Archive | February, 2015

Farmers Market Cart

27 Feb

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With all the excitement about the St. Paul farmers market, there has been a lot of worrying about how we’re going to handle a (much) bigger market.  We’ve been slapping wheels on appliances and researching new Point Of Sale systems.

The time has come to commit ourselves to a new POS, and Square has won out.  They don’t have a few features that would make selling meat much easier, but it’s good enough.  There are new mobile-POS systems out there that are a little cheaper, but Square’s still has the most full-featured software and that’s what tipped the balance for us.  We want sales reports, inventory and cashdrawer reports; Square is the only one that has ’em (that’s not murderously expensive).

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So with the POS all sorted, it was time to make ourselves a nifty little cart to put everything on.  We’re putting wheels on everything this year to make a nicer presentation at markets, so why not wheels for this too?

We grabbed the “small” wheels from the fridge and promptly got to building a 24″x36″ cart out of scrap lumber that we had lying about.

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The cart incorporates a nice little spot for our cash-drawer that’s rigged up to the Square stand, we don’t want that running away on us.
I used up a few 2×4’s, 1×12’s, MDF, Baltic Birch Plywood and Luan scraps that I had laying around. This cart has about every different type of lumber known to man.

 

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Up top we’ve got two little holes to get the Square stand all mounted and wired up.
It only takes a single specially-shaped USB cord, so we opted to keep the cord out of the way under the base.

 

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For the sake of our future convenience (and/or sanity) there are two drawers and some extra space to store all the stuff you end up needing or wanting at a farmers market.
Our list of stuff goes something like this:
Sharpie markers and alcohol pads – for writing and erasing on our laminated price lists
Pens
Business cards & holder
Brochures & holder
Informational & recipe postcards
Price list & signage
Calculators
White duct tape
Double-sided foam “poster” tape
Trashcan
Insect repellant
Sunscreen
Hand warmers
Freezer gloves
Phone charger
First-Aid kit
Extra shopping bags

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Speaking of shopping bags, I rigged up this beaut from a 2×4 with a few lengthwise cuts at about 15°. Its enough to hold a whole mess of shopping bags at the ready.

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When it’s time to go home the bag-holder and everything else slides back out of the way.
The vegetable vendors have been jealous of how quickly we could pack-up our old setup. This is going to make it so much faster, we’ll be on the road home in no time.

Trust Us, We’re Experts!

25 Feb

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I just got this in the mail and couldn’t figure out why they’d sent me a copy.
I didn’t remember subscribing to Hobby Farms magazine, but something seemed a bit familiar.

It took me a day or two, but I finally remembered a string of emails from a few months back…

Turn to page 40, and yup. That’s me.

 

A Case for Hybrids

By Leslie J. Wyatt

Some people feel–and very strongly–that perpetuating White Cornish Cross genetics is

unethical. How can it be okay to breed animals whose quality of life is such that they practically

eat themselves to the brink of death, lack the ability and/or the drive to stir far from the feeder,

and who are stressed by such normal occurrences as summer heat? In the quest for a better meat

chicken without the drawbacks of the Cornish Cross, some farmers are experimenting with their

own hybrids, and Andrew Johnmeyer of Green Machine Farm in Zumbrota, MN is one of them.

When asked what would be the advantage to creating your own hybrid strain, Johnmeyer, who

grows pastured, humanely-raised poultry, beef, pork, and produce says, “The main advantage is

that you can control your genetics, much like you can when raising pigs or cattle. For raising

birds on pasture, you can select for traits that benefit you like heat and cold tolerance, foraging

ability, etc. I look for the same traits that chicken producers have been looking for for the past

100+ years: growth rate, muscling (especially in the breast), white feathers, white skin and low

sexual-dimorphism.”

On Green Machine Farm, which sells to consumers, Johnmeyer has raised Cornish Cross,

Freedom Ranger (aka Red Ranger, Rainbow Broiler) and his own hybrid created by crossing

White Orpington with Dark Cornish heritage breeds. His hybrids turned out to be far too slow

growing to be economically feasible. He also adds that it takes a lot of time and energy to raise

your own successive generations of meat chickens. “Hatching successfully can be a real pain at a

small scale, and for most working farms the opportunity cost is just too high to justify raising

your own chicks.” He goes on to say, “I find that it’s far easier to sell the Cornish Cross because

it’s what consumers are used to eating. The customers who have tried our Rangers and Hybrids

have loved the flavor, though some have had difficulty adjusting to the differences in cooking

that are required for an older bird.” He advises that whatever you choose to raise, it’s very

important to communicate the differences (good and bad) to the consumer so that they can

manage their expectations. Johnmeyer does like the explosive growth of the Cornish Cross and

their near universal availability. “They grow out very quickly and you never have to look far to

find Cornish Cross chicks.” However, he adds, “I really dislike a few “side-effects” of their

explosive growth. They drink a lot of water, much more than any other breed of chicken. In a

pasture-raised situation it can be a challenge to keep them adequately watered in hot weather. As

a consequence of their high water intake, they create a lot of manure that can be a big problem

when they are in the brooder.” Because of this, they are the most challenging breed to keep in

dry bedding, as they will soil it far quicker than other breeds.”  the toll that this explosive growth

takes on their bodies and behavior. In addition to the aforementioned leg and cardiovascular

problems as their muscle-growth outstrips their organ and skeletal growth, Johnmeyer says,

“They are also much more vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions. Hot days, cold

nights and even being moved on pasture can kill them.”

Johnmeyer states that he has liked raising the Rangers the most, as they combine most of

the convenience and growth of the Cornish X with the pasture-suited traits and low mortality of

the heritage breed chickens. “The law of diminishing returns is very applicable to raising

chickens on pasture. Just taking a Cornish Cross out of the broiler house and raising it on pasture

results in a huge improvement in flavor and texture. You can keep improving, but it comes at an

ever-higher cost. Alternative broiler breeds are more expensive (mainly due to the increased time

it takes them to mature) but they will taste better still. Past that, I haven’t found breeding our own

broilers to be an economically feasible option.”

 

It’s nice to have one of my complete failures (the homegrown hybrids) immortalized in print.

Big Wheels

14 Feb

It’s that time of year again, mostly spent inside where it’s warm.  That and the new year is kicking off with all kinds of “business” stuff to get done.  There’s all the tax prep, market applications and market-season planning going on.  While going through our big to-do list, I noticed that our annual re-inspection by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is coming up in 6 weeks or so.  Time to get cracking on a few projects.

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One such project is putting some new casters on our egg refrigerator.

The egg fridge is a True GDM-7, a commercial refrigerator (as required by the MDA) that we take to farmers markets with us.  For the past year I’ve had it on these 3″ casters.  It lives in the farmers market trailer and we roll it out at each farmers market.

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I love having the refrigerator out in front of our booth at farmers markets as it has really helped our sales.  Even though we have pretty extensive sinage (if I do say so myself) you’d be amazed at the number of farmers market shoppers who don’t realize we have anything to sell.  With the egg fridge at least passersby realize that we have something to sell, even if they think we only have eggs to sell. Getting a product out where customers can see it is awesome.

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While I loved having the egg fridge on wheels, the 3″ casters were aggravatingly small.  They didn’t work that well on anything that wasn’t perfectly smooth and the little “brake” on the wheels didn’t work very well.  It went flying around the trailer a bit more than it should have (with no eggs in it  thankfully).

I decided that some bigger wheels were in order this year.  These 5″ wheels should roll a lot easier.  Instead of brakes on the wheel, I’m going to bungee the fridge to the wall of the trailer when it’s in transit.

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I made a lovely frame to bolt the casters to out of some 2×4, 1×4 and whatnot. This fridge came with four metal feet, the feet screwed in with a 3/8″ bolts.  In our current arrangement the wooden frame is bolted to the fridge using 3/8″ bolts where the feet were.  The big casters are then lag-bolted to the wooden frame.  The old casters were screwed directly to the bottom of the fridge with sheet-metal screws.  I was a bit nervous to go that route with the bigger wheels. I guess the manufacturers don’t get much demand for big-wheeled refrigerators.

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That’s too bad, cause this bad boy wheels around like a dream!  And it looks about a foot higher.
Now lets see what other stuff I have around to slap some wheels on…

Cow Snowday

6 Feb

The cows were out chasing each other around in circles in the new snow.

Apparently kids will be kids, irregardless of species.