Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cross Roads

My mom continually asked me "What do you plan to do with your life?". That was often coupled with "What are you studying this semester?". Now it is just "What are you up to?" Every fall and into winter I ask myself what I plan to do next year.

I just completed the first of two workshops for ALBC on dairy farming using heritage breeds. This was a beta version. I think that it went well. The thing that hit me the most was a comment Dennis Moore with NY Dept of Ag & Markets said. There are 34 new dairy processing operations in NY that started this year!

The knee jerk reaction for someone in the industry is to say that they will not be here in 2-5 years. Arrogant, confident response. In my market area I often wonder how many the region CAN hold onto considering the scrapping I've done with others to help build a local food system.

My cheeses and dairy products are good enough to stand on their own and I can always sell them outside of this area. The thing is that, going back to the workshop, I talked about mission statements and goals and revisiting them to see where you are.

The mission statement was "To make cheeses that taste great. To provide a stable milk price for the dairy. To provide an on farm income for me." I do the first sentence. I make a consistent cheese. It is a nice table cheese. People consistently purchase it year after year.

The second statement was thrown out the window this year. It is not that I did not pay Dave for the milk. It is not that I underpaid him for his milk. I did not buy it. I used milk from goats. I always wanted to milk goats. Kept trying to purchase it. When Claire said she wanted to show something... I bought enough goats to make a batch of cheese! So what of those cows? He is organic now and we are on winter program. This means we are paid $28/hwt. Can I afford to or do I need to buy his milk?

The third statement. Ah, that third one. My cheese business was going great guns until we had this crisis of place and decided to move closer to family. We decided not to move a cave of cheese (because where do you find a handy and empty cave to borrow) and I sold out of cheese. I stated up in March this year and had to basically sit on cheese until 6-weeks ago! I did more consulting work this year.

I helped Stolzfus Dairy learn how to make cheddar curd. I wrote this workbook for ALBC on how to do dairy processing using heritage breeds. I worked on the conference. I did some other putter things related to dairy. I also started R&D on confectionery products.

Confectionery products. They taste lovely. They are easy, yet time consuming. They helped me with ego issues related to not having cheese for all of those people who rang looking for cheeses that had to hang around. It is a handy way to use late lactation goat milk.

So now I am at this point where I need to tell Peter, yes, I am committed to that Fire Cooker for caramel and goat fudge. I need to just ramp up cheese making (including going back to using our cows milk). I need to decide whether or not I need to help more people get into this business...

I have a week to make decisions. It is thrown into my court. Dave wants me to focus on cheese only. No consulting. No workshops. No caramel. Just cheese. I like all of the above and know I need to hire someone to do affinage and someone to milk goats in the evening. I feel like I CAN do all of those things, yet I am so exhausted from trying to do all of them for a year now. Really tired and I have an injured foot that probably needs either surgery of steroid injections because I felt I could do everything.

So, rewrite mission statement or go back to it? I feel like I cannot make this decision so exhausted, but I have a week to do it.

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