We are looking for a farmer who raises pastured pork that would be interested in selling to us for our store. But Farmer Dan, you ask, you already raise pigs. Why would you want a farmer to do what you are already doing?
The answer is pretty simple. I have two guys who work for me full time. One mainly works on the farm, one works mainly off the farm. Both are awesome guys and have been with me for years. All the way through our opening of our store and all the shenanigans we’ve been through going from one freezer with some occasional beef to the full farm store we have in place now.
One of my guys, the one who works on the farm mostly, is going to be leaving us this year. It is amicable. We always knew he’d go back to construction at some point and the time has come. So now I have two businesses and one guy to work on both. That is doable, but not under our current structure. We need, as they say in aviation, to “load shed” some of the work we do around here.
That means no more big remodels of houses or commercial buildings that we self perform (that is what our off farm guy does). That also means we need to think about how we manage our animals in a way that is more efficient. The cows I can manage with about 20 minutes a day. Not counting loading and unloading of cows to go to the processor.
The pigs, they require hours every day. Not the pigs themselves, but the literal tons of produce that we have to go get, handle, sort, deliver, and clean up. Produce and pigs are enough to keep one guy fairly busy. Now that isn’t technically true. I could put out corn feeders, and buy corn, and the pigs would be pretty self sufficient. Or I could pasture them, and change our grazing practices, needing new techniques, new equipment, etc. And they would still need a decent amount of work. Not counting the times they escape if we don’t have our fencing perfect.
Or I could simply partner with another farmer who is already producing quality pork, handing him a steady customer who always pays his bills. There is a bit of risk in bringing in a partner, because when they have production issues, you can’t affect their production yourself to solve it, like you would if it was your own production. You also have to rely on them to take care of you when others come calling. Sometimes they do, sometimes they sell your product to the other buyer to .10 more per lb. and say “Sorry, I’m out right now.”
But we’ve always believed in partnering in our store, and promoting those partnerships. Unlike a lot of people in our industry who relabel someone else’s product as their own and sell it to unaware customers. We think being open and honest is what brings people to us and more importantly keeps them coming to us. We celebrate the partners we work with, not hide the fact.
Being a farmer, I know what to look for in animal production. I know how to judge practices and people. I can be our customers eyes and ears, looking for the signs of slipping in a bit of corn, or not taking care of the animals properly. And I can pick a good farmer who does good work, pay him/her a fair price, and bring pork into the store for both your families and mine. I already do it with many other farmers, so this is just one more.
That will let us get by with two businesses and one guy to cover them both. Farm in the morning, work on houses in the afternoon. On heavy farming days, no houses get worked on. On heavy repair/remodel days, I need to cover the farm for my guy, or I need to go hold the dumb end of the tape measure, or help lift the long and heavy board. Not optimal personally, but doable for a business.
To make all this work, I need a good pork farmer, who has good practices, and is willing to work with us. It would preferably be someone located in the Eastern or central part of NC as we don’t have any current relationships in the Western part of NC. What that means is, I don’t want to drive all over Eastern NC picking up products as I do now, and then have to backtrack 3 hours to go West. I’ve already reached out to two connections who might be able to work with us. If you know of a farmer you would recommend, send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see if they could be an option.