I have been asked to do a TED-like talk for the Women Who Rock Conference in Novi on August 13th. I asked my coach Noam Kostucki to help me prepare for this presentation as he has done a TED Talk and has helped others prepare for theirs. During our coaching session he incorporated how to tell a story for myself, Parul Agrawal, and Sarah Masque. My need was obvious. I have to tell a story in 18 minutes, so he started explaining the best way to tell a story to help me outline my talk. Who is the hero? Who is the enemy? What is the problem? How can I solve that problem?
Next he helped Parul think about how to tell a story with her juicing workshops. He asked the same questions: Who is the hero? Who is the enemy? What is the problem? How can I solve that problem? Sarah was working on her website store and Noam had her think about the story she wanted to tell with her products. All three scenarios are perfect opportunities to tell a story that will engage our audiences/customers and get them emotionally involved. It was fun and exciting to rethink the way I can tell a story during my presentations, workshops and farm tours. How can Stone Coop Farm advertise our products and special events using a story? Who is our hero? Who is our enemy? What is the problem? How can we solve that problem?
Recommended Viewing: Some of the kids that help at Stone Coop did a great job on our most recent YouTube video – Picking Berries at the Farm. After all the time they spent picking and eating them, they are the experts! Check out their harvest stories.
Did you know that we are sponsoring two amazing farmers to complete the Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State? Why is this important to us? According to the 2014 USDA census, more than half of all US farmers will retire in less than 10 years. Of the 2.1 million farms in the US only 14,000 are certified organic (less than 1%). In Michigan we only have 332. In Livingston County, I only know of 4 farms that are certified organic. There is a great need for a new crop of farmers who are passionate about growing healthy and chemical free food.
In 2015 we raised funds to put Nick Iafano through the Organic Farmer Training Program. His farming endeavors this year have been mushrooms, cut flowers, tomatoes, melons and much more.
We need to raise $5000 for Antonio Cosme and Daniel Moffatt. Our New Farm Fundraiser is on Saturday, August 27th. Their stories about why they want to be farmers are on our website under Support & Scholarships. Details about the fundraiser are on our Special Events page. You can also buy tickets for the Farm to Table Dinner at our Farm Store.
One of my happiness goals was a big adventure. Well, my husband and I are on a road trip to Wyoming and Colorado and will be joined by our sons in a couple days. It has been wonderful to drive through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa so far. The corn fields are huge and in perfect rows. Iowa is a lot hillier than I thought it would be.
The tough part is separating from our jobs. I did pretty well in that I only took a couple calls and texts first thing this morning. Unfortunately my husband is a contractor and he ended up trying to resolve major problems with a subcontractor all day long. He has promised to not answer his phone this weekend. So now is my chance to do the same. I am going to enjoy my time off and not keep up with email or answer calls unless one of my employees calls. I know they will only call if they truly need an answer that only I can give. So blog this week is short and I may not do another one until I get back. My other happiness goals are to delegate, relax and take care of myself. It’s time to play!!!
We just got a new sign for the farm. I put it right next to the road so folks can see it as they drive by. I also put the USDA logo on it to help people realize that we are certified organic and that we have a market at the farm on Wednesday nights. There are sign regulations in our township so our largest signs are on our property behind the road easement the county requires. These new signs are small and not permanent so they are OK for us to use and they don’t block your view as you leave the farm driveway.
About 30 minutes after installing the sign up front, I started to see signs of a thunderstorm moving quickly towards us: dark clouds rolling in, strong winds, a significant temperature drop, and the smell of rain. I stood and watched it move towards us, the clouds swirling around on both sides as the rain started to pummel the ground.
After 15 minutes it blew over and left brilliant sunshine.
It all made me think about signs and how they are interpreted by our senses.
One thing I want to do more of is listen to the signs my own body is giving me and learn to interpret them. Some I have mastered. Such as, if I am cranky, I probably haven’t eaten in a while (my family definitely knows this). If I have halos around my eyes, or feel light headed, I need water. These have become obvious to me. I want to become more in tune and more accepting to take action when my body starts showing me signs. The “EFT Manual”, by Dawson Church, is intriguing. Maybe part of my heel pain is associated with my lifestyle or stress level. I know the amount of time on my feet is a definite cause, but what if there are other signs of things happening in my life that I haven’t associated as possibly contributing to my heel pain?
Recommended Listening: One of my A3 coaches, Sandra Malhotra, has a radio program called Generation Regeneration Wholistic Radio. Here is her interview with Dawson Church about his book “The EFT Manual”.
Did You Know that our plants can give us signs? If a tomato or pepper has a black or tan spot on the bottom, called blossom end rot, it means the plant is not getting enough calcium. Most soils have enough calcium. It is typically caused by fluctuations in water or not enough water. Without the right amount water, the plants cannot pull the calcium they need from the soil.
What is considered traditional medicine these days includes a visit to the doctor that is included in your insurance plan and some pharmaceuticals to take away the pain. I believe in growing healthy food without chemicals and I try to heal my body the same way.
Sunflowers can extract toxic ingredients from the soil and were used by the Russian government to help clean up after the Chernobyl disaster.
As a specialty crop grower (small fruits and vegetables) I do a lot of manual labor and spend A LOT of time on my feet. The last 2 years I have ended up with Plantar Fasciitis by November. My feet are tired from spending 6 days a week, 6 to 10 hours on my feet. Mid December through the end of January is our slowest time and I get a chance to slow down and sit more and my feet get to heal. Well this winter, my left foot never got better. The last few weeks the heel pain has gotten intense and by the end of the day I am limping. I finally decided to get help.
Some folks have suggested I see my doctor for a cortisone shot. I don’t want to go that route. I know there are alternative healing methods that are successful. One of my A3 entrepreneurs, Lisa Ponichter, from Awakening Movements suggested a foot splint at night while I sleep and it has definitely made it easier to get out of bed in the morning.
Yesterday I saw Ann Harmon to get one of her energy/ frequency/sound treatment things she does and I could feel the influx of good things happening. She suggested I do muscle testing before I bought any supplements to see if my body needed them and showed me how to do it.
Today I visited Lori Kleeba at Heel-N-Soles for a massage and she worked on the knots all over my legs with a hot rock tapping technique to help relax the tight muscles. I will be seeing her again next week to continue releasing all these knots.
I then went to Natural View Market for some supplements to help with the healing process and I wasn’t sure what to take. I decided to try to do the muscle testing that Ann had suggested on my normal vitamins and the new supplements. Stephanie, who works there, saw what I was trying to do. She suggested I first make sure my polarity was aligned then helped me figure out my body’s positive and negative response. She then started putting vitamins and other supplements in my hands so I could test each one. I found out some of the vitamins I have been taking my body doesn’t want and Stephanie helped me find ones that my body needs.
I came home to start writing my blog and knew I wanted to do something about healing. I decided to start reading my Abundance Cubed book for July, “The EFT Manual” by Dawson Church. How funny life is! The tapping method she explains is something Ann Harmon has been using on me during our visits, so although I had no idea what EFT meant (Emotional Freedom Techniques), I was already experiencing it!!! I am looking forward to learning much more about the practice and then trying it on myself.
It is so wonderful to be surrounded by holistic practitioners and people that believe in healing the body through its innate ability to heal itself!
Did you know that you may have plants in your garden that have healing properties?
10 Healing Plants You Can Find in Your Garden
The leaves of the narrow or broad leaf plantain, shredded or chewed, are a traditional treatment for insect and animal bites.
Recommended Viewing: We just had an aerial video done by Keith Famie, from Visionalist this week. Welcome to Stone Coop Farm from the sky!
Part of the Abundance Cubed Program is to focus on our own Happiness Project. I outlined goals in January and here is a summary of how I am doing.
January: Create! My creations now, are words and photos. Soon our summer crops will be ready and COOKING will be in full force creating tasty food with many raw crops. Summer is a great time for me to just snack in the fields then chop and eat later. There is always a rainbow of color and flavors to choose from. I know I am living in organic food heaven and I cherish every bite! Here are some photos I took yesterday.
February: Clarify what I want from the farm. I finally have my answer – Security. It’s not money, power, or prestige. I just want to know that I can stay here long term and use this as my home base. I love farming and feel like I am in my infancy of mastering the art of farming. I have SO MUCH more to learn and do. My focus now is to secure experienced and committed employees to help me accomplish larger goals and not have to be the only one able to do daily training for new employees and volunteers. So far my request to the universe to be surrounded by wonderful and joyful people has been working, so I know this will happen. The fun thing is I get to have conversations with my staff to figure out agreements rather than expectations about what their employment looks like. I have asked them to bring ideas to me and we can figure it out. I am excited to see what they want to do.
March: Clarify what my business partners want from the farm. These conversations have started and will be finalized soon.
April: Work on my core. OK a structured exercise program has not started and I had to be realistic – I won’t do this. Part of my reluctance is there is so much work I can do on the farm to build my core in my daily activities. Also I need time to rest my body and relax when I am inside. That is just as crucial. I spend 6-10 hours a day on my feet. Working in the summer in the hoop houses is HOT (usually between 80-110 degrees) so I don’t need to get a good sweat on, I have no choice – it just happens!
May: Define a BIG adventure!! My husband and I are enjoying weekly adventures away from the farm. It has been lovely to spend time with him! In July we will be doing a LONG road trip to Wyoming and Colorado and will spend time with both our sons. First family vacation in 7 years!!! We have agreed that we will NOT wait this long again. We will be visiting Tumbleweed Houses in Colorado Springs to check out their tiny homes. It could be a great way to travel and live all over the country.
June: Learn how to quiet my mind. I am still doing my daily 15 minutes of meditation. It’s been 6 whole months, pretty amazing for me. I am feeling calmer and more comfortable. The crazy summer season is starting, but for the first time I am not worried that we won’t be able to keep up. I decided to grow on a lot less acreage and do it much better than we have in the past. It feels right. I am confident that we will produce more crops than we ever have before. So maybe downsizing the farm was rightsizing my life?
July: Delegate! I am actively working on more delegation, more training of my staff and figuring out more ways to take time off and play. It’s looking pretty exciting!!
I hadn’t defined a goal for any month past July. So here’s my new goals to get me through the end of September.
August: Sing and Dance! I love music I love to dance yet I don’t have a single song on my iPhone. My August goal is to use the iTunes card I got for Christmas and download at least 50 songs on my phone. I want a full range of divas so I can sing at the top of my lungs, boogie woogie so my feet HAVE to dance, and anything else that makes my heart sing.
September: Figure out my next big adventure. I travel less than 25 miles a week and often don’t leave the farm for days. I know this is a repeat, but I want to keep it on my mind ALWAYS. SO many places to see and experience!!!
Recommended Viewing: I love Rhubarb and it loves me. Here’s our latest YouTube video where I show you how to harvest Rhubarb and share some of my favorite ways to eat it.
Did You Know that most farmers don’t have to report what types of chemicals they use on their crops?
My dogs LOVE to ride in the truck. In fact, you have to body block them any time you open the truck door so they don’t jump in. They sit in the back, looking out the windows and enjoying the breeze. Sometimes Roxy will refuse to leave and will just hang out, with the doors open, for over an hour.
Today was a new experience for my dogs. I needed to get the truck washed so I decided to take them both. Roxy, my fierce protector, had a completely different reaction than Lou Lou, my young and exuberant dog.
As the employees of the car wash started washing the windows and bumpers, Roxy started barking and charging the windows as if they were going to do us harm. Lou Lou tried to jump into the front seat to sit in my lap (she weighs about 65 lbs). I stopped Lou Lou from jumping over the seat, but she moved to the floor in the back, as far from the windows as possible and was peeking over the front seat to keep an eye on me. Roxy continued to bark as each new thing touched the car. First the long vertical flaps, back and forth, back and forth. Next the spinning fabric that moves into and around the truck. There were streams of water, more flaps, more spinning. Roxy still barking and on high alert. Lou Lou was still on the back seat floor boards eyes wide open, silent and not sure what reaction to have. After a few minutes we were all done. The truck rolled out the end of the car wash, I put it in gear, and pulled over to adjust my mirrors. Both dogs resumed sitting calmly on the back seat looking out the windows.
Do you ever get a little anxious or fearful when faced with something new? How do you react? One item I have addressed with my Abundance Cubed coach Noam Kostucki this year was how do I deal with fear. One of the questions he asked me explored how do I work through fear?
I spent some time processing this question and here was my response.
“Feeling the fear and pushing through it makes me more brave and willing to take more risks. It also opens up possibilities to success and failure. I feel both success and failure are opportunities to learn and grow. It doesn’t make it less scary to walk into that fear. Often I find out that I am creating unnecessary fear because I am uncomfortable and it is unknown. Being aware that fear sometimes makes me hesitate allows me to actually look at it and think about what is the worst thing that can happen and ask is it really worth being afraid.”
Answering Noam’s question made me rethink my reaction when I am anxious or fearful. I now think about these emotions, take a deep breath and process the situation. It has been amazing how quickly I am able to push through the fear and look forward to what will happen next.
So when faced with a new uncertain scenario, do you react like Roxy, in your face angry, or Lou Lou, hide and hope it goes away? Try asking yourself, how do you work through fear?
Recommended Viewing: Angie and her kids did another wonderful video for us about planting tomatoes. Liesl and Bennett get a lesson from Gina and Nydia.
Did You Know that the flower top on garlic is called a Garlic Scape? We break off these scapes so the garlic plant focuses its energy forming the bulb which gives us large garlic cloves. These scapes are tasty and delicious and can be used just like garlic. They are only available for a few weeks each year. We have been harvesting them this week so if you want to try something new and step outside your comfort zone, come by our farm stand at Brighton’s Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 8am-1pm or at the farm on Wednesdays from 4pm-6pm.
We got new bees today. Honey bees are so crucial to our food system as one of our pollinators. Our kiwi berry flowers were blooming and the honey bees were helping us by moving from flower to flower, cross pollinating them so the berries can form. Their busy community then produces incredible honey that they share with us. Raw local honey is full of seasonal pollen and is fantastic for folks suffering from seasonal allergies.
Two weeks ago Holy Spirit Catholic Church brought over their 2nd grade class to help on the farm and they planted about 900 kale plants in 20 minutes! We also got tons of help planting this week when 16 kids and 5 adults from Cheryl Stockwell Academy came on Wednesday and spent 4 hours on the farm. The extra 80 hours of work that day allowed us to plant ½ acre of potatoes and a ¼ acre of Brussels Sprouts and Kale. We were so excited to finally get our potatoes in the ground!!! We are hoping they will come back in the fall to harvest the potatoes so they can see the final results of their hard work.
This time of year is nutzo crazy and we are constantly behind trying to plant tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, summer squash, potatoes, basil, kale, rutabaga, kohlrabi, winter squash, potatoes and so much more. Besides planting we are still harvesting lettuce daily (we planted thousands of heads this year), filling wholesale orders and doing two farmers markets a week. This is where our community makes a huge difference. We have about 60 working share members on the farm. They graciously agreed to work on the farm doing every job imaginable in exchange for our organic produce. These folks are multi generational, from 3 years old to 78, and we absolutely LOVE and DEPEND on their help. We couldn’t run this farm without them!
I am also fortunate to have awesome employees working here. THANK YOU Beth, Gina, Nydia, and Frank!!!
Recommended Viewing: Regenerate Magazine is a new publication one of my A3 coaches, Sandra Malhotra, recently started. The May/June edition had loads of insightful articles that I enjoyed. One of the articles talked about Michael Pollen’s documentary on Netflix called “Cooked”. I had a chance to watch it this week and loved all 4 episodes which explored the history of cooking with fire, water, air and earth and the communities that have flourished because of these cooking methods.
Did You know that 150 people appears to be the maximum size of a village before it splits into a smaller community? Dunbar’s number explains his theory behind this magical number of 150. At Stone Coop Farm we have chosen to keep our Community Supported Agricultural members to about 150 because we want to personally know all our members, remember their names, and know what some of their favorite produce items are that they prefer to buy.
One difficult issue farmers face with their products is the size of the item they want to sell. We planted loads of lettuce heads in our hoop houses in March and April. Lettuce can take about 60+ days to form a full beautiful head, so we were planning to have lettuce heads from late April through June. Lettuce is really happy between 50-75 degrees and when it’s hotter, they often send up flower stalks (bolt) and turn bitter. The last two weeks have been unusually warm for Michigan this time of year. It has been sunny and 80 degrees outside, but that means it is over 100 degrees in our hoop houses. Thus our lettuce has not been very happy.
In a scramble to not loose these heads and have to feed them to the chickens, we have been harvesting lettuce not only based on size, but also on whether it looks like it is about to bolt. So we have heads from the size of a softball to others the size of a beach ball! Pricing these heads and selling them has been a head scratcher, but this week I have had LOTS of conversations with my wholesale accounts and managed to develop a strategy to sell them all. HURRAY!
Ok here’s what I figured out:
This week was a great reminder that having a conversation with my customers about price can be a win-win for my farm and my customers.
Recommended Reading: It is garden planting time and the New Kitchen Garden book by Adam Caplin is full of beautiful photos, garden planning tools and tips and great seasonal recipes.
Did you know up to 75% of some farm products are wasted because the crop does not conform to a standard size or perfect appearance? For example, a Striped German heirloom tomato can weigh between 0.5 to 3 pounds!
Leigh Caldwell’s book the Psychology of Price has some great ideas to figure out your prices and marketing strategies. The example he provides about a new tea product and where he sells it was thought provoking. For example, he mentions that if he sells the tea in the grocery aisle, folks will only be willing to pay a similar price to other tea products, but if he sells it next to other tea and coffee products in a coffee shop, he can get a higher price. He also covers overhead costs and that it is difficult to factor those costs in if you don’t have a solid number of how many products you will sell. At Stone Coop Farm, we do a crop plan in January, factor in potential losses (due to weather or pests), and then consider how things have grown in the past. This gives us a good estimate of how many pounds we will produce for the whole year and we can use that to determine an overhead cost per pound. We should also break this down by crop, but right now we are using the average per pound as a guide.
Last week, in my blog on Sales and Pricing Strategies, I shared how we determine our Production Costs. Once we have our Production Costs and Overhead Costs we can determine our Target Price.
We also consider a few other things to determine our final price.
And lastly we do a reality check. This method of looking at actual costs, overhead, profit, etc. tells us a story about whether this crop is profitable or not. Over the years we have reduced the number of items we have grown so we can focus most of our efforts on our most profitable crops. We tried to grow everything our first year and learned the hard way that we couldn’t grow them all in a profitable manner.
Our customer feedback is also super crucial to our product mix and we have annual planning meetings with our wholesale accounts, chefs and also send our customers a survey each year to see what they would like us to change or grow. All this information is incredibly helpful for our planning process.
Did You Know that Survey Monkey is a simple online survey tool and if you have less than 10 questions it is free? It also allows you to save past surveys for easy updates.
Recommended Viewing and Listening: Enjoy a unique version of "Thunderstruck" by some down home country boys - Steve'n, Seagulls.
This month with Abundance Cubed we are focusing on how to determine our prices and reading the Psychology of Price by Leigh Caldwell. I have just started reading it, but wanted to share some of my sales and pricing strategies this week and see how they compare to Leigh Caldwell’s book later. Here are some things we consider when determining what to grow and how to sell our products at Stone Coop Farm:
Then we look at the actual production costs per crop. Our hourly wage includes the cost for Workers Compensation, unemployment, vacation, etc. which is approximately 25% added to the hourly wage we pay to our employees.
The production costs are NOT our target price for selling our products either wholesale or retail. It does NOT include administrative costs or profit. We will look at that next week.
Recommended Viewing: Check out Angie’s recent video when she visited us at Brighton’s Farmers market. It was a cold wet day and although we are at EVERY farmers’ market from May through October, we cannot ensure that the customers and other vendors will show up. That means that on these miserable days, we bring back a lot of the wonderful produce we harvested, without selling it. That is a loss that is also factored into our prices.
Did You Know that many farmers are not covering all their actual costs when they sell their products? Many consumers expect to get cheaper prices at farmers’ market than at the grocery store, but what these consumers don’t consider is that, of the actual farmers that do sell at the market, many of them are small farmers that have huge labor costs because they cannot afford expensive automated harvesting equipment. Stone Coop Farm’s tagline is Friendly Farmers, Caring Consumers because our customers care about the food they eat and the farmer that grows it! We want to THANK all the folks that support Stone Coop Farm and other small farms in our communities.