Earlier this year, American Agriculturist polled more than 140 Northeast farmers, asking: "What's the best value-added or money-making changes made on your farm in the last two years?" Many had similar answers. Some were smart. Some were funny. Some were sad. Here are the answers, grouped by related themes:
• Most reported change: Six producers noted that their dairy operations were converting to certified organic. Three others noted "going organic", without clarification.
• Next most reported: A number mentioned adding family members or employees to expand their businesses as part of a larger management plan. It was often tied to expansion of existing businesses, such as an ice cream shop, increased direct marketing of produce or adding new cropland.
• New equipment: This ranged widely from new tractors, round balers, precision ag equipment, new milking systems, silage balers, bedding recovery units and solar collectors and/or wind turbines. All were keyed to improving operating and/or energy efficiencies.
• Better feed: A number mentioned ways they're working to get better quality feed. Several moved to intensive grazing. Baleage was cited by several. One found that buying better quality feed was superior to feeding so-so-quality home-grown. The trend toward custom harvesting was noted.
• Specific innovations: Examples included converting from cows to goats, bagging corn on the farm for sale, switching to diesel trucks, jam-making, making apple crisp and freezing blueberries for later sale and fueling a maple syrup evaporator with vegetable oil.
• Scaling back: Examples included reducing vegetables to reduce labor needs, down-sizing and reduced spending.
• The saddest, best move? One person said he/she "got divorced."