In taking the Holistic Management course one of the things I am trying to teach myself is how to concentrate on controllable farm expenses. Thinking outside the box is a challenge at best, until you get comfortable shattering your existing paradigms, which may be as easy as gleaning something from others. The latest expense saving idea is not mine but rather adapted by me based on a card that a customer showed Ginny.
The biggest expense in eggs is the feed that the chickens eat on a daily basis. Obviously the expense of feed can be reduced but not eliminated if you wish to continue selling eggs. But there is an expense that can be greatly reduced with gleaning. As you know, we sell eggs at $4.00 per dozen, which is fairly common at the farmer’s markets that we attend. Yes you can find eggs more expensive but rarely less expensive. The more expensive eggs are often certified organic, but not always.
The one expense that I am sharpening my pencil on is egg cartons. Do you realize that an egg carton cost a small scale farmer 40 cents each. That is 10% of the total cost of a dozen eggs. That’s right 10 per cent of the cost of eggs is in packaging; that can be reused multiple times before discarding. These little cardboard containers are what allow the eggs to make the journey from our farm to your refrigerator safely for your enjoyment.
But what is the fate of most of these perfectly fine containers, you guessed it the rubbish heap, the trash can, the waste basket, or whatever your favorite phrase. These perfectly designed containers are needlessly taking up space in the landfill when they can be reused to care for your eggs.
So here is my win, win solution. Beginning September 8th Walnut Hill Farm will have a two tier egg pricing policy. A dozen eggs with the return of an egg carton will remain at the $4.00 per dozen price. Without an egg carton the new price for eggs will be $4.50 per dozen. This change will have several immediate results. First we will need to bring a larger barrel of quarters, secondly some of you will start returning egg cartons, or thirdly many will become angry and purchase eggs from other vendors. My hope is to cultivate as many people as possible to the second choice.
To further help you in returning the cartons a new program will begin on 8 September. The new program is an egg punch card. Purchase 12 dozen eggs with a returned carton and receive a 13th dozen on the house. That is correct if you purchase 12 dozen eggs while returning 12 empty egg cartons, you will receive a dozen eggs free, compliments of Walnut Hill Farm.
Now don’t get too excited over free eggs, because free always has catches. First the carton that you return has to be clean and reusable. Secondly, if you lose the punch card you must start all over again. Third, to participate, so that we get to know you better, we need to know your name, and hopefully you will provide us with an email address.
So you might be thinking, how can Walnut Hill Farm just give away free eggs? Jeff is so tight that he never cuts anyone slack on eggs. Well behold the power of math. At 40 cents each, one dozen (12) egg cartons cost $4.80, which is 80 cents more than the cost of one dozen eggs. So while not costing you any more this model actually increases the farms profit by 6.15 cents per dozen (that is if all other factors remaining the same). For those that do bring a carton in return the extra income is what is being used to keep your cost at $4.00 and cover the increase in chicken feed.
Let me expand further on the math 200 dozen eggs per week, requires the purchase of 200 egg cartons at 40 cents each, or $80.00 per week. Over a 30 week farmer’s market season that adds up to $2,400.00. That is no longer a small farm expense that is real money. Now granted an egg carton can only be reused so many times before it is worn out, but surely you can care for the cartoon enough to get five to ten uses from a carton.
I hope you understand the need for the cost cutting measures. I have seen estimates that corn may reach $10.00 per bushel by winter. This drought has been so hard, that even stretches of theMississippi Riverhas been closed to barge traffic. It doesn’t matter what the price of corn goes to, if it can’t float down the Mighty Mississippi, the chicken can’t consume it.