Cota Farms' Blog

May 23, 2019

Disassembling Your Life – Selling The Farm – Part 4

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 5:31 pm
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It is difficult to prepare your home, farm, business for sale when you are not moving upward but rather moving on. After speaking with my realtor I understood what selling this property, my home, means. It is about erasing my presence here as much as possible. Sure it make sense, perspective buyers must be able to see themselves living there, not the remains of the former owner.

We have seen the closed store fronts where the ghosts of the logos still linger. It is generally an impersonal thing because despite the laws of the land, these are companies and not human beings. The persons that worked for those companies hopefully moved on to other opportunities. If they didn’t then perhaps they were forced to sell their homes and likewise erase their presence from where they once lived.

It’s a life changing experience particularly when future expectations run toward the bleak end of the spectrum. I recently re-watched “The Grapes of Wrath” just to verify that my frame of mind was more than just self pity. Yep, my feelings are totally justified and I am in the good company of many a fellow human being past and present.

The Grapes of Wrath Poster

Like those characters in Steinbeck’s novel, I too am looking at homelessness but I hope to do it with more grace and comfort. It’s a race and there are so many of us joining it all the time. The number of homes for sale in my county is disturbing but I can only see competition for the too few buyers that are able to secure mortgages. It’s a shameful thing when we are set against one another over scarce resources, exactly the point of Steinbeck’s masterwork.

April 3, 2019

Maintenance – Selling The Farm – Part 2

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:47 pm
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New Gravel

Before you can list your property you have to do all those things that you never got around to while you were going about the business of living and farming. It’s a sad irony that I have to clean up the farm and the house, perform maintenance and a hundred other small jobs to make the place one that I would want to live in before I can sell it. It’s kind of like punishment for failing to be successful. You would think that failing would be punishment enough but there are still many more painful moments yet to come; why don’t you follow along with me so you can witness the whole sordid affair.

The driveway has been in need of new gravel for at least two maybe three years. It will be one of the first things that a potential buyer will see and can not be put on the -sell as is list-. I’ll talk about the lists in another post. We have a long driveway which is always desirable except when it comes time to purchase gravel or when it is covered in ice and snow. I’ve noticed neighbors (that can be anyone within several mines in the country) that have put asphalt on their driveways and it looked good. I did a little calculating in my mind concerning what this would cost and it added up to me hating my neighbors, give or take a thousand dollars. We are fortunate to have a quarry just a stones throw (a stones throw, am I funny or what) from the farm so we naturally went with quarry gravel. Limestone is the preferred material to use but it is at least twice as much and in my experience and inspecting nearby driveways, it doesn’t really last any longer although this is the common wisdom.

On two occasions I used slag which is comparable in price to quarry gravel and outlasts gravel or limestone. I like slag because it melts the ice and snow away faster, it looks nice and it packs at least as well as limestone but there are two problems with it; it is not always available and it often comes with sharp objects that can cause a series of unexpected flat tires.

The gravel in the pic is about 23 tons and costs about $500. I will need about twice that much more to complete the area near the house and fill in the areas missed by the tailgate spread. This is the most money I plan to spend getting the property/house ready for show. I have already arranged to trade a Wheel Horse mower for some interior painting. Other items I will give away to good friends and maybe sell a few things. A lot of things will just be hauled away to the dump. I think that could be a poem.

March 19, 2019

Selling the Farm

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:48 pm
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Now that I am past the hard part, admitting failure and deciding to act, it’s time to move on to cleaning up the mess.  That really was the hard part because whatever comes next is as a direct result of the failure and is only to be expected.  It won’t be smooth sailing (how I would so love to just go sailing) but it will be sailing to whatever destination even if that is sailing off the end of the flat earth. I read somewhere we can do that now. 

In an attempt to make that final save, the goal here is to sell the farm before losing the farm. It is a race against time on many race tracks; the mortgage, property taxes, collapsing housing market, my ability to function, and so forth.

Selling a farm is a little more involved than selling a house.  It is potentially such a problem that I have decided to not sell the farm but instead sell a house that sits on acres of land. And if that doesn’t go well, a very real possibility, I will have to resort to plan x, something I would just rather not do. There is also another option that fits between house on land sale and plan x, the auction. I mention it because in certain situations when the constellations align just right, it is possible to make more money in an auction than a normal real estate transaction. Maybe it’s a rural thing, not many actions in the city, but they pop up all the time in the countryside. 

If you’ve never been to an auction, a good one meaning there are a lot of people there that want what you need, then you’ve missed an enlightening experience. Very often the property or livestock or painting receives much more than it would have if just listed. If you’ve got the time and a few thousand dollars to pay the fee should you not get your needed price, you may do well. This doesn’t really apply to eBay because it also lists the same item right next the auctioned item essentially creating a ceiling.

Plan x would require more time and investment in my own failure, don’t want to drag this out. But interestingly enough, it could bring more money by dividing the land into smaller pieces and raising the per acre price. All I can do is prepare the property as well I can for presentation and there you go.

Unfortunately there are others who must sell out or bug out and, and do something else so maybe my experiences may be useful in some way. This journey will expand from the original postings full of optimism, innovation, and energy to homelessness. Hopefully my writing will have improved at least. If all goes well then it won’t necessarily have a sad ending.

March 11, 2019

The Farm Has Failed

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 8:34 pm
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I guess it would be more accurate to say that I have failed. Now that I have a clear plan of how I will move forward, I thought it important to outline why I think the farm and I failed, primarily for myself. It is nice to think that someone would see this and even benefit from the log, but I will dismiss that idea as vanity.

  1. The small business landscape today changes so fast that there can be no academic understanding of it. There are few rules that you can apply that will guide you to success.
  2. Limited success can kill you. If you are lucky, say doing some coding that attracts the attention of a mega company, you can sell out quickly and make money. Otherwise, any small success will be copied by so many and so fast that you may never innovate again. Predators are ruthless.
  3. Business diversity is not the friend of the small business owner/operator. The idea of diversification just made sense to me. When one thing doesn’t sell, the other will. More people will be looking at you because you have more to offer. It is a sound principle for Walmart but for my small farm it meant spreading limited resources so thin that everything suffered, mostly me. Did everyone else already know that?
  4. The small business is not the future of America, it is a lie. If it is touted as a partial solution for the dwindling job market it is only done so to protect those powers that are now harvesting the wealth of the middle class. I also employ tricks to distract my sheep when I need to catch them for….
  5. Self-deception is the drug that keeps us going. While I was standing next to other small farmers, competing with them in the friendly atmosphere of the farmers market, I believed I did things better, my produce was superior, my meats more unique. When they stopped showing up at market it was because they were not as good as me. What other reason could there be?
  6. My hard work and sacrifice would ultimately be rewarded. This is a tough one. This idea is at the center of everything American and to even attempt to disagree with it would only invite ridicule and scorn. I don’t need any more of that.
  7. The ability of the large produces to control not just prices but the infrastructure, like insurance or certification, required to bring a product to market, is a tool they us to squash even the very smallest competitor. I use to think that such a tiny vendor as myself would not be noticed much less worthy of attack. Again my own vanity led me astray. It wasn’t about me, but all those like me added together. As the economy winds down and the last remaining profits are snorted up, even the 2% market share is gone after.
  8. Likewise, the niche markets are no longer a good bet. It’s a niche market for a reason. If there is any money to be made there a corporation has already financed a spinoff to go after it. The small number of sales I could generate by selling, say wool blankets or tanned hides, did not support my costs and I could not simply keep increasing the price.
  9. Cheap imports, including food, cannot be competed with.  Yes, the Chinese imported talpia or shrimp my not be as wholesome as a locally grown variety, but as people are forced to take jobs paying less they will compromise. 
  10. What you sold to people last year you can’t count on selling to them the next. All of us are victims of the dying economy and we fall away from sight to become poorer and sometimes homeless. We survive by spending less money on good food and other items so that we can keep what we have come to believe is more important.

We will survive by having less so that we can keep what we believe is more important. Cota Farms was as much an idea as it was a farm and the two never did quite come together. It would be easy to say sour grapes, but it is not true. I look back and recognize my failures and mistakes but I also acknowledge that I did not possess what was needed to bring that idea into this world.

Of course there are many examples one could point to and say, “see, that person was able to do this or that with just a handful of beans.” I salute them. This is not a blog about how to become successful with just a handful of beans. That alone is refreshing, it is my diary.

November 6, 2013

Micro Trout Farm (2)

Once we secured the water source we had to determine how much water we had, the flow rate.  For large scale commercial trout facilities the flow rate is very large, even thousands of gallons per minute.  There are few places in America where that much clean, cold water is available for private use.

Many of us however can have access to smaller volumes of water, perhaps enough to produce fish in sufficient quantities for it to be self-supporting.  A simplified analysis may look like this:  $150 per month for electric to pump water and air; $100 per month for feed; $400 per month replacement stock.  This simplified analysis assumes a up and running project and does not account for any capital investment like the cost of the well and raceway.

So $650 is the monthly cost to produce 400 fish for market.  Another assumption is that the project has been running long enough to produce a marketable item, a 1.5 pound fish.  If we sell 400 fish each month for $7.50 per pound then we net $3850 per month.  More than enough to service any capital investment with some pocket change left over.  OK let’s say my figures are suspect even though they are not that bad and we double our input costs to $1300 per month, still not too bad.  At any rate, it seems to be self-supporting.

This project has brought together all my favorite sciences and opens up a lot of potential new avenues for any other agricultural engineering fans out there.  A few came out to see my prototype; its already had an important modification and is growing trout.  You will notice I am using a variation of the common raceway and tank culture systems.  Both methods have advantages so why not bring them together.  I am also experimenting with different off the shelf tank designs that are readily available for far less than those tanks sold specifically for aquaculture.  Oct27 011

May 16, 2013

Everything All The Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 9:34 pm
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I remember when I first noticed those words while listening to an Eagle’s song, “…everything all the time…”.  Since then they have grown in meaning to me.  So much of the wisdom in the world that floats around goes unnoticed and not understood until you are ready to checkout.  Seems cruel, it doesn’t really do you much good at that point.  Although it is true that many of us don’t ever really get it.

Lately the meaning has for me begun to address more than just a danger for individuals but our whole culture, our society.  Our economy requires ever increasing consumption which means ever increasing production of whatever those in marketing can get us to purchase.  This makes for a disposable economy.  Nothing is ever meant to satisfy or serve a purpose for longer than it takes to make the next item.

Thrift stores are full of clothing and just stuff that is newer than most of what I own.  Sometimes when I shop in these stores I am shocked at what I find there, is it a mistake, how can it be?  Someone just bought this, by my time frame  and could find no other use for it than to give it away.  Did they decide to do without or simply buy the newer version?

What has really forced these notions into my mind, made me write this down, is business, or rather my attempt at making our business work.  There is so much of everything out there, at least in this country, that it hardly makes any sense to start a business for any product or service.  If you live in a good size city you will find anything you want offered by a number of businesses.

There are more houses than there are people to live in them or people to buy them.  If you bought a house a couple years ago it now makes sense economically to walk away from it and buy a better one for less money.  If this were not true there would not be so many rules in place to keep people from doing just this even though many do.

Of course part of the problem is this negative feedback effect of ever increasing consumption.  The companies want to make more money so they have to sell more products and to sell more products you have to lower the price so more people can buy it.  To do this you must lower the cost of production which means in many cases lowering the cost of labor which means in many cases deceasing wages and the number of employees.  Some of the now unemployed workers start new companies further increasing the supply of products or services in the market place.

OK, enough whining, so what to do.  Well for us that means leaving behind these notions of building a small business so that we can make enough money to be financially secure, ain’t gonna happen. Don’t get me wrong, people do start small businesses and build empires, and they win millions in the lottery too.  Young men do play professional sports and become rich and famous and people are miraculously cured from cancer.  So that’s ten people.  And another ten are just lucky.  That leaves…several others.

Being a farmer I naturally thought well hey people will always eat; can’t have too much food after all people are starving in Africa or some place.  Boy was that wrong.  Here in America you can buy 2000 calories for $2, not considering the quality of the calories.  The best farmer’s markets have waiting lists to get in, as a vendor.  Last year I saw local, fresh, heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market for less money than the insipid things that pass for tomatoes at the grocery store!  What does that mean?  Strawberries in February for less than the cost of bottled water!

But all is not lost.  I think that farming will eventually become a very serious and important occupation.  Well, it is already serious and important, just not respected because food doesn’t come from farms, it comes from grocery stores.  Not being sure of anything else, I am certain that things cannot continue on as they are now and food will once again come from farms.

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