I run a small – very small honor system farm stand at the edge of our farm. I sell fresh eggs from our chickens and cottage style flowers I grow in our gardens. Sometimes I sell my handmade items too. This year I hope to expand the offerings.
I met a woman last summer at the stand that asked if I was doing this just for fun. I answered yes. I guess because I felt a little embarrassed by my humble attempts. What I really wanted to say was, this is my business, my goal is to earn money.
The next time someone asks what I do or why I’m doing it, I’m going to be brave and own the title that I’m a backyard chicken and flower farmer.
My goal as I plan for the season of 2017, is to have fun and earn money doing what I love. I don’t plan to ever make it look like some big commercial operation. However, I would like to offer more items and increase my sales.
The first part of my plan is expanding our flock. Next week, a clutch of sweet chirping chicks will arrive. I am working towards primarily raising Heritage Breeds because it is important to me to practice old school farming.
Heritage breeds of poultry are those old breeds that have been on our homesteads and communities for generations and centuries. A heritage breed is a purebred and breeds pure. Many of these old breeds are endangered as folks wanted to experiment with newer, flashier hybrids that were engineered to produce more eggs or mature quickly for the meat market, thereby many of the old standbys fell out of favor and were not getting bred.
The two new breeds that I have on the way, are Delawares and Black Alstralorps. They both produce brown eggs.
After talking with some local folks I have come to understand that there is a demand for white eggs. I do not have any chickens at this time that produce white eggs. I hope to find some breeds here locally, that meet my preferences that I can add to the flock later this spring that will produce white eggs.
Two other ideas that I am mulling over are selling chickens that I raise and adding Guinea Hens to our flock.
Guinea Hens are not chickens – they look and behave quite differently. Guineas make great guard animals, sounding loud alarms as predators encroach their territory. They also make for a good natural pest control on the farm, as they are voracious consumers of many unwanted bugs and ticks. Their meat is also considered quite a delicacy. We do not, however, eat our pets here at Red Dirt. Guineas are known to be loud and make constant noise.
I grow old-fashioned – heirloom flowers in a sustainably responsible way – pesticide and completely chemical free manner. Last growing season, I harvested buckets and armfuls of fresh flowers each day.
Day after day, I made fresh arrangements of simple, yet lovely flowers and put them out to sell at the farm stand.
I set up a workstation inside the farm stand tents.
At the end of the season, I had to admit, from a business standpoint it was a complete failure. My community did not support this notion of buying fresh flowers grown locally and sold on the side of the road.
Not one to give up so easily, I plan to increase my gardens and the types of flowers I grow and have available this season. I feel very passionate about the Slow Flower movement and hope I get the opportunity to educate my neighbors and encourage them to be a part of this practice and to understand that the flowers they put on their table and how they were grown, is as important as the way their food is grown.
Canning jar filled with cottage flowers.
Last year I sold (or attempted) to sell my flowers in simple canning jars. I had a sign that said customers could return the jar on their next visit. Perhaps this made people feel uncomfortable – that they were obligated to come back? That was certainly not what I meant to imply. This year I’m thinking of offering my arrangements wrapped in paper – more of a grab and go offering. Thoughts?
While I was disappointed in the lack of interest in my flowers, I really looked forward each day to going out to the gardens and harvesting. It was time spent enjoying the blooms, the many birds, bees and butterflies that benefited from the gardens. I spent endless hours photographing these blooms and buzzing critters. It was also educational time spent watching, observing and learning from the chickens as they foraged among the plants. I look forward to doing this all over again during this coming growing season.
I leave you with a big dream – to someday have a real building for our farm stand, to replace the rather worn tents. It may not happen this year, but I’ve put it out there in wish land.
Thank you for being here today.
Formerly Coral Cottage – Now Red Dirt Farm – Red Dirt Cottage
If you are interested in learning more about heritage breeds or heritage style farming Mother Earth has a great article here.
To learn more about the Slow Flower movement here is an article by the LA Times.