I stayed up all night, pinned between a nursing toddler and a stuffy-nosed, snoring 4 year old, writing this post in my head. I have debated not writing it all morning.
Matthew and I opened up our farm yesterday to host 5 paid events. What I mean by that is, you bought tickets to come to the farm, in this case, our Chocolate & Cuddles Events, where you get to snuggle with baby goats, bottle feed them, and then you leave with our hand-made goat cheese truffles. We also sampled our AsiaGoat and encouraged people to walk around our farm (it was a beautiful day!) to meet the rest of the goats, the horses, the peacocks, the guinea fowl, the chickens, and the pigs.
We are so grateful to all of you who came out and enjoyed your time on our farm.
We are so grateful that we are able to offer this experience to our community.
Getting to go into a warm hoop house and pick up, play with, feed, and become one with baby goats is a truly soul-filling experience.
I also like to say it's cheaper than therapy.
Which brings up the main point of this post.
Yes. We are charging for tickets to these events. Charging for tickets means we are able to keep them small (so that everyone gets a truly personal experience with the babies) and, honestly, it's how we pay our bills.
Last year we spent $37,000 on animal feed for our goats. We brought in $56,000 at Farmer's Markets. That's not profit. That doesn't include the wages that we pay so people can work them (because we are only two people, we have two small children, and we still have to make the cheese that gets sold at the markets); the packaging costs of cheese; market fees; gas; the cost of free product that we sample so people will want to buy our cheese; blah blah blah blah blah.
And that's just to feed them. There is the cost of the chemicals that we use to clean our milking equipment, the cost to upkeep our machinery, the electrical bill to run everything (we pay extra so that our power comes from alternative energy sources), the cost of bedding, repairs to animals shelters, insurance, etc.
Let's not even talk about the hourly wage we're not collecting.
Why am I saying all this?
It's not so that you feel bad for us. We could quit the dairy tomorrow and Matthew could go back to being a full time ER nurse and we would be fine. This dairy is our dream. Every day we consciously make the decision to wake up and keep milking. Every day we feel lucky that we have a shot at living our dream.
I am saying this because as a small farmer I feel like it's my job to help educate our community on why we charge for these events. We had a few situations yesterday where people showed up, unaware that it was a ticketed event day, and then, upon partaking in everything our farm had to offer, declined to pay.
I hate confrontation. I always have and I always will. And at first I was angry about these people.
But I've moved on from anger towards that very small sample size to gratitude for the vast majority of our community who not only support us but who are grateful that our farm exists.
No one is getting rich. Believe me. In fact, all the money our farm made this weekend went right back out the door to pay for our vet testing to get licensed as a raw milk dairy and to pay to repair our bulk tank (the tank that keeps our milk cold after we've milked). Every single penny is spoken for.
But, because we had these events we were able to pay for these expenses without going into debt. Debt, as you can imagine, is every small farmer's enemy.
We aren't subsidized by the government. Grants are available, yes, but I've been applying for the past 5 years and have yet to receive one. You can't imagine how much time a grant application takes (or maybe you can), suffice to say, it's a lot.
Agritourism, for us and for many small farms, help us stay afloat. Because they are on our farm our overhead is low and we can often tend to issues and animals in between events.
When you support small farms through these events you're helping close the gap and essentially, helping us keep our doors open. Keeping our doors open means that amazing things, like a goat dairy, get to be a part of your community.
You've probably often heard the term, vote with your pocketbook.
When you support small farms, through these events, you are essentially saying, yes, I would like to keep this little gem in my neighborhood. I support sustainable farms. I support farmers who care about the environment and the welfare of their animals. I support having a place that opens their doors to schools, daycares, and Girl Scouts so that tomorow's adult's can actually see where food comes from.
From the bottom of my slightly jaded, but mostly grateful heart, thank you to all of you who continue to come through the gates of this farm and spend your hard earned money. It is our honor to bring you closer to the animals that make your food and it is our privilege to provide baby goats for cuddles.
We could not do this without you.