These stretch goals represent various benchmarks that will help make our project even more of a success. Even if we reach our goal of 85k, it will be several years until we have paid back our loan and are generating additional revenue. The savings that we would have from a small solar hot water system are significant, but the savings from a full solar hot water and large photovoltaic system would be much, much greater. This would put us on new footing with regards to the financial sustainability of the business!
Between Feb 28th and March 30th we will be regularly posting a series of testimonial videos from community members on our youtube page. Check it out to see your friends and neighbors share what Cricket Creek Farm means to them!
Also, please visit our website and our facebook page for more information about the farm and project. We will be posting regular updates, so please be sure to "like" us so that you can follow our progress.
In certain ways, Cricket Creek Farm is successful. We have healthy and well-cared for animals. We produce nutrient-dense, high-quality foods. We have won two major awards from the American Cheese Society. We teach cheese making classes. We train teams of apprentices to become dairy farmers and cheese makers. We welcome the community to visit our farm, because we love what we do and relish sharing it with the world.
However, we are not yet financially sustainable, and the business of the farm has been operating on a loss.
After working with many farmer mentors and financial advisors, we have determined that it is absolutely necessary to find other ways to diversify our revenue and save money so that we can avoid raising prices or shutting down the operation. Over the past four years, we have crafted a two-pronged project that will significantly alter the bottom line of our business: to renovate the upstairs of a beautiful old barn (the "Stone Barn") so that it may be used as a community space, and to install a solar array to reduce our energy costs.
The new Stone Barn will be a community event space that can be used by local residents and visitors. It will be available for meetings, art classes, book groups, and other community gatherings. We will also rent it out for larger events, which will provide an important addition to our revenue stream. With regards to solar energy, we are designing a system that will offset up to 77% of our electric usage and also provide us with solar hot water. These projects are united in that each will significantly alter the bottom line of the business, year after year after year. The Stone Barn project will generate additional revenue, and the solar array will substantially reduce operating costs. Instead of a one-time investment in a piece of equipment, this project will help this small farm on an ongoing basis.
Cricket Creek Farm is a growing, productive, multi-facted organism.
We are a grass-based dairy farm. We are one of the oldest dairy farms in the region, but infused with new life and energy. Our primary activity is raising dairy cows for their good milk. We are licensed to sell raw milk from the farm. The rest of our milk we make into artisanal cheese in our farmstead creamery. We raise grass-fed beef and whey-fed pork and have a small flock of laying hens. We sell our goods through our farm store, our diversified year-round CSA, at local farmers markets, and through various regional cheese shops, food co-ops, restaurants, and other establishments.
Our MISSION is to produce nourishing food that honors our animals, respects the land, and feeds our community, and to exemplify a sustainable model for small-farm viability.
We are an open farm and encourage visitors to come visit. We allow visitors to watch us milk the cows, watch us make cheese, and visit with the calves, the pigs, and the chickens. In our small farm store we sell fresh raw milk, our artisanal cheeses, grass-fed beef, whey-fed pork, and many other local products from other farmers and artisans. We enjoy being an open farm, welcoming visitors at all times of the year, and sharing what we have to offer with others.
A BRIEF HISTORY: In 2001, the Phelps family put Cricket Creek Farm up for sale, and the Sabot family, concerned about the development of the largest farm in Williamstown, explored options for protecting the land. By 2002, they had purchased the farm and had started developing a plan for moving forward.
The existing parlor was designed in the 50′s and was set up for a large, grain-based operation. We planned on a significantly smaller milking herd; we now milk 30 cows, as opposed to the 300 in the heyday of the former farm. We also decided to pursue a grass-based operation; we believed that a grass-based dairy would result in higher quality dairy products, healthier, happier animals, and a cleaner more sustainable environment. We began milking our cows in the spring of 2004!
We continued to move toward our goal of producing fine artisanal cheese. In the summer of 2005, Dick Sabot passed away very suddenly. This caused the family to re-evaluate the situation with the farm and the vision for the future. This challenging time was also productive, and set the farm on its path to where we are today.
Over the past decade, the farm has had a number of different managers, but today it is run by Topher Sabot with the help of Suzy Konecky. Topher and Suzy work with an incredible team of apprentices who come for a year and work in all facets of the business, and receive much support and help from each of their partners, Jen Mygatt and Matthew Ball. Topher decided to get involved when it became apparent that the farm business was struggling financially, and he wanted to bring it to a place of true sustainability: both environmentally and financially. Here are just a few of our accomplishments from the past few years:
While we have had many successes over the past several years, and are planning new and innovative projects for the future, we are still operating on a loss. The number of cheese awards, creative partnerships, and healthy animals is irrelevant if we can't cover our expenses. You can see below that we have been cutting our losses and closing the gap over the past few years. We have been working hard to bring in more revenue, with keeping our expenses relatively steady. However, we have determined that it is not possible for us to break even without the revenue that we will generate from events held in the Stone Barn, and the savings that we will have from the solar power. We are committed to keeping our prices reasonable for our neighbors, and are not interested in pricing people out of our milk, cheese, and meat.
Since we are asking you for money, we want to be open and transparent with our farm finances. Below is a chart showing our major expenses. We bring in income from selling our milk, cheese, meat, and other store products. You may be wondering where that money goes, if the sale of our products does not cover our expenses. Hopefully the chart below will help you understand the various expenses that we have on the farm. If you have any additional questions about our farm finances or business plans, please don't hesitate to write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (413) 458-5888 and ask for Topher or Suzy. We are happy to share more!
We have worked hard over the past few years to keep expenses steady while generating more revenue. It is not easy, since many of the expenses increase as we have made more cheese, and started milking more cows (now we are milking 30, which is up from 16 in 2010). As you can see, utilities are a large piece of the pie. The "solar power" section below explains in more detail how we would save with the introduction of solar power on the farm.
By contributing to our project, you are supporting a vision that values landscape, sustainable agriculture, good food, open space, and community. It is an investment in young and visionary farmers who have made great strides towards a sustainable business model. This investment goes beyond the farmers here, beyond the owners of the business, and beyond the renovation of this particular barn. It is an investment in the promise of a different kind of agriculture, a model of dairy farming that is sustainable in the truest sense of the word - for the environment, the workers, the land, and the bottom line of the business. At Cricket Creek we are not only striving to run a farm that is successful in each of these facets, but one that can be a model for other aspiring dairy farmers and cheesemakers. Education is extremely important to our vision and mission; helping more people to produce nourishing high-quality food, to care for animals, and to preserve farmland is truly at the heart of our goals.
We are seeking funding from a variety of sources to fund this project. We are taking out a loan, putting in our own farm resources, working with individual investors, and launching this Kickstarter campaign. The money that we raise through Kickstarter will only be a portion of the total project costs, but it is an critical piece! We will not be able to move forward if this Kickstarter campaign is not a success. As you probably know, Kickstarter is all or nothing - we must reach our goal in order to receive any of the money pledged.
The Stone Barn was the old milking barn, and still retains remnants of the first floor stanchions. We now use the barn's lower level for storage of all of our frozen meat, farmers market tables and tents, hay making equipment, and more. The first floor is also the home of our new cheese aging cave where all the Maggies Reserve cheese is kept. It provides shelter to our farrowing sows and their young piglets. It is a very important and high use space for the farm business. The upstairs of the barn has a stunning yet rustic ceiling with a maze of exposed trusses. There is currently one window facing Southwest that lets in warm evening sunlight. Our plans include an expansion of this window so that it becomes 3-4 times the current size and lets the glow of sunsets pour into the space. We also plan to put dormer windows facing East looking out onto Mt. Greylock and the Berkshire range. This will offer one of the most spectacular views in The Berkshires. These are just a few of the exciting improvements that we have planned.
We are excited that the new space in the Stone Barn will be available for both community use and a few event rentals per year. The community will have access to the space for meetings, art classes, yoga classes, etc. We want it to be a resource for our friends and neighbors. The revenue generation will come with our few event rentals for family reunions, weddings, anniversary parties, etc. We have written a basic enterprise analysis for this "event enterprise" on the farm, and it projects that we will pay off our loan and start bringing in additional revenue within 3 years. This will make a major difference in the bottom line of the farm, and allow us to become truly economically sustainable.
Milking cows and making cheese require a lot of energy, and no matter how much of our own we put in, hard work doesn't substitute for electricity and hot water! Our cheese vat is heated with hot water, our milking system is washed twice daily with 160 F water, and there are endless glass milk bottles and cheese molds to clean. We currently heat our water with an oil-fueled boiler, and oil is both expensive and bad for our environment.
We have worked with a solar hot water contractor to design a system that would provide for all of our hot water needs in the summer (when there is lots of sun!) and supplement our use in winter.
Our electric usage is primarily on the cooling front. We have three cheese caves that must be kept cold, a bulk tank for chilling fresh milk, and many freezers for meat. All of these use a great deal of electricity. After receiving proposals from several different photovoltaic installers, we have identified several possible systems that would greatly reduce our power draw from the grid. The success of this Kickstarter project will determine the scale of the system we can install. In a best-case scenario, we could offset 77% of our electric usage annually.
Special THANKS to Chris Gauthier and Daria Stein for their incredible work on our videos and Stephanie Johnstone for her wonderful music!
WE THANK YOU for your support. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Suzy or Topher if you have any other questions about our project. We are happy to share!
Risks and challenges
Renovations and construction projects always carry the risk of unforeseen complications and costs. While we are confident in our due diligence, we are expecting that something will come up during the work. We are preparing for this by leaving room in the budget to accommodate such occurrences.
Another potential challenge is the timing of renovations. Building projects often take longer than expected. Because of this we are not going to count on having the Stone Barn available for use until 2015, leaving plenty of time to complete the three-month project.
Because we have received specific bids from solar installers, we do not anticipate cost over-runs on this part of the project. The only challenge will be maintaining normal farm operations during installation. However, compared to the daily issues that come up on a dairy farm, a scheduled installation will not be hard to manage.
Overall we are confident in the preparation we have done and the professionals with whom we are working. Provided we can secure funding, with your help, we do not foresee any major stumbling blocks!
Again, thank you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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