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This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

by Elizabeth Henderson

Early in 2016, Evangeline Sarat at Sweetland Farm, in Trumansburg, NY, announced that she would paying wages to her employees at the Tompkins County living wage level.  Evangeline explained, “For me, it is very pin pointed: if my employees work, they should make a living. Especially, with food. If they’re working to grow healthy food, I don’t see how it’s logical that they not get enough to live.” Her declaration set off a flurry of emotional discussion among farmers and foodies that has not died down, especially with Governor Cuomo agreeing to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.   Paul Martin, current manager of Sweetland, explained the consequences of Evangeline’s decision for Sweetland.

Paul Martin of Sweetland Farm

To afford to pay higher wages, Evangeline raised the price of her farm’s CSA shares by $100.  The immediate effect was that member numbers dropped from 380 to just 300.   Paul still paid their four workers $15 an hour for the 2016 season. After completing financial calculations for the season, he reports that things were “a little tight,” but worked out. The drought made it harder: there was only enough crop for summer shares without the extra he had planned for summer wholesaling.  Nevertheless, Paul is determined to make things work and says, “At Sweetland we are still experimenting on how to have an economically sustainable farm.  The farm has to be thriving enough, an attractive business model so that my kids or someone else would want to buy the business.  I still feel like it is important to pay labor, but it is just as important to pay the farmer a living wage and that has to come first.” He has set out to achieve the balance among pricing to customers, the needs of his employees and his own needs….

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

By John Lavelle

In my prior three articles, we discussed estate tax implications of large land ownership, business succession issues in farming operations, and the tax benefits of conservation easements.  Now let’s discuss something completely different: the day-to-day issues all business owners must cope with, but that are particularly challenging for farmers.

One of the fastest ways to go out of business is to ignore the basic rules of compliance with all the various governmental entities.  This article is not going to cover special issues that are peculiar to farms: environmental and land use, grant compliance, crop programs and insurance are often covered in detail by your local farm bureau, cooperative extension and county.  Rather, we are going to review some compliance obligations that can impact any business and even cause business failures.

My day job as a lawyer and my other job as “CFO” of my wife’s farm business have exclusively been in New York jurisdictions.  While rules and regulations can vary even within a state, it is especially true from state to state.  For non-New York farmers, these pointers need to be adjusted for your state and local experience.

Payroll

If you hire employees outside of the family (there are exemptions from some payroll obligations for your spouse and minor children), payroll compliance has to be a top priority.  A very strong recommendation is to use a payroll service.  Do not be tempted to save money processing payroll through your own accounting software….

Read the rest of the article here.

Baskets or Pallets: Vegetable Grading and Packaging

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be offering a series of field days to aide in understanding how to determine quality and grade of agricultural products. These sessions are designed to prepare farms in NY, both beginning and experienced, to enter new markets.

It will be held at Ernest Girod’s Farm – 10431 County Road 23 Fillmore, NY 14735 on Wednesday, July 12 from 9 -11 AM. Learn how to grade vegetables and package for different markets! There will be hands-on training with peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

The field days are open to 25 participants; preference is given to active or retired NYS Military Veterans on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee is $10/person; veterans may apply for stipend to cover cost of attending. For more information or to apply contact Lynn Bliven, CCE Allegany County at 585-268-7644 ext. 18 or email lao3@cornell.edu.

The Cornell Small Farms Program Summer Webinar Presents: Is Your Farm Business Structured for Success? on Wed. July 19, from 12-1pm.

For decades, farmers have relied on the CSA model and farmers’ markets to retail their produce and finance their farm operations. In recent years, farmers have anecdotally expressed that they are increasingly competing with farms, stores, and other market options offering more choices for customers.

In the fall of 2016, Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC), Temple University’s Fox School of Business, and Lundale Farm were partners in a USDA funded Specialty Crop Block Grant to identify and disseminate best practices for community-supported agriculture (CSA) and direct-to- consumer business models that are profitable and sustainable for small produce farms in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This presentation shares the research results and recommendations that emerged from this grant, entitled: Evaluating and Identifying Successful Business Models and Challenges for Specialty Crop Farmers in Southeastern Pennsylvania. These findings were featured as workshops at recent conferences: NESAWG 2016, CASA 2017, and PASA 2017.

Marilyn Anthony, previously Eastern Regional Director for PASA; Executive Director of Lundale Farm; and presently Assistant Professor of Practice, Strategic Management, Fox School of Business, Temple University, will share the report findings and encourage discussion of the business challenges facing farmers.

REGISTER HERE

On Saturday, July 8, 2017, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Cornell Cooperative Extension will be offering a series of field days to aide in understanding how to determine quality and grade of agricultural products. These sessions are designed to prepare farms in NY, both beginning and experienced, to enter new markets. The session will be at Toad Song Mushrooms 2320 Centerline Rd. Varysburg, NY 14167. Learn how shiitake mushrooms grow, from selection of logs to sustainable harvesting. The footprint and labor involved in growing clean and marketable shiitake mushrooms will be demonstrated in detail. Other topics will include laying yard location, set up and organization to maximize production while minimizing labor, when to shock, fruiting mushroom logs, as well as harvesting, packaging, and marketing strategies.

The field days are open to 25 participants; preference given to active or retired NYS Military Veterans on a first-come, first-served basis. Fee is $10/person, veterans may apply for stipend to cover cost of attending. For more information or to apply contact Lynn Bliven, CCE Allegany County at 585-268-7644 ext. 18 or email lao3@cornell.edu.

A vegetable farm raised wages to $15 an hour and lived to tell the tale!

by Elizabeth Henderson

Early in 2016, Evangeline Sarat at Sweetland Farm, in Trumansburg, NY, announced that she would paying wages to her employees at the Tompkins County living wage level.  Evangeline explained, “For me, it is very pin pointed: if my employees work, they should make a living. Especially, with food. If they’re working to grow healthy food, I don’t see how it’s logical that they not get enough to live.” Her declaration set off a flurry of emotional discussion among farmers and foodies that has not died down, especially with Governor Cuomo agreeing to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.   Paul Martin, current manager of Sweetland, explained the consequences of Evangeline’s decision for Sweetland.

Paul Martin of Sweetland Farm

To afford to pay higher wages, Evangeline raised the price of her farm’s CSA shares by $100.  The immediate effect was that member numbers dropped from 380 to just 300.   Paul still paid their four workers $15 an hour for the 2016 season. After completing financial calculations for the season, he reports that things were “a little tight,” but worked out. The drought made it harder: there was only enough crop for summer shares without the extra he had planned for summer wholesaling.  Nevertheless, Paul is determined to make things work and says, “At Sweetland we are still experimenting on how to have an economically sustainable farm.  The farm has to be thriving enough, an attractive business model so that my kids or someone else would want to buy the business.  I still feel like it is important to pay labor, but it is just as important to pay the farmer a living wage and that has to come first.” He has set out to achieve the balance among pricing to customers, the needs of his employees and his own needs.

Farmer-owner Paul began his farming career in 1997 at Simple Gifts Farm in Lancaster County, PA. He had grown up in that county, surrounded by farms and working in his mother’s garden at a time of unrestricted development.  Seeing houses “going up on beautiful dark soil” upset him so much that he told his mother, “When I grow up, I am going to stop them from putting houses on farmland.” After graduating from college, he decided to take a year to learn how to grow his own food.  He was looking for work that “gave something back for me and the community.”  Simple Gifts had a CSA and did some wholesaling.  “It felt good,” Martin explained. “The community component of CSA really attracted me.” After three years, Martin took a job managing a farm for Good Will Industries.  The 1999 CSA conference, where he met a lot of other people in their twenties who were excited about CSA, was a turning point for him.  There he met Evangeline and a bunch of the farmers who are now his neighbors in Tompkins County.

Sweetland Farm in Trumansburg, NY, will have its 10th anniversary in 2017.It is primarily a CSA farm. The farm’s mission statement emphasizes the mutual benefit for farmers and supportive customers:

“A CSA is a farmer-friendly model. The farmer develops a stable, long-term relationship with reliable customers. This economic model benefits both the consumer and producer in its stability. This makes it easier for the farmers to plan yearly crops because they know what, and how much product their customers want. Additionally it allows the consumer to plan their food budget. The CSA model also enables farmers to do most of their marketing in the slow winter months, so that when the growing season rolls around they can spend more time producing excellent produce. It provides the farmers with a viable business, an essential element in sustainability.”

Although the farm has enough land for 400 shares, for the 2017 season, Paul plans on 300 plus members for summer shares and 80 winter shares and is engaged in an energetic social media campaign to attract them.   Last season, they introduced half shares at half price, but this year the price will be 3/4s of a full share.  Members get a lot of choices.  For 2017, Paul has found a drop off point at a school in New York City.  Regional Access will make the weekly delivery.  They will start with 30 shares and hope to grow to 80. Paul also does some winter wholesaling to distributors in the Finger Lakes region. The price from wholesaling is about half what the farm gets for CSA shares, but it is worth it when he can sell a few thousand pounds a sale and the additional revenues help cover labor costs.

Sarah Koski, one of Sweetland’s members, commented :

“It’s important to me that our kids not only eat whole and healthy foods, but to know where the food comes from. It’s priceless to see them eating handfuls of sweet cherry tomatoes straight from the vine and crunching into carrots and turnips before we even get home with our farm share. Walking through the fields on a beautiful day, picking food I know my kids will eat, and greeting new and old friends, are things I look forward to every week. Our family has a sense of pride and ownership in “our farm,” and in turn are excited to try new vegetables. Buying our food directly from a farm down the street makes sense on so many levels – we are supporting a friend and neighbor, keeping the land around us healthy and productive, and investing in the health and well-being of our family.

Creating jobs that maintain work/life balance and pay well is a totally noble goal. Sweetland’s commitment to providing these jobs means that they can hire and retain farmers who care about the farm and its mission. We are proud to support a business that cares about its employees. All things considered, the price of our farm share isn’t a huge factor for us. We would be happy to pay a little more if it meant the farm was a better place to work. With lots of payment options, most families could make it work within a budget.”

Jen Wofford, who has purchased summer and winter shares for five years, lives less than a mile from the farm and finds Sweetland convenient. She explains: “We like being part of community that loves good food,” and adds, “I’m glad Sweetland Farm has committed to paying a living wage. That said, Sweetland Farm has been and continues to be my CSA of choice, regardless.”

For 2017, Paul intends to continue paying all four returning employees $15 an hour. The discussion over whether or not to pay time and a half for overtime is not an issue for Paul.  He feels very strongly that the work day should be 8 hours and no more so that, as he puts it, “they can continue to have life outside the farm.” He would rather hire another worker than increase the hours. Paul wants a balance between life and work and believes that his workers need that too, and also that people are more productive if work time is limited and they have time for rest and recreation.

Plowing a field.

The work day at Sweetland starts promptly at 8 am. When workers arrive, he has pick lists ready and off they go.  On harvest mornings, Paul and the workforce of four pick hard from 8 to 10 am to get ready for distribution. Then they have a 15 minute break for which the farm provides coffee and an angel supporter brings baked goods. Five people do the harvesting for 300 shares – 60 members per worker.  He designed the barn to maximize efficiency with an outdoor truck delivery dock.They use a lot of pallets, pallet jacks and two fork loaders. Most weeding is done mechanically, so the crew can plant and harvest.  “You don’t need a wheel hoe,” Paul insists.  “If you are weeding a lot, you have not figured out your tractor cultivation.”   The Sweetland ratio is 1 worker per 4 acres while Eliot Coleman has 1 per 2 ½ acres.

Paul also does his best to respect the other end of the day –  4:30 sharp.  An 8 hour day with half an hour for lunch.  Occasionally, when rain is threatening, Paul will ask workers to stay later, but he says that is rare. He sits down with each worker at the beginning of each season to learn if they have issues from the previous year and get a commitment to the season to come. He has a written worker agreement for each employee and conducts an extensive and detailed introductory meeting each spring to be sure the terms and conditions of work are clear to everyone

I asked Holly Taylor, who has worked at Sweetland since July 2015, what she thinks of Sweetland’s labor policies. She says that Paul is a great boss, very aware of employee morale and making sure no one is overworked. She appreciates the consistent work hours and the 8-hour day. “If you want to stay and finish a job, Paul is cool with that,” she explains, but if they have something else to do, Paul does not put employees under pressure to stay after 4:30.  Getting a raise to $15 an hour made a huge difference and played a big part in her decision to return to the farm for two more seasons: “We work hard all day from April to the end of November.  Knowing you can live on what you earn is so helpful.  You are not working for nothing.  I try to live frugally.  Last year, I took a winter job, but this winter I am working part time at Sweetland.  Knowing I get a living wage for the whole season, I am grateful.  I can make it through the winter even if I don’t get other work, but it would be awesome to work year round at the farm.  I love working outside and being involved in helping grow quality organic food that I am proud of for people in my community.  I have entertained the idea of farming on my own, but right now, I am happy working for Sweetland.”

Paul finds this a good way to stay friendly with his employees.  As a result, the retention level is high.  Most employees stay for 2 to 4 years.  He has only had to fire one person in ten years.

A benefit of focusing on the CSA, Paul says, is that they get to stay together on the farm with less driving around and less hassle.  By planting fall root crops to fill the farm’s refrigerated trailers for winter wholesaling, Paul is able to extend the season for his crew.  They fill out days in October and November harvesting for winter sales.  Whatever is left once the weather gets too bad, Paul leaves in the ground – this year, some radishes and Hakurei turnips. This winter, he had work for 1 worker part time.  Winter wholesaling offsets labor costs.

Instead of maintaining the higher share price from 2016, Paul is lowering the full share price to $580, just over $25 a week, hoping that he will attract more members.  He also offering additional sliding-scale payments as a voluntary option to pay $600 – $750.  Paul justifies the pay option as a way to encourage those who can afford more to do so: “Part of that is our commitment to pay living wages, but also an investment by CSA members who want to be investors in preserving the farm and have the means to pay a little more.”  He admits that growing enough to cover all expenses and living wages for himself and his workers pushes him “to farm a bit more than we would like.”

Although Paul does not claim to have hit the perfect balance yet, he remains true to the values that attracted him to CSA farming.  He considers bringing people to the farm a special gift. The drought of 2016 actually helped members to feel more a part of them farm, to feel that they were “vested” in it. That connection is vital to Paul: “We want to be an important part of the community, preserve the farmland and grow in a sustainable way. For me, a key thing is I always enjoy the farm. There are few farms where people come to the farm and get to relate to one another over food.  That is really important.  I try to sell the farm as a way to get away from the day to day chaos and be real.  We need to limit our time on social media.  Reality has been hijacked.  Let’s declare media-free Sunday and make boundaries.  A CSA farm gives a place where people can be real, pick food, and be part of the weather.”

Elizabeth Henderson is lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007) and Honorary President of the international CSA network Urgenci. She can be reached at elizabethhenderson13@gmail.com

A longer version was published in The Natural Farmer, Spring issue 2017, “Farming for a Living Wage.”

The National ROPS Rebate Program: A Lifesaving Initiative Just for Farmers

By Pam Tinc, Senior Research Coordinator
Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

In June 2010, New York Farm Bureau member David Huse was returning home after a day of mowing hay on a friend’s farm when he was struck by an oncoming car that hit his tractor and flipped the tractor on top of him. David’s death was a tremendous blow to friends, family and business partners, as well as to the larger agricultural community, who lost a passionate and outspoken advocate for sustainable farming in New York. David’s neighbor and business partner, Judy Pangman, wrote the following in a heartfelt letter to her local legislator in response to this tragedy:

“For farmers, everyday brings a new challenge. Getting to and from our fields safely should not be our most difficult and deadly challenge. We need to make farming safer to prevent the loss of our friends, children and other family members, and employees in such senseless accidents and request your assistance and support. We miss David terribly every day. Please help us make farming safer for everyone.”

Tractors are an essential piece of farming equipment, but they can also be one of the most dangerous. Studies have shown that the leading cause of death and permanently crippling injuries on a farm is due to tractor rollovers, and the Northeast has the highest rate of overturn fatalities in the nation.  In the event of a rollover, the use of a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and a seatbelt reduces the risk of injury by 99 percent. Wearing a seatbelt on a ROPS protected tractor will keep you within the “zone of safety” in the event of an overturn. While using a seatbelt with your ROPS will give you complete protection, the rollbar alone still greatly increases your chance of survival.

Lee Marks Crane, NY

Though newer tractors come equipped with ROPS and retrofit ROPS kits are commercially available for many older tractors, nearly half of tractors on US farms remain unprotected. For many farmers, the cost and time required to retrofit a tractor are low priority, given the many other items needing attention on the farm. To make it easier for farmers like you to retrofit their tractors and keep themselves, and their family, safe, we created the ROPS Rebate Program more than ten years ago.

You may have heard about, or participated in, the ROPS Rebate Program. Since 2006, we’ve retrofitted over 2,300 tractors in seven states, and more farmers are calling every day to sign up. The Program rebates farmers approximately 70% of the cost of retrofitting a tractor, including the ROPS kit, shipping, and installation (if applicable).

Now, we are expanding! Over the last several years, we’ve joined forces with manufacturers, insurance companies, agricultural organizations, health and safety organizations, farmers and their families, and many others to form the National Tractor Safety Coalition. This group has worked together to create The National ROPS Rebate Program, which launched on June 28th. This is the same great program we’ve always had, but it’s now accessible to farmers across the country, thanks to our donors.

So, how does the Program work?

We know you’re busy, so we’ve worked hard to ensure that the National ROPS Rebate Program is simple and hassle free. If you’re interested in getting a new ROPS for that old tractor, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Call us at 877-ROPS-r4u (877-767-7748) or apply online at www.ROPSr4u.com.
  2. We’ll send you information about the kits that are available for your tractor, as well as the cost, and where to purchase.
  3. If you decide to participate, give us a call for preapproval.
  4. Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead from us, order your ROPS within 10 days, and give us a call back with the dealer estimates for the kit, shipping, and installation (if applicable).
  5. When your ROPS is installed, send us proof of installation (before and after photos for self-installers, or an invoice from your dealership if they installed it), as well as all final invoices.
  6. We’ll send you a rebate check within 30 days.
  7. Sit back and enjoy knowing that you’ve taken an important step toward keeping yourself, and others, safe on your farm!

What if I’ve already signed up and am on a waitlist?

Over the last several years, many farmers interested in retrofitting their tractors have signed up for the program, and have been added to a waitlist due to limited funding in their state. Thanks to a mixture of state funding and private donors, we are now starting to move through the waitlist and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Is it really worth signing up for the National ROPS Rebate Program?

Through annual follow up surveys with program participants, 19 farmers have reported experiencing an overturn with their newly retrofitted tractors and 197 farmers reported experiencing a close call (i.e., wheels coming off the ground, sliding down a hill, etc.). Each farmer escaped without serious injury and returned home to their families to continue farming. I’d say that’s a good reason to sign up today.

What can I do to help ensure that the National ROPS Rebate Program sticks around?

Please share the information with your friends and neighbors who farm; encourage them to sign up. You can also share Program information with your local Farm Bureau, and ask them to make the National ROPS Rebate Program a priority. In New York, Farm Bureau is instrumental in securing funding each year. Finally, anyone who is interested in donating to the National ROPS Rebate Program can visit https://www.ropsr4u.com/donate.php to do so.

Those interested in signing up for or getting more information about the National ROPS Rebate Program may call toll free 1-877-ROPS-R4U (1-877-767-7748) or visit www.ropsr4u.com.

 

Two month old industrial hemp plant.

In early June, Cornell University researchers established three industrial hemp trials, one in Ithaca on the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and two in Geneva on the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.  There are no industrial hemp varieties developed for New York, so we are testing commercially available varieties from central and eastern Canada as well as from Poland, France, Denmark, Ukraine, and Italy.  We will determine which varieties yield well under different field conditions.  We have seventeen entries in our trials including four fiber varieties and thirteen grain or dual purpose ones.

For more information about this research program including dates and times for field days, please visit http://blogs.cornell.edu/industrialhemp/.

 

 

List of Items for a Beginning Sheep Farmer, Part One: Tips and Resources for Beginning Sheep Farmers

by Ulf Kintzel

“What do I need when I start?” It is a question that is posed to me often. The almost inevitable follow-up question almost always is “Where do I get it”? I figured I should compile a list of items that one needs and while I am at it, also state where to get it. I remember how difficult I found it to figure out where to source various times when I first started out. This list should be helpful.  I will not get into much detail about each item since this would go beyond the scope of this article. However, if you want to read about it in depth you may find your answer in one of the comprehensive articles I wrote for Small Farm Quarterly over the years, which almost certainly address any item or subject I touch in this article; all nicely compiled on my website under “articles” here.

Please note that I don’t have any financial interest in any of the companies or their products that I will mention. I merely will state my preference of where I purchase my supplies. Call them up if you don’t have Internet access. They all send you a free catalog. Furthermore, this is part one of two. The second part will be published three months from now, which will leave you time to ask for the source of a specific item on the commentary page. I will include any relevant info if it wasn’t already included in the second part of the article.

First, I will start with some general information about companies that offer supply for sheep farming. On that list is Premier One Supplies, 800-282-6631.  In my view, the company tends to be on the high end of prices compared to others. However, their free shipping policy can at times make an item competitive or cheaper if you spend enough money to get over their $100 threshold for free-shipping. Aside from that, this company carries a few items that no other US-based company seems to carry or not at that quality. For instance, I get my leg crook there, although you can always get the leg crook attachment at other places and mount it on a handle. I also order my customized scrapie ear tags from their wide variety of choices.

For fencing needs I can recommend Kencove, 800-536-2683. It isn’t specifically a company catering to sheep farmers, but is a good source if you are an able fence builder yourself. I like their clip-on plastic electric fence signs that I found nowhere else.

PBS Animal Health, 800-321-0235, is one of my preferred sources for veterinary supplies because of their competitive prices and a generous free-shipping policy. I get my dewormers there most of the time. They offer more than just vet supplies. Others like getting their vet supplies from Jeffers, (800)-533-3377, or Valley Vet, 800-419-9524. Another company offering vet supplies is Pipestone Veterinary Clinic (800) 658-2523. I have found this outfit to be the only source for wound clip forceps and wound clips if you need to treat the occasional inverted eye lid yourself. I also like to get my Selenium-Iodine Premix there to make my own minerals without unnecessary additive.

Hunter Nutrition, (765) 563-1003, is on my list because of their Matingmark products. I find their red nylon ram harness second to none, simply because it stays on better and doesn’t cause the same skin irritation after days or weeks of wearing that other harnesses I previously used tend to do. In addition, the crayons can be snapped in, which eliminates the cumbersome use of a pin.

The Mid-States Wool Growers are worth mentioning as well, even though I don’t shop there often. The number to call depends on where you live: West of Mississippi River Call 1-800-835-9665, East of Mississippi River Call: 1-800-841-9665.

Locally, I like my Tractor Supply Company (TSC) here in Canandaigua, NY. It is convenient and their manager Steve is very good. I get vaccines, troughs, salt, cattle panels, syringes, needles, flat-back buckets, dog food, work clothes, and T-posts there, just to name a few.

Check out local dealers also. I had good success in beating prices by purchasing from various Mennonite dealers, like Sensenig Electric in Ephrata, PA (717-445-9905). My 6-Joule Speedrite plug-in energizer unit was nowhere else to be found for less money. I bet some of these dealers can beat the prices of more known suppliers.

Now let’s focus some more on various individual items. The law has it that you must individually identify your sheep with scrapie approved ear tags when they leave the farm. First, you need a premise ID number. If you live in New York state, contact Anna Draisey (USDA) at 518-858-1424 or Anna.Draisey@aphis.usda.gov. The USDA also hands out a certain number of plastic tags for your replacement ewe lambs and metal tags for your market lambs at no cost to you. The number depends on the size of your flock. Leave yourself extra time when you order and you plan on using these for lambing season. You can also purchase custom-made tags at places like Premier One Supplies, their choices are much greater.

Assuming you will graze sheep, regardless of whether you intend to supplement with grain or wish to do grass-fed, you will need fencing. If you have deep pockets and consider permanent fencing, I suggest woven wire fencing. If you want to use temporary fencing, I suggest electric nettings. They are offered by various companies. Premier One Supplies has a rather large selection. If you use fewer than twenty nettings you will be fine with a 2 Joule energizer. A two-Joule charger is the smallest size energizer suitable for sheep.

Personally, I use the IntelliShock 20 Energizer from Premier One Supplies when I am off the farm, powered by a deep-cycle marine battery. You want two of these batteries so that you can run the fence while you re-charge one. The smallest size available is the right size. The bigger ones are very clumsy and you will soon start regretting having to move them around. If you use a plug-in unit, you will need to do the research what size you want and then buy just a little bigger to leave room for further growth. There are numerous places that sell these plug-in units, I mentioned some companies above. Almost any fencing or sheep supply company will carry energizers.

Watering sheep is a necessity. You will need troughs and you may need means of water transportation if you can’t reach every place with a hose. You want to get a low trough with a height no more than a foot. I have been using the 50-gallon Rubbermaid troughs for many years. Smaller sizes for fewer sheep are available also, just make sure it is a low trough that your lambs can reach the water.

For water transportation, if you want to omit water lines in your pasture, you may consider a flat-bottom portable water tank, which can be easily strapped onto the bed of a pick-up truck or small carry-on trailer. I have no specific recommendation where to purchase these tanks, since they are offered at so many different places. During lambing when you set up jugs, you will need to water individual sheep. I want to make sure that no newborn lamb drowns in a bucket, so I hang a two-gallon flatback bucket into the jug. I like TSC’s Fortiflex brand bucket, eight quarts in size, because I have lambing during the winter months as well and these buckets have rubber incorporated, which keeps them from cracking and breaking when I try to pound the ice out.

Supplementing minerals assures that your sheep have the macro and micro elements that your feed stuff doesn’t provide or of which your soils are deficient. I don’t like using readily available sheep minerals because the ingredients include grains or molasses, which increase intake to an unnecessary level, just like fat, sugar, and salt does in your snacks that you can’t lay down once you started. It costs additional money but serves no good purpose. The vitamins in these sheep minerals are not needed for sheep that graze, simply because they either consume any necessary vitamin while grazing or can generate them themselves. Supplementing vitamins is most often unnecessary, unless you lock your sheep in a barn for prolonged times. Instead, I mix my own minerals, using salt and the afore-mentioned Selenium-Iodine Premix from Pipestone. I also like to blend in trace mineral with iodine and selenium as well. I don’t mind the copper in it since I am grass-fed and therefore my sheep have no copper intact that’s in grain. In fact, at times that additional copper is needed, i.e. during pregnancy of the ewes.

Why is my mineral protocol so complicated? Why not using just one source? Because one year I ended up having iodine deficiency in a few lambs, which killed them, although the label stated iodine as an ingredient. If you are more trusting than me, feel free to pick one source. In the pasture, I use high-wall rubber pig feeders to provide the minerals and in the barn, I use buckets made from the same rubber, which I hang on a post or tie to a panel. They are long lasting, in fact mine are more than 20 years old, but need to be removed outside for the time being when it rains since they are not waterproof.

Ulf owns and operates White Clover Sheep Farm and breeds and raises grass-fed White Dorper sheep and Kiko goats without any grain feeding and offers breeding stock suitable for grazing. He is a native of Germany and lives in the US since 1995. He farms in the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York. His website address is www.whitecloversheepfarm.com. He can be reached by e-mail at ulf@whitecloversheepfarm.com or by phone at 585-554-3313.

Small Farm Product Liability: Coverage for Your Farm Products

by Reuben Dourte

If farming was to be broken down to its most simple definition, one could describe it as the supply side of a complex ‘manufacturing’ assembly line.  Agricultural products raised or produced by farmers find their way into an expansive array of goods.  As with any type of manufacturing, a products liability exposure inherently exists.  Additionally, the alteration of farm produce can create different liability exposures, and in a time where farmers are looking for additional revenue streams, the insurance conversation quickly lends itself to new, and more nuanced, questions.

If you have begun to engage in farming operations, hopefully you have already realized the need and benefit to insuring your operations via a Farmowners policy.  A typical, unendorsed Farmowners policy will provide you with liability coverage for your premises and your operations, including the farm products that you produce.  The definition of exactly what qualifies as “farm products” may vary greatly between insurance companies.  It is important to verify that your operations fall within the definition of farming and the items you are selling are not outside of the scope of farm products.

For example, Insurance Company A may consider the apples you sell at a roadside stand on your premises as farm products and thus covered for product liability on an unendorsed Farmowners policy, while Company B may consider the roadside stand and the gross receipts you make from this enterprise as a commercial exposure.  This may mean you will be compelled to purchase an agribusiness policy to receive the Products Liability coverage you need, or endorse your Farmowners policy to provide coverage for “Incidental Business Pursuits”.

In other situations, Farmowners policies may not provide product liability when a product is sold directly to the public vs. being sold to a contractor or wholesaler.  For example, if you raise organic chickens and sell directly to a large integrator, a typical Farmowners policy will be able to provide you with coverage.  However, if you sell those same eggs directly to the consumer, many agricultural insurers will require that you declare this as a Business Pursuit on your Farmowners policy, and pay additional premium as consideration for the company providing coverage for the heightened liability exposure inherent with sales to the public.  Likewise, products you buy for resale, even if they are the same products you raise on your farm, are not considered farm products.  This means if you have a bad tomato crop and need to supplement your supply with some of your neighbor’s tomatoes, the sale of the products bought for resale will (likely) be considered, by your insurance company, as a commercial business pursuit, and as such the products exposure would need to be covered through a Farmowners policy endorsement or a commercial Agribusiness policy.

Differentiating between farm and commercial products becomes easier as soon as the farmer alters their product in some way.  This is because insurance companies will rarely consider altered products as ‘farm product’, since it has been changed and is, in the case of food, one step further from the field, and one step closer to the fork.  If your roadside stand not only sells whole apples, but also pre-slices them, this simple act has likely made the apple no longer a farm product in the eyes of your insurance company.  The altering of the apple has now, presumably, opened it up to a higher risk of contamination and foodborne bacteria.  If you are turning your apples into pies, your recipe may call for one of your organic eggs in order to make the crust.  Should that pie be undercooked by accident, your customers could be potentially inflicted with food poisoning.  The heightened risk that is associated with altered farm products requires the company to assign a rate and a liability classification, based on actuarials and prior loss history, to your Farmowners or Agribusiness policy for your to receive the appropriate coverage for the Products Liability exposure present with your operations.

Disclaimer:

Coverage forms vary greatly by insurance company and by state. The information provided below is for discussion purposes only and should not be construed as a formal comprehensive review of individual policies or coverages, nor is it situation specific advise. Readers should personally consult with a licensed insurance agent before making any decisions about their policies or insurance coverages.

Aside from the potential coverage pitfalls that arise from the nuanced definition of farm products, it is important for both large farmers and hobbyists, alike, to know and understand the coverage forms and exclusions on their insurance policy.  While Products Liability coverage provides protection for claims arising from the production, manufacturing, distribution, growing or sale of your products, certain companies may exclude coverage for certain types of causes of loss.  Policies may have a foodborne pathogen exclusion written into them, or a foodborne contamination sublimit of insurance which reduces the amount of insurance the company will make available to pay a claim brought against you.  Other policies may contain wording that appears ambiguous, such as a bacteria exclusion that could possibly be used as justification for a claim denial.

In addition to a comprehensive insurance plan, sanitation best practices, voluntary USDA checks and consulting with quality control organizations are other ways to affordably mitigate your probability of risk.  Having a recall plan in place is an effective way to greatly reduce the cost of a Product Liability loss, should one occur.  Insurance can often seem confusing, and the litigious nature that exists within our cultural climate makes it imperative to work with a knowledgeable, licensed insurance agent to ensure that your policy is adequately covering all of your liability exposures.

Reuben is a Account Executive in the Farm and Agribusiness department at Ruhl Insurance in Manheim, PA.

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