Sunday, January 29, 2012

"where are all the customers yachts?" - farm blogs

[Update 2-2-2012:  Tim over at Natures Harmony blog has decided that I've wronged him.  He's inviting comments about his operation on his blog.  You'll find his blog entry here

He won't let me comment on it.  Perhaps some of you have opinions on Tims operation and openness to comments.  Feel free to post them here and there.  Cut and paste is wonderful. 

I'd particularly like the folks who got banned after trying to post comments in the parasites in ram flock blog entry -- he's using that as an example of him being open to criticism, when the backstory is that he started just flat out banning anyone who disagreed. 

Bruce ]

One thing that I'd like you to notice, if you haven't already, is that this blog has no advertisements on it.   No sponsors, no hotlinks, no revenue.  I'm not doing this for the money.  I'm not against the idea of making money, but I started this blog for non-monetary reasons, and I write what I believe here, and I do so because I'd like other folks to have a clear view of what farming is like, at least for me. 

What gets my goat, and it gets gotten from time to time, is when I see someone talking about something that I sincerely believe is harmful, or if they're talking about some sort of fantasy but offering it as if it's reality.  I think that this is the worst thing you can do to someone who's thinking about farming -- basically by selling them false story, you're sabotaging their future efforts.

So if you propose a method of raising animals and it's actually harmful to the animals, or just plain impossible, or if you talk at length about something you've never done, and claim to be able to help others do what you haven't done... well, you get your own blog entry. 

The title of this post refers to a book that was first published in 1940; a customer, visiting New York city at the time sees a harbor full of the stock broker and dealers yachts, and asks that question:  "Where are all the customers yachts?"   

The take home lesson is that anyone who is promoting a particular action or scheme may not have a dog in that fight.    It's a lot easier to tell someone else to do than it is to do it. 

 In fact, I think if someone comes to you and asks you to be your financial planner, it's fair for you to ask to see their portfolio.  I've had probably 20 people pitch me on why they should manage my money (or start a retirement account, or pick a mutual fund or...) and I have never had one show me their own portfolio results.   It's funny, because they were proposing that I tell them the same information about my own personal finances as I was asking from them.  Honest is as honest does. 

With Natures Harmonys "farm school" class and with the topics that they love to talk about on, starting my farm, financing my farm,  organizing my farm, or anything else related to my farm, I want you to have actually done it on YOUR farm.  I get a lot of people who comment about this or that on my blog, or who call in a complaint to whatever government agency that they think will care (and a surprising number of them have), and every now and then someone comes to the farm gate with a question or comment, and I deal with all of them in as civil a manner as they approach me.  More so than most, I'll actually talk about what I do, how I do it, and when I do it.  I work hard to be patient with people. 

But where my patience is tried, where I find myself nearing the edge of my endurance, are folks who believe that they know better than me about how to do what I want to do on my farm.  The most formal of those folks are the regulatory agencies;  every one of them that I deal with believes that it's their mission to tell me what to do, and in fact, there is no negotiation or discussion of any sort.  ("Mr. King, we do not think you are taking this seriously!")   You will do what we want, or we'll put you out of business or fine you $10,000.00 a day

The second source of irritation are people who believe that by virtue of having a pile of money, or a spreadsheet, can tell other people how to start their farm, or be in farming in general. 

  But they leave out the big pile of money part.  Farming is a lot easier if you have a mattress or two of cash. 

  They'll teach classes about how to finance your farm, having purchased theirs with cash made somewhere else.  Or they'll speculate about how to make a profit, having never made a profit.   Or they'll promote themselves as expert farmers when they found that the job they created they needed to flee as it was destroying their life

Teach me how to run a sales or marketing firm and earn a few million bucks, and I'll take that class. Your credentials are good there.  You've actually done that.  Or any other venture you had some success in. 

But I think that folks who want to teach others how to make a profit should probably do that themselves, first. has been speculating, both in their podcast and in a blog entry.  Now mind you I think that they're all good folks, and hardworking -- but so far, I don't see any evidence that any of them have actually made what I consider a sustainable farm -- one that makes a profit, provides a decent wage for employees if there are any, and is a desirable job -- one that the farmer wants to do.

Full disclosure, folks.  If you are going to talk about profitable farming, why don't you start with your own credentials.  Tell us about the reality of the operation, what you do, what works, what doesn't.   If you're going to talk about balance sheets, how about you show me yours? 

And if you started your farm with a million bucks and a house on the golf course, why not talk about that, too?    I find the disney version of the story lacks the details that really make it useful. 

Update:  Prior to writing this, I did ask "dusty bottoms" this question:

"With respect to the podcast, are comments that disagree with topics that are discussed appropriate?  Or the conclusions made?

While Tim and Liz do have a point of view, it's not the only one.  A wider discussion is more fitting for a website that is aimed to help farmers.    If this is a broadcast-only medium, It'd be nice to know that up front. "

And I got this reply: 

Dusty Bottoms replied to their discussion "Farm Dreams Podcast Comments/Questions" on Farm Dreams
Yes, of course comments that respectfully disagree with any view on a blog or podcast are appropriate.  That's how we learn and grow.

Thanks for participating.

And then they banned me from their website 20 minutes later.  So much for open discussion. 

Slate article with similar story line


Mountain Walker said...

Have you read this yet?
Britt Peterson nails it on the head.
Your question about "all the customer yachts" is in the same thread.

Thanks for keeping it real. I read your stuff because of that.

Bruce King said...

I think this link is what you're referring to. And yes, Britt talks about the very same thing. The glowing portrayals of pristine farm life.

Bruce King said...

I can't get the link to work in comments. See the bottom of the blog entry for the link.

Unknown said...

Those who can, do. Those who can't... teach.