Last night I went to a meeting that the Kitsap Poultry Growers Coop had. Their guest speaker was from the WA State Department of Agriculture and he came to tell us everything one needs to know about selling eggs or slaughtering chickens in WA. These regs only apply if you want to sell eggs "off farm" (at markets or to stores) or if you want to sell your chicken for meat. One of the only positive things I walked away from this meeting with is a better appreciation for ANYONE who wants to make a living farming in any way. And this meeting had nothing at all to do with organic, he kept saying "that is a completely different department altogether". So taking these regs and building to comply with every little thing you need to do in order to sell and adding to them the regs for wanting to be organic, which from what I understand is NOT an easy thing to do, you can completely understand why organic food is so expensive. The small farmer seriously goes through an incredible amount of "bull" to be able to sell what he works so hard to produce... off the farm. We can sell our eggs on the farm, like we've been doing, selling to family and friends all we want but as we were told last night it's a"buyer beware" sort of thing because we aren't "inspected". Haha! So "buyer beware" if you buy our eggs.
The reason why I went to this meeting was to really understand what I needed to do to sell at Farmers Markets. Last summer I made a decision to completely concentrate on chickens instead of having a variety of farm animals to raise. I was always and forever turning people away who wanted to buy eggs because I didn't have enough. So I thought I could possibly make a little extra income selling eggs. I love my chickens. I love selling the eggs. Everyone who buys our eggs says they are awesome. I get lots of fun compliments all the time. Like the time my friend told me her 3 year old daughter wouldn't eat the store bought (organically raised even) eggs she was forced to buy when my husband was on a business trip and couldn't deliver to Seattle, but when she finally got our eggs again she gobbled them up. :) So I sold the goats and started on my adventure with 100 new chicks. Now that those 100 chickens are laying (and I don't even have 100 anymore but closer to 80) we are getting about 70+ eggs a day (we also still have the old flock that give me about a dozen a day)! The problem is, things aren't going according to my plan! I can't sell enough to keep up. So we are eating LOTS of eggs, donating to the food bank (which is a very good thing), and trying to advertise for more on-farm sales but we still need more sales. So I thought I'd check out this possibility of farmers markets. But the good ol' government don't make it easy.
So we'll plug along with the way things are. I'm sure Poulsbo's food bank doesn't mind me bringing eggs in now and again. We'll be butchering our old flock and donating some chickens to All-Merciful Savior Monastery (if they ever get the chicken coop done, When Fr. Tryphon???) and hopefully with a slight increase in sales (thank you to some new customers from the east side of the water) we'll even out here soon.
But I have to say...my eyes are opened a little wider and I appreciate all those small farmers all the more. ( A small farmer selling eggs is any farm with less than 3000 hens!!) I AM one of those small farmers, but I have resigned from ever trying to make something of it. I really wanted to but until I have the time to put into all the "bull", I can't. Maybe once the kids are grown and I'm not needing to concentrate on home AND school.
BUY FROM YOUR LOCAL SMALL FARMERS!!!! BUY ORGANIC!!! Seek them out! They need us! Don't know where they are? Check out this website...Local Harvest.
One more thought. Through all of this I'm regretting getting rid of the goats. I feel that for little people like us the goal really should be self-sufficiency and sustainability. This means VARIETY. Growing and raising lots of different things so that we don't need to go elsewhere, except for a very few needs. Back to rethinking how I might want to do that. For this year, it's concentrating on the garden!
Happy Spring to you all! May the sun shine on my farm a little more every day...I need it. :)