Archive | September, 2012

Farm To Table Dinner – 2012

23 Sep

Last night was the 2nd annual Fayette Farmers Market Farm-to-Table dinner.

We got an early start on the festivities, with most of us starting to set everything up around 1:00, but Joseph had already been at it for hours.


As we got all the tables and place-settings set up, they even conned me into helping out.


In spite of my assistance, I think everything sure ended up looking nice! We all have Joseph to thank for that.


And the menu sure looked nice as well.


Much to our chagrin, a few of us guys, myself and Derek Bryant were tasked with manning the wine and beer table. We were nearly despondent with grief.


By 6:00 all of the folks had arrived and we sat down to eat. But first Kristen O’Dell, the market manager, let everyone know which farm each dish came from.


After dinner it ended up cooling off and getting a bit chilly out. The adults kept warm by hanging around the fire and socializing.


The kids….
Well, they kept warm the way that kids do. By playing around in the yard and on the zipline as if it were 75 degrees and sunny.


Thanks everyone for coming out, we hope you enjoyed yourselves!

“It Gets Cold Here”

20 Sep

So my folks were up in Zumbrota a few weekends ago taking care of inspections and such. While they were out checking out the town, they stopped by the hardware store on Main street and talked to the owner.  They mentioned that they would be moving to Zumbrota from Missouri.  The guys reaction: “You know it gets cold here, don’t ya?”

Safe to say the thought has crossed my mind before.  Probably about the time that I wrote a check for 1000 gallons of propane to heat a 1890’s farmhouse this coming winter…  I hope I don’t have to write that big of a check too many times this season.

So here’s the heating situation:

One 1000 gallon propane tank, a mid-ninties-vintage central air HVAC unit (non-condensing, likely only around 75% efficient) and a great-big fireplace in the room just off the kitchen.

The previous occupant of the house clearly made heavy use of the fireplace, as there is quite a pile of wood in the basement, and obvious signs of use in the fireplace itself.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the fireplace, but there’s no way I’m using it to try to heat the house.  Fireplaces are notorious for sucking more warm air out of the house than they ever put back in.   But a nice used wood-burning fireplace insert would be just the ticket.

So I hit the old Rochester Craigslist and tried to dig up a deal on a used wood insert.


You pretty much have to go up to the cities to find a reasonably priced wood insert, and even then, you’re looking at a pretty old one without any of the modern efficiency improvements, like these old Fisher stoves.


Anyway, I was about to give up when I thought “hell, I’m still in Missouri, lets look around here.”

Mere moments later I was emailing a fella about a Lopi wood-burning insert.  It’s even new enough to have a blower and provisions for secondary-combustion (the little lever on the top-right in the picture).


I drove down after work yesterday and picked it up for about $300.  It needs a good cleaning and a few firebricks, but other than that it’s ready to go.  It probably helps that it’s built like a tank.  And it definitely helps that the seller coaxed four of his friends to help load the thing onto the trailer.  It probably weighs 500lbs.


Chicken Tenderloin. Gimme a break.

11 Sep

So here recently I’ve been watching more TV than I normally do (none) and like everyone else who watches TV, I’m barraged by a bunch of stupid ads.

But the one that really gets me lately is this gem.

What’s not to like, you ask?

I mean sure, antibiotic-free chicken, fed no animal by-products, raised in a certified humane facility. That’s all great, especially coming as a selling-point from a big fast-food chain.

But what really gets my goat is this bit.

“They might not know that they’re called ‘tenders’ because they come from the tenderloin of the breast. It’s not a strip or a finger, it’s a true tenderloin, hand-trimmed and cooked to order.”


Are we as a culture so distanced from our food that our food purveyors can expect us not to understand that “Tenderloin of the breast” is a complete contradiction in terms?

Now I realize that many folks haven’t grown up around a farm, or in a family of hunters.  But the vast majority of us can understand English, and have at least a minimal grasp of anatomy.

Tenderloin. – hmm, and where is the loin exactly?  Oh yeah, down there.

Breast. – from what I can recall, those are mostly on the upper half of things.


So to reiterate what english already did for us, there is no such thing as the “tenderloin of the breast” they’re on opposite sides of the animal!

Oh boy.


Water Problems

11 Sep

So here’s the deal:

We’ve got a lease signed on the Zumbrota farm for the next year.  My parents, are currently under contract to buy the farm.  They just went up last weekend to be there for the inspection.  Everything with the house (which we will be living in within a month!) went pretty much as expected.

There were, however a few problems that cropped up.

Remember this?  The nice little pond in the middle of the farm?


Yeah, well it’s not there anymore.

Apparently as soon as it quit raining, it dried right up. Think we’ve got a leaking pond?


This wouldn’t be an altogether insurmountable problem, because there are still two old cisterns near the barn that can hold quite a bit of water that runs off from the barn roof.  Still plenty of free water for the cows to drink, right? There was a small issue with the cisterns, one was uncapped, leaving the possibility that someone or something could fall in and drown.

Simple enough to fix though, just stipulate in the contract that the sellers will put a cap on the cistern.  Done.


Well, not quite.


Apparently, they misread a thing or two.  Instead of capping the cistern, they tore both of them out and filled them in.

Not good.


They’ve been notified of the problem, and while they can’t un-destroy the cisterns, they are going to look into fixing (or at least diagnosing) the pond.

Farm Store Plans

8 Sep

So we’ve been making plans for the on-farm store in Minnesota.  There is a small garage-type building right next to the house that looks ideal for the purpose, but it needs a bit of work, specifically, a new roof.

We’ve been thinking of an on-farm store for a while now, and that’s part of the reason we chose this farm in Zumbrota.  It’s close to town, and right off the highway, making it convenient for our customers to get to our store.

Just think of all the times we won’t have to load everything in the truck, drive to the farmers market, setup, sell, take-down, drive home and finally, unload.

But there are a few less-obvious benefits of an on-farm store as well.

The first and foremost of these is the lower regulatory burden and it’s attendant benefits.

Selling your eggs to a Restaurant or Grocery Store? You’ll need to Candle, Grade, Pack and Label your eggs.  And you’ll get paid a (lower) wholesale price for them.

Selling at the Farmers Market? You’ll still need to Candle and Pack them, but you’ll at least get a retail price for them.

Selling at your on-farm store?  There aren’t any of those restrictions. Lower regulatory burden means we can offer lower prices too.  We’re planning on offering eggs from the farm-store at $3/dozen.  The same eggs sold at the farmers market will be $3.25 or $3.50 to account for the added costs.

Keep in mind that this example is just for eggs, but holds true for many different product categories such as poultry, dairy and canned or processed foods.

With on-farm poultry and dairy, there are opportunities that simply don’t exist for farmers selling off the farm.  There is simply no legal way for a consumer to buy raw milk or a chicken that was processed on-farm from a farmer who is selling at a farmers market or through a grocery store.  Consumers get more choice and better prices, and the farmer gets more time to actually farm.

There is a bit of a sticking point with an on-farm store, and that is the big question: Manned or Unmanned?

We’ve been leaning toward Unmanned, and it seems that we’re in good company.  While theft is always a bit of a concern, a large company has just helped us out by doing a bit of an experiment with the honor system.

This summer, Honest Tea conducted experiments in 30 cities to test people’s honesty.
We set up unmanned pop-up stores and asked people to pay $1 per bottle on the honor system.
Data was collected and we compiled our findings into the National Honesty Index.

Note that the worst performance was a pay-rate of 61%  (Detroit) with only two cities coming in under 80%.  The average pay-rate seems to hover just below 95%.

I can live with that.

More importantly, I can make a living with that.