As we try to grow our business to a sustainable size, I think a great deal about the balance between production and marketing. In 2009, we are planning to produce and market 250 grass-fed lambs, 150 cords of firewood, and 15,000 board feet of lumber. Based on our projections, I anticipate that these enterprises will generate one living wage (for me) as well as enough revenue to pay several interns.
This all looks good on paper; the key to the entire business is finding ways to balance my time between production and marketing. As small-scale farmers, our marketing depends on direct contact with our customers (which I thoroughly enjoy). Our production depends on the amount of time I can devote to moving sheep, changing irrigation water, cutting firewood and milling lumber. I can't sell products I don't have, but I also can't produce goods that I don't have time to market. Balancing my time can be challenging.
Making the most efficient use of my marketing time is one of the keys. If I can sell more lamb at my existing outlets (farmer's markets, restaurants, CSA's and buyer's clubs), I can increase my sales volume without increasing my marketing time. We're exploring ways to accomplish this.
Balance is also important from a personal standpoint. While I love farming, I need time to spend with my family away from farming, too. Time away from the farm allows these bigger questions to become more clearly focused.
I'm interested in the ways in which other farmers (and other small businesses) find this balance - your suggestions are most welcome!
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