You probably know I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks while working on the farm, doing deliveries or running errands. So I was very honored to be asked to join Cal on the Grazing Grass Podcast to talk about our grazing practices with our meat goat herd. Thank you Cal for the invite and including goats in your episode lineup. Because, yes, goats CAN graze!
If you graze livestock, I’d highly recommend checking out the Grazing Grass Podcast. Cal features a wide variety of grass farmers, including those raising beef, lamb, poultry, dairy, and goats.
Listen to the Podcast below, on Apple iTunes or visit the Grazing Grass website.
One of my favorite tools I've been using all winter is my twine knife. I use it to cut the twine off the small square bales of hay and small squares of straw for bedding. It also works well for cutting the twine off our round bales of hay in the pasture where we feed our goats over winter.
While I do carry a pocket knife, I often misplace it or end up leaving it in the house. This twine knife is bright orange and hard to misplace.
The handle makes it easy and pretty safe to use, especially with my seven-year-old. We started with one. Now I keep one in each barn and in the Gator. I've even given them for gifts, yes, that is true!
It's the Kaycee Knife. I've purchased several at Tractor Supply and also on Amazon.
Note: Products included in this blog post includes affiliate links. I only share links to products and resources that I use and like.
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Marketing our farm’s products direct to consumer is very rewarding and enjoyable, but it has come with a lot of hard work, growth, learning and patience over the years. While I’ve leaned on my own experiences and training in business planning and marketing, I’ve found that it is also very valuable to seek out new opportunities to continue to grow my skills as entrepreneur, in addition to my craft as a farmer. That translates into working with mentors, taking classes, and seeking out other experiences to continue to grow as a business owner, ultimately helping strengthen my farm for the future.
One of those experiences has been being a part of the M5 Small Business Accelerator, an online entrepreneurship course led by Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farms in Fort Jones, Calif. I started the course almost a year and a half ago. It’s been a great decision for our farm, even though we already had been selling our meat direct to our customers.
About the course:
There are three modules to the M5 Small Business Accelerator Program, think of them as mini-classes: Small Business from Scratch, Social Media from Scratch, and Selling & Shipping from Scratch. I also have access to the Beginning Business Bootcamp and the M5 Community.
As soon as I was enrolled the course, I went through all the curriculum to get familiar with the content. I ended up listing to most of the audio instruction while I was working around the farm. My main focus last year was to get our e-commerce platform and shipping program up and running. So I dove into the Selling and Shipping from Scratch module in more detail to get things set up for our farm. This module by far has been the most worthwhile component to the program. Mary shares her process and the different options she’s researched including on to set up an e-commerce site, how to actually ship, packaging options, working with carriers, and the fulfillment process. The time and money I saved figuring out how to set up this up for our farm was well worth the investment of the course. I was able to review the course materials, then explore and research the options and vendors that worked well for us. It’s helped get this part of our business off the ground and running without being stuck in the research phase of where to start.
Since we were already up and running the Small Business from Scratch module was a good review, sort of a check list of sorts, to make sure we had certain processes and items in place as a business. I can understand why Mary includes this in the coursework. In order to run your business you need to make sure you have everything in order and not missing pieces. If your farm was adding a direct market component or related business to an existing operation, I can see how this module would be very useful to make sure you have everything in place as you get started.
The third module is Social Media from Scratch. This has been a great tool and resource for us is as well in terms of looking at how we approach using social media and marketing platforms to grow our business and build relationships with our community. And I’ll be honest I went through all the coursework in this area so I had a good foundation to help point me, but my focus last year has really been to get my shipping program and e-commerce site up and off the ground. As I move forward this year will be an area where I will dive back into the content again.
I’m also a part of the M5 Community, an online community. That part of the program has been so valuable. Mary is right in there answering questions. Other students are sharing resources and experiences. It’s been a very collaborative and supportive community for growing our business.
Have questions?! Please Ask!!
This is a big investment. I get that!! If you have more questions about the M5 Small Business Accelerator program or want to see some of the work I’ve done, curriculum, etc., please feel free to ask them below in the comments or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enrollment closes Friday
Right now enrollment for the M5 Small Business Accelerator is open until Friday, April 30. This is the only time that Mary is opening up the course for this year. You can learn more about it here.
If you’re on the fence about joining the Accelerator Program, or just getting started with your business the Small Business Bootcamp is a great place to jump in and get started. We have access to that program as well and the curriculum is very hands on with work to get you on the ground and started in your business.
A disclaimer, the links to the course are my affiliate links, which means if you sign up through the link, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.
If you said yes to the M5 Small Business Accelerator, here’s my advice: Who-hoo! Congrats for making a great investment in you and your business.
Start the coursework right away. Go through everything while you’re excited to grow the business side of your farm and not overwhelmed by it. Then, decide what your focus will be on for the quarter or the year and start working through that part of the coursework. It won’t do you any good to wait to find the right time to put it to use. You need to start somewhere. You’ll only get out of it what you put in. I’ve decided to make the most of my investment and it has been so worth it!
Q&A About the M5 Small Business Accellerator
Send me your questions and I’ll be glad to answer them. I’ll add them below so others who are considering the coursework can review them as well.
Did you learn about grant writing during this program? Or is that something that you have done and researched on your own?
So kind of. Mary shares some of the grant opportunities, but most I found on my own. And, really a lot of grants are regionally focused, so it makes sense to do your own digging into opportunities. But where the course has really helped with grants is focusing in on my project and how I'm going to do it and building the budget for it.
For example, with the refrigerated trailer I was able to use the M5 community to learn about what other farms are using / addressing the cold transportation challenge and then made the decision on how I was going to meet my goal.
I'm working on 2 local foods marketing grants that will help with marketing initiatives - the coursework and community have been great for planning on what I could so for this, as well as building my budget with getting leads on vendors, products, etc.
What’s been your experience with the course? Can you offer any insights? I’m concerned that I may not follow through and see results.
The course is what you put into it since it’s self-paced. But it is really good. Since it’s a big investment, I’ve decided to utilize as much from it as I could and am continuing to do so. I went through and listened to all the course modules (they’re in video or an audio file) while I worked on the farm then have gone back as I’m working on specific items. I knew if I didn’t do that to start, I may not get to everything right away. My approach is to get out as much as I can from it!
How did you get started shipping?
Okay, so this question doesn't come up when people ask me about the M5 program, but I get it all the time from other farmers. But it seems to be a good fit to include with this Q&A section. My answer is simple, the M5 Small Business community and course gave me the foundation and resources to get it off the ground and running.
Whether you’ve been farming for a while, just getting started or looking to branch off a new part of the farm business, you might be wondering about what you “need to do” to get your farm business formalized.
1. Taxpayer ID number or known as an EIN (Employer Identification Number): If you’re a sole proprietor, you can use your social security number. But you can still opt to request an EIN to use instead. This number is often used with tax forms (W9, 1099, etc.) if you’re receiving a payment from a customer or renter, opening a bank account, and even applying for business licenses.
Here’s where you can apply for your EIN from the IRS.
2. Business Structure
Determine what your business structure should be.
Sole Proprietor is by default what one would be with no formal formation of a business. It's just you doing business. You can still use a business name, which formally would be Your Name dba (doing business as) Your Farm Name.
LLC (Limited Liability Company) or as an S corporation helps limit your risk in your business by protecting your personal assets from business liabilities, debts, or judgments (lawsuits) brought on by the business (Farm Commons., 2018).
Other legal resources at Farm Commons, free once you create an online account
Farms Guide to Choosing a Business Entity, Farmer’s Guide to LLCs, Farmer’s Guide to S Corps and Farmer’s Guide to C Corps
3. Financials Records
Use a program like QuickBooks to record your farm’s income and expenses. Set up the accounting system’s chart of accounts (or categories) to correspond with the IRS Schedule F tax form, then break it down into other categories to use for business making decisions.
By corresponding your chart of accounts with the Schedule F tax form, it’ll be much easier to complete your tax returns for you or for your accountant (saving you money on the time they spend going through your financial records for the year).
As a current QuickBooks user I'm able to offer an online code for 50% the first 6 months of your subscription.
4. Separate business checking account: Even if you’re operating as a sole proprietor, it’s also important to keep your finances separate. This way you can have a true account of your profit and loss for your farm and know where you can make adjustments in how you’re running your operation.
This is also important if you’re just starting out and want to “invest” personal funds into your business as a way to get started. You can transfer your investment, owner’s equity (money), into your account (also recording it in QuickBooks) and then use the funds for the purpose of your business.
5. Business Email: Once you have your farm website domain purchased (see below), then you can set up your official business email (email@example.com) with G Suite. You do not need to have your website designed. You just need ownership of your domain, such as www.yourfarm.com.
Not only does this add further legitimacy to your business, but it is also important for once you set up your email list/newsletter provider for your farm. Using an email with a verified domain (such as firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) will help increase the delivery of your email marketing messages into your customers' email boxes.
Create your business email here.
6. Wisconsin Farm Premise ID: This system allows for faster tracing if there is an outbreak of an animal disease or an animal-born human disease. This ID number is specific to a farm location and isn’t a unique animal identification.
This is mandatory if you’re in Wisconsin and includes the following livestock: cattle, swine, poultry, sheep, goats horses, farm-raised deer and other cervids, gamebirds, bison, llamas and other camelids, ratites such as emus and ostriches and fish. The premise or location includes farms, hobby farms, veterinary clinics, stables, animal markets, and any other location where livestock are kept or congregated.
More information and how to register here.
If you live in another state, contact your Extension office or Department of Agriculture to determine if there are similar requirements.
This premise/farm ID is the same farm number that’s listed on your scrapie tags, if you raise sheep or goats.
7. Scrapies tags. If you raise goats or sheep, you can find more information on the scrapie eradication program and requirements by state: http://www.eradicatescrapie.org. These tags are required by law in most situations when selling goats and sheep.
Think of your marketing approach as a wheel, with your website as the hub and your strategies as the spokes (email marketing, social media, markets, events, etc.).
8. Website: all your content, what you offer your customers, your products, where/how to purchase lives here. Think of this as the “hub” of your marketing. All of this information lives on this site. Your social media posts are redirected to this site or mention this site. In conversation, you refer folks to this site. Your email marketing will tie back to this site. I think you get the point! Unlike social media, you own your site. It cannot be taken down or hidden from viewers.
You’ll need to purchase the domain (www.yourfarm.com) and decide on a service where it will be hosted and you can design/manage it. You can purchase these in the same place, or separately.
When you go to purchase your domain, be ready to buy it as soon as you do the search. There are bots watching repeat searches and they’ll buy up those domains and then try to resell them for a much higher fee.
9. Email List: Use email as your main tool for doing formal business (sales) with your customers. Using an email newsletter service provider like MailChimp is a good way to make sure you are following legal rules for email marketing, such as allowing your subscribers to opt-out at any time. BCC emails for marketing are illegal, are more likely to end up in a junk folder, and will eventually get shut down.
MailChimp is a good service to start since it has a free option.
Once you have it set up, add the sign-up form to your website, and look for ways to encourage others to sign up for your list. Then, set up a regular schedule for your email communication with customers. Monthly is a good place to start.
Just like your website, you own your email list. This is yours. It is not “rented ground” like social media. Your email ends up in an inbox for your customers to see and read at their choosing, vs maybe never seeing with social media.
10. Social Media presence: This is at the bottom of the marketing list because, yes it is important, but it shouldn’t be the center of the marketing work.
Which platform should you use? To start, pick one and do it well. It’s an unoffical expectation to be on Facebook, but Instagram is one of the fastest-growing platforms.
Use social media appropriately, applying the 80/20 rule. 80% relationship building and inspiration with 20% sales. It can seem natural to want to post market updates, promotions, and other sales posts, but it can actually be a turnoff and many social platforms will hide your posts if your content is sales focused. They want you to pay-to-play. But, with your followers, most people come to social media for inspiration and a break from life, not to be sold too. Use it as a relationship marking tool and you’ll find that prospective customers will come to you when they are ready OR will be more receptive to your occasional sales pitches.
For more of my favorite marketing and business, resources click here.
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
FAQ: Building the Right Business Structure for Your Farm. Farm Commons. (February 2018). Retrieved from:
Affiliate links: Some of the links in this post may include “affiliate links” that we receive a small commission for referring. Thank you for supporting us by buying through these links.
Legal disclaimer: All information provided is based on personal experience and is provided for educational and information use only. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless our website, company and owner for any direct or indirect loss or conduct incurred as a result of your use of our website and any related communications. This applies to, but is not limited to, business operational information and consulting, as well as farm and goat management practices.
Any animal health information provided on this website is based on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed with a veterinarian. In all situations, it is the responsibility of the livestock owner to consult with a veterinarian before using any animal health practices shared on this website or by this company and its owner. See the full legal disclaimer here.
Thank you Katelyn at the Wild Rose Farmer for having me as a guest on her Rural Woman Podcast. I’ve been a listener since the start and an avid podcast junkie for along time. It is an honor to be coming into your earbuds as a podcast guest, instead of my usual role as just the listener!
For those who often ask about how I got started raising goats and the meat goat industry and market, here it is!
You can find the podcast episode here, listen to it anywhere you listen to podcasts, or stream it on WildRoseFarmer.com
P.S. If you’re new to this podcast or Katelyn, she also raises goats for meat!
You don’t know how many times this winter (now spring) I’ve been asked, “How’s kidding going?” Each time I explain that we don’t have any babies yet since we’ve moved kidding to later in the season. We’re set to kid in late April and then have the last batch of kids in May.
We’ve kidded and worked with baby goats in January through April, with both babies born on our farm and bottle babies we’ve raised since they were only a few days old. The first few years raising goats we didn’t own a buck and our breeding schedule worked around the farm where we rented a buck. We’ve also bred for earlier in the season (anytime between January and March) because that seems to be what most farms do in our area. So why not do the same? And, with raising bottle babies, we of course were on the schedule of the dairy farms we worked with.
There are many reasons farms kid earlier: raising for the show/fair kid market, having kids be at market weight in the fall, renting bucks like we have done, seasonal milking, and so on.
Here are three reasons why we’ve moved to late season kidding:
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
This post was originally published 3/27/19, and updated 4/14/20.
I’m honored, and a bit humbled, to share that I’m featured in the most recent issue of the Rural Route magazine, which goes out to farm families and others involved in agriculture in Wisconsin. You can read the full article below to learn more about how I got my start in farming, as well as raising meat goats and direct marketing goat meat in western Wisconsin.
I’d also like to give a big thank you to Amy Eckelberg from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau for asking me to do the interview and coming all the way to northwestern Wisconsin to take photos for the story in one of the hottest times of the year.
She also started to learn the art of taking pictures with livestock guardian dogs sniffing and licking you and figuring out how to get a good shot of grazing goats. This includes not just getting them to face you but attempting to not get too many goat rear ends or anyone taking care of business in the shot. I think Amy did ok, if you look at her pictures!
Enjoy the read!
P.S. The magazine also featured a number of grilling recipes in the Farm Flavor section from my personal food Instagram account: @GrillingLikeSteven You can check those out here.
If you want to see the whole magazine, click here to read it.
If you haven't joined our Meat List, you can sign up here. We share goat meat recipes, cooking tips, promotions, and let you know when goat meat (including when to order whole goats).
If you're raising meat goats or are thinking about rasing meat goats, you can sign up for our online community here to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
Here's quick overview of the components of our goat pasture. During the summer our meat goat herd is on pasture 24/7 using rotational grazing practices.
What would you like to know more about raising goats on pasture? Let me know by commenting below or sending me an email at email@example.com. I'll share more on what I'm doing with our goats in future blog posts.
If you're interested in learning more about our goat pasture management and rotational grazing, join our online community here to get updates on what we're doing on the farm grazing meat goats on pasture.
A few months ago, I decided to quit social media. In late May I decided to start a month-long digital hiatus, primarily from social media, and attempt to cut back the invisible tether to my phone. It wasn’t a total shut down since I still needed to manage my farm business online, but it was as close as I was going to get outside of work.
At the time I was feeling smothered with life, feeling like a standstill while at the same time never having enough time for my business and farm, and even more importantly my time with my family – my kids and husband. Everything felt like it was spinning so fast, yet at times it felt like I was at a crawl. I didn’t always feel like I was in this place. I’m not sure how I got there, but I was there.
Close to a breaking point, I recognized it was time to take a step back and recalibrate my life. I had started to think about making a change but hadn’t gone further than that. I decided I was going to start now, not wait for the right time, or the next big thing to wrap up.
So, I turned back to what gets me going: learning and growing. I started listening to podcasts and reading books about productivity and focus. In particular, I started listening to a few episodes by Michael Hyatt (Lead to Win), in particular #067: Destroy Distractions with These 9 Focus-Boosting Strategies, #065: 3 Actions to Beat your Biggest Distractions, #061: My Must-Have Apps for Productivity in 2019.
I immediately recognized that I needed to start managing how my time was spent, rather than let it get away from me. It was about living life on purpose. In particular, social media (and other apps) along with its ease to pull up on my phone became an obvious distraction I needed to figure out how to manage. Additionally, I was looking at other ways to be more productive with my farm business and also at home. This also meant evaluating my other commitments and evaluating future opportunities to make sure time was well spent for my work goals and also priorities with my family.
In a number of Michael Hyatt’s podcasts he referenced the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. So, like a good professional development nerd, I ordered the book, along with Michael’s newest book Free to Focus. In the meantime, I downloaded a podcast episode where Cal was interviewed, on The Doctor’s Farmacy with Mark Hyman, M.D.: 39. How Social Media May be Ruining Your Life with Cal Newport to get a feel of the theme of his book.
Honestly, I didn’t think I was using my phone and social media that much. I wasn’t like I was just sitting on the couch snacking and scanning feeds for hours on end. But, I could see how it was easy to fill in the voids of one’s day to help pass the time, even if it was for a few seconds or minutes, like waiting for my son to get his haircut, walking back from the barn to the house, waiting in line at the store and so on. But, here I was ready to make some changes and my digital life was going to be part of it.
I decided to make little steps to get started. I ordered a real alarm clock for my nightstand and plugged in my phone on a bookshelf nearby, but not within arm’s reach. No more scrolling of emails, social media feeds or news as soon as I woke up or before I went to bed. You should have heard my 5-year-old when he first saw it. “Mom what is that?!”
On my phone I turned off all notifications for all apps with the exception of text messages, forcing myself to take the time to check emails and notifications from certain apps, vs. have the phone constantly dinging at me.
Next, I squeezed out the time (yes, I made time) to go to a yoga class at a local studio. I realized I needed to start taking time for me so I could function at my highest for work, my family and others in my life. I had been wanting to start practicing yoga again, but it was too easy to push it down on the priority list. It’s made a big difference in how I feel physically, even though my work on the farm has always been active, as well as mentally. There’ve been weeks where I haven’t been able to make class because of our planting schedule or family travel, but that’s ok. I just pick back up the next class that fits. I put it on my schedule and don’t take it off for other commitments unless it’s a pressing matter.
When the book arrived, I started reading it. Right away Cal talks about taking a month-long break from technology that’s tied to our phones and then afterwards start to build it back into our lives. I liked the idea and wanted to do it, but I couldn’t get myself to start. My challenge was that I love technology and my business is dependent on the online space. I was trying to figure out how to make this work. Then I realized, I needed to just jump in and get started. Little steps, just like what I had started. So that day on my walk back from the barn to the house I deleted all my social media apps. I didn’t go full force as Cal indicated in his book, but I focused on the ones that I know were the major time suckers.
I wasn’t sure how to manage my farm accounts, so I started working on them from my desktop computer, which unfortunately or conveniently, died during this time period. I scheduled out some time to check in online during this time.
The first day “away” was hard I admit. I didn’t realize how much I’d open up my phone to pass the time, or while making my way somewhere. Then after the next day surprisingly I realized I didn’t miss Facebook at all. Yes, I admit I missed Instagram. I also intentionally kept my phone at a distance so I could be more in the moment and present in life with my family and even the simplest moments, like my walk from the house to the barn. It’s so easy to miss what’s happening around us because our phones inadvertently fill in the voids. And you know what? IT WAS SO FREEING. It became apparent there was too much noise.
Let me get back to Facebook. I do recognize the value in it from the perspective of staying in touch with friends and family that aren’t nearby or from other times in my life, along with networking and learning from farm-related groups, and, yes, running my business. But I realized that the constant pull to always check in, get social media approval or see what others was doing was creating unneeded, unintentional stress. In the book, Digital Minimalism, Cal also points out how it has the potential to become a full out addiction. I needed to figure out how to make it a part of my life, but not how it had been working. Honestly, I didn’t think it was causing that much of a drain on me. I didn’t think I was using it that much.
During my digital hiatus, I started reading at night before I went to bed as a way to help wind down and turn off my brain. Eventually I switched my bedtime reading to novels or biographies and kept my self-help and business books for other times of the day. I also focused on getting some other things done so I felt like I was making progress in life. I built the porch table I had been wanting to make for several years now and made a baseball scoreboard for my son. I also made a sizable dent in organizing the farm shop, which hadn’t really been organized since we moved to the farm. I’m not trying to say look at what I’ve done, but I am in the sense of what happens when one prioritizes their time and puts some selfcare in place.
Now that I’m past the digital hiatus time. I’ve reinstalled Instagram on my phone, along with the Facebook pages app. I’m still using my personal Facebook account through my computer and think it will remain that way. I’m still working on my personal boundaries and parameters for using social media, and even for work. I’m scheduling time to use it for work just like any other task and taking pictures for the farm for future posts, not necessarily always sharing them in the moment.
Honestly, I’m still figuring out how to keep technology and the positives of social media in my life. But, I’m way more conscious of what I’m doing. The other night I started scrolling Instagram while we were watching a movie. I stopped as soon as I realized what I was mindlessly doing and put my phone down on the coffee table. It’s a work in progress, but I feel so much better on where I’m at and where I’m headed.
What have you done to intentionally live your life? What are you doing to put yourself first? How are you managing social media use in a healthy way?
A few years ago while we were planting our hay field I began my love affair with podcasts. Since I’m a grazier, I only have small equipment for planting and at time we were still using our sub-compact tractor for field work. It worked to plant 10 acres of hay, but it took a LONG time. To pass the time I started listening to podcasts. While my “first” was the first season of Serial, a crime show, it was my gateway into the expansive world of podcasts. Since then I’ve been listening to all sorts of podcasts including daily news, ag/farming, personal/ professional development, humor, pop culture, human interest and others. I also tend to be a pick and choose listener episode listener vs. regularly listening to certain shows.
Recently I presented a Learning Lab at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Agriculturalist Conference on podcasts: Listen up! Podcasts 101. Below you’ll find part of what I shared during that session.
Here are a few of my favorite ag/farm podcasts, along with a few in the professional/personal development space:
Episodes worth listening:
Thank you to my friends and followers for giving your input on the podcast list below [ag/farming + personal/professional development}. Note: These podcasts touch on a variety of types of agriculture. AND, I haven’t listened to all of these shows, or all of the episodes (obviously!).
Download the presentation handout (PDF), with the podcast lists and tips for listening.
Did I miss anything? What episodes have really stuck with you that are worth others listening? Comment below and I'll add them to my list!
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.