Saturday, November 1, 2014

All the Things You Don't Know

Tony Giamarrino photo

When we were looking for a new home, we had a number of requirements.  The most important being the ability to have animals.  All sorts of animals.  We learned along the way that oddly enough the rural lifestyle is not always welcoming to farm animals. While a horse was okay, most of those sweet homesteads with five to ten acres that were called “rural residential” didn’t allow chickens, pigs or cows.

That limited our choices to EXCLUSIVE AG. And, that meant a building site, not a ready-made homestead.

Great! Found something.

 Built the house.  Moved in.

 Got the barn construction going and made a deal on a cow. The goats arrived from their temporary home and we had a line on some chickens. The garden was growing well.
barn construction begins

view from out back

Now, about that home business…

We had assumed that the Boss could work toward building a custom furniture business.  He had inherited Granddaddy’s tools and he’s incredibly talented. He’d built a lot of our furniture, made gifts for others and lots of folks really liked his work. That would be our "centerpiece" and we would raise vegetables and animals for our own use.

One small problem.

With EXCLUSIVE AG zoning, any non-agriculturally based business must be done from the home.

Inside the home.

The proposed shop (our garage) is not attached to the house.  And, our house is far too small to give up any living space for tools.  Our rocky hill precluded a basement, and space was at a premium.

while the tools couldn't be used for a retail business
they have been used for countless farm projects

But, there were two ways the County would allow us to have a wood-working business in the shop.

1-build an enclosed (heated) breezeway between the shop and house.
2-petition the County for a $300 special use permit.

Who knew?

With $5 in the bank, neither was an option. 

It looked like the tools would sit idle and we were headed back to the drawing board.

Now what?

Our newfound friends were on the cutting edge of alternative Ag.  They encouraged us to “think outside the box” when it came to farming.  

It seemed everyone had some option we hadn’t considered. A couple of folks were deeply involved in the local Farmers’ Market.  We knew we knew how to bake and raise food…   But, how did one go about selling? Someone else was looking for a sub-contractor to raise eggs for restaurant sales. We knew that we knew how to raise chickens…  But, how did one go about building an egg business?  There was a growers’ co-op forming to sell vegetables to fancy restaurants.  We knew how to garden…  But, what did restaurants want? And, how did one get access to these restaurants?

Those questions would be answered, but first we would encounter more.  Many more.

How does one set a goat’s leg?  Why aren’t these hens laying?  Will we EVER get the bargain cow?  Will we get accepted to sell at the Farmers’ Market?  Will VDACS (Virginia Dept of Ag) approve our kitchen? What happens if they don't? Can we get a hoophouse built before the first snowfall? Where was the best place to get farm equipment…feed…farm supplies? What kind of supplies do you need for Farmers’ Market? Where do we get those? Are restaurants really interested in LOCAL food? Should we become Certified Organic? How do we get our kids involved without being concerned about child labor laws? Did our homeschooling exemption from another county apply here? Could we put in more gardens? Where could we get seeds for Market sales? How much can we grow?  More importantly, how much can we sell?  For that matter, how do we sell?

 It seemed that for each question answered, another one arose. 

Lesson learned:

There are going to be a LOT of lessons!

We can/will certainly "learn something new every day"!
There's no way to anticipate all the things you don't, learn as you go.

There are a number of folks blogging for Agriculture in November...thanks to Holly Spangler over at Farm Progress.

Holly will be writing about Agriculturists who influence  and joining her will be the rest of the cast of
30 Days Bloggers

Looks like some interesting reading!

1 comment:

  1. I have always thought your approach to your way of life was excellent Barbara. Who was it who said,
    'Fortune favours the prepared mind.' You are both a marvellous example of this.