I have been reminded that I should probably write some updates on how the farm projects are currently coming. We have a few “irons in the fire” so to speak, so I’ll just run through a few of them here.
Martens Family Farm
For the first time we have taken the steps to create a business entity around some of the farming operation. Mainly we’ve taken our existing hog operation and turned it into a partnership and then had that partnership expand from there. It has allowed us to bring in more people officially and also start looking to the future and more expansion from our start.
By setting up the entity we are also able to free up one member of the family, my brother, to hopefully being working on the farm as his primary means of income. The hope is that this dedicated time will allow us to not just improve the existing operation, but free up some flex time for expanding into new areas as well.
Expanding the Hog Operation
The main area of expansion for 2014 is the doubling of our hog operation. This was the impetus for the creation of Martens Family Farm, the entity, and also will allow my brother the freedom to spend more time on the farm operation. It also means I will have a lot more to do with compliance paperwork and finances.
Right now the barn is nearing completion with much of the interior work to be done, but once the barn is complete we look forward to spending a single day bringing in all 4000 head of hogs into the entire operation and getting things up and running as quickly as possible. It is quite exciting.
This is my main goal. I want to try to eliminate as much of the physical paper being moved around the farm as possible. My parents own iPhones, and iPad, and an iMac so getting the files stored and moved around should not be a huge issue, I just need to start experimenting so that we can get things working.
We are using QuickBooks Online to handle the money portion or the business and their iOS apps make it quite easy to add receipts into the system. I have not really needed to touch the desktop web interface all that much since we started. It has been pretty good.
The next thing on my list is to purchase a small, portable scanner so that I can take it to the hog office, scan in the paperwork, and then go home and handle the task of organizing things from the comfort of my own home. I have narrowed it down to a few scanners and will report back what I will be using.
Some other ideas focus around the creation and completion of some simple iOS applications which would allow us to track the progress of the hog operation without needing to send faxes back to our partners every single day. That is a long-term goal, but I think I’ll have more to say on that in the future.
I’ve already stated one of them, the creation of some iOS apps to help with record-keeping and progress-tracking, so I won’t rehash that here.
I am actively looking at FarmLogs to help us track our crop operation as well, which is separate from the hogs but would allow us another testing ground for things. It would allow us to track more information about what we are doing and have done with our individual fields so that we would have some sort of electronic record of what is going on. I am just starting to see if it is something we could use in the coming year. When all of your partners in the operation own iOS devices, it opens up new possibilities.
We have a very small group of egg-laying hens right now and we plan on maybe starting to expand that as well. So far we have enough eggs for our family to use, but adding more hens would mean we would get to open it up to some of our friends in the area. I guess my grandmother used to keep 300 hens on the farm … but we are not looking at anything like that.
One larger project we are just beginning to talk about would be adding a small herd of beef cattle onto the place as well. We need to look at what permitting we would need to look into and also prep an area for the herd to graze, but we’ve always like the idea of keeping a small number of beef cattle around for our own benefit along with allowing us to sell custom beef to local people and restaurants. A lot more planning needs to go into this, but it is something we are actively thinking about.
There are many changes going on right now and many more to come. 2014 should be another banner year as we continue to push ahead with what we’ve done and diversify into new areas as well.
The agriculture sector is a mish-mash of expensive technology available only to the largest growers and nothing, which is how many smaller growers are still doing things. I think it is a fertile area for some small companies to make a big difference.