Hey! It's the first week of February, and we just got done with the polar vortex of DOOM! Seeing negative forty on my thermometer is a bit frightening. Thankfully these cold temps didn't last for long, and all the farm critters were tucked away and did just fine. The geese even opted to sleep outside on hay piles during this cold snap. They are such hardy little critters!

I am currently sitting at a motel in the Dells for the Grassworks Conference. Two fellow farmers and friends, Lauren and Caleb of Blue Ox Farm (order delicious lamb from them FYI!) have been encouraging me to attend this as well as the WI Farmers Union Convention for a few years now. I FINALLY ventured out with them to participate in the two events, and it's been a very good experience. It's important and rewarding to meet new folks that are part of the farming world. And I have been soaking up A LOT of information. Plus I am happy to see "hard" topics being presented specifically at the Farmers Union Convention, namely addressing mental health in rural areas. 

With all of this, I feel very confident in what I have been and currently am doing in regards to farming and marketing. We all doubt ourselves from time to time, and recently I had been going through a lot of self-doubt. After many years of working toward a handful of goals, I have finally accomplished some of these goals. Namely being able to have a number of goats for sale for meat and breeding stock, but also being able to look and act upon financial farm numbers from previous years to start budgeting for 2019 and years to come. I need to find a financial living monetary balance between my goat milk soap, goat meat, goat breeding stock as well as selling goat skulls and hides. Not to mention my first year delving into a garlic CSA I'm working on with my friend Bretton called Garlic Girls. 

I'm concerned about producing products that people won't buy, I'm concerned with the market for goat meat and soap becoming saturated. Goat meat is supposed to be a "hot trend" for 2019. While that's pretty neat, I don't want foods to be just "trends". I want my food that I grow for people to be a life long staple, dependable and sustainable. I want to be able to branch out into a restaurant or two as well as selling meat direct to consumer, and perhaps offer goat meat at the local co-op. Nothing huge, but it's always nerve-racking to dip a foot rather than just a toe into the farming world. I have been growing for the past NINE years to where I am now. I decided to not go into debt during this growth period, thus the slow nine-plus year process. 

I'm excited to announce being able to move forward with a grazing plan and perhaps fencing over the next two years working with the NRCS. I'm in the process of getting the right licensing to sell goat meat and finding good resources to possibly sell hides and skulls to. Thank you Leslie for some great tips and lots of support! Check out Leslie's farm Cylon Rolling Acres here!

This is the last day of the Grassworks Conference, I met a lot of other grazing folks and have had good times and learned some new things about grazing and soil health. I can't wait to get home and digest all the information. Our soil is so complex, and keeping it healthy should be one of our top priorities, in the same league as water and air quality. 

Hanging out with Lauren over this weekend and participating in both of these events have given me a sense of seeing folks doing something, being proactive and working together and actively listening to each other about issues. It has given me a sense of belonging and (good) power. It has made me analyze and scrutinize what I want OUR community to be. I want people in our community to be supportive but also not turn blind eyes to issues. I want our community to take initiative and BE inclusive of ALL people. I have been part of communities before where tough issues didn't want to be addressed, politics did not want to be discussed, not to mention turning a blind eye toward the hard topics like mental health and domestic abuse. I understand these are tricky issues to deal with, but we ALL really need to keep moving forward, be the brave person or people to step up and start finding ways to address and find solutions which usually evolves form discussion.

To wrap things up, I'll be focusing on tidying up some of my enterprises and start offering turkey and chicken meat shares. I'll start offering goat meat shares as soon as I get my licensing figured out. Garlic Gals-Garlic CSA is available NOW to sign up for.  I have ordered the first round of Pre Order EB Ranch shirts and totes and plan on making a second order sometime this week. I need to catch up on a BUNCH of soap making when I get home as well. I can't wait to hunker down again and work on and work out kinks with the farm business. 

I appreciate the constant and growing support. Another discussion that has been had in different groups of people is the "I want to do it all concept or attitude." I recently have left the shackles of that concept. I moved up north on a farm to homestead, and by golly, I needed to grow EVERYTHING and make EVERYTHING from scratch. While this is empowering I have found myself steadily burning out over the years. I was reminded that the farm I work for grows veggies and I can ALWAYS get veggies from them. There are a couple of fabulous homestead cheesemakers in the area, while I like making cheese I can always buy THEIR cheese when I need some. I don't have to grow my own pigs as there are plenty of mighty fine pig farmers in the area. The list goes on and on. Remember to support producers that ALREADY EXIST! We need to support each other to have a healthy thriving community, and it helps us not burn out from trying to do everything ourselves. I'm not saying that you shouldn't homestead and be independent, please do so. Just DON"T burn yourself out from taking on too much and think about supporting a producer. 

For real wrapping it up. This has been another blog that went kind of all over the place!
Thank you again for the support!!

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Erin Link
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