Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Farmers haven't made a profit in canada since 1986...

Ran across a study that points out that the agribusiness payments made by farmers in Canada have consumed at least 100% of all farm net profit, and in some cases more than 100% - farmers have had
to make pay to keep farming their land after all the profit was gone, between 2006 and 2009. 

Who is taking the farmers money?  Agribusiness.  Those folks who sell you the improved seed and the better-weed-spray and the computerized tractor and all of the other stuff that makes farming easier have figured out how to basically take every cent from the farmers for the last 32 years. 

What do the farmers live on?  Primarly the subsidy offered by the Canadian government.  Without that subsidy these farmers would have been out of business long ago. 

I'm all for progress, and I'm all for efficiency, but I can't pay more than all of my income and still be a farmer.  Could you? 

You'll find the study here: 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Farm spring to-do list

Looking through the seed catalogs now, thinking about what I'm going to plant. 

This is an aerial view of the new farm.  It's 40 acres in a square, and the house and barns are directly in the center, which is actually where I'd put my house if I were to build a new one.  This is an older farm; the barn was built to be hand-worked and shoveled; I'm going to guess 1905 or 1907 based on some deed information, but certainly no later than about 1920.  The house is newer; the previous owners family told me that it was run as a dairy and the house burned down one year, so the farmer rebuilt the house with masonry blocks because of the three little pigs :), so a masonry block house it is. 

The picture is oriented so that north is up.  Along the south edge is a pretty thick stand of young cedar trees; they're not mature enough to be timber,but they'll be there in 20 years or so.  Where the trees are is a steep hill that rises to the south. 

At some point in the past they installed at least two generations of drain tiles; once with clay and cement pipes, and once with plastic corrugated pipe.  Even with that there's still a fair bit of water that flows off the hillside, down past the house and continues to the north property line. 

The ground hasn't been worked in a while, and it's pretty rough and rippled; which isn't a problem if you're grazing cattle, but slows you down when you're harvesting hay or any other crop.   I suspect that the ground fertility and PH isn't where it should be and that I'll have to do something before the final crop is planted.  In this area that usually means a healthy dose of lime (3-6 tons per acre) and then trace minerals (copper, sulfur, selnium, that sort of thing), and then whatever is called for in terms of fertilizers.    I'm going to hold off on making crop choices until I get the soil back, but whatever I do end up with has got to take into account wet feet, at least during the winter; and that limits the choices I can make. 

Speaking of rough; someone at some point took a trackhoe and dug holes in random places around the pasture.  maybe 20 or 30.  They're 4' wide and about 6' deep.  I guess that was to keep  you awake as you drive around on the tractor!

At this point I'm inclined to plow and final-grade the land to get it reasonably flat, and look at the drain tiles to see what shape they're in, how much water they're carrying now, and figure out if I want to do something about them - flush them out, replace them, ignore them.  Not sure at this point. 

In the northwest corner there's a small group of trees.  It looks like that may have been either a barn or a previous house or corral; there's lumber there and some old implements; next to it, to the east, is a small gravel borrow area.  The gravel area fills with water at this time of year; its about a half-acre in size, and would actually make a nice farm pond if it could hold water.  Maybe feed it new water from the drain tiles.  Kinda fun to think about. 

The plowing will have to wait until we've got some drier weather; in the meanttime I can repair the barbed-wire fences there, put in an electric, and graze the cattle on the new growth, particularly in the areas where I'll be working the soil.  No reason not to get some forage off of it before I plow it. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Question: How to find a farm to lease or buy

A farm is a red barn, right?  the new farm I purchased in 2017
There are lots of folks who want to farm, and the question comes up pretty frequently.  Here's how this one went: 

Hi there fellow farmers! I am a little new to the farm real estate scene. I am farming in my current location, but it's really not a viable area for it. After doing a lot of research, the areas that we are interested in DO have farms for sale, but the problem is either
A) They want to sell right away (therefore the possibility of using an FSA Loan, our only option, doesn't work for them)
B) There may be someone to work with us, but I have no idea how to find those people because I don't actually know anyone in the area.
It's pretty far away, so just dropping by to get to know people would be really hard but I might be able to make a weekend out of it.
So, dear fellow farmers, what would you do if you needed to move to a different area where you didn't know anyone?
Context: Northern California looking to move to Western Oregon, Western Washington, or possibly Denver-ish if their housing market crashes

I'll be looking for a new tenant for the farm pictured above this summer (current tenant moving to montana) so I asked what sort of farming that they wanted to do.  Answer?  

Hey that pretty much fits our timeline! We're currently raising Icelandic Sheep, Kunekune pigs, various rare breed chickens. We're small right now because we're restricted but we want to grow as fast as possible, but really want to be 100% grass fed. As long as you have grass we'll be happy.

Nothing that they described really sounded like profit to me, and unfortunately profit is how you pay the rent.  So I wrote back:  

3br houses rent in this area for $1500-1800/month. utilities are another $150. The 40 acres is in grass right now, produces 500 round bales a year @600lbs each (2-3 cuttings, weather depending). the bales cost me $13 each to produce, sell for $35, so the land nets about $11k/year, or roughly $275 profit per acre per year. so if you wanted a couple of acres you'd have to pay at least that per acre to make it worth my while.
I'm talking about this to you to give you an idea of what the math with be with any farmer landlord. your enterprise would need to produce $1600+150 = 1750 per month to cover the rent, and if you wanted 3 acres, add another (275 * 3 / 12 = ) $70 a month for $1820/month.
have you thought this through to the point where you have a plan to net (after taxes) $3k a month?

Think I was too rough on them?