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From Your Farmer: November 2022

It’s a tremendous relief to reach this Thanksgiving season. While it’s typical for our year to feel somewhat like a mountain climb to the Thanksgiving peak, the relief is heightened this year after the constant worry about avian influenza (“bird flu”). As influenza continued to impact farms both big and small, across all corners of the country, it was hard to shake a nagging sense of worry. Now, we can feel a deep gratitude to approach the Thanksgiving season with the relief of having been spared. I often think of our Thanksgiving season much like the harvest push for a vegetable, fruit, or crop farmer. Around on our farm, we spend most of the year planning and planting (in our case, brooding poults) and tending closely to make sure all our flocks do well. This year, we did it all with the shadow of a proverbial hail storm. We tried to follow all the best practices to avoid avian [...]

2022-11-09T00:04:55-06:00

From Your Farmer: September 2022

I’m very aware that there are many places you can buy food today. We live in a time and place where groceries seem to be everywhere: gas stations, home improvement stores, big box membership stores, and even delivered to your doorstep in a box. All of which is to say, we know Ferndale Market isn’t your only option. Of course, we’d like to think we’re doing something a little different here, but we never take for granted that you seek us out in a crowded and competitive world of food. It was probably a crazy idea to open an on-farm local food store in 2008, but Ferndale Market is still here today because of you. I think that’s well worth celebrating each year, so please consider this your personal invitation to join me and our team for our annual Customer Appreciation Day next Saturday, October 1st.  Lunch is on Ferndale (you can guess the main course!), and we have [...]

2022-09-26T18:19:33-05:00

From Your Farmer: August 2022

I was at a food show recently and talking with one of our local food partners (shout out to Northern Soda Company!) and we were discussing the many hats all business owners wear. In our case, from farm to market. Someone commented “you must be busy.” Well, yes, I have plenty to do, but I suspect all farmers and business owners would say the same. But I’ll let you in on my little secret: I don’t do any of this alone. In fact, I feel like I’ve had more time away from the farm than usual lately, with a mix of work travel, meetings, and some family trips sprinkled in. Every time I’m away, I’m reminded of what a capable team we have here at Ferndale, and this seems like a perfect chance to showcase all they’re working on each day. For a small business like ours, we have an incredibly diverse set of job descriptions and most folks are [...]

2022-08-24T17:47:04-05:00

From Your Farmer: July 2022

This is one of my favorite notes to write each year, because I get to personally invite you to visit our farm! I always love having company, and I especially enjoy the chance to pull back the curtain on our farm and Ferndale story, so our customers and fans can see our turkeys first-hand. In that spirit, I hope you can join us on Saturday, July 16th as we participate in the annual Co-op Farm Tour. For our part, we’ll be providing hay ride tours around the farm, so you can see our turkeys, our land, and hear what makes our Ferndale products unique. Days like this are special in agriculture, because they’re the missing link in the sea of typically-anonymous foods. We know how rare it is for a shopper to see the farm their food came from, and unfortunately, it’s even rarer for a farmer to stand face-to-face with the customers that are nourished by their efforts. And, [...]

2022-07-13T17:57:28-05:00

From Your Farmer: June 2022

In the world of grocery, we’re still rookies. When we got started in on-farm retail 14 years ago, we knew absolutely nothing. And, every time I’d think I had cracked the code, one of our earliest employees – herself a retail veteran – would remind me that retail is ever-changing. You’ll never figure it out. So, I love the chance to continue my education in the world of food retailing, and recently read “Becoming Trader Joe,” by (wait for it…), Joe Coulombe, a.k.a Trader Joe. By now, most of us loosely know the Trader Joe’s grocery strategy. Lots of exclusive private label brands, not too many options, and pyramids of unique specialties. What I didn’t know was that Joe had a term for the ideal products he was seeking out: “discontinuous” items. Imagine the opposite of the mass-produced national brands that are widely available; they’re in continuous supply. Instead, Trader Joe’s made it big in the early years by [...]

2022-07-13T17:53:12-05:00

From Your Farmer: May 2022

I’m an unabashed summer lover. I’m probably out-of-step with my profession, because extreme heat can be worrisome with turkeys, but I’d take most summer days over any day in January. I love the season that finds our birds outside on every corner of the farm, and I relish the long summer days that create the illusion of “bonus hours” to get that perennial one-more-thing accomplished. These days are also a great time to hit the road for a daytrip, so I’ll proudly sport my community spirit hat and encourage you to make a trip to see us in Cannon Falls! I’m a biker, so I think the Cannon Valley Trail is a hidden gem, running to the Mississippi River in Red Wing. If you’d rather be on the water, you can rent a canoe or tube to float the Cannon River. Either way, you should finish your ride with a local glass or pint at either Cannon River Winery [...]

2022-05-26T17:35:57-05:00

From Your Farmer: April 2022

There’s been a lot of news to follow lately, and it seems farmers – poultry in particular – find themselves in it too often right now. With all that’s happening, you’d be forgiven if you haven’t followed the movement in Washington DC to fuel more competition among the major meat companies. While it may not be a headline grabbing story, I’d bet it’s an issue near-and-dear to any farmer, particularly given the continued consolidation among the big global meat brands.  In the case of cattle, for instance, four companies control 85% of the beef market. The big just keep getting bigger. I’ll leave it to economists far smarter than me to untangle the impact this has on prices consumers pay at the grocery store. Speaking as a farmer, however, I know the consolidation has severely limited the outlets most farmers have to sell the animals they’ve worked so hard to raise. Of course, when there’s only one buyer at [...]

2022-04-18T18:53:15-05:00

From Your Farmer: March 2022

There’s never a dull moment in farming. While I expect that’s true of most professions most of the time, the adage seems especially true in agriculture these days. As you’d probably imagine, rapidly rising costs are one of the things trying to give me gray hair. Some of you have noticed small price increases on our turkey products, so I thought I’d unpack the backstory a bit here. Our feed costs were already on the rise, but grain costs have shot up further with the war in Ukraine. I don’t need to tell you what gas prices have been doing lately, and we rely on fuel in a few different ways: propane to heat our barns on cold days and diesel for our tractors and delivery trucks. Processing costs are following the same trend line, as our processing partners experience the same rising costs and short staffing. Long story short, it costs us a lot more to raise, harvest, [...]

2022-03-18T16:55:10-05:00

From Your Farmer: February 2022

It’s probably not a traditional best business practice to use this space to discuss a turkey product we currently don’t make. But a few of you responded to our January request for feedback (feel free to keep it coming, by the way), to ask why we don’t offer a Ferndale turkey bacon. It may be no surprise that turkey bacon is one of our most commonly requested items, both in our market and from our retail partners, so I thought I’d share the back story. There are two closely connected hurdles that have prevented us from jumping into the turkey bacon game. I’ll start by saying that I love pork bacon in all its forms. Give me a BLT or a side with my eggs any day of the week. But, it’s important to remember that pork bacon has an inherent natural advantage over turkey bacon. Namely, pigs have a pork belly and turkeys have lean breast meat in its place. [...]

2022-02-24T17:32:33-06:00

From Your Farmer: January 2022

I love the chance at the start of each year to stand between the past and the future. To look back at what we accomplished, and ahead to all we hope to do in 2022. If I’m totally honest, 2021 came with its share of challenges. Like all small businesses, we wrestled with continued economic and pandemic-related uncertainty. Would our college, restaurant, and school customers return to normal? Would the severe truck driver shortage impact our ability to receive deliveries? What would Thanksgiving demand look like? Would prices for turkey feed continue to rise? I also had assumed a new turkey product would be one of our 2021 highlights, but very soon after we excitedly launched our Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast, our processor informed us they were too short-staffed to continue making it. We had a similarly abrupt end to a popular turkey burger we made almost exclusively for schools. It was a tough year for meat processors and [...]

2022-01-29T22:55:03-06:00

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