Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Generally, filing your taxes isn’t cause for inspiration, but for the first time ever after filing taxes, I feel really good. Let me explain.
When Dan and I first decided we wanted to start Sugar River Farm, there was a lot of introspection as to why. We both enjoy working with animals, being outdoors, spending time together, the satisfaction of a productive day and good food, but this desire to farm seemed to also stem from a more basic need: Connection.
Given this digital world we live in, online shopping, friendships, news, customer service, dating, research, advice forums, opinions, recipes, etc., while all very helpful and efficient, can leave us feeling somewhat separated or insulated from reality.
Dan and I realized we wanted to be a part of a community. We were seeking connection to life, wishing to create something to contribute, wishing for our contribution to matter. We wanted to buy from and sell to our friends and neighbors. We wanted to know who was eating our meat and we wanted our customers to enjoy their food just that much more knowing that we, Dan and Kristen from the market, had raised these animals with care, respect and uncompromising standards. We wanted our vendors to be people we knew, people who recognized us when we walked through their door. We wanted to know that our business helped them grow theirs.
Which brings me to taxes. Having just gone through a year’s worth of receipts and finally completed our "Schedule F" for our business taxes (Profit and Loss From Farming), I am very struck by just how much of our spending is going back towards our community. After some number crunching, I realized that over 75 percent of Sugar River Farm’s expenditures were spent at local and family-owned businesses.
We buy our grain mixed in Vermont from the feed store two towns over and like to watch the owner’s border collie go for rides with him in the forklift. Our meat processors are a family-owned plant based out of Massachusetts. (As processing plants go up here, that's local — only about an hour from us in Newport, New Hampshire.)
The hardware store where we purchase the stock for our chicken coops and pig huts is based out of our town and has been open since 1962. Our veterinarian who is less than 5 minutes away, is more than fair with his pricing, remembers the myriad of animals that we’ve brought him (the two ducks who acted intoxicated for two days yet we never figured out what exactly was the issue (they’re fine now), a cat with an abscess, a rabbit with a bald spot, along with the two dogs and all their shots) and was friendly with the man who owned the farm before us.
Our mechanic is right up the street, sold us our tractor and log splitter, gave us our beloved Cleo the dairy cow and used to hay our fields years ago. Granted, we still shop at big-box stores, use a national company to host our website and order our electric fencing supplies from Iowa, but we are proud of the amount of business we are able to provide to companies like ours – small, family-owned and proud of what they do.
Which brings me to our customers... We are grateful to be supported by a community of people who like us, what we do and how we do it. We have a major wholesale account which buys most of our chicken and two farmers markets for our pastured pork, chicken and eggs. When the market isn’t in season, we offer home delivery and there’s nothing quite as fun as getting a text from a customer asking for a holiday ham.
We love being accessible, knowing and caring about those we sell to and seeing the same faces every week at the market. We have met so many wonderful people through this process and deep down, we believe they may have the same need for connection that we do. Their purchase from us supports our family farm which then supports other family and regional businesses. We all help each other, we are all connected and through this, we all matter.
This will most likely be the last time I take to my keyboard positively inspired by filling out tax forms, but at least I’ll get a yearly reminder of the impact, however small, of Sugar River Farm and our customers on the local economy.
Kristen Kilfoyle is a new farmer who interned in 2014 with Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm (read about her experiences at Polyface here). She and her fiancé, Dan, currently raise chickens, pigs and ducks on their 45 acres at Sugar River Farm in New Hampshire. Kristen also teaches seminars on pastured poultry production. Find Kristen on Facebook and Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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