Archive for October, 2013
A roadside stand is a good entry into direct-marketing your crops. In addition to earning extra income without a middleman taking a cut, it’s a good way to promote your farm and test what sells with consumers in your area.
Besides the bricks and mortar (or more likely wood and nails) of your stand, consider the “intangibles” necessary to pull off a successful farm stand that will keep customers coming back week after week. Smiles and a pleasant personality go a long way. “Your people are your most important asset,” says Kent Halla, owner of Sierra Vista Growers (and a fleet of Massey Ferguson tractors) in La Union, N.M.
Halla’s thriving nursery and organic food business started as a small operation that sold vegetables from his adjacent farm. “When you are knowledgeable, interested, engaged and you like what you do, that energy radiates to the customer,” he says.
With that in mind, here, then, are a few tips to help get your roadside stand up and running.
At the state and local levels, you’ll need to inquire about licenses, health permits, sales taxes, weight and measure requirements, and zoning and right-of-way regulations. Accident and product liability insurance may be required.
The best location for a roadside stand is on or near your farm, and, if possible, 15 minutes or less outside a populated area. Ideally, it will be situated on a straight thoroughfare (so the stand is visible from a distance) and where traffic is relatively slow moving (47 mph or less).
Outfitting and Operating
The stand itself can be a simple post-and-beam structure, a pole shed, a tent, a trailer, or a canopy covering a truck or hay rack; it just needs to protect you, the customers and the produce from weather. Face the stand north or south to avoid the withering effects of the morning and afternoon sun.
You’ll also need a moneybox or cash register, a scale, hand-held shopping baskets or bags, and some sort of display system for your produce—bins, boxes, baskets or tables. Clearly post prices, which can be set according to weight, count or volume. Use competitor prices as guidelines.
Hours of operation should be determined by traffic flow and what you have available to sell. Typically, the highest customer traffic will be on the weekends.
All that’s needed on a road sign is the farm name, distance to the stand, and perhaps a drawing of produce. For highest readability, letters on signs should be 1/5th as wide as they are high. Place road signs at least 1/4 mile from the stand in both directions.
The traditional advertising route is signs, flyers and newspaper ads. Free and effective forms of advertising include Internet forums and social media sites. Open a Twitter or Facebook account and keep followers up to date. Make sure to solicit followers to these sites in ads and on signs and flyers.
The best form of advertising, bar none, is word of mouth from satisfied customers. This will come in time as a result of your high-quality products, pleasant atmosphere, and that energy and enthusiasm you offer your customers.
Valtra tractors claimed the top 3 positions at the European Tractor Pulling Championships in Zele, Belgium.
Matti Herlevi driving Caesar was crowned European Champion in the Pro Stock category, while Jurian Duijn from the Netherlands took silver with Next Sensation and Johanna Herlevi third with Gangnam Style. This is the fifth time that Valtra tractors have made a clean sweep of the European Championships, although it has been several years since the last time. Matti Herlevi has now won the European Championships six times, while his father Pekka has won it four times and sister Johanna two times.
“We spent many hours in the garage last winter thinking of ways in which we could further improve our tractors. For example, we rebuilt our transmissions to make them more durable with fewer gears. We also increased the amount of valve lift in the engines, and we made deeper recesses in the pistons before the start of the season. We took some risks, in other words, but it was well worth it in the end,” says Matti Herlevi.
The competition was extremely tight, as it has been throughout the season. The tractors are separated by so little that the positions were decided by just a few centimetres. The tractors were also so well tuned that they all made it thought the first pull easily with the exception of Mud Patrol, which suffered a broken front axle. In the pull-off the tractors continued to pull so convincingly that in the end the top 15 tractors were separated by less than ten metres.
The Belgian organisers managed to keep the track dry and grippy despite rain showers the previous day. Around 10,000 spectators were on hand on both days to watch the championships.
Ask Dale McClellan about his work and watch his face change. An authentic smile appears, along with a twinkle in his eye.
It’s a sign that Dale, owner of M&B Dairy and M&B Products, is about to tell you a story—about his family history in dairy farming or the newest product his processing plant is planning to roll out. His willingness to share his experience and expertise is a large part of the reason he was named the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Other measures of his success are via hard numbers.
1 million: Combined units of milk and juice packaged and processed at M&B Products every day
65,000: The square footage of the M&B Products processing plant in Tampa, Fla.
690: Dairy cows at M&B Dairy
6,000: Gallons of milk produced by those cows on a typical day
140: People employed by M&B Products
Efficiency measures abound at M&B Dairy. The cow barn, which sits on a 2% slope, is routinely flushed with water. The liquids are used to irrigate the fields, while the solids go to a 2-acre compost site where the composted material becomes padding for the cow beds. The compost system allows for 100% use of all manure solids, so no manure waste is shipped offsite.
As it is with any business endeavor, opening the new M&B Dairy came with challenges. At first, residents and business owners in Citrus County, where the dairy resides, were wary of such a large operation being built in their backyard. Instead of reacting defensively, Dale held community meetings to discuss his plans for the site, and invited his family and his engineer to come and speak.
His efforts paid off, and now the McClellan family enjoys a great relationship with their neighbors in the county. Leon and Dale sit on the board for several local business and charitable organizations. Additionally, in an effort to promote ag tourism in Citrus County, Dale and Leon open the dairy for tours. They also work with the commissioner of agriculture to promote “buy local” efforts in Florida, while Dale, along with three other producers, has started a co-op with other area dairy farmers in an effort to help market local milk.
Dale’s son Leon McClellan estimates he’ll put about 2,500 to 3,000 hours of work on the family’s new Massey Ferguson® 5465 tractor this year. As the winner of the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award, Dale won use of the tractor for one year, and both he and son Leon (the primary operator) are happy with the machine.
Used for tillage, planting, turning compost, loading the feed wagon, pushing up feed, putting compost bedding out and loading manure, “It’s kind of an all-around, one-size-fits-all tractor,” says Dale.
So far, the McClellans have been especially impressed with its ability to turn compost smoothly. “It’s got a low gear in it,” says Leon, “so it turns the compost better because you have to go as slow as you can.”
With the amount of time he spends in the cab, Leon cites comfort and visibility as important features. With the mechanical cab suspension, it rides smooth, even on rough terrain. “And the transmission is good,” Leon says of the Dyna-4™. “It switches from A to B to C and D, just like that. You don’t have to push in the clutch for any of it.”
Leon also likes the additional power the AGCO POWER 66 CTA 6-cylinder engine gives him.
When their year of use is up, Dale and Leon expect they’ll purchase the MF5465. “Basically, it can fill any space in the company that we need, small or large,” Dale says.
To read more about M&B Dairy and M&B Products, visit http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/new-age-thinking/?page=all.
Sunflower Tillage Experts Offer Preseason Advice for Proper Tillage
No matter what your tillage goal is — residue management, seedbed preparation or preparing for the next crop in a rotation — a properly adjusted and properly used tillage implement will result in fewer trips to the field, better management of the quality and performance of the next crop, and hopefully lower potential erosion.
Tillage experts from Sunflower®, the industry’s full-line provider of tillage and seeding implements, offer some advice for preparing and setting disc harrows before going to the field this fall. These tips apply regardless of the brand of disc harrow you’re working with.
“The goal should be to achieve a consistent, level soil finish across the entire width of the machine, leaving no ridges or furrows,” says Larry Kuster, senior product specialist with Sunflower, a brand of AGCO. “How a machine is set and how it is used really impact reaching this goal, and also determine how effective the machine will be at cutting crop residue, sizing it consistently, and then mixing it into soil to encourage breakdown over the winter.” Kuster offers these tips plus easy-to-follow photos and detailed instructions from Sunflower demonstrating how to set a tillage machine.
Properly pair the tractor and tillage tool. Size does matter, so don’t overpower the tool. A general rule is 8 to 10 HP per foot to pull a tandem disc harrow at 5 to 6 mph. While the design of some tillage tools allows faster ground speeds, going too fast is an easy way to create ridges and furrows. It also can cause tillage tools to bounce, producing an inconsistent tillage depth.
Adjusting the tongue to match drawbar height is important to keep the tillage tool level and moving smoothly through the field, optimizing fuel use and minimizing wear on parts such as the drawbar, level lift assembly and other components that can receive unneeded down pressure if the tool is operated either nose down or tail down. A straight line of draft to the tool is the goal.
Purge air from the hydraulic lines to ensure the wings stay level with the machine’s center section. With the implement’s hydraulics connected to the tractor, simply raise and lower the implement several times to allow the system to cycle fully. Because air is more easily compressed than oil, air in the hydraulic lines can allow the wings to sag.
“If the cylinder sags one-third inch, for example, that could allow the wing to drop approximately 1 inch,” explains Kuster. “That is significant when the tillage depth you’re working toward is only 5 or 6 inches.”
Level the tool from side to side and from front to back to ensure it will work the soil at a consistent, even depth, without gouging or ridging. Keeping the tool level also helps optimize fuel efficiency, reduces wear on the implement, and allows the machine to handle crop residue with less bunching or plugging. Wings and center frames should operate at the same height from side to side. To check these, lower the tool to the ground, stopping the descent when the disc blades are close to the soil but not touching it. Use a tape to measure the distance from the bottom of the frame to the center of the pivot pin on the walking tandem or the top of the wheel spindle if a single or dual wheel is present. The measurements should be the same. Always check the center-section wheels left and right to ensure the integrity of the center lift assembly. Using this same method, set the wings at identical depths by measuring from the bottom of the frame to the top of the wheel spindle or pivot pin of the walking tandem (as shown). If the wheels on the wings are smaller than the main transport wheels, adjust your measurements accordingly.
“The great thing about this method is the operator can use it at the shop or in the field,” says Kuster. “You don’t need a level slab of cement.”
Adjust the fore/aft level so the front and rear blades are of equal distance from the ground. This is a preliminary adjustment. Once in the field, confirm the fore/aft level after traveling several hundred feet with the tool lowered in the working position. Check the soil at the center rear of the tool where the soil is returned by the rear gangs. A tool that is level front to rear will produce a complete and level fill of the valley cut by the front gangs. If soil forms a valley, the rear of the tool needs to be lowered. If a ridge is present, the rear of the tool is too deep, and the tool should be adjusted to lower the front of the machine.
Set the tillage depth to your field conditions and the job at hand. A general rule of thumb for tillage depth of an implement such as a disc harrow is 25 percent of the blade diameter. Thus, a disc harrow with 24-inch blades should be set to till no more than 6 inches deep. Implements such as Sunflower disc harrows have a single-point depth control with a convenient hand crank that adjusts the depth in one-half-inch increments each time the handle is rotated one turn.
“When setting machine depth, be sure the machine carries some weight on the wheels, because the wheels are the base of all the tool adjustments previously made,” explains Kuster. “When the tires don’t have some soil contact, control of the implement is lost.”
Follow these steps to achieve the maximum depth of a disc harrow: Operate the tool with the wheels fully retracted; yes, tires off the ground. Stop after working the soil for a few hundred feet and allowing the disc to achieve maximum depth. Lower the wheels until the tool’s frame begins to lift. At this point, release the valve stopping the ascent of the frame, and stop the tractor but leave the tool in the ground. Adjust the single-point depth-control crank until the striker plate contacts the hydraulic poppet valve. Raise the tool until the audible click of the poppet valve engages, which stops the oil flow. The implement’s maximum depth is now set, and control of the tool is retained.
Gauge wheels are especially important on flexible tillage tools to prevent front-wing corners from gouging. When set correctly, these wheels should move slightly side to side when kicked. A tape measure can be used to ensure the setting for both gauge wheels is consistent. The gauge wheel adjustment is the final step in the field adjustment process.
Operators’ manuals will have full details for specific settings on your machine. For more information about the full line of tillage tools from Sunflower, see your Sunflower equipment dealer or visit www.sunflowermfg.com.