Lazy Eight Stock FarmPosted on Jun 23, 2014
Operating a family farm can be demanding for a family, but growing that family farm to provide a sustainable income for two generations is another challenge all together. Yet, it is a challenge the Baumann family of Lazy Eight Stock Farm has embraced. KCARD staff worked with the Baumann family through this transition to help them develop a business plan and pursue funding opportunities.
Lother and Carla Baumann started gardening and home canning in the early 1980's when they moved to the farm. The weekend farmers enjoyed gardening, so Lother began growing produce for sale at the local farmers' market. Bryce joined his dad at the market when he was just 11, and even developed his own farming venture in high school raising strawberries for the market.
"When Bryce returned home from college and told us his plans to farm I remember thinking, Oh no." laughs Lother. "I was content to raise two or three acres of heirloom beans and tomatoes so I could experiment and sell at the farmers market, but I knew that would have to change if Bryce was to make a decent living on the farm."
Today the Baumann family has not only grown the original 60 acres of conventional farmland to an over 400-acre organic diversified farm operation that boasts over 40 acres of organic vegetable production. The family itself has also grown with Bryce's wife Anna and their son Jack.
"We have really changed the operation quite a bit since Bryce decided to make farming his livelihood, from the size of our family, what we are growing on the farm, to the way we grow the farm products" said Carla. "While it comes naturally to celebrate the growth of our family, some of the other changes have not been as easy to adjust to on the farm."
As manager Bryce has not only transitioned the farm to a certified organic operation, he has worked side by side with his parents to identify new marketing opportunities for their operation.
"We had sold at the farmers' market for years and we all felt comfortable with that level of marketing," said Bryce. "We considered the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) option, but it wasn't until 2011 that we felt like we had expanded our variety of produce to have the products for a CSA box."
The first year the Baumann's had hoped to have 10 CSA members, but they instead had 25 sign-up for the service. Carla says they couldn't believe the response for the CSA, but it gave them the encouragement to continue and expanded their customer base.
"We were selling at the farmers markets in the area, had a growing CSA operation, and then we began to transition our land from conventional production to organic," explained Carla. "Last year our entire farm was certified organic and that is when we really started looking beyond direct marketing to wholesale options."
It was during the transition to a certified organic farm that the Baumann's turned to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) for business planning assistance.
"We knew our business - it is critical to know your business-but we were going down a new path with wholesaling organic produce," explained Bryce. "Having KCARD to help guide us through the process, to think about how we were changing our business, and help us develop a business plan was critical for our operation."
"Helping the Baumann family develop their business plan was an uplifting experience for me", stated Nathan Routt, KCARD business development specialist. "Over the course of about one year, I met with the Baumann family several times to develop a comprehensive business plan. Although a business plan was the main objective, my meetings with all family members at the table allowed valuable discussions about strategy and goals going forward", added Routt. "I feel like the Baumann family benefitted throughout the entire process, beyond simply having a written business plan at the end."
KCARD continued to work with the Baumann family as they explored the funding sources for expanding markets, and worked with the family in their application for a Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG).
"Myrisa was a valuable resource helping us understand the terminology and the process as we applied for the Value-Added Producer Grant," said Carla. "Nathan also helped us hone in on our business plan and tweaked it for the application. I just can't say enough good stuff about the team."
Bryce admits that being awarded a VAPG would provide the family operation much needed assistance in the marketing and branding efforts for their new organic wholesale market, but he stresses that the true value of working with KCARD has been the process itself.
"We have realized through the years, and especially through this process that we can't do everything," said Carla. "Working on our business plan has helped us to find what we as individuals do well in the operation, what we do well producing, and really has given us direction as we move forward."
Along with their established CSA operation this year, the Baumann family is already working hard this season on growing yellow straight neck squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and some kale for their new wholesale markets. Bryce believes that the certified organic wholesale portion of the operation is going to be even bigger this year than their established CSA.
"While I believe the transition from conventional to organic production was the right move for our operation, we never saw the full benefit of the move with our sales at the farmers market. Some people were drawn to our CSA because of our organic certification," explained Bryce. "I think, though, where we will see the benefit in the long run will be in the wholesale market, especially as we brand our products."
The Baumann's believe in keeping Lazy Eight Stock Farm a family operation, but also know that growing their family operation is key to the long-term success of the farm. While Lother and Carla might have enjoyed retirement raising a few acres of heirloom beans and tomatoes to sell at the farmers market, Bryce along with his wife Anna, toddler son Jack, and a baby expected in late summer needed to grow the farming operation for their future.
As Lother Baumann looked over the acres of organic kale growing in one of Lazy Eight Stock Farm's many fields and talked about the acres in organic production and the growth of new marketing options he summed up his view of the farming operation as he laughed and said, "Well, I reckon we are really farming now, or at least getting there."
KCARD's business planning assistance is supported through funds provided by the US Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board. The grant facilitation assistance is supported by the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board.
Press release courtesy of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development