can always call us on our store phone during store hours at 919-322-0197.

Greetings from Hurricane Florence

I received a lot of messages and calls from friends and family after the hurricane. Mainly everyone wanted to know if we were alright. The short answer is yes, we were fine. We lost power for about 18 hours, but that was from one errant limb. No damage, no real issues. The same wasn’t true for our friends down East.

Spork, the Princess and I are all members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). In operation since December of 1941 and currently part of the Air Force’s total force and an auxiliary of the US Air Force, it is a pretty neat operation. We fly  Air Force owned Cessna airplanes, but we operate with 100% volunteer civilians. We go to meetings, march around a bit (the kids, not me) and take training on all kinds of things. It really is a great organization and is financially the best deal going ($75 per year) if you are looking for something for your kids.

One of the things we do as CAP is Emergency Services (ES). That means we do things like look for missing persons, do some light search and rescue, and respond in disasters. Florence, by order of the President, was a disaster. We received an alert for a possible mission on Thursday the day before the hurricane hit. Then Friday was quiet as the hurricane worked its way ashore. Saturday there was a bit of back and forth and some communication to get our teams ready. There was a flurry of activity on my end as we put names to seats in our CAP van, then there was nothing. Quiet.

About 4pm, the Mrs asked me if she should make dinner. With a hurricane ashore pounding Wilmington, and it getting closer to dark. I said yes, it is too late in the day for them to dispatch us. At 4:15 I received a text, “have you left yet?” Just like that, we were off and running.

It took about two hours to get Spork and I to the airport, and the rest of our cadets there as well to meet up. We launched in our van into the hurricane at 6:15 and headed off into the night. It was myself, and 5 cadets in the van, a Chevrolet minivan. We worked our way Eastward, dodging washed out roads and bridges, backtracking and trying new routes. We worked till about 11pm when mission base decided we’d had enough and had us retreat to a shelter in Wallace. It was a school without power and with hundreds of people in residence already.

The next morning we departed to Warsaw where we waited for mission base to come up with our orders. While waiting we were tasked to go pick up medical personnel in Jacksonville and take them somewhere, I forget where now. We’d met up with two other CAP vans the night before, one from Louisburg, one from Charlotte and we were working together as a team. This came in really handy as all we had for gear was what we had in our individual packs. With the other teams combined we could share resources and work together.

One of the other senior members and I took off in our van to try to get to Jacksonville to pick up the medical personnel. After two hours of driving, we had made it 12 miles from our starting point. There was no way to get cross-country as all the roads were blocked by water or completely washed away. We reluctantly pulled the plug on that mission and told them they’d need to send air assets.

After much back and forth, we finally were given word that there was a path to Wilmington. It involved going almost all the way back to Raleigh, then heading East towards Jacksonville from there. Once in Jacksonville, we headed South on 17. There were a few moments where we wondered if our chosen path would be open but about 6:30pm we arrived in Wilmington at our new home where we were met by harried first responders trying to get people in and get them situated. It took us 24 hours to get there, a new personal worst for a trip from Raleigh to Wilmington.

Our new home was an abandoned Sears in Independence Mall. We were told that 500 people would be bunking with us. Fire and rescue, DEA, Customs and Border Protection, military. You name it, we all shared a space.

CAP’s speciality in a disaster is an operation called a POD, or Point of Distribution. This is where the public can come and pick up food, water, blankets, tarps, whatever it is that FEMA has decided the community needs.

Prepping pallets for the days work on a POD
Prepping pallets for the days work on a POD

Traditionally the POD is established by the government and CAP shows up to provide trained but non-professional labor. Through some on site marketing by yours truly, along with another senior member from that first group to arrive, we were able to meet with the Incident Management Team brought in to manage the operation and as a result of that meeting we were given command of all the PODs in New Hanover county! To my knowledge this is the first time this has happened in CAP as we are normally labor, not management. As one of the fab four of that first group, I was to be an POD Manager (PM) of one of the POD sites, with two of my peers taking the PM job at the other two sites. The fourth unlucky soul, our fearless leader, was to be our Point of Contact (POC) and IC working inside at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) (Tired of acronyms yet?)

There were three PODs in the county, named North, Central, and South. I allowed my peers to take first choice and I ended up with South POD, which suited me just fine. Central is the one that showed up on the news and also the one that hosted the politicians when they made their appearances. Trying to run a crew of 40-60 people, deal with the public, the police, the military and then insert a politician and the associated news crews into the mix wasn’t something I relished the thought of. I was happy to be South on my little POD.

Briefing cadets, county workers, and military for the days operations
Briefing cadets, county workers, and military for the days operations

As PM of the POD site, everyone on the site reported to me. County workers, police, military, and yes my CAP cadets and senior members. I was a 1st Lieutenant surrounded by a bunch of Lt. Colonels so it made for an interesting chain of command. But I had the best team I could ever have been given and everyone jumped in to do their jobs regardless of rank. I won’t go through the gory details but on opening day we served over 1000 people from a parking lot that as the sun set the night before had exactly ZERO materials available to us. It was a busy morning!

Cadets and national guard moving water
Hand downloading materials was part of the job

After running POD South for two days, we were due to rotate home.  That was problematic because the roads into and out of Wilmington were reported to be flooded and impassable. We had several teams who were stuck or were turned back and couldn’t make it in. That meant that our relief personnel were not showing up. That meant that if we rotated out, there wouldn’t be any handoff between the experienced teams and the new teams, a recipe for disaster.

Our leaders showed up at my POD for an inspection and after our walk through they requested, strongly, that I stay for another rotation (5 days). I explained I’d already turned my underwear front to back and inside out, and that I HAD to get myself and some of my cadets home, but if they’d allow me to go home and come back with fresh clothes and fresh cadets I’d do so. I was given the green light so the next morning after the POD was up and running, we took off to cross the uncrossable roads and make it home. Three hours later we showed up and hot swapped some cadets. Of my original team of 5 cadets, four refused to stay home and we ended up bringing back a total of 10 people for the second rotation (after running the laundry machine as hard and fast as we dared).

On our return, we were met with incredulity that we’d made it back. Roads were still reported as impassable with teams still stuck all around the state unable to make it. But 5 seconds after that it was back to business and I was told I was moving to POD central with my team and we were running that one now. We served two more days at Central and then on Sunday morning, one week and one day after departing home in a hurricane, we returned home.

My CAP cadets, on our last day at POD South
My CAP cadets, after close of business on our last day at POD South

Cadets, who were between 12 and 17 years old, started their days about 5:00am. Breakfast was usually a cold sandwich or a breakfast bar from a box. They mustered, were briefed, then herded to vans where they transported to their PODs. They went to work about 6:30 to be open by 7am. They worked in shifts, one shift on, one shift off. But when you were off shift, you were called to do any number of things that might be needed. Stack pallets. Prep lunch. Go get Major SoAndSo. Meals were well done by the local crews.

The temperatures were somewhere between 84 and 94 while we were there. The kids wore full military uniforms with safety vests over them. They wore military style boots. At 7pm we closed the barricades and cleaned up our site. There would be an evening muster and briefing, then we’d caravan home to our abandoned Sears. They did get showers working after several days and all 100 cadets had 45 minutes to get in and out of the showers. This includes the split for girls in their own separate shower. It was lights out at 10pm and often I saw cadets up till 11pm. Those are 12 hour work days with all the associated front and back end logistics. They did this every day, and never once did I see anything but a smile.

Lt. Col Swindell driving a CAP van and smiling
We made a lot of new friends from all over. Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and of course NC.

For the POD manager and many of the seniors, it was up in the 4am range, then work the same schedule as the cadets. When we returned to the Sears, we’d have a meeting with all PMs and our leadership. This would go till about 10:30-11:00. Then it was shower, get back to the desk (a folding table borrowed) and start working on rosters for the next day. That would normally take till about 2am but sometimes 3am. Yes I just described as much as a 23 hour day. It was done at that pace for days at a time. Not by everyone, but by more than a couple.

On our last night working a POD, a cadet came up to me and said he’d left his phone at the site. This was after lights out, when I’d really like to have gotten in my bunk and got some real sleep just one night. But I needed to take him back out to get his phone so oh well. I needed another cadet to go with me so it wasn’t just he and I in the van (there are cadet protection rules in CAP). I walked over to my squadron and told them of my dilemma and asked for a volunteer. Some of these kids had been on this pace for 6 days at this point. Everyone, including the ones already dressed for and in bed, jumped up, laughing and joking, and filled the van to go as a group. I told them I only needed one. “You need help. We help. Lets go.”

I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Spork and the Princess on their last day at the POD
Spork and the Princess on their last day at the POD