#006 - I AM NOT A MILLIONAIRE...
I discovered recently why no one gets into farming any more. It costs too much money.
A couple of years back, my partner, Stephanie, and I purchased a small property. We were boarding our horses nearby, but decided that it would be fun to actually live with them. Look out your kitchen window, see horses pastorally grazing in your back yard. You know, all that rural stuff that's really cute when you don't have to do any of the work.
It's a lot of work. But that's not the point here. I'm not afraid of work, and was not actually surprised by it. The point is actually the opposite. I found that I liked working on the mini-horse farm we were developing. So I thought, maybe I could do more.
Let's quit the city life completely, not just on weekends, and be a farmer. All the time. Yeah, that's the ticket...
Well, as it turns out, our small property is a former chicken farm. It's not that we wanted a chicken farm. It's that we couldn't afford a horse farm. Horse farms are big and expensive. Hobby farms for horses are hard to come by. They're either one stall barns with nowhere to ride (too small for serious hobbyists), or equine facilities, usually near the local racetracks (and way too large for hobbyists, even serious ones).
But there was this old chicken farm for sale. Not used for chickens anymore. Most recently used for crickets. Apparently, raising crickets for the pet reptile business can be rewarding. Although, apparently not rewarding enough to avoid bank foreclosure.
Anyway, Stephanie said that the old chicken farm was way too ugly. And way too much work. She was right, of course, but I talked her into it anyway.
So this chicken farm has two large (and I mean large, as in 40' by 400' each) chicken barns. One of the two, I am about half way through the renovations to make it a horse barn. (Insert joke about required larger cages when changing from chickens to horses...) But the second barn, well, I don't need two horse barns that size, so the second barn sits, being used as storage.
Lighbulb moment - it's a chicken barn, perhaps I could use it for chickens.
Quick as a spring chicken, I send off an email to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, to ask how you go about joining their august company. As it turns out, chicken farming, unless you have a "small flock" of less than 300 birds (insert joke about chickens and Gerard Butler in the movie '300') is subject to a quota system, a marketing board, and all that stuff that guarantees that chicken farmers can make a living. In order to start a chicken business in Ontario, the minimum number of "units" of quota you need is 14,000. Buy the quota, and you're in. Ok, so far so good.
Then, I talk to a farmer recently out of the business. He sold his quota at $75 per unit. Crap! That's a million dollars! $1,000,000! Just to buy the quota!
And that doesn't include getting the barns up to specs, as they haven't been used for a while. It doesn't include buying the chicks, or the feed, or anything else you might need. It doesn't include paying the local kids to catch the chickens when the truck shows up to take them away (which, I have on good authority, is a pretty funny thing to watch). And I don't know how much chicken you raise on 14,000 "units" right now, but I doubt very much that it pays for the interest on a million dollar loan (which, a quick calculator tells me is about $4,000 a month, give or take). 'Cause if I did want to buy a million dollars of something right now, after taking into account all my available cash and liquid assets, I'd need a loan of about a million dollars.
Well, I guess this market quota is good for established farmers, but in sucks for starting out.
So. No chicken farming for me. I guess it's back to the office, invent a few more project plans, file some more paperwork, and dream of living the rural life, not just sleeping in it.
But I did buy a dozen or so pheasants. No quota system on those. Also no market. We'll have to see how that turns out...
16 September 2009