A New Year of Life
I celebrated my 31st birthday this week by building a compost bin to deal with my personal waste on-farm. Not particularly glamorous but it felt really good to be working on something for myself and to get one of the many items crossed off of my to-do list. The first couple of weeks this month I was pretty high with thoughts of actually realizing some of the things that I've been thinking about for the past number of years. I wanted everything to happen immediately so that I could wake up the next day and have a flock of sheep, a fully functioning dairy, and a successful cheese business, (and a couple cool herding dogs and a hot boyfriend, too). I've hit a new stage this week, feeling the force of the enormity of work ahead of me to get to where I want to be. There have been a couple of "oh shit, what the hell have I gotten myself into" moments, but they haven't lasted long. There has been a strong force of serendipity at play in the past month which has given me a sense of well-being about my chosen path.
As I have made a few major purchases (51 sheep, a barn full of hay, a trailer) and put a noticable dent in my life savings, the reality of starting a business and worrying about income and out-go of cash has taken hold. Every few days, I sit down with my collection of articles and research on sheep dairying and my draft budget and adjust income and expense amounts as I gather more information. It is all so fictional right now that it is hard to make any really reliable calculations but so far it looks like I might actually be able to make a living doing this. A big unknown is building a dairy. As numerous people have pointed out to me, a local small dairy recently decided to move to a different county because of the difficulty they faced getting approval for new dairy construction. There is a big red star on my to-do list next to contacting all of the government agencies from the state to the county that I'll need to get permits, certification and various approvals from.
There are a lot of unknowns in my budget projections around how much it will cost to build a milking parlor and cheese room, if any of the existing farm buildings could be remodeled (or if that would cost more than its worth.) I thought I was on to something when I found a modular dairy unit "Cheese on Wheels" for sale out of Wisconsin. It is very slick. They take a semi-trailer and custom build it with all of the equipement you need to operate a small scale cheese making facility--pastuerizer, cheese press, walk-in cooler, etc. However, the price tag of $275,000 is a bit more than I was hoping to spend on initial start-up costs. I think I can do better on my own (not without a little help) searching out used equipment and building something from scratch. It would be really cool to have a perfect little dairy show up on the back of a tractor-trailer though....