Some twelve or thirteen years ago Ron and I, disappointed in our corporate high tech jobs, set a goal of starting our own small business. We weren’t completely sure exactly what kind of business it would be at that point, just that it would involve growing plants and vegetables. And so we set out on our journey of learning and discovery. There was so much to know, so many decisions to make, so far to go to get where we wanted to be. It seemed overwhelming and confusing many times, but we kept moving along at a slow and steady pace.
The first big step was to sell our suburban house and to move to a property with more land, that could support a farm or nursery business, and that we could live on as well. We took that step over ten years ago, and have invested everything into growing our business since that time. But due to the huge slow down in the economy, progress has been slower than we had predicted. I had to stay employed with IBM in order to keep a steady cash flow going, which severely hampered my ability to devote enough time to the business to get it off the ground.
Recently, however, with the continued demand for local and organic food, and enough of an upturn in the economy to spur some growth in the Dripping Springs area (we now have several decent restaurants, a Home Depot, an HEB, and a farmer’s market), along with my retirement eligibility from IBM, it has become possible for me to retire from IBM and to focus on our Lost Valley Gardens farm. I am both anxious and excited about this big change. Being self-employed is new to me, and I need to get used to it. I will like being in charge of my own priorities for a change, and it will be a good feeling to be able to concentrate all of my time and energy on our business instead of IBM’s, but I will miss the security of that regular paycheck and until we establish a renewable and sustainable profit stream I think that I will have to deal with some anxiety.
So, as of April 1 I will be a full time employee of Lost Valley Gardens. We are targeting next fall for full farm production, and will be in partial production this spring. We will be producing vegetables and vegetable plants, herbs and herb plants, and native annuals and perennials. Once in production we will obtain our organic certification so we can be “officially” organic and can use that label legally. We have been completely organic from the start though, and always will be. However, until you have a production operation there is really nothing to have certified, so certification will have to wait until the fall.
This spring I plan to take products to the farmer’s market where I can meet potential CSA members and make a little money. This will also be a good place to talk to people about what products they are interested in so we can carry what is in the most demand. In preparation for bringing plants and veggies to market ASAP I inventoried all our seeds and supplies and got several trays of lettuce, broccoli, chard, and cauliflower planted last week.
Aside from seed starting I have been spreading compost in all of the outdoor raised beds where we already have established fruit trees, raspberries, parsley, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, fennel, artichokes and asparagus growing, and will be planting all the late winter veggies that are in the starting trays now. I will be starting tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in the greenhouse this week as well.
On the business side of things we invested in Google Apps for Business ($50 per user, per year). We had been using the free Google stuff for a few years and liked it so the $50 investment for the increased functionality and on-line real time backups seemed like a no-brainer. Love the fact that we can actually work on files at the same time and our edits are protected and saved. Very cool. I also used Zazzle to create a business card that both Ron and I can use with all of our current information on it. Finally, I am reading The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook to help me understand how to build a profitable business and business plan that will fit our business.
We have wanted to raise some chickens for egg laying for years, and we finally bought ourselves a prefabricated chicken coop from Ez Clean Coops for Christmas this year. The structure arrived on a single pallet, and Ron assembled it in less than two days by himself. I love the way it looks, and I can’t wait until we get some chickens this spring.
This hawk showed up a few weeks ago to hunt small birds in our back yard. He blended right in with the wisteria branches and arbor.
Another Christmas present that we had been promising ourselves for over ten years now was the framing of a watercolor lithograph that our talented next door neighbor, David Busch, gave us when we first moved here. It is the picture at the top of the stairway above the framed tatting what was done by my grandmother.
Well, it’s a beautiful day here and I have more chores to do before Superbowl time, so I’m off for now. I’ll be posting much more regularly now, and will also be adding more content to our web site over the coming months so stay tuned, and don’t hesitate to provide feedback and suggestions.