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Small Farm Advice: Stand & Deliver

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.

Legalize It

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.

Location

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.

Marketing

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.

Read the full story and download the plans for your own stand at http://www.myfarmlife.com/farmstead/stand-and-deliver/.

New Age Thinking

Ask Dale McClellan about his work and watch his face change. An authentic smile appears, along with a twinkle in his eye.

Dale_McClellan

Dale McClellan

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.

 

 

At Your Command

As recently as a decade ago, most farmers didn’t give much thought to the notion that their tractor could have GPS-guided automated steering. Most sure didn’t think they needed it. Now, producers rave that automated steering has taken a lot of stress out of farming’s long hours, while increasing efficiencies.

The experts at AGCO are certain the same kind of appreciation will come as a result of AgCommand™, the company’s new telemetry system.  AgCommand can log and transmit numerous bits of information about an operation’s machinery to a web site easily accessible to the farmer or others involved in the operation.  AgCommand is only a part of AGCO’s larger Fuse™ initiative that encompasses all aspects of AGCO’s technology offerings. It will enable farmers to optimize their farms through current and future AGCO products and services. To learn more about Fuse, click here.

The data becomes a big tool for the farmer and can translate into improved equipment and overall operational efficiencies. Here are just a few examples:

A farm manager in the office (or the machine operator) might receive a message via the AgCommand web site that one of their tractors is experiencing wheel slippage. If there is slippage, maybe conditions in the field aren’t right yet for cultivation. The producer may have to check for compaction in areas where slippage occurs.

Monitors on the combine might tell the operator or manager—in real time—that they are experiencing grain loss. The combine setup can be adjusted before any more grain is lost.

A farm’s machinery dealer can be tied into the AgCommand monitoring system. They can see when service intervals are going to hit—when more filters and fluids are going to be needed and have them on hand. If the farmer does his own servicing, the dealer can automatically ship supplies directly to the farmer.

For more information and to download the AgCommand mobile app free, go to http://www.myfarmlife.com/first-gear/next-generation-tools/.

Auto-Guide 3000

The newest assisted-steering technology from AGCO, Auto-Guide 3000, offers integration across a range of agricultural equipment brands.  Auto-Guide 3000 is part of AGCO’s larger Fuse™ initiative that encompasses all aspects of AGCO’s technology offerings. It will enable farmers to optimize their farms through current and future AGCO products and services.  To learn more about Fuse, click here.

The new system is also compatible with all GLONASS satellites, in addition to WAAS, OmniSTAR XP, G2 and HP subscription, and RTK GNSS signals. In fact, its high quality and reliability were driven by extensive testing at nine different AGCO manufacturing sites around the globe.

“Auto-Guide 3000 has been the most extensively tested guidance product that has come from AGCO to date,” says Matt Rushing, vice president, product management, AGCO Advanced Technology Solutions (ATS) and Electronics Functional Group (EFG). “It’s a solution that both customers and dealers can place a high level of confidence in.”

Ease of use is key, notes Rushing. “AGCO has taken steps to design its next generation of guidance solutions to be simple to operate.” With Auto-Guide 3000, he adds, “it’s also fully scalable from sub-meter to centimeter accuracy.”

It’s getting to the point that assisted steering is a standard requirement for most large farmers in North America. Steering and guidance are the most basic precision-ag functions and are the foundation for almost every operation in the growing cycle.

One of the greatest benefits of the Auto-Guide 3000 is that it can be integrated right into the same C1000 tractor monitor that the operator uses to control his tractor, White planter or Hesston® by Massey Ferguson baler. The system also features straight-line, pivot and contour modes, and works with the C2100 monitor in Massey Ferguson combines.

This eliminates the need for an extra monitor in the cab and helps the operator focus on the field, since all the information he or she needs is in one location. However, notes Rushing, for more advanced characteristics and functionality, an optional monitor is available that offers a larger screen and more dedicated functions.

Auto-Guide 3000 is currently available as a factory-installed option on select Massey Ferguson and other AGCO-made tractors and combines, and on Hesston by Massey Ferguson self-propelled windrowers. It’s also offered as an aftermarket add-on.

For more information about the new Auto-Guide 3000 system, contact your local AGCO dealer or visit myFarmLife.com/autoguide.

 

High-Country Hay

Monte Innes

Monte Innes

The beads of perspiration forming on Monte Innes’ forehead are swelling but not yet heavy enough to succumb to gravity. It is early August, a sunny 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and he’s leaning against a large square bale amid a 480-acre strip of land along the Ohio Creek in south-central Colorado.

“This is a real harsh area to work in,” says Monte, 43, who cuts and bales hay on nearly 6,000 acres tucked piecemeal into high, arid mountain valleys up to an hour-and-a-half apart. “The cold can settle into this valley here in the winter and it’ll be 35 below for days.

“Every valley has its own microclimate,” he continues, “and in the spring and summer, rainfall can vary tremendously from one hay field to the next all within a few miles of each other. You just kind of roll with the punches.”

On this particular day, however, the Ohio Creek Valley resembles paradise. Mountains rise up around us on three sides. Most grand are the Anthracites directly to the north.

Acres worth of grass have already been cut and laid down by Monte. In an adjacent field, his wife Julie is running the baler, dropping large rectangular blocks in her wake. Across the valley lush grasses—timothy, red top, brome and clover—fed by recent, unusually heavy rains, beg to be harvested.

Monte and Julie picked up an additional 900 acres worth of hay to farm this year, in large part because of their new Hesston® by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrower. Their new customer had seen the clean, close cut the Inneses had achieved on a nearby property and realized his existing custom balers were leaving money in the fields.

“This is the third RazorBar disc header we’ve had, and we wouldn’t own anything else,” Monte says. “We get all the hay. It is a clean cut an inch from the ground.”

He also appreciates the speed with which the machine can travel. “It is awesome traveling down the road at 20 mph from one field to another,” he continues, noting how important that speed is when you’re working numerous scattered fields.

The windrower is quick in the field, too. “Today I cut 180 acres in six-and-a-half hours,” he says, “and I couldn’t have done that with any other machine.”

Their dealer, Luke Sharpe, of Sharpe Equipment and Irrigation in Salida, says that the care and ability of the operators also play a role in how well the couple do their jobs. “Monte and Julie work their butts off, and their hay quality is phenomenal,” he says.

The 2170XD

The 2170XD

Their new Hesston by Massey Ferguson 2170 XD baler, which is being pulled by an MF6495 tractor, is making and saving them money, too. “Our new baler is a home run for us,” Monte says.

The 2170 XD produces bales that are denser, heavier. Because of that, they can now get 26 to 27 tons of hay on a semi trailer truck for shipment, rather than 22 tons.

“That saves us about 50 loads per season,” says Monte, “which saves us about $25,000 in shipping costs.”

As for the tractor, “it is phenomenal on fuel running the baler,” Monte says. “I kept calling the dealership saying, ‘I think the fuel gauge is wrong.’

“It wasn’t broke; it was just getting that much better fuel economy.”

Read the full story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/high-country-hay/.