A Revolutionary Idea
rev·o·lu·tion (noun) a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
Banzai is three months old which means, our dairy is also three months old. It's a little crazy when I think about the fact that Matthew and I launched our business when our son was just a week old. But we did. And here we are, three months later. A whole lot more tired than we were three months ago and a lot more broke.
I feel like I'm 100 years old. And our bank account. Don't ask.
Starting your own business is expensive, I know this. Most businesses don't make money in their first year, I keep telling myself this. There are just SO.MANY.EXPENSES. To everything. And being a farmstead food production business is just a whole extra level of expense.
We own the goats that we make our products with. That means every day they need care and feeding. Which is expensive. Every day we milk. And because we are a Grade A Dairy we milk with a machine. That machine costs money to run. Our electricity all comes from alternative energy sources (mostly wind) which, unfortunately, is more expensive than fossil fuel electricity. There is also the detergents and washes that have to be used every single day on this machine to keep the lines clean and free of bacteria. Cha-Ching.
Once we get the milk we make the cheese or the yogurt. More money goes into cultures and ingredients (we use local and organic food products wherever possible in our cheese and yogurt which is more expensive than the alternative). Our packaging is either glass or compostable. Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching.
And then, of course, we have to sell it, which means insurance to cover our butts if someone gets sick or we lose product. When the farmer works the market themselves, the best return on goods sold is at Farmer's Markets. However, there are a lot of hidden fees associated with markets. First there are the entry fees for each market at the beginning of the year. These are about $300 per market. Then there is a market fee (what we pay the market for hosting a place for us to sell. This ranges anywhere between $10 and $50 per day, per market). And on top of that there is a percentage of goods sold. Most markets charge 6% of your profits. For example. If we sell $250 in goods that means we owe the market $65 that day. That means we only make $185 that day. And that's just on goods sold. Each market usually takes about $25 worth of ice to keep all of our products cold. Plus the gas to drive to them. Plus the gloves and toothpicks and cups to serve samples up. Oh yeah, and a tent to stand under, weights for the corners, a table to put our stuff on, and a special serving tray with a sneeze guard to serve cheese samples out of. Plus a handwashing station (because we give samples). And then there's all the stuff to make it look cute. Because, unfortunately, being at a market isn't enough. As consumers we are so innundated with choices on a minute by minute basis we have to make a visual impact on you to make you want to even stop and try our food.
Here's Giz, dragging a cooler to our booth. This girl. She amazes me every single day.
While we're on the subject. Allow me to step on my soapbox.
If you are ever at a farmer's market and there is an opportunity to sample a new food, I urge you. Sample the damn food. The product you are being offered is superior in almost every way to ANYTHING you would find in a grocery store. It has been lovingly prepared by a farmer or an artisan and I can almost guarantee you it has been made with the absolute best ingredients.
Because farmers are revolutionaries. We don't do this for the money (I'm convinced of that). We do this because we believe in healthy food for our communities. Because we want there to be a better way to feed our bodies.
If you are not inclined to sample a food with grace and love, then please, continue walking. My only exception to this rule is if your children want to sample the food they see in front of them, please, stop. Allow them to taste something amazing. Better yet, buy it for them! Don't say to them, when they ask you if you want to try something, "I hate goat cheese." They don't need to hear that. Shoot. We don't need to hear it either.
Jenna and I (my sister from another mother/the poor fool who is also in her fledgling year as a dairy owner at Bee Tree Farm & Dairy) joke that our feta is brined in sweat and tears.
Although. There have been so many tears through this process it's probably more accurate to say that our Feta is brined in maniacal laughter.
Some days it seems that's all we have.
So why are we doing this? These two. Right here.
Every day we make choices around how we want to run our lives. One of the choices Matthew and I have made is to eat really good food. We grow 85% of our food and do almost all of our grocery shopping at the markets. Why? Because we are part of the food revolution, man. When we make a new product (like our drinkable yogurt), we commit to making it something we can feed our children. That means, no added sugar. None. We've perfected our recipe to a point that our yogurt contains 0 grams of sugar. Do you know how much sugar is in the comparable grocery store product? Almost 2.5 tablespoons. C-C-Crazy.
Our hope, our dream, OUR REVOLUTIONARY IDEA, is to provide food options that are affordable and accessible for our community.
But that's where you come in. In order for these businesses to survive. To provide for a community. You have to support them. As farmers we are fine with shouldering the stress around growing your food, in fact, it's an honor to do so. I'll even take the extra wrinkles the goats and this business have given me as a badge of honor. But farms can only stay afloat if you support your local farmer. It's more than just a bumper sticker. It's a way of life. It's choosing to look at labels in the grocery store to see where a product is coming from. It's getting to know the brand behind a food. It's supporting farmer's markets and other small grocers who buy direct from the farmers.
Here's our sweet daughter, buying some snap peas for a snack from Fran at Humble Stump Farm at the West Olympia Farmer's Market. Unfortunately we had to drop out of our local market, West Olympia, in order to commute up to Seattle. It broke our hearts to leave our neighborhood, but in order to stay in business we have to drive to business.
Speaking of business, if you want to find our cheese, here's where we are currently on the shelves. Thank you to each and every one of you who has come to see us at the market. And to those who come back week after week, you are the best.
Food should be a personal thing. We want to know who is eating it just as much as we want you to know who is growing it. When you tell us about the amazing dishes that you made last week with our cheese, or when you sample our chevre and you're instantly inspired to make a dish for dinner that night we literally want to pee our pants. You are what's keeping us going. And for that we are grateful. Eternally.