In the Spring of 2013 we moved back to the farm fulltime, and we added 16 chickens (egg layers, not for meat) to the farm and began selling fresh farm eggs to local customers. At that time, the farm was still primarily an orchard that we were planning to expand by adding aquaponics - to produce fresh off-season fruits and vegetables in our greenhouse and raise fish (for meat sales). Our intention in moving back to the farm fulltime was to focus our efforts on local farm-to-table production.
Debbie had been wanting to have chickens for years, but I wasn't on-board. Once we did add the chickens, I was quite surprised ... they were interesting, low maintenance, and extremely reliable ... every day, right on schedule, they all layed eggs ...
These 16 chickens are pretty good little employees. Without direct supervision, they do exactly what they are supposed to do every day.
This small venture peaked my interest in animals as producers, because it was immediately obvious to me that there was no comparison in 'return-on-investment' (time, effort, expenses, and loss risks) when compared with fruits and vegetables. One had to spend a lot of time and labor in raising vegetables just to equal the net from selling farm fresh eggs from 16 chickens that are on autopilot laying eggs every day.
So, the stage was set for a transformation ... about a year later ...
In the Fall of 2014, after I had watched a documentary about the groundswell of farmstead markets around the country - in particular the successes of micro breweries, vineyards, and dairies - we began discussing how converting the farm and retail store building to a goat creamery and store could be an excellent fit for both our family and the local market.
Again, much like the chickens, Debbie had been wanting to have dairy goats for years and I wasn't on-board. But, as I learned about the goat creamery business and it seemed that it could be a really good fit for our family and the farm that we already owned, the discussions about starting a goat creamery slowly changed from noodling to actual business planning.
Still, this was all something of an abstraction for me ... until the lightbulb moment ... our visit to the LaClare Family Farm! That was a seminal moment for us, where it became crystal clear what we wanted to do.