Winter on the dairy – the relief that Farmer’s Markets bring
Well folks here it is the launch of several Farmers Markets this weekend. It seems rather ironic as I often equate Farmer’s Market to Summer and yet it is snowing outside here in Estancia, NM. The weatherman reports the weather is suppose to be warmer and sunnier this weekend. I hope so because like all farmers we need your patronage. Winters are always hard for farmers as we have continued costs but less cash coming in. The even more ironic story of farming is that costs sky rocket as production ramps back up without the support of incoming sales.
Hmmm, this sounds familiar. Oh yeah, this happens to any start up business as they invest in their future. Why is it that farming has this yearly cycle of feeling like a start up business. The natural answer is that we cannot produce our food all year around. At our dairy, our goats dry up mid November. The great thing is their yield for the year has left us with a surplus of cheese to sale through the winter. This is great as we can support our on going sales which is part of our business plan.
People ask, “Why have you done so well and other dairies have not?” One reason is we have a business plan. We have a plan to succeed and we sale our cheese in multiple markets. We have developed a strong product line that sales well in various markets. That is not to say we do not have our trials and tribulations.
Here is an insight as to what happens on our dairy farm. As we move into winter starting in November we rely more on restaurant sales as farmers markets sales decrease. Our production of milk decreases until milk production comes to halt around mid November. We then rely on the surplus of cheese we have stored up to sale from December through March until the does are back in milk, mid February.
This is when the cash flow crunch becomes serious. As the babies are born there is a ten fold increase in work to be done so naturally we hire more staff. Wages are a major cost factor in an artisan dairy (artisan means hand made) and this is where we see the critical crunch where costs exceed sales. Despite this, it still feels like a celebration every year when the baby goats are born, the creamery is humming as all the machines are running and the employees are making cheese and filling orders. And yes our sales steadily increase in March.
Our saving grace are our clients. Our customers tell us all the time at farmer’s markets “you guys make the best cheese.” Perhaps we should also give our selves credit for making such tasty cheese. Recently we were awarded 5th place in Wisconsin at the United States Champion Cheese Contest and 4th place at the Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association in Wisconsin for our Sandia Sunrise Goat Milk Smoked Gouda. We also received recognition for our Chili N Hot Chevre, Jemez Spring Triple Cream Style Brie and Valles Verde Triple Cream Style Brie as they were marked in the 98th percentile of artisan cheeses for the entire country. Since 2010 our Chili N Hot has received an award every year from the Scovie Awards which is linked to the Fiery Food Show. You would think this is not a significant cheese competition however Cabot Cheese from Vermont enters their Jalapeno Cheddar every year. In 2010 we earned 1st place in two different categories for Chili N Hot which beat out Cabot, 2011 we earned first place for Chili N Hot and Holy Chipotle again beating out Cabot, 2012 we earned second place for both cheeses, 2013 we earned 3rd place for Chili N Hot. Since our early beginning we earned a blue ribbon for our very first wheel of blue cheese at the American Dairy Goat Association in 2005. We are a little shy about receiving our customers wonderful praises. However, we are feeling a little more confident now with our recent awards.
We are humbled that we did not receive first and we realize we have minor improvements to make. But we are for ever hopeful with your continued support that a national first place award is on the horizon for us, meaning the dairy and the state of New Mexico, is in our near future. Thank you for allowing us to gloat for a minute. We are forever grateful and humbled by our customers continued support.
As a farmer we hope to see you this weekend. Like all farmers we rely on your commitment to buy local. Your purchases keep the local farmers going and bring them through the tough times. Come buy some award winning cheese at one of the local Farmer’s Markets this week:
Thursday, April 11th 2013
Los Alamos Farmers Market: 8:30am till 12:30noon: Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Albuquerque Downtown Growers Market : 104 Gold Street: 10am till 1pm
Los Ranchos Farmers Market: 10:00 A.M. – Noon: 6718 Rio Grande Boulevard NW, Los Ranchos
Santa Fe Farmers Market: 8am till 1pm, Railyard in Santa Fe