Redo the Dream, Re-Draft the plan

ReDream the Dream, ReDraft the Plan

Dreams don’t come true – dreams are made true. - Ken E. Knight
[from an article in "Pony Tales by Ponty”, by Ken E. Knight, author of a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column which is featured in the "The Farm and Livestock Directory" every month.]

… Brainstorming the future, for me, means finding appropriate ventures that fit our new life circumstances - a ‘new dream’. 

This is a LONG post... because I'm sharing my brainstorming process. I'll insert some eye-candy just to break it up a little bit along the way.

I’m studying things like “Value-Added Products”, “Small Farm Enterprises”, and “Sustainable Business Concepts”. Every day that I look, I am wowed by the innovative ideas on the small farm, and in cottage industries. 

I try not to get ahead of myself, but I really want to do it all, lol! That's the point of 'dreaming' after all - and why not dream big, then find something that fits?

But perhaps most important at this time, is to bloom where I’m planted. 
I have found this is a very USEFUL concept. This is appropriate for anyone who finds themselves in unfamiliar territory. It helps, during life changes, to keep you focused during the transition - and not to mope or feel lost longer than you need to.
This is an unfinished painting I'm working on. It's similar to one view of Iowa as I passed thru it.

The concept (of blooming where planted - in life circumstances) applied at a time in the past when I suddenly discovered I was newly empty-nester! (The Title of "Mom' becomes an identity until you find yourself surveying an  empty nest).

It applied to a time in my life when we lost our home and had to move. And I apply it now, as a way forward in another unfamiliar time and place.
(See my next post on blooming where planted, more in-depth).

To “bloom where you’re planted”, you start doing what you can, wherever you are, with what you have...

So I began. Over the past 3 weeks, I have…

·         Read 34 different educational materials for entrepreneurs (and I saved 100 pages of workbook and other thoughtful activity-based info), saved 8 different kinds of value-added and farm-venture assessment questionnaires –and 5 diverse topic worksheets. (Geared for agriculture and other related fields)
·         considered Etsy as a way to monetize crafts, read up on Pay-Pal and other payment systems (i.e. Square)
·         Sourced niche markets & resellers - purchasers or on commission sales in my area (within 2 hours driving distance), and how many others further out.
·         Gained an understanding of farm values on produce, and on value-added products,
·         Gained an understanding of the procedures of creating new value-added products...(value-added ventures hinge on thorough planning and assessing costs of processing and marketing, and determining ways to minimize costs in production).
·         Read and watched numerous vids and articles from various state university extensions.
·         Evaluated 5 crop enterprises --profitability by calculating production costs, breakeven selling prices, gross margins, and returns to equity.

*You just have to find YOUR niche! (or niches, if seasonal). Start with what you have a passion for….  because “Small plots produce nice profits for niche farmers” ARTICLE. It’s my quest to find a niche that isn't already occupied, something a little different - yet still choose a crop that grows well in our zone 4 humid climate and that has demand.

·         Studied how to sell successfully at a Farmer’s Market
·         Examined many different booth set-ups. Some are really simple, some really cute!
·         Tracked our hydro/aeroponics growing experiment (timelines and expenses), created a business binder and working logo, as well as a biz card mock-up.
·         Studied an Amish pantry and their working kitchen implements
·         Learned about using a large pony for farm work – a 2-day job can become a 4-hour job that way!
·         Studied how to take better photos (before using picture editing software) like for old barns and before-and-after photos of a garden
·         Economics of small-farm pastured eggs
·         Whats involved in tapping sugar maples (because you never know...)
·         Studied small goat farms making soft goat cheeses
·         Watched a sheep dairy vid on the same thing (not very detailed on the process, just the economics of it)
·         Read up on farm model cash flows, and 'Sustainable Business Concepts for Small Farms'
·         Read about the varieties of perennials and fruits for zone 4
·         Checked out the concept of growing things in tractor tires
·         Studied how to implement homesteading economics skills to offset lean times 
·         Planned how to implement a ‘Homestead Skill-a-Month’ challenge to myself 
(see below).
·         Created an awesome sowing and transplanting schedule for the greenhouse that incorporates 3 seasons of crops (spring, summer, fall) 
·         Created a 3-year food production model to expand a garden, including perennials and rotations
·         Local farmer's markets... researched what types of things not allowed (or what is needed to allow value-added products), and things to consider for a booth display
·         Learned how to propagate Russian sage (I’ve done 2x in CO but didn’t have room to bring any to MN), marigolds, geraniums, berries, and mints (mice and spiders don’t like peppermint). I would want to use all these plants myself, but selling potted plants from cuttings/propagation, is smart production that can lead to profit from little input.
·         Read many sources on “Starting a Farm” (it seems too easy, lol)
·         Looked at many sources re: farm-scaping, and color themes for a country kitchen and saved many pictures of pantry set-ups.
·         Looked at possible cheap transitory housing, like a $5700. Grain bin house (for one day when we have land on which to build). It’s almost like playing house at this point; pointless, but fun.

·         I’m currently assessing what I have on hand for winter projects.  I have preliminary plans for art I think would sell… and some things are to practice with, to become better at them. Like embroidery. (I’ll be cutting up a hospital blanket into 4 doll blankets. It’s easy material to work with, not stretchy or fuzzy.) 

Meantime I rushed painting a mixed-media set of animal ABC's (for the name 'Kai'), my most recent grandson:

 I rushed the photos a little much too... but I did promise to break up this post!

As I perused the net for brainstorming fodder, an illustration found through Pinterest caught my eye. It's an example of a Sustainable Business Concept that I find attractive.

This is the type of thing that would go onto a Vision Board!

It illustrates what my husband has in mind for the venture he is currently refining, should it pan out. (He isn’t thinking about the café addition part. I just happen to think it’s a natural progression).

(illustration source:
“The Farmery” – a concept that brings Grocery Store and Greenhouse closer together and sales cross over and lead to repeat customers through prepared foods/value-added foods, at a Café or Deli.

 Future Action Plans

·         How to sell at a farmer's market... research what types of things not allowed (or what is needed to allow value-added products), and things to consider for a booth display
·         Develop 4 biz +logo designs -and get reviews
·         Complete a feasibility assessment for 5 value-added products differentiated from other products and services available in the market in some way (such as organic, natural, or humane production), or have a value-added component (i.e. flavored meats, pre-washed salad mix, etc.). I’m thinking maple/cider vinaigrettes, sauces and marinades, since neat & maple syrup are each a big draw here.
·         Assess the competition already on the market
·         Complete a feasibility assessment for 5 new venture ideas (like mushrooms)
·         Assess any competitive edge/niche market of these ventures
·         Find the 3 easiest plants to grow that will benefit us the most and whats nec to grow that plant, and how much, and how to process for long-term storage- and/or the most cost effective value-added products from it. (I will limit myself to 5 plants).
·         Work up 3 food labels and 3 sales tags for eggs, for jam, for art
·            Cook more from scratch (make batches of biscuit mix and store in freezer bags in the freezer, quit buying Ranch dressing and make my own a half-pint at a time, etc.)
·            Make laundry soap – enough for 6 months
·            Buy second-hand clothing for re-purposing and re-vamping (first create a list of desired fabrics)
·         Develop a pantry with a level of food security to withstand 6 months of unemployment
·         Design a chicken garden (to supply all –or most- bird feed needs).
·         Design an off-the-ground insulated chicken coop
·         Seasonal calendar daily activity calendar (see below)
·         project planning for a long winter
·         Formulate each niche market and strategize tactics of implementation; and devise a realistic timeline and/or deadlines from start-up to finished product.
·         Locate current successful producers of like or similar ventures and products in my market area, assess their marketing and selling models. (Did this with CSA’s)
·         Farmers markets are growing, but farmers’ incomes are not. So I studied how CSA put their websites together and how they word their ‘rules’. (I’m intrigued by the ‘whole-diet CSA’ trend) Imagine baking bread or pies each week and providing bulk sausage, holiday birds (geese and turkey), frozen rabbit and goat meat -and goat cheeses to a veggie box.
·      Begin to document weather patterns using symbols on a calendar, to represent indicators such as wind, rain, etc. and temps on patterns of variation over time. To know when things will be watered by the seasonal rains. (I’m used to monsoon season, which doesn’t occur here).
·    Study and implement homesteading economics skills to offset lean times 
·      Plan and implement a ‘Homestead Skill-a-Month’ challenge to myself - starting now. I have preliminary plans for getting thru a deep winter (see below).

As an example, here’s what my brainstorming efforts generally produce…

A marketing idea –that I got from seeing a greenhouse restaurant in the Netherlands…
How neat would this be: to “Recruit New Interest” (from potential co-op partners, investors, vendors, staff, or to initiate chef interaction using our produce, or for celebrating a successful first season… a ‘successful end of season’/ ‘beginning of season kick-off’ lunch –to celebrate.
Our greenhouse could be used (using picnic tables, and on a smaller scale of course).
The greenhouse would surely fit 20 people. Baskets of hanging strawberries could provide shade…

Here are other productive ways to think about the future and making plans... 
(found at

“This is a perfect world scenario, and there about a bazillion variables that can be thrown in. But here’s how it plays out in my head…”

LOVE the idea of using timelines in planning! I have always used the ‘snowflake’ method for brainstorming, but there’s no timeline with that. Of course, I’m fairly clueless on what actual work or processes would be involved with so many things – and this would entail guesswork, except for actual growing seasons…

 “The USDA is pumping a lot of money into the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” movement for farm marketing. Benefit from that marketing push. Your customers are buying into you as much as they are buying into your farm. 
 This is your chance to share that story. Everyone has a good story. You may or may not think so because you know it so well, it is boring to you by now. Someone who has never met you is going to want to hear it. Take some time to write it down, and you will be surprised how many people are interested.
From John  - a generous source of inspiration, and gift of information! 

And may I add a link to his: Mind-Mapping vs. Linear Planning.
A good read that provides “Mind Mapping Tools For Farm Business Planning”, by John. He delves into the subject regarding “The Illusive Beginning Farm Checklist…”

John says: 
You need a way to organize all of the pieces while keeping an eye on the big picture… Checklists are very handy. I use them every day. I even used one to create this page on the website. But with all the many tasks you have to juggle, you are going to need a different tool to organize your thoughts.” 
Useful indeed!

Winter 2015-2016 Skill-a-Month (this is a self-challenge)

1. master a skill  (practicing with a new one each month). This month: embroidery
2. increase self-sufficiency (via one thing a week/month/season) with:

  • Efficiency (work smarter, not harder, re-purpose functions, re-work operations)
  • Diversity (not rely on one crop, consider value-added and other variations, etc.)
  • Redundancy (if one thing fails you have a plan B fail-safe measure or replacement)
3. decrease costs (in some way or by one item 1x a week each month)
4. track things to evaluate performance or effect, and input vs output (quarterly/seasonally)
5. seek new (monthly effort of reaching out to pull in): clients, network of partnerships, supports like mentors and teachers and other path-makers

DONE - Aug:
Create a list of new personal and business goals, divided into actionable steps, along with new years’ aspirations

September I was in AZ to see grandsons...

Oct: Make a Vision Board for my future dream Biz ventures, and for Personal goals. 

I am aiming to get GOT an embroidery hoop. If the doll blankets are cute enough, I'll post the pics!

Wherever you are, going forward, I hope this post has been useful to your purpose, and good for the journey. Let me know... share a link to your blog, or come back and share what you're up to!