Know Your Seller

To avoid problems on your future homestead, follow this advice on how important it is to know your seller, whether you are buying plants or animals.

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by Cyndi Ball
Goats at the Lazy B Farm in 2008.

This is so important, and I can’t emphasize it enough. If you’re buying an animal, plant, or animal product, know the person you’re buying from. I’ve heard so many stories about friends and acquaintances who’ve purchased items from a person, not someone they necessarily knew already, only to add more problems to their own homestead.

For example: The purchased animal ended up having a sickness and spread it to other animals on the farm; the plants were infested with a disease, and it spread to other plants in the garden or in the greenhouse; the meat smelled kind of funny once taken out of the package; the milk tasted a little off; the veggies didn’t seem quite right …

It happens all the time in our eagerness to get a good deal. But if you know the seller, you can take your items back, or better yet, you can ask the correct questions up front before you purchase.

When I give tours at my farm, we talk about where our food comes from. There is a point where I speak directly to the adults; many are parents. I ask how many purchase milk from other farmers. A few hands go up. My next question is if they know the name of their farmer. Most nod yes. Then I ask: How many of you have seen the animals they’re milking?

How many have seen the barn or stall where the animal is milked? How many have seen the equipment they use to collect the milk? And I go on for a little bit, asking exactly how well they know the source from which they’re buying. Most just look at me with a blank stare, the wheels in their brain turning furiously, trying to catch up.

Most of them have not asked any of those questions. I remind them they are the ones purchasing and should know all they can about their farmer and the source of their food. Developing a relationship really helps: Most farmers or homesteaders are proud of the product they’re producing and are excited to share information with you.

Your questions tell them that you really care about the product, and that makes them really, really happy! They spend hours feeding, watering, caring for, and nurturing their products, and it’s just nice to know someone acknowledges the work.

Your questions and further education actually reduce the regulations we have to abide by when we want to sell from the farm. What the heck do I mean by that? Here’s how it works in Georgia if I want to sell goat milk. I pay the agricultural department $100, and they send me a piece of paper that says I can sell milk for pets. No one comes to my farm, no one looks at my goats, but I have a piece of paper.

Then I announce to my customers that I have goat milk for sale. We all nod and wink knowing that our “pets” come in all shapes and sizes, and some can even talk! It’s simple and straightforward. What you do with the milk when you get home is your business, not mine.

But, if people do not take the time to know their farmer and their food source, they might happen to purchase subpar milk and submit a complaint to the agricultural department, and you can bet pens would start flying to put more regulations in place.

The requirements for farmers or homesteaders to have a creamery or dairy are lengthy and very costly. The average small acreage farmer/homesteader most likely could not afford it. And if they could, guess who’s going to absorb the costs? The consumer. So, it behooves the consumer to be aware and to ask questions. I welcome the questions, and I commend my customers who do ask them. I’m proud of the work I do, and I’m confident in my product.

If your seller won’t answer your questions or show you where your animal, plant, or product is coming from, I suggest moving on to another source and saving yourself the headache.

More from Simplify Your Homestead Plan:

Excerpted from Simplify Your Homestead Plan with permissions from Ogden Publications.

Simplify Your Homestead Plan

A homestead has a lot of moving parts. With all kinds of projects happening at once, unexpected problems (and opportunities) are plentiful. Chaos and frustration can be avoided by having the right plan.

Ball also shares her own homesteading story. She covers everything she’s learned over the years working with her family: from her first foray into homesteading to moving across the country. Find out how she started a farm that now draws crowds for its many products, how to organize farm-to-table dinners, and more. If you’ve ever had to figure out how to butcher a chicken on the fly, you’ll find that you’re not alone! With this workbook, you’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls of haphazard homesteading and gain the methods you need to bring your self-reliant dreams to fruition.