Steve’s Weekly Update 8/11/11

Climatology 2011: The climatic spigot was shut off and the furnace turned back on again, but for now the grass is growing.  I hope for a return of the summer rains.  Overall we received about 2.5 inches during the one week respite from the drought.  Average annual rainfall is 12 in. for us (15 in. for SF) Average is just a statistic, it rarely actually happens, we are usually wet or dry…  last year wet, this year dry.

Finance Failure:  As many of you know I have been working off-farm holding down multiple jobs, mostly delivering agricultural consulting services to various clients and organizations at an ever increasing level since 2007.  My goal has been to again become loan worthy, hoping that I could finally complete a refinance of the farm that would bring my payments/debt service to a reasonable level allowing my income to again serve the needs for capital improvements and equipment on the farm.  Maybe I would even be able to work less and farm more!

I thought I had things in order, and applied again to a national lender, Quicken Loans.  I have long been in the unique position that the farm is too small to qualify as an agricultural entity for lending purposes.  The arrangement of the farm land, with the residential lots for the farm house (and lots for sale) along with the open space, has allowed the farm house to be appraised and loaned on as rural residential property.

It took over a month of ups and downs to get through all of the financial analysis, and eventually my credit and earnings were verified and my loan was conditionally approved.

Then they sent out an appraiser, who refused to appraise the house as residential, killing the loan.  He also went further, ripping the property by declaring the house obsolete and dysfunctional.  In fact the house is simply a traditional, northern NM house, built in stages, and added onto as demand and resources dictated.

It turns out that new federal guidelines regarding appraisal have given appraisers the power to kill loans at a level that parallels the excessive power that they formerly had to make loans happen.  We have gone from one extreme, loose appraisals that virtually encouraged homeowners to over borrow on their assets, to the other extreme where the relative lack of resale activity condemns any thing but cookie cutter tract housing to a negative rating, and the personal preferences and experience of an appraiser, chosen at random, make lending on anything unorthodox nearly impossible.

I am therefore again looking for private investors who might wish to earn a steady, fair return on investment by lending money to the farm, with the farm land as security.  I may try locally to apply to a bank and or credit union, but I am fairly sure that the appraisal rules will kill any application, even though my credit and income are now sufficient to support my application, and the farm house is a great home.  Its uniqueness should be an asset, not a liability.

Maybe the stock market turbulence gives some of you pause to consider investing locally?  In stable assets?  With proven and predictable return on investment?  One local investor has done so and secured a 6% return for 25 years.  A mortgage and note agreement has been specially designed to protect an individual investor.  Interested? This can be a win-win:  A good deal for the farm and a good deal for the investor….

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: Everyone is out on grass and our hay usage is down to a more normal summer level for the present.  Close to $5,000, usually saved for winter hay, was spent on spring and summer hay.  Now it is time to find money to replace that expenditure.  Hay is scarce, prices are high.  Good for farmers, not so good if you are feeding livestock.

This week’s cheese and herd share update:   We have reduced the number of cows being milked and are making cheese just a couple/few times a week rather than daily.  This will allow us time to make the next round of improvements to our building, getting ready for grade A inspection.  We also have a piece of equipment to buy.  The Grade A dairy rule requires testing of every batch of milk to assure that it has no antibiotic residue in it.  There is no exemption, so even a forage and hay based system like ours, where there is no antibiotic in the feed ever, and where the milk from individual animals, if treated, can easily be kept separated from the rest of the milk, we have to demonstrate daily that the milk is clean.  That device is over $3K.  Other than that we have building issues to address, with modest costs attached.

We have 50 wheels of our classic artisanal, farmstead Salado Jack aging now, ranging from 6 to 10 lbs.  As each wheel comes to 60 days old we move it to a walk-in cooler.  We have 15 wheels that are over 60 days now.  Any members, who could consider buying wheels of cheese, and sharing with friends, would surely be rewarded.  We are offering wheels at $40 for 6 lb wheels, $50 for 8 lb wheels and $60 for 10 lb wheels (prices adjusted for wheels in between those sizes to give the appropriate price/savings)

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses

Mesa Top Protein update:  Thanks to the 5 members who for ordered your family pork shares last week.  We wish we were selling more beef.  We think our beef is pretty good!  All pasture and forage raised, pretty tasty, and tender if cooked slowly.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update: The summer share continues with Vida Verde tomatoes, La Jolla shishito peppers, One Straw Farm Basil, Synergia beet greens, and Sungreen Sunny Sprouts.

We also have an exotic treat, Biodynamic ginger from Pahohaku farm in Molokai.

Our organic Western Slope Colorado peaches have begun at last.  We usually have them for a month or 6 weeks.

Enjoy the variety!

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA.  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer


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