Imagine it’s your first year in college and you get an offer to go be an apprentice on farm.
You’ve never farmed before. And you’ve never really thought about farming before.
Taking the offer means that you would need to drop out of college to commit to the apprenticeship.
And so would you future wife, because you’re also engaged.
She isn’t from a farming family or background either.
So it’s you two, in college for something that isn’t ag related, dropping out out college to take an apprentice ship on a farm.
What would you do?
Most people would say tell me more.
Well, this is a farm raising chickens on grass. And this farm is located in Swoope, VA and it’s run by a farmer named Joel Salatin.
What would you do? Would you and your wife drop out of college to accept the invitation to be apprentices or not?
A lot of people would say yes.
But it’s 2016.
What if you got this same offer in 1996 when very few people outside of the area knew who Joel Salatin was, it’s 1996 when pastured poultry wasn’t a thing, and it’s 1996 and you are going to be the second ever apprentice on Joel’s farm.
It’s not the same slam dunk answer that it might be for many of you as it is today.
That’s the exact question that my guest, John McAuley was faced with back in 1996.
To quit school and farm, or not.
Let’s find out how that played out…
Notes from this episode:
- “I’m one of those guys I don’t lose. I either win or I learn to help me win the next time.”
- Value adding their product has been a huge game changer for them.
- Cutting the chicken up isn’t that much more work and adds upwards of 40% to the margin.
- Their business changed when they shifted to selling frozen, not fresh birds.
- One lesson that they learned during their first operation that they fixed the second time around, was setting up a good perimeter fence.
- Spent a lot of time marketing their product to the Weston A Price crowd.
- Having chicken year round has been huge for sales for his business.
- 4500 birds this year.
- 25% is sold off the farm.
- 50% is sold through farm partners – with beef and pork producers.
- 25% is sold to restaurants
- Spent a lot of time establishing relationships with farm partners who sell other meats. It allows the others farms to offer a more diverse offering.
- “Pick one thing and do it really well, then allow that one thing cash flow and grow everything else.”
- Stick with it long enough to continuously get better and design the flaws out of your system, that only comes through time.
- Don’t expect a profit right away, consider it a learning opportunity.
- Average revenue per chicken is $31.
- 500 birds per acre is reasonable.
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