Friday, February 17, 2006

Economies of scale and the environment of risk

I’ve been fooling around with laying hens longer than any other stock on the farm, but never had very many at any one time. At the moment I’m down to seven hens. From time to time I’ve sold some eggs, but for the most part I just give them to friends and neighbors, or mama gives them to people from her church.

With almost no extra work I could be raising many times that number of birds. I’m considering ordering a straight run batch of 25 brown egg birds. Maybe White Rocks. I’d keep the best roster and eat the other cockerels.

We already have more eggs than we can eat. Sometimes it is even difficult to give them all away.

Establishing a customer base for small-scale egg production is possible of course. I know a few people that have done it locally, but there is more to it than producing eggs. It is necessary to find some way to attract and deal with customers without getting noticed by “officialdom”.

Now please don’t get the wrong idea, I have a very good relationship with the USDA as well as with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The best thing about this relationship is that neither of these organizations knows that I exist. Seeing as how this insures that I get everything I want from these folks, I’m reluctant to change things.

I’ve never seen an “Eggs for Sale” sign at the end of a farm driveway around here. I know farms where you can indeed buy eggs, but there is no sign. People who sell pot are more open about what they do.

Florida is typical of any State in the union. If you were foolish enough to go to the capital to find out what was needed to comply with the relevant rules and regulations you would soon discover that the whole alphabet soup of organizations and departments have at hand and endless stream of instructions on how you are to live you life from moment to moment. The rules say that the same activity is at once mandatory and forbidden. If you toss great sacks full of money to the right lawyers, the way can be cleared so you can do more of less as you please.

I was looking at a web site just now where it is possible to look up Florida laws. It seems that Chapter 583 of the 2005 Florida Statues may have something to do with this subject. It is titled “CLASSIFICATION AND SALE OF EGGS AND POULTRY” and is, if I may say so, a truly impressive document. A little over half of it is taken up with definitions that remove any and all possible ambiguity from every term I’ve ever heard that relates to poultry and egg production. The rest of the document uses these same terms in a way that somehow has no meaning what so ever.

It is tempting to become angry or at least frustrated with this state of affairs. Tempting but useless. I’m coming around to the realization that this sort of thing is just part of the environment of risk that is small-scale agriculture.

Here on the farm, the sun, rain, and wind make everything possible. Some of the time the weather is sweet and soft as a kiss. Most of the time the weather provides and environment that encourages the growth of plants and animals alike.

Every now and then Mother Nature gets in a mood and just goes about breaking things up. During hurricane Jeanne we watched the wind pick up the hoop house and toss it over two fence lines. It was full of broilers at the time.

Likewise the political environment is conducive to growth most of the time. My neighbors respect my right to use my property as I see fit. There are no marauding armies or hordes of refugees moving like clouds of locusts across the land. No tyrant is collecting the peasants together to form collective farms.

Some day I may have problems with one of the bureaucracies that seem to come out of nowhere for no discernable reason. All I can do is my best. Life is full of risk. As it is there is no particular reason for anyone to notice me, other than those who want to be involved in what I do here, either as customers or as co-conspirators.

No comments: