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What if…

June 19, 2012

When I asked for support in our quest for qualifying for a grant in the MissionSmallBusiness contest, I knew we were against the clock and starting late. However, a week in we’re half way to goal! We have 143 votes now, and need more to get to 250 needed to qualify for consideration. Thank you for those on Facebook and Twitter who have taken a minute to click for us.

As I filled out the application based on our business plan, I thought of the difference the money will make to those businesses chosen. What if it was us? What if…? So for those who have supported us I thought I’d take a few minutes to think of what if, and outline what we’d do with the money if we were to qualify and win.

As I’ve said before I like small business. I buy groceries at a local store rather than WalMart because there is service. We can provide what large operations can’t, but at the same time still rely on customers and money. So what if?

If that $250,000 was awarded right now and we could go forward what would we do? There is a list of things we need to expand and none bigger than land. Room to graze and room to put in hog pens. If we had it right now there’s a property we’ve eyed for some time that’s $79,000 and could provide that. We’d also need a good used pickup and stock trailer, to allow not only moving animals but the ability to go get 40-50 bales of hay on sale or a pallet of feed, which saves money by buying in bulk. That would be, roughly and with cash available, about $12,000-15,000. Then the addition of new cages, feeders, watering system ($6,000) inside a custom made, 30×40′ super insulated storm resistant, geothermally heated/cooled barn ($15,000). These things aren’t cheap, but done right to last.

Those who have read Getting By: Lessons From a Rural Past have seen mention of this house. That raised area is a 2,000 gallon cistern. There are double doors, rainwater collection and it’s heated/cooled with geothermal, with wind powered ventilation system, all originally done at a time when there was no rural power. If it could be done over 100 years ago for a home why not for rabbit housing with today’s technology?

About $12,000 would go into “the hub” – a 28×37 metal barn we’ve priced the shell at $8,000 – add a cement slab, interior walls, insulation etc it’s where the farm office would be, as well as incubators, brooders and other operations. This puts these things out of the house, but protected from the weather and in a work area that is safe for people and creatures. Approximately $4,000 in fencing would put in wire paddocks for our birds, which we could then rotate to keep them on fresh ground and outside. The addition and expansion of rare breeds of turkey, geese and ducks would be about another $3,000.

Many cattle operations use a TMR – total mixed ration – and using hay with pellets we could grind the hay into rabbit sized pieces to reduce the waste. A machine to do this – used – is in the neighborhood of $5,000 not including a tractor.

A 42×46′ barn shell accounts for another $9,000 plus about half that to outfit it with panels, making it suitable to run some pigs on one side and lambs on the other, both with access to pasture. With the addition of the land, 3 structures and set up it’s about $160,000 – but a huge difference to our operation!

The balance would be rationed for feed bins, pig and sheep stock, a few cattle, guard donkeys and rare draft horses to provide power for cutting hay. It’d also put in raised beds, fencing around them, and much more room for growing in. Instead of a 4×16′ bed of Moskvich tomatoes we could easily have a 40 x160 area for tomatoes, and that again for peppers. We could put in a greenhouse for starting more seeds, and losing fewer seedlings in late cold snaps.

Small greenhouse at SunnyBank Farm in IL. Something like this would be a huge asset.

We literally have started where we are with what we have. When we work towards sales to install a barn upgrade or other project, it’s to step forward towards these bigger projects.

To look back for just a moment, we started with a few rabbits and a 20×25 outdoor pen. An early brooder:

Then we moved to

We now have a 3×6′ new outdoor brooder with a 3×12 grow out pen in the hoop. We have breeding flocks, small but growing, of several rare breeds. Sometimes we get so busy we forget about this until we come across a picture from a few years ago. Before the hoop houses, before the adaptations, before the national show for the rabbits.

We still want the same thing – a way to preserve these rare breeds while at the same time feeding people. We want to help others with a hand up and empower food choices. That has not wavered, and it won’t change if we get the grant. However, it *will* propel us forward much faster to have the support.

Please take a minute and visit the MissionSmallBusiness.com and search for SlowMoneyFarm and click the blue support button…it costs you nothing but could make a huge difference. It takes a micro-operation on a 160×160 foot area and puts the *garden* area that size, plus the rabbit area the same, plus room for each breed of chicken to have more room…and expands what we can offer with the additional size.

Many say they support, and just like we look for a minority of the population as customers, it takes a minority of the population to qualify us for a grant, without costing you a dime.

With the grant, the above could be home. It could be survival for rare breeds as well as our operation.

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