Record setting month

Site visits are through the roof!

Last month was the best month ever for this blog. WordPress (the host for this blog) includes a decent stat counter, which I am very fond of checking at least once a day. Ok, maybe twice a day. Ok, ok, maybe three times a day. The reason that I so love the stats is that I can see direct measurable results from what I put into the blog. Every time I post some thing, boom, I see a jump in page views. Or I can compare to different posts to see which has more interest.  Now that I have figured out how to post videos, I can compare video posts to written posts. Not that it is very surprising, but the video posts tend to have more appeal than the written ones. Nothing like a moving image to convey a thousand words at 60 frames a second. WordPress doesn’t track the time of visits, but since I check soon often I know when people are most likely to read my blog during the day.

Enough geeky gushing, here are some number for you:

  • Page Views for Jan:  5,477 (Previous month was only 3,518)
  • Busiest day was Jan 20th with 269 page views
  • Average page views/day for Jan was 177 (previous month was 113)

Basically, all three of the most critical stats for my blog all set new records last month.  I think that is pretty darn cool.

Here are the top three posts from last month:

  • Creek Watch: Day 3 – This video was posted during the height of the rain storm a week or so ago. It should how much the creek had come up since the first creek video had been posted.
  • Video of the Creek – This was the first video I ever posted.  I was just messing around trying to figure how to get my Droid videos embedded into this blog. It was so popular that  decided to follow up with daily creek videos while it was raining.
  • Gearing up for CSA deliveries – There has been a lot of interest in meat CSA over the past two, three months. I am answering a couple of emails a day about our CSA. I think that this post is getting a number of hits from people googling “meat CSA” for the Sac and SF Bay areas.
  • Honorable Mention: You thought sharks had feeding frenzies? – This is my first “production documentary” video. Rather that just shot the creek, I wanted to show folks what it is like to feed pigs in the morning. I mention it, because given the short amount of time is has been posted (I posted it rather late in the month) and its standing at the month’s end (it reached 5th most popular post), most likely it would have claimed the #1 spot if the end of the month hadn’t so cruelly cut off its chances.

Of course now my challenge is to figure out how to make Feb be the best month ever for this blog.  I can’t rest on my laurels, now can I?

2010, anyone? Part 3 – Cash flow

This is the time of year when we start to plan for the next year; the spring rush is over, the summer grind is done, fall is, for the most part, slow, and winter is the season that the next year starts in. So I have been taking odd bits of time here and there to play with our spreadsheets and run through all of the various “what-if” scenarios that might be.

I have broken down our thoughts into three main categories (Production, Marketing, and Cash flow) which I will post over three days. Here is Part 3- Cash flow

Cash flow is the last thing to consider in our planning process for 2010. We need to add dollars to each and every one of the issues we have mentioned in the last two posts and not only do we need to add dollar values but we also need to predict when those dollars will be spent/earned. True financial crisis’s happen when cash flow goes negative, not when balance sheets go negative. Luckily, we love spreadsheets and can spend hours fiddling with the numbers and scenarios. We know there is some debate over the best spreadsheet software, but right now we have to say that Excel 2007 rocks our world. It is tough verbally describe this mathematical portion of our pondering, but it is by far the most important part of planning. You have to make sure that you are going to be in the black month in and month out and should mean that you end the year in the black as well. There is no point in doing something for nothing. It is much cheaper and easier to do nothing for nothing. But if you want to do something and earn something, the price is planning (and of course all of the other costs as well).

Here are some cash flow questions that we are pondering for next year:

  • Production
    • How much does it cost to finish the animal?
    • How does that cost coincide with cash flow?
  • Marketing
    • How much does it cost to sell that animal?
    • How much does it cost to store that animal
      • We have walk in freezer but it ain’t a cavern. If we over produce and undersell we have to utilize a commercial freezer and that costs money.
  • Overall
    • How much gross and net does each animal make me based on a number of different scenarios?
    • Can we figure out a reasonable scenario that keeps our cash flow in the black for the whole year?

We have broken down our operation and our planning process into three nice and tidy categories, but the reality is that it is much more interrelated than this. We haven’t mentioned any sort of back office considerations like insurance, LLC costs, advertising, range rent, etc.  Nor we have accounted for the vagaries of Mother Nature. How this winter turns out (lots of rain, no rain, rain at the wrong time, rain at the right time) will dramatically change our plans for 2010.

Our point with this series of posts is to show how much planning and forethought goes into producing high quality meats and a sustainable, profitable business. We are not doing this by the seat of our pants nor could we even if we wanted to. But we are open to change and relish the opportunities that lie within the ever-offing tomorrow.

2010, anyone? Part 2 – Marketing

This is the time of year when we start to plan for the next year; the spring rush is over, the summer grind is done, fall is, for the most part, slow, and winter is the season that the next year starts in. So I have been taking odd bits of time here and there to play with our spreadsheets and run through all of the various “what-if” scenarios that might be.

I have broken down our thoughts into three main categories (Production, Marketing, and Cash flow) which I will post over three days. Here is Part 2- Marketing

If I were a conventional rancher, we could stop at the end of Part 1 with our production questions because once the animals got to a certain weight/age; we would sell them into the conventional market and never think about them again.  That is not the case here, we sell everything that we produce straight to our customers and that opens a whole other can of worms that need to be considered.

First thing that we need to consider is how much we are going to sell. We know that our beef sells really well. We have been selling it for years and people know and love our beef and we could sell three times the amount we can grow. Lamb sales are less than beef, but still good and are increasing as more people realize how wonderful good grass-fed lamb can be. Our free range pork was new this year and considering people are just discovering it, sales have been quite good. Our pasture raised chicken sales were a bit off from our prediction this year, but the sales were good enough to keep on with producing them. We think our chicken sale issues came from poor marketing, not flavor (not with how good our chicken is).

We have attached some numbers to how much we think we are going to sell next year. The question is when those sales are going to occur? Farmer Market sales tend to be in the summer and fall. Bulk sales are in the spring and summer. And our new Meat CSA should spread the sales out over the whole year but it is a new enterprise so we can’t plan around it very well.  Knowing when our sales are going to occur is critical when we get around to our cash flow plan (part three) as well as informing our production needs.

Here are some marketing questions that we are pondering for next year:

  • How much volume will our existing markets move? Is that enough?
  • We think we need to expand our marketing. Should we consider more FM’s requiring extra help or should we spend our time pushing our CSA?
  • Are our prices right? Do they need to go higher or lower? Essentially, we are considering “do I want to trade margin for volume?” i.e. sell fewer pounds but make more per pound or sell more pounds but make less per pound? This question of course is relative; we are not going to be Tyson anytime soon or ever.

Questions for you, our loyal reader:

  • Would you like to see us at a farmers market near you? If so, how far would you travel to get some our delicious meats?
  • Do you have a favorite farmer’s market? Do you know of a farmer’s market that would appreciate our meat?

2010, anyone? Part 1 – Production

This is the time of year when we start to plan for the next year; the spring rush is over, the summer grind is done, fall is, for the most part, slow, and winter is the season that the next year starts in. So we have been taking odd bits of time here and there to play with our spreadsheets and run through all of the various “what-if” scenarios that might be.

I have broken down our thoughts into three main categories (Production, Marketing, and Cash flow) which I will post over the next three days. Here is Part 1 – Production

 

A large part of the reason that we are planning for next year now is that meat we sell comes from animals we grow and animals grow slowly. You need to plan months if not years in advance to make sure that you have your production system matching your marketing system. To wit, grass-fed lamb takes 12-14 months to go from conception to harvest, grass-fed steers see that time upped to around 24-36 months, free-range pigs take about as long as a lamb and the speed racers of our production world are the pasture raised broilers which take 8-14 weeks depending on the breed.

 

The other tricky part to planning our production for next year is to make sure that the animal’s last day coincides with the right season. For instance, our grass-fed beef is only harvested off of our lush spring pasture, which lasts for about 90 days. So we need to plan three years in advance to make sure that our steers start the spring weighing about 900lbs in order to meet the harvest deadline. As you can guess that is a tough juggling act. Each of the species we raise have their own harvest season, and each needs to be raised in a honest, conscientious way that arranges their production cycle to best suit their needs and best suits our needs.

 

Here are some production questions that we are pondering for next year:

  • Should we plant some pasture that would allow for early spring grazing for the beef or plant some pasture that would extend spring into early summer? Both? And what does that type of planting offer to the other animals?
  • If we plant pasture, what sort of infrastructure does that require? Fencing, irrigation, etc.
  • Is planting pasture worth it? Do we have the time to make it work and work well? No point in doing it half assed – that would just be money and time down the drain.
  • Should we sell our spring lambs on the hoof now or finish them next spring and sell them as grass-fed?
  • Drought has reduced our cowherd to the point where next year we won’t have much beef to sell. Should we consider sourcing steers from another grass-fed operation that fits our production criteria or just say this is what nature allowed us to produce?
  • We have 15 pigs on pasture now, but our prediction is for us to sell about 3x that many next year. Should we load up on those weaners over the winter and have them ready for harvest early next summer or should we stagger them throughout the year?
  • Our chicken supply feels comfortable right now, but we are thinking that next year we might have to change our production practices away from organic feed to a high quality but non-organic feed to bring the cost down. That would be a tough decision because we strongly believe in non-GMO grain but if we can’t sell organic chickens then we shouldn’t grow them

Questions for you, our loyal reader:

  • Would you feel comfortable buying beef from us that we bought from another sustainable rancher?
  • Which would rather eat: a chicken fed an organic feed or a chicken fed a high quality, but non organic feed?

 

Our Meat CSA is going live

Our meat CSA is going live next month! Yep, for the very first time ever, Barbarosa Ranchers is providing monthly deliveries of select samples of our scrumptious meats.  We have long known that there are more people interested in our meats than we can find at the farmer’s markets that we attend. People always tell us “try to sell at this store” or “talk to this restaurant, they would love your meat” and we do follow up on these tips, but they almost never pan out. The reality is that we aren’t big enough to sell to these places. They would eat us out of house and home in about two weeks.  Yet that is where many of our potential customers go to buy meats like we the ones we produce. So how do we connect with these customers?

We believe that our meat CSA (btw, CSA stands for community supported agriculture) is the best way to connect with them. Many people may have heard of veggie CSA, where you sign up at the beginning of a growing season and then receive weekly boxes containing your share of the week’s harvest. Usually, these boxes are delivered to a central location near the customer, most often a work place.  People love these CSAs because they get good, fresh, and random veggies delivered to a convenient location every week.

Well, we are translating that last sentence to read “People love the Barbarosa Rancher’s meat CSA because they get a semi-random meat selection that is sustainably and locally raised, tastes fantastic, and delivered to a convenient location every month.”

Here is how we are going to run our meat CSA:

The general idea:

Our meat CSA is designed to fill your freezer with enough meat goodness to feed you and your family for a month. When you start to get nervous about not having any more meat, along we come to deliver another month’s supply of meat. Every month is going to bring you a few meat surprises because we want to you “eat your way around the animal.” The cuts that you might not buy regularly are sometimes the most flavorful cuts on the animal. And since you are buying them at the CSA price, this is the cheapest way to try them out.

How it Works (Nutshell version):

Sign up — You sign up for a 6 or 12 month membership share and pay 50% upfront.

Deliveries — We meet once a month at a pre-determined location and exchange meat for cash. We will deliver meat from Redding south to Sacramento and over to the Bay Area.

Details —That’s about it except of course for the details, for which you need to read our CSA page.

How it Works (Full version):

Check out our CSA page.

How to Sign Up:

Just send me an email and we will get you going.

Our meat CSA is going live next month! Yep, for the very first time ever, Barbarosa Ranchers is providing monthly deliveries of select samples of our scrumptious meats.  We have long known that there are more people interested in our meats than we can find at the farmer’s markets that we attend. People always tell us “try to sell at this store” or “talk to this restaurant, they would love your meat” and we do follow up on these tips, but they almost never pan out. The reality is that we aren’t big enough to sell to these places. They would eat us out of house and home in about two weeks.  Yet that is where many of our potential customers go to buy meats like we the ones we produce. So how do we connect with these customers?

We believe that our meat CSA (btw, CSA stands for community supported agriculture) is the best way to connect with them. Many people may have heard of veggie CSA, where you sign up at the beginning of a growing season and then receive weekly boxes containing your share of the week’s harvest. Usually, these boxes are delivered to a central location near the customer, most often a work place.  People love these CSAs because they get good, fresh, and random veggies delivered to a convenient location every week.

Well, we are translating that last sentence to read “People love the Barbarosa Rancher’s meat CSA because they get a semi-random meat selection that is sustainably and locally raised, tastes fantastic, and delivered to a convenient location every month.”

Here is how we are going to run our meat CSA:

The general idea: Our meat CSA is designed to fill your freezer with enough meat goodness to feed you and your family for a month. When you start to get nervous about not having any more meat, along we come to deliver another month’s supply of meat. Every month is going to bring you a few meat surprises because we want to you “eat your way around the animal.” The cuts that you might not buy regularly are sometimes the most flavorful cuts on the animal. And since you are buying them at the CSA price, this is the cheapest way to try them out.

How it Works (Nutshell version):

Sign up — You sign up for a 6 or 12 month membership share and pay 50% upfront.

Deliveries — We meet once a month at a pre-determined location and exchange meat for cash

Details —That’s about it except of course for the details, can be found on our CSA page.

CSA Shares

A “whole share” is our basic share. We figure it is enough meat to feed a family for a month. If you aren’t a family, then you can look at our half or quarter share.  Which every share works for you, you can look forward to months of great meat and great meals.

Whole Share

Half

Share

Quarter Share

Total Lbs per month

40lbs

20lbs

12lbs

Price/lb

$7.00

$7.50

$8.00

Included in the Share

%

Lbs/Month

Lbs/Month

Lbs/Month

Whole Items:

For the most part, this will be our chickens, but eventually might include other poultry as well.

25%

10

5

3

Steaks:

Cuts that can be grilled, broiled or pan fried, like rib eyes, lamb chops or pork chops

15%

6

3

2

Roasts:

These are cuts that need some love to bring out their amazing flavor. Our roasts can be turned into carnitas, pot roasts, vindaloos, and so much more.

25%

10

5

3

Ground:

Who doesn’t love a good hamburger? But have you ever tried a lamb burger? Or made meatloaf out of pork and beef? This is your chance to explore the culinary possibilities of ground meats.

35%

14

7

4

Total $ per month

$280

$150

$96

Total:

6 month membership

$1,680 for 240 lbs

$900 for  125 lbs

$576 for 72lbs

Total:

12 month membership

$3,360 for 480 lbs

$1,800 for 240lbs

$1,152 for 144lbs

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