Why isn’t there more parking at BTLT’s Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm?

Have you ever been driving around, waiting for a parking spot at the Market on a Saturday morning, and asked yourself – there are all these fields, why can’t we just use them for parking?

It’s a good question, with a good answer: Crystal Spring Farm was conserved for its agricultural value, including some of the best farmland soil in this part of the state. The fields around the Market, while currently in fallow, are leased to the farming operation run by Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, and using those fields for parking would degrade their agricultural value, now, and for generations to come.

We have explored moving the Market to another area of the farm. We considered south of the solar array, but that land is wet and has a large area of federally mapped wetland, so simply is not suitable for the Market. We also considered moving the Market to an area near the Tom Settlemire Community Garden off Baribeau Drive. But all of Crystal Spring Farm on the north side of Pleasant Hill Road, while owned by BTLT, has an easement held by the State of Maine. That agricultural easement will not allow the land to be used for a Market. BTLT has explored other options as well – in 2018 and 2019 we offered a $2 shuttle service that ran regularly from several stops in-town Brunswick, but that service was hardly used. We’ve also tried to encourage bicycling and walking to Market, and we encourage parking along Woodside Road and walking the trail to Market, but have not seen a significant decrease in the number of cars using the parking lot.

BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market at Brunswick Landing (2020)

After almost two seasons of being at other locations during Covid, at the end of 2021 we surveyed many of you to see if you wanted to stay at Brunswick Landing – where parking wasn’t an issue – or return to the Farm. Customers and vendors alike told us resoundingly they wanted to return to the Farm, so we did. BTLT has done our best to make the Market safe and accessible, while working within the constraints of hosting the weekly event on land that also grows food for our community.

We spend many hours each season seeking volunteers and additional staff to help us with parking, setting up cones, and keeping everyone safe. If you are willing to help, we always need volunteers from 7:30-8:30 and 12:30-1:30 to set up and take down cones, and from 8:30-10:30 and 10:30-12:30 to help park cars. Contact market@btlt.org if you are interested in helping.

We all love the Market and we all love having it on a beautiful working farm. We ask all of you driving to Market to have patience as you look for a place to park, and consider that the person helping you find a place is likely a volunteer, so please be kind. We also ask every one of you to try to find ways to ride your bike, walk, or carpool to the Market.

Thank you!

The Cost of A Dozen Eggs

By Darius Salko of Senza Scarpe Farm, Brunswick, ME

We have all heard about what has been going on with the global supply chain, shipping times and labor shortages.  Unsurprisingly these things impact feed costs, leading to significant increases over the last two years.  This led Danielle and I to take another look at our egg operation to try and find out the true costs.

Since I’m a big fan of transparency I’m going to tell you all what we found out.

  • The cheapest way we can raise laying hens is to purchase them from a large hatchery at 5-6 months old when they are just about ready to lay.  This places the labor and feed costs upon the pullet supplier up to that point.
  • We raise Comets (a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns) because they have the highest potential egg laying numbers.
  • The egg yield per bird stays high for roughly two years, then decreases significantly.  However, the hens continue to eat the same amount of feed despite producing significantly fewer eggs.  
  • Chickens will eat between 1/4lb-1/2lb of a complete feed ration per day.

Danielle and I have been wanting to switch to an organic feed for quite some time, but have been hesitating due to the impact it will have on our egg price.  We have a loyal following of customers who know us for our $5/dozen price and deep orange yolk color (from marigold extract in the feed) and we don’t want to lose them. Two years ago $5/doz was an OK price for eggs from hens fed a standard feed. With increasing feed prices, we are at the point where a price increase is necessary, so we decided that this year we would switch to organic. Since we have to raise prices, we might as well get something good out of it!

And now begins our truly deep dive in the numbers behind an egg laying operation.  

This section could be entitled “Lessons on Why Not to Farm” but we are going to call it “The Profit of an Egg Laying Operation Over 2 Years”.

We previously fed out Poulin egg layer pellets and have made the switch to Green Mountain Organic Egg Layer pellets which are currently $27.10 per 50lb bag. 

 

Inputs for 2 Years:

Input Cost  Number (wks, bales, days, etc) Total 
Birds $      9.00  100 $      900.00 
Feed Bags $    27.10  548 $ 14,850.80 
Scratch Feed (bag/wk) $    26.00  53 $   1,378.00 
Bedding (2 bales/wk) $      6.00  210 $   1,260.00 
Oyster Shells Bags $    17.00  4 $        68.00 
Nest Box Straw (bales for ) $    10.00  52 $      520.00 
Egg Cartons + Stickers  $      0.70  4,084 $   2,858.80 
Daily Labor  $      6.00  730 $   4,380.00 
Biweekly Labor $    12.00  52 $      624.00 
Electricity $      0.20  730 $      146.00 
Odds & Ends $    50.00  2 $      100.00 
Total Cost $ 27,085.60 

 

This table presents a neat and tidy picture of the input costs to make it easier to follow, but calculating these inputs is far more complicated, for example feed costs are done by multiplying the expected feed intake per bird per day by the number of birds, then multiply that by the number days in two years, and then dividing by the pounds of feed in a bag to get the number of bags.  Then you multiply the number of bags by the price, then you have the price for feed for two years.  Electricity was a tough number to calculate so we left it very low, but it includes things like multiple lights during winter and shoulder seasons, and heated water bases etc.. Odds and Ends includes things like equipment replacement, bulbs, diatomaceous earth, and any health treatments, etc, etc… 

Outputs:  the amazing egg machines! 

Best case scenario, Comets have been known to lay 6 eggs per week.  Unfortunately, this is not for a full 2 year stretch and my thoughts are that it is not in Maine winters either.  To calculate the outputs we chose 5 eggs per week (which still may be high but we will be keeping track of these lady’s over the years).  When we buy the birds they are not yet laying, so we removed 3 weeks from the beginning of our count. They will also go through a soft molt or two before the end of 2 years when they will not lay eggs while they build back their feathers, so we took another 2 weeks off the count.  We didn’t know what to do about the time when the hens will lay pullet eggs (smaller than normal eggs), so we just counted them as regular eggs for the purposes of this budget but will most likely discount them until the eggs size up to large. 

That’s 5 eggs X 100 birds X 98 weeks = 49,000 eggs over 2 years (WAY TO GO LADIES!). 49,000 eggs / 12 per carton = 4,084 dozen

Now, The Grand Finale:

Cost inputs over 2 years = $27,085.60 (did you think it was going to be so high? We didn’t) divided  by the number of dozens we will have to sell 4,084 dozen eggs = $6.63 per dozen just to cover our inputs.

I bet you’re asking yourself what about Overhead? What about Profit? What if each chicken eats more than 3/8# of feed in the winter?!

Well, here’s the deal… We do keep farm insurance that we have to pay for and there are a bunch of other factors that we haven’t put in the budget like pest management, chicken mortality, inevitable feed price increases, egg delivery time/gas, and the time it took me to write this magnum opus on chicken budgeting, etc. But we also do have the bird at the end of the two years. The story with that: We have found that butchering and selling stew hens is basically a wash: The amount of money paid for a stew hen is just about enough to cover the butcher fee, gas and time to bring to harvest, and freezer cost, etc. We could sell them to other chicken keepers that don’t care about production, but that is for sure a crap-shoot as the price is low and buying is sporadic at best, and you are keeping hens alive that aren’t laying well so you are losing money every day they don’t go in the freezer.  If we can, we will choose to slaughter them for stew-hens (because I’m pretty sure the soup they make is an unrecognized SUPERFOOD. Move over kale).

So what’s the answer?????  How much do we sell the eggs for given all that we now know?

$7 / Dozen my loyal readers…. 

If the birds can manage to lay every bit of the 4,084 dozen, that will give us some wiggle room for price increases and mortality, etc. (the stuff mentioned above) and a little bit to cover some of the farm overhead.  If input costs and egg yield stay the same (which is unlikely) we are looking at $7/dz x 4,084 dozens = $28,588 in gross profit, but now we have to subtract the input costs, $28,588 – $27,085.60 = $1,502.40 of net profit.  This is realized after 2yrs of successful work.  After these 2 years we will have a roughly 5% net profit margin, which we still haven’t subtracted overhead costs from… 

If that day truly comes, and I am sitting here in the fall of 2023 with $1,502.40 of your gracious money burning a hole in my pocket…. I know what I’m going to do:

I’m going to use $900 to pay for 100 new birds (think they will cost the same?), then take Danielle, the kids and my mom to Maine Beer Co. or Flight Deck and buy 4 pizza’s, 2 salads and a few beers. Then, I’ll put the remainder in the kids’ college funds.  So, in conclusion:

To those that won’t be able to buy from us anymore (or as frequently)… it’s OK, we have to make decisions like that too!  We appreciate your past business and any business we do get in the future, whether it be on eggs or something else.

For those that can make the jump with us to $7/dz we appreciate you too!  And you should know that it’s not just keeping small farming and local economies afloat. It’s also helping keep pesticides out of the soils for healthier food and water systems.

The Green Mountain Feed people put it pretty well on their feed bag:

“We are proud to be a part of the organic production movement. Any system that helps to eliminate the use of herbicides, pesticides, and artificial hormones from the food chain is good for us and our children. By purchasing this product, you are helping to support a system of agriculture that helps preserve our soil and water supplies”.

Editor’s Note:  In this instance the editors are a couple of the folks at BTLT.  Some of us get Senza Scarpe’s weekly sales email. They are almost always entertaining, and sometimes extremely educational.  This is one of those.  After reading it we asked Darius and Danielle if they would allow to use their sales email as a blog post.  Food producers are amazing individuals (or families) and we want everyone to understand just how much they do for all of us.  So, thank you Danielle, Darius, Mama Salko, Po, Geo and every one of you farmers and food producers who are feeding our community! 

Second Note:  For those of you who read the original email from Darius and are thinking, “wait, it was different last time and Darius is funnier than this”, we asked to make some edits and then checked them with Darius and Danielle.  

Thank you Julia!

Julia St. Clair, Jamie Pacheco, & Lee Cataldo at the BTLT Farmers’ Market this fall

Though this entire year has been a time of gratitude, we’re entering the season where giving thanks becomes even more prevalent. With the Farmers’ Market season coming to an end and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) closing up for the winter, it is high time we thank our incredible Agricultural Programs Coordinator Julia St. Clair for all of her hard work!

Julia started with us in May, quickly plunging into our busiest time of year for agricultural programs. She hit the ground running with confidence, kindness, and determination. She brought with her a wealth of knowledge from her experiences on organic, permaculture, and commercial farms and community gardens across New England and abroad. Julia’s photography and community outreach skills shined brightly though her masterful work with social media – her weekly highlights of vendors and products enticed folks to attend the Market each week and her real-time stories on Saturdays show-cased just how vibrant, musical, and fun the Market truly is. Her engagement ideas of running an Instagram giveaway and photo frame were both big successes! Julia also initiated a kids table at the Farmers’ Market, for kiddos of all ages to join in the celebration of local food.

Though this was a particularly challenging year with a surprise move of the Farmers’ Market back to Crystal Spring Farm and the implementation of a new water system at TSCG, Julia not only masterfully handled the logistical tasks at hand, but made many friends along the way. The annual end-of-market survey that we send out to vendors had overwhelmingly positive responses!

Here’s what some market vendors had to say about Julia:

“Julia’s good humor and attention to detail have been appreciated as we continue to navigate the complexities of the pandemic amid changes to the market location and ongoing customer safety concerns. Julia has reminded us all why we love Farmers’ Market and what continues to make BTLT’s Market so special.”

“We love her enthusiasm, sense of humor, and the great energy she brings to the Market.”

Julia has done a fantastic job of maintaining order and being approachable, friendly and responsive to both vendors and customers. I’ve really appreciated having her join the BTLT staff and her thoughtfulness in communication with vendors.”

Excellent, friendly, intelligent, clear management. Julia is outstanding in that role!”

Julia, we thank you for all your hard work these past few months! Your contributions, perseverance, passion, and communication were much appreciated and we look forward to another great season in 2022.

Tom Settlemire & Julia St. Clair at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden Plot Luck

BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market Back at Crystal Spring Farm!

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market has officially returned home to Crystal Spring Farm! We had a fantastic first Saturday there last week and look forward to being there for the remainder of the season.

“All the vendors are really excited about the return back to Crystal Spring Farm!” shares Julia St. Clair, BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator. “Though the local businesses around the Landing these past few months have been generous and welcoming, we all much prefer to be surrounded by agricultural land. It contributes to the community-feel of the Market in a really positive way, helping everyone understand and value where their food comes from.”

BTLT is committed to continuing to support our local farmers and food system and proud of how much the Market has grown in popularity over the years. While we all share in the excitement of returning the Market to its home, the Land Trust recognizes that the Crystal Spring Farm site does pose some challenges. Hosting a market on a working farm, means that space is constrained by land that is in active agriculture.

“Everyone loves being in this beautiful setting,” said BTLT Associate Director, Lee Cataldo, “but forgets that the land around the market has been conserved for agricultural purposes, not more parking.”

She also noted that the Land Trust continues to explore possibilities to alleviate parking congestion but there are no easy answers. BTLT asks that all visitors are patient when seeking parking, and are careful of other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists along the road.

The Land Trust also expressed their sincere gratitude to Flight Deck Brewing, Wild Oats Café, the REAL School, and TBW, LLC. These local businesses have been exceedingly generous in hosting the market (free of charge) in their shared parking area at Brunswick Landing since the summer of 2020.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market will continue to run at Crystal Spring Farm from 8:30am-12:30pm every Saturday for the remainder of the market season.

2021 Farmers Market Season

Saturday Farmers Market Opens May 1 at Brunswick Landing

We are heading into our second market season under the influence of the COVID pandemic. The 2020 market season involved two moves and a complete revamp of how the Market operates.  As we head into 2021, we will again be operating in a temporary home in order to allow for physical distancing and other safety protocols that are not possible at Crystal Spring Farm. Wild Oats, Flight Deck, the REAL School and TBW, LLC have welcomed us back to Brunswick Landing at their shared parking lot.

We are excited to report that most of the vendors are returning this season, though a few are choosing to wait another year due to COVID, and some because they have shifted away from the market model.  One market booth has been transitioned into a rotating booth to better accommodate some of our vendors who are unable to commit to the full season, as well as to support new or smaller scale food businesses as they build.  

Welcome back to all the returning vendors, welcome to our two new vendors, and a fond farewell to those not returning this season!

Farewell, Jacqui!

Jacqui at Market Booth at CSF

 

Jacqui Koopman established herself as part of the team at BTLT as a Saturday Farmers’ Market volunteer, assisting her daughter, Jane, who was Market Coordinator at the time. 

It was clear right away that Jacqui had an eye for how the market ran and a dedication to making community and local food synonymous on the market green. Jacqui took over as Market Manager in 2013 and helped shape the Market into what it is today.  

Jacqui has brought a wonderful sense of cohesion to the Market. She has worked intentionally to create a market with a festive atmosphere and to curate vendors to ensure a wide variety of produce, value-added products, dairy, meat, and seafoods. Her curation of the vendor slate had brought a breadth and balance to the Market’s offerings that have earned it statewide renown.  

Throughout her years at the market, Jacqui has formed friendships with parking staff, market vendors, and customers, whom she deeply cherishes. The friendships she has made extend to her coworkers, resulting in many hours of laughter, conversation, consumption of delicious food, and soul-soothing moments.    

Thank you, Jacqui, for your friendship and your dedication to celebrating, supporting and increasing access to local food! 

Farmers’ Market is Moving to Brunswick Landing on September 26!

The BrunswickTopsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market will be making its second move of the season. 

From September 26th– October 31st it will be located on Brunswick Landing in the parking lot off Pegasus Street shared by the REAL School, Flight Deck Brewing and soon to be Wild Oats at their new location: the address is 11 Atlantic Ave. 

The Land Trust moved the Market from its usual location on Crystal Spring Farm, to the Brunswick High School parking lot at the start of the market season in May.  This was to ensure adequate space between vendors and space for customers to spread out, keeping everyone safe while COVID-19 poses a risk to community health.  The Land Trust and the High School had hoped to keep the market at the High School for the full market season, but in order to safely offer school sports the High School will need to use their parking lots on Saturdays which conflicts with the market. 

“We saw this as an opportunity to temporarily host the market near our new offices on Brunswick Landing, and contribute to develop the Landing as a community space” says Angela Twitchell, Executive Director of the Land Trust.  The Land Trust reached out to TBW, LLC, Flight Deck Brewing, Wild Oats and The REAL School about the possibility of using the lot they share and everyone was enthusiastic.  We are excited to welcome one of the largest farmers markets in the state of Maine to Brunswick Landing. Showcasing our growing neighborhood in the town of Brunswick to the thousands of people who take advantage of the market each week is an enormous opportunity, and we are grateful for the BrunswickTopsham Land Trusts leadership says Nate Wildes, Managing Partner of Flight Deck Brewing.  Wild Oats is similarly looking forward to more people coming to The Landing,  while we won’t be moving to Brunswick Landing until late 2020, we are excited people will get a glimpse of our new building and experience the vibrant Brunswick Landing community says Marshall Shepard of Wild Oats. 

While moving the market twice in one season isn’t ideal, and can be confusing for customers, it has been necessary to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.  The location on Brunswick Landing allows for distancing between vendors and customers, and abundant parking around the market area.  “We are fortunate to have such amazing vendors at our market” says Jacqui Koopman, Market Manager for the Land Trust “they have been very understanding as we have worked to make the Market safe this season”.

A New Arbor

Coming to the Market? Leave the pups at home!

Recently, we have observed visitors to the Farmers’ Market leaving their dogs in parked cars. It is dangerously hot inside a car for a dog, even on days as low as 70 degrees, especially with the lack of shade in the high school parking lot. Under no circumstance should a dog be left in a car when the temperature exceeds 70 degrees.

BTLT in the News, “Brunswick-Topsham land trust’s farmers market numbers down amid pandemic”

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market has temporarily moved to Brunswick High School in order to adapt to COVID-19 and despite the promising start at the first market of the season, the numbers are down. Alex Lear recently covered the topic in an article in the Forecaster.

Despite a slight uptick in traffic from the year before on opening day, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market has seen decreased numbers in the following weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Several factors are at play, according to Jacqui Koopman, the market’s manager: Not all vendors are back, only one member per household is asked to attend, and the market is at a different site this year.

Koopman said 632 vehicles were counted at the May 2 start of this year’s market, up from 625 on opening day the prior year. But last Saturday saw 599 cars, down from 829 last year.

“We didn’t know what to expect” prior to opening, she said. “I know that we are a very popular market and we have a loyal following. And I also know that people are shopping more at farmers markets because it’s outdoors and it’s safer, and access to local food is easier that way.”

Still, “things are in flux,” which may have an impact on numbers, Koopman said.

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