Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When you visit a farm...

If you've been following my blog you know that I'm actually running an active farm. My goals are pretty traditional; I'd like to have a lifestyle that includes job satisfaction, bring good product to market, and to make people happy by doing so.

So when you come to my farm, or pretty much any other farm, there's a few rules that you need to know and follow to make your visit successful. No offense here -- but sometimes when you're talking about manners you need to be blunt to get the point across. A farm isn't the environment that most people hang out in.

Buy local
First, do support your local farm. Especially here in western washington where the regulatory burden is particularly heavy, buy local if at all possible.

Park carefully
The driveway, road and paths that the farm has are actually pretty important. Depending on the day and time, there's a fairly good chance that something will be delivered, or some task will need to be done that will require some clearance. So take care when you park your car to make sure that you do your best not to block the driveway. If you're not sure where you parked is OK, make that the very first thing you ask about. This small courtesy is appreciated. For the more formal farms, those folks who are doing agritourism you'll find signs directing you to parking, but for a small farm, that nice big patch of gravel is a carefully maintained place where you can turn the tractor around, or the semi truck with feed can pull in. Gravel costs money -- if it's there, it's being used.

I'm at work
There's always something for me to do; and while I'm happy to talk to you about whatever it is, sometimes I can't do that. If I've got a bunch of laborers and we're doing something, talking to you will cost me $50 or $100/hour, so a 3 minute chat is $5-10 out of my pocket. I gotta sell a lot of birds for that. So if I seem kinda distracted or ask if I can talk to you later, don't take it personally. I'm trying to get my stuff done before it gets dark, and if I don't do it today, I'll have to do it, and all the other stuff, tomorrow. "Hi -- is this a good time to talk" is always a nice second sentence after "Hey, do you mind if I park there?"

Well, I bought this animal from that other farm, but you've been really helpful...
This is the one that I really hate the most. Your questions should go where your money went. If you like what I do and find yourself asking for advice, make sure that the conversation ends with some money changing hands. Help me be around next year to answer your chicken husbandry questions by buying a chicken from me. I offer this blog as a way to offer a bunch of useful information for free, but in person I'm going to reserve my time for those folks who do business with me -- I've got to. That's part of what I'm selling.

Gates / doors / pens / buildings
This is a big one. NEVER EVER leave a gate in a different place than you found it. If the gate is closed, close it behind you. Make sure it's latched. If the gate is open, don't close it. Don't go into buildings or open animal pens without permission. If I'm not around, wait until I am. It's OK to look, but there may be something that isn't obvious going on. maybe I have that goat isolated from the other goats for a reason. Don't touch. Always OK to hail someone. Stand outside the barn and yell "HI". This is always an appropriate introduction.

Your beloved dog
OK, look, I love dogs too. I like cats. I enjoy animals. But my dogs are on my farm doing a job, and if they don't, they aren't there. The animals are there for a purpose. Don't bring your dog. it doesn't matter how well behaved your dog is at home. A chicken is mighty inviting to a dog, and it takes about a second for a dog to kill it. Even allowing your dog to run along the fence, outside the fence, and chase my animals is making the animals run and stressing them out. Don't ever allow your dog to chase my animals no matter how cute it is. If you must bring your dog, make sure it's in your car. If your dog is chasing or harming my animals I can legally shoot it, and if I see a dog from a distance chasing my critters, I will probably shoot it. It's even legal for me to do so. Check here and here.

Your beloved service dog
Even if it's a service dog, if it's not on a leash and it's killing my stock I'm going to shoot it. Yes, you have the right to bring it, but that's not going to make either one of us happy, or change the law. It may seem like I'm taking a hard line here, but I have a hard enough time keeping my animals in good health. A single dog chasing around my chickens can stop egg laying for a week, not to mention dead chickens.

The piles of junk
Whatever the situation is, most farms have something that looks like junk. Even if it looks like junk, it's my junk. Having a seasonal business means I have equipment that is idle for most of the year, and I'll put it here, or there, and it'll sit there until next year. That's part of farming. Leave it there, don't run over it, and refrain from comments.

My farming practices
This is a tough one; and generally speaking, the best thing for you to do if you see some practice that you don't like, is just to patronize another farm. I'm usually doing something, whatever it is, because that's the best way that I've found to do that. Like most farmers, I actually do go to classes and make every effort to use best practices, sometimes to my detriment. But don't think that the farmer you're talking to doesn't know what they're doing, or that because of something you've read on the internet that they're doing something wrong. Maybe, just maybe, you can offer something that works better, but you have to be very careful about this. It's a matter of respect. Expertise in your area of knowledge doesn't translate to farming. I know this first-hand. My training as a software engineer doesn't really help much in my farming.

Do ask questions
It's appropriate and important for you to know what you need to about a purchase, or a potential purchase. So do ask questions about what my practices are, or about the animals, or husbandry. A good small farmer will be able to tell you just about everything you'd ever want to know about each animal. Buying half a pig? What breed is it? was it born on the farm, or purchased from somewhere else and raised here? What was it fed, and how much? Can I see it before the slaughter date? Can I watch the slaughter? May I pick my own cut-and-wrap shop if I have a preference? All of these are good. The key to questions is to tie it to a transaction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post! Do you have this posted at your gate? (with a special note to the users of the 'dog park').