Andy and I have been doing much thinking and talking together recently about the farm and the store. The timing is funny... there have been a few clips and articles circulating around Facebook regarding raw milk dairy farmers and the costs of raw milk.. so we must not be the only ones taking a long hard look at our business. These articles resonated with us....and I would like to whey in on the issue. (pun intended)
Andy and I want to make decisions that will allow us to be sustainable.. to be here with your milk for years to come. It seems that more and more small raw milk dairies are shutting down all the time. The trend is alarming, but as farmers ourselves.. also quite understandable. Rising feed costs, and the hours and dedication required make this a lifestyle that is physically and emotionally draining. Dairy farming is hard.. its hard work, its hard on families too... cows have to be milked 365 days a year, regardless of whether its a holiday, a snow day, a sick day, or someone's birthday. It's also financially draining at times. Cows are unpredictable, as most things in nature, they rarely choose convenient times and places in which to have their babies.. they seem to prefer the worst days and the most difficult locations for their caregivers! As we know all too well.. cows die. Sometimes its a slip on the ice... finding the slippery slope on a creek bed, freaky things happen with livestock... and the cost to the farmer can be financially devastating. Imagine waking up one morning to discover a $2500 loss in your checking account with no explanation... it's kind of like that. It can be hard to recoup from a hit like that. Cows don't always get pregnant or have babies when we need them to.. we are currently experiencing this side affect right now. We have 13 babies due by the end of March! Never would we have planned it that way! Consequently at the moment we have an all-time low in milk production! But in the next few weeks I wont be able to make enough cheese to keep up! I am just thankful we have the creamery... all that extra milk won't go to waste!
There has been much discussion about the costs of raw milk. We charge $8.50 for a gallon of our milk. When we sit down and figure all of our expenses.. the truth is it costs more like $10 to produce each gallon of milk and this is without our paying ourselves a paycheck. It is because of this realization that we moved to the new farm and built the creamery and store. Rather than keep raising the cost of our milk, we focused on adding value to our milk in the form of cheese and yogurt and we added the store so that our customers have the opportunity to not only support other local farmers and crafters.. but to help offset our expenses. By shopping in our store.. converting a small portion of your grocery budget you are helping to keep your milk price down. Everything in the store is here on consignment with us with a 20% commission rate. For every $6 spent in our store we make an additional $1.30 which just about helps us meet expenses for one gallon of milk! Purchases of cheese especially help as 100% of that sale stays with us and helps offset milk prices. We are asking everyone to convert your spending dollars..not add on. Not seeing what you need or want in the store? Let us know! Have an idea of something we should get in? Let us know! It is our hope that we will grow the store to generate enough income to help us be here for the long haul without having to raise our prices to make ends meet.
Being sustainable, to be here for years to come, involves more for us than just our financial bottom line. We also need to manage our time so that exhaustion is not such an issue for us. We have spent the last year spending every free moment working on the creamery and store. This has begun to take its toll on us. In years past we always operated on a self service, honor system basis. We are not able to run our business this way any longer because of the need to keep raw milk sales and store sales completely separate. This means that while our store was open six days a week.. we have had to be 100% available all that time... farm chores have been difficult to complete, family time has been non-existent, and we need to make some changes to avoid burnout. Beginning on March 1st we have changed our availability to give us more time to work the farm, care for animals, and our family. We have spent weeks discussing this, looking long term, and we feel confident our new schedule is one that we can maintain for years to come. It feels much more sustainable and manageable.
We are blessed! We LOVE what we do and we have the absolute BEST customers in the world! You have supported us through a rough and rocky couple of years. If it were not for YOU we would not be here today. We came so close to closing down last year and it is only because of the support of our donors, volunteers, and cheerleaders that we pulled through and completed the creamery! As we are nearing completion of our project we cannot tell you how very thankful we are and how much we are looking forward to being here for many years to come!
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..