After careful consideration I have decided to move in a new direction with Four Legs Farm. Maitri Farm in Amenia, NY is buying all of my equipment and inventory and hiring me as their full-time livestock manager. I found that working at my day job at the National Young Farmers Coalition and running the farm by myself was not sustainable for me personally.
My farm business was growing and I was finding new opportunities to market my product that held a lot of promise for the future, but I was spreading myself way too thin.
Although farming is physically demanding, it was really the anxiety that wore me down. Do the pigs have enough shade? Are coyotes going to go after my lambs? Can I make my next loan payment? Will enough people buy meat shares in time for me to pay my butcher? Can I afford to buy a truck? Can I afford not to buy a truck? Can I make it to the slaughterhouse and back and still get to work on time?
I wasn't eating right or sleeping well. Learning new things seemed impossible. Injuring myself from working too hard seemed probable. I felt so alone and there was no reprieve in sight. I could not proceed into 2017 with this arrangement. I needed to find a team.
I considered different scenarios for moving forward. Quitting my day job would mean scaling up my farm operations and hiring help. This would mean taking on a lot of debt to finance that expansion (I have already been taking out operating loans to help even out my cashflow). Without having a business partner or a really solid wholesale customer base scaling up rapidly felt foolish.
Scaling down my farm operations and keeping my job also did not feel like a viable option because I needed to maintain a certain level of production for my landlords to keep their ag exemptions. My landlords are awesome by the way and I'm happy to talk to anyone interested in leasing that land in Germantown.
If it were five or ten years from now maybe the situation would be different. Maybe there would be more wholesale buyers for local meat, maybe there would be some kind of marketing cooperative to join, maybe people would just be more ready to pay higher prices for pasture-raised meat. It was hard to admit what I could and could not change.
Maitri Farm is buying all of my equipment and remaining inventory. They do not currently have a livestock program and are interested in giving me a lot of freedom to structure the operation. Having the experience of running my own business with a limited budget was a huge part of getting this job. There is an existing veggie operation on site that I am excited to collaborate with.
My immediate plans are look very similar to what I have been doing with sheep and pigs, but with a lot of the pressure taken off. I will be able to rotate weekend chores with the veggie crew and the financial risk will not be mine.
I am keeping the Four Legs Farm brand and intend to do side projects under that name. Stay tuned for fun meat and animal related endeavors! During my first year at Maitri I will keep my Four Legs list updated about how they can buy meat from Maitri.
I learned more about farming and business from running Four Legs Farm than I could have working for someone else. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue my own farm business. I am grateful to move forward in my farming career with more support.
There are so many obstacles that keep people from pursuing careers in agriculture. The National Young Farmers Coalition is conducting a survey to better understand what young farmers need to be successful. If you're farmer, please take it. This impacts what work NYFC does in the next farm bill and beyond. Make your needs known!
Leanna at Four Legs Farm