Tricia got into farming somewhat by accident. 14 years ago, she and her husband bought a 26 acre property with a barn that they converted to a house for their family. Not wanting to have to mow the grass themselves they bought a few cows to do the job. Soon, some fencing followed along with 12 baby chicks. It wasn’t long after that Tricia had more eggs than she and her family could consume and she started selling them. As they began butchering the cows and selling the meat, everyone remarked on how the meat tasted so much better than what they bought at the supermarket, so Tricia increased the cows on her property, added on pigs, turkeys and meat chickens and began selling the meat as well. Unfortunately, Tricia had no idea what her actual production costs were or how much she should charge for her products. “Our refrigerators and freezers were full, we were selling all we could produce, but there was no cash,” says Tricia.
“If feels pretty good to have a plan and more control”
In the meantime, Tricia started working with Holistic Management Certified Educator, Phil Metzger, who helped her begin looking at her farm holistically. Tricia soon realized that her egg operation was not really viable, so she got rid of the Laying Hens and began to focus on the beef, meat chicken, turkey and pork operations, which would require more land. Three years ago, she and her husband put their farm up for sale and Tricia enrolled in HMI’s Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast program to get further training and started planning for a new, bigger farm.
“You are worth a living wage. You deserve it”
“The program validated what we had been thinking. It really lit a fire for me. Making a living farming is not just a pipe dream,” says Tricia. Holistic Financial planning was very important for Tricia. “It helped me categorize things and allowed me to realize we didn’t really need some of the expenses we had,” she says. “Without this program we would not have had the confidence to buy this larger farm.”
“I had a little hobby and turned it into a viable business.”
Holistic land planning guided Tricia and her husband in finding their new farm. She evaluated flooding history, infrastructure and soil condition, subsequently purchasing a 150 acre farm with less than idea soil conditions because she knew she could repair the land with proper grazing techniques. (with not just cows but also meat chickens and turkeys on pasture). “When we bought the farm we had 90% bare ground; 16 months later, we have reduced the bare ground to 20%,” says Tricia.(that is in the north and south pastures, we have a bit of work to do on the west field still) “We used to have to buy hay, now we make our own. All this occurred during a drought year. Everybody looks at me odd because I’m always looking down in the dirt”.
“Holistic Management keeps me from going off on wild tangents.”
While Tricia continues to expand her cow operation, she is also using Holistic Management testing questions to evaluate new enterprises, including adding sheep, agri-tourism, and veggies. “My 16 year old son wants to stay on the farm. He understands animal impact and the effects of erosion. He knows it only takes a few moments to lose topsoil and years to bring it back.”