Thursday, January 19, 2012

Want to be a Farmer?

2012 is the year of farming and cooperation. The many requests we received last year from “wanna be” farmers and farmers seeking diversification prompted us to launch a consulting service to help farmers succeed in and sustain their agricultural businesses. Seasoned farmers Tom and Denise Warren, owners of Stone & Thistle Farm and Kortright Creek Creamery work hand in hand with farmers every step of the farm journey from acquiring farmland to marketing a farm product.

Tom and Denise Warren, owners of Stone & Thistle Farm, Kortright Creek Creamery and Fable

Providing twenty years of hard-earned farming experience to new and established farmers who want to begin, expand or diversify their agricultural businesses.  

  • Grant writing
  • Farm business planning
  • Land and farm acquisition
  • Farm start up
  • On farm restaurant start up
  • Agricultural internships
  • Farm diversification
  • Agritourism
  • Event planning
  • Product development
  • Marketing
  • Distribution
  • Legal/Insurance
Established Stone & Thistle Farm in 1995 with a handful of sheep and goats. Today, over 500 sheep, dairy goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys and rabbits graze the certified organic, grass-based farm.   The farm includes a year-round, on-farm store and hosts internships, farm tours, farm adventures, workshops and special events.  Every year, more than 500 people visit the farm to buy, learn, or enjoy dining or accommodations

Started Kortright Creek Creamery in 2003 with annual sales of $18,000, one product and one distributor. In 2012, with the help of grants and creative investment, the creamery will produce three organic goat milk products using five distributors and expects an annual revenue of $110,00. The creamery will also serve as dairy incubator for dairy producers.

In 2007 opened an on farm restaurant Fable = farm + table for Saturday night dining and Sunday farm tour and brunch.  Fable’s menu features the farm’s dairy, meat and produce and neighbors’ farm products.

In 2010 opened a farm stay/bed & breakfast featuring farm programs such as Farmer for a Day or Tours and Chores.

Grant wins!
SARE Farmer grant in 2002 for $2,500
USDA VAPG in 2005 for $55,000
USDA RBEG via Farm Catskills $77,300
Animal Welfare Approved Good Husbandry in 2009 for $5,000
Pure Catskills (3 grants over seven years in the amount of $18,000)
O’Connor Foundation 2008 for $5,000

Contact: Tom or Denise Warren
Stone & Thistle Farm
Kortright Creek Creamery
1211 Kelso Road
East Meredith, NY 13757

How can you use FarmHands?
Case Study One
Imagine Farm*, owned by two prominent money managers, wants to establish a working farm on their property in the Catskills.  Imagine’s owners dream of raising sheep for wool and establishing a small wool processing facility on their farm and eventually selling artisan wool products. FarmHands first step is to conduct interviews with owners at their property to help establish expectations and goals for their farm enterprise and compatibility with their business and personal goals.  The second step is to survey the property, evaluate fencing and housing requirements and determine if the property could meet Imagine’s expectations. The third step is to provide Imagine with a syllabus for improving their knowledge of sheep, wool, wool production and marketing and recommendations for a three-month internship at a wool breed sheep farm and field trips to homestead woolen mills.  The next step is to secure a starter flock of wool breed sheep and provide ongoing consultation and oversight of the construction and procurement of fencing, barns and tools/machinery.  During the first year, FarmHands would be on hand to provide advice and intervention with the care and growth of the flock. After one year of successful sheep raising, including late spring lambing, FarmHands’ next step is to oversee the development and construction of a small woolen mill and secure the experts to help Imagine determine insurance requirements and legal needs.  The following step is to hire experts to help Imagine develop products, logos, product packaging and a marketing and distribution plan. During the three-year adventure, FarmHands goal was to work hand in hand with Imagine to realize their dream of a successful sheep to wool to market operation.

Case Study Two
Tuille Farms* believe they have a unique product – an heirloom grain that they grew, milled and packaged on their farm. After two years of producing and packaging three varieties of heirloom grains, sales were flat because they could not compete on a volume and price level with the larger heirloom grain producers.  After interviewing Tuille, FarmHands goal was to work through a crossroads decision -  to infuse the business with capital and upgrade the operation so they could successful grow and effectively compete or pursue value-added strategies which would allow them to enjoy a small, hands on operation and meet their personal goal of being home with their growing family. After discovering the number of people who were interested in seeing their mill, FarmHands first step is to recommend agritourism.  Tuille’s owners possess ideal qualities for agritourism success: they enjoy people, are excellent communicators and love sharing their passion and their farm with the public. Tuille opened the farm to tours of the mill and established a small bakery on the farm which sells their heirloom grain flours and breads, pasta and pastries made with the flour.  FarmHands next step was to help the owners develop a production plan and distribution network so they could ramp up sales of their heirloom flours to specialty distributors during the winter months. Tuille Farm’s goals dovetail perfectly with their personal goals of staying home on the farm to raise a family and provide financial security year-round.

Join the Catskills Time Bank and you can "barter" for our services.
View of mountain from horse barn

Dairy goats grazing on Dandelion pasture

Cattle on June grass
Dairy barn with daffodils
Denise walking dairy goats to the milking parlor


Laying hens with Mobile Laying Cabin on Hall Pasture
Sheep on Kathmann Mountain close up

Farm store in Autumn
Tom slaughtering Chickens

Sunset over Winter Pasture

Fable =Farm + Table