Saving Our Bacon

Things are in a state of change at the moment. We’ve recently had a good look at our direct selling and it is fairly obvious that, as we have been doing it, it really isn’t viable. It isn’t the best use of our time to continue as we have been as we have. With our move towards managed grazing we are looking at how to prioritise our enterprises in a way that doesn’t have us burning the candle at both ends.

When we started with the pigs we’d hoped we might be able to get enough people on board that we would have all of our meat sold every month through set preorders, like a subscription. We know of others that are doing this with great results. It is selling through a CSA model (Community Supported Agriculture). When selling through a CSA model the producer calculates an amount of produce that they will have to sell every month and they split it into shares. Their customers/supporters commit to buying a share each month and, as a result, the farmer knows, before any processing happens, that everything is sold. The dream! This plan would see me adding to the farm the equivalent of me having a part time job (with no qualifications) in town but with more flexibility and without the one hour round trip every time I went to work, all while supplying a quality, low food mile, product which is otherwise unavailable in the Wimmera. Win/win!

Every month nearly 2 weeks before market when we take animals over to be slaughtered we don’t have enough orders to cover the market price of the animals let alone the paying the butchers (which is usually over $3500). Usually when we turn up at the market preorders have tipped us over the cost of stock and butchery. Market sales then need to cover boxes, fuel, payments on the van and our time. Needless to say our hourly rates for the extra hours to direct sell are nothing to write home about. As anyone in business knows the profits come from controlling expenses. In all aspects of our farm we are endeavouring to lessen our financial risk by decreasing costs that are related to future income that has the most risk from outside influences. For us that is cropping and direct meat sales.

Rather than continuing indefinitely as we are simply out of habit or a sense of obligation we are making some changes to try to achieve something closer to what we had initially planned. To achieve a home for everything before the trip to the abattoir, from next year we are going to be only selling pork and it will only be through retail and to the cafes and restaurants that create all manner of deliciousness with our meat. The retail aspect still leaves us with the risk of not selling everything but it makes it so much more accessible to many more people. Fingers crossed.

Rather than going cold turkey we will be seeing out the year at the Haven Market with only lamb and pork and we will still be welcoming pre orders. Nu Life in Horsham now stocks pork roasts and mince in the freezer and bacon and mettwurst in the fridge. I’m also looking to add some new stockists in other towns. If you’re within 200km of our farm and would like our bacon stocked in your town drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

My hope for Wheatons’ Store was never for unending growth. It was to have a set number of animals processed every month. The subscription style would provide us with certainty. We thoroughly value the small number of people who have stepped out and done something different by pre-purchasing from us every month. Unfortunately this number has stayed fairly constant over the last 12 months and it isn’t enough to make direct selling worth us investing the extra time it takes to make it happen.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in the last 5 years from many wise mentors it is that if something isn’t working that doesn’t necessarily mean you ditch the enterprise all together. Sometimes looking through the records that you’ve kept you can find a compromise. I’m hoping that in the last 3 months I have found the model that might just work. Something that will keep our sanity and still have our meat more easily accessible to our fellow Wimmera-ites. By all means our regulars are still welcome contact us if you’re desperate for something that isn’t stocked at your local retailer because, as any one who knows us would agree, we do try to help out if we can.

For the rest of this year we will have limited pork and lamb at the Haven Market along with preordered boxes. We are so thankful to the wonderful people who have supported us so far and we are disappointed that we can’t continue to offer the wide range that we have. We hope that by having our meat easily accessible in local business’ who have a heart for quality, local produce that there will be more people who become devoted lovers of our pork (especially bacon).

Stockists of our meat:

HORSHAM Nu Life
NHILL Supa IGA
DIMBOOLA IGA
KANIVA The Purple Starfish Community Shop

We are hoping to add to this list in the coming months.

Items stocked vary between stores.

Before and after.  Free range eggs and bacon. Mmmmmmm!

Before and after. Free range eggs and bacon. Mmmmmmm!