Friday, March 6, 2015

Eggs, Economics, Daydreams

In agriculture, there are costs to get something to grow, costs to harvest, and costs associated with selling the harvested product.

There are very likely situations where there are benefits to having something growing in your system, but no benefit in harvesting it, at least not with selling it in mind.

I have had such thoughts before but I was reminded of it while listening to The Beginning Farmer podcast on all the reasons why producing eggs as a small farmer is probably generally not profitable, but he's a special snowflake and is going to do it anyway. I'm joking with the special snowflake part, but only a little bit. He thinks his industrial strength grain grinder will give him an edge on feed prices.

Jack Spirko recently did a podcast about raising ducks, and while I am not sure whether or not it was that particular podcast, I do remember him introducing me to a similar concept- namely that there is a price at which it is worth it to sell a duck to another person, and at any price below that, it just makes more sense to put the duck in the freezer for his own consumption.

These are interesting ideas, especially when you figure you have only so many days upon the earth. If you think about poultry, what does it take to create a system where the poultry are being poultry, and largely hanging out on your farm because there's a lot of free candy? Geoff Lawton put out a video a while back about a Vermont compost company that had many chickens. No grains, just the sort of stuff that turns into compost, which also happens to be the sort of stuff that attracts the sort of prey chickens like to feed on. This guy's chickens are technically free to leave his 'farm', which doesn't look like the nice happy sort of farm folks like to envision when they are eating their eggs, but it is obvious the chickens are happy there.

So, there could also be a price point where some relatively high dollar thing is out there in the fields, but that below that one particular price point, it is better to just stay there, to be eaten by animals or even just composted to enrich the soil. There is an issue of market share, I suppose. I hear a lot of folks are pumping oil out of the ground and selling it despite the price being too low for that to make sense- they don't want to power down and then come back on line years later to find out they don't have any market share left.

Of course, oil is a commodity. You aren't going to see organic, free range, pastured, natural, etc... on the pump anytime soon. Not that those labels always mean anything, but we've got to bumble along as well as we can.

It would be fun being able to wander along certain paths in summer and find fresh eggs. Maybe you never get enough for selling, but maybe there's enough for self, family, perhaps a few more. This is probably too much of a daydream, but as an experience, is it not the sort you'd wish your children to have?

No comments: