2018: A Year In Review
Wow this was a year, ya’ll! As a business owner and farmer this year saw many successes for both myself personally as well as this business we’re growing… and it also saw some failures. Today, I’m taking a moment and a deep breath while I review this past year so I can plan for 2019.
Success #1: Business Growth
Seriously you guys, this year was nuts around here! With 121 farmers markets under our belts in 2018, we saw great growth in our business — In fact we more than doubled our sales from 2017 without any increase in staffing. Have I mentioned we need a vacation? Now before you go popping champagne to celebrate alongside us, I still have a long way to go to be financially sustainable as a farm on the long term. Margins in small-scale animal agriculture are slim as costs are high and I’ve reinvested a lot back into our growth so the bank account isn’t seeing the fruits of all this labour right now. That said, I’m still considering it a success because it means you, our community, are showing up to not only feed your families sustainably and ethically but also showing up to support us too.
Failure #1: Not Saying ‘No’ Enough
If I were to choose one word to sum up my personal goals for 2019, it would be ‘no’. Now hear me out, this isn’t a negative, it’s a necessity. When it came to the growth we faced this year to be honest it wasn’t an option. This farm would not still be open if we hadn’t seen this growth, so this year I said ‘yes’ to absolutely EVERY. DANG. THING. Even when I shouldn’t have. I just knew I needed to be everywhere so we could reach as many people as possible to grow support not only around our farm but around supporting our community of small-scale farmers. I took on every farmers market we could get into, I spoke at every event I was invited to, did countless farm tours, I hosted workshops to help other farmers, joined multiple non-profit boards… I did ALL the things, but this year it’s time to be more careful with my time. Moving forward, when something is asked of me, if it’s not a ‘hell yes’ it’s going to have to be a ‘no’.
Success #2: U40 Business Person Of The Year
This was a big one for me this year! I know women don’t typically shout their successes from the rooftop (why is that anyways?) but dang it, I’m super proud of this accomplishment so I’m going to do it anyways. As the first female, and the first farmer to win the Under 40 Business Person of the Year from the Greater Langley Chamber Of Commerce I couldn’t be more excited. Farming the way we do is reliant on the support of our community, otherwise I’m just a crazy chicken lady with a dream. This award would not have happened if you guys didn’t show up for me… and it wouldn’t have happened without my mama because let’s face it, she helps keep the wheels on the bus when I’m out there saying ‘yes’ to too many things.
Failure #2: Failing to Streamline Our Operation
Ok, I’m embarrassed to even type those words. Why, you might ask? Because, before I began this crazy farming journey I was the Operations Manager of a large multi-national company that oversaw the logistics for massive organizations like Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. I managed the operations of multiple offices, many staff, and millions of dollars in freight spend annually… yet our unexpected growth and hectic year caused me to not be able to stay on top of the operations of our small farm. But that’s going to change in 2019 — Now that I’ve survived and made it to our slightly slower season, it’s time to put procedures in place to manage any potential growth we’ll see this coming year. Aside from producing delicious meat, I really want Central Park Farms to give a great customer experience and we can’t do that unless we streamline how we do business. In the coming weeks we’ll be making some announcements on small changes and tweaks we have coming this year to help us serve you better, while also allowing us to catch our breath and keep our sanity.
Success #3: Building Community
When I first started raising that first batch of chickens back in 2015, I never in a million years could have imagined I’d quit my high-paying corporate career to open a farm… I just wanted to know what I was feeding my family. So at the time it never crossed my mind that I’d need ‘farmer friends’ because I didn’t think I was going to end up being a farmer in the first place. As things snowballed I suddenly found myself full-time, full-fledged farming without anyone to go to for help besides Jay and his family. Although I’m so lucky to have them and their vast knowledge base to tap into when needed, they often times can’t relate with my style of farming or how I sell direct to our community. I soon realized I needed to have friends who were also trying to make a go of farming. You know the kind of friends who don’t mind when you fall off the face of the earth during busy season or mind that you smell like chicken poop when you get together. I’m so thankful to have met so many fabulous farmers in our community who have supported me, given me advice when I needed it, and an ear when I just needed to vent about how hard this career choice is. A special shout out to the lady farmers in my tribe, you women never cease to amaze me with your abilities to farm the heck out of the land and produce delicious food for our community. Even when many folks still think this is ‘men’s work’ — Thanks for inspiring me to join you in breaking down the barriers for female farmers.
Now I could go on and list a bunch more ‘failures’ because as many successes as I’ve had this year, there sure have been a lot failures to go along with it but I’m going to leave my review of the year on a high note. And, the beauty in the stumbles I’ve made this year is that every single one of them has taught me something. Even if it was simply that I was capable of surviving it.
A big thank you to each one of you who supported our farm this year whether it’s shopping with us locally or taking the time to read and share our posts on the other side of the country. I really appreciate everyone of your kind words when things get tough and when you choose our family to help feed yours it really does make me do a little happy dance in my cow poop covered overalls.