While everyone seemed to be saying, "Good riddance!" to 2016 last month, it was a great year for us at Crane Crest Farm. It wasn't all smiles and wins, but the smiles and wins won out in the end.
Building a farm can be frustrating at times. Capital can be hard to come by, and a new farmer like me has plenty of mistakes to make. What I've learned from 2016 is that when you press on through the hardships, still pointed at the destination in mind, you will eventually get there.
Our troubles started in 2015 with buying a milk cow. What a mistake that turned out to be! She was alone and scared and had to be kept tied up in order to allow me to milk her. Luckily we were able to return her to her previous owners, and we were only out a few hundred dollars for our lessons... never have a lone animal, and make sure your physical infrastructure is adequate.
The way 2016 started for us, you might think it's just time to give up. Our first batch of meat chickens started dying off and didn't stop... we lost all 50 birds to Coccidiosis. It was a blow to see a possible stream of farm income be wiped out, but all in all, we only lost a couple hundred dollars in real money.
After the chickens, I came to the conclusion that in order to move forward, we needed to compost our failures. So often we flee from failure. Well, when those chicks were dying, I'll tell you what... I sat with that failure and stared it in the eyes. I wasn't going to run, to retreat defensively. My dream is to operate an abundant farm, and failures won't stop me. I realized that by sitting with the failure, I could use it to move forward, almost like dead plants and manure can be used to grow new plants and food.
We got two steers in the spring of 2016, and while not everything went perfectly, I'd call it a successful first run. We made a late spring decision to try raising pigs as well, and that was also a success. Finally, we tried raising geese, and while I did make some mistakes with them, I'd consider the geese an overall success too. Now we're selling at our first farmers market (Fond du Lac Winter Farmers Market). The farm continues to grow with another batch of pigs and new plans for 2017.
I share this to give you a picture of where we've been and where we're going, but I also share this to encourage you. If you have a vision, a destination, or a goal you are driving toward, my advice is this: be unstoppable. Compost your failures and use them to grow. As I read earlier this week, failures are often accompanied by hidden opportunities. You just need to press forward and find them.