Monday, January 6, 2020

The 10,000 ft Retrospective

Usually during this week each year I take some time to tell you about the winter projects that we have up coming. In past years we have expanded brooder capacity, expanded our turkey growing capacity, built new chicken barns and pig barns, and we always need to clean things up after a busy year of running wide open with farm chores. These days the time that we have in winter to get all those necessary projects done seems to be getting shorter. That is not a comment on climate change. Instead I am referring to the idea that time does seem to pass faster as we get older. Hear this though. I think we cause our own lives to pass by faster and faster by loading heaps and heaps of busyness on our shoulders year after year. Have you ever noticed that that its hard to see change in things that grow right in front of your face. For example, you don't notice the day to day changes in your children, but when you see a picture from last year the change is obvious. This farm is that way for me. It's right in front of my face, so noticing change is difficult. I do think it's important to take a retrospective view occasionally, and sometimes even take a 10,000 foot retrospective. This allows you to appreciate where you have been, and plan for whats next. In this years 10,000 foot retrospective I've noticed 2 things.

1) Our breadth is plenty. What I mean is this. In order to be a sustainable farm and support our families we needed to be able to provide more than 1 or 2 farm products. Of course our signature product is Raw Milk, but a decade ago we decided to expand into other offerings. This was probably more about just trying to fulfill the wishes of our customers than a strategic decision, but we started to expand in different areas. Milk naturally led to eggs and cream, then beef, then pork, then lamb, then chicken, then turkey, now duck and some vegetables. Throughout this process we also found some of the best farmers in the area that were producing something that we were not, so we started working with these folks to bring you cheese, butter, honey, grits, pecans, and more veggies. We were even able to develop relationships with local artisans that make spice and salt blends, coffee, soap, snack bars, granola, cultured foods, and even deodorant. We will continue to seek out and evaluate local farmers and artisans that are doing great work, and bring them on board if it fits in well with what we do. But as for us here on this farm, I think our breadth is plenty. It may not sound like a big idea to you, but this is a significant shift. For over a decade I have been asking "What else can we raise for these fine people we call customers?" Now I believe we will focus more on refining our skills and processes for the things that we currently do, so we can continue to produce some of the best food available.
2) Guiding the ship, not driving the truck. As I take a look at the 10,000 foot retrospective, one of the most dramatic shifts in our business and life came only a few months ago. After 13 years of making deliveries into Atlanta, I was able to climb out of the drivers seat. I have handed over the delivery driving duties to three very capable employees. Now my job is to make sure they are in a position to succeed, and to make sure you are still able to get your Carlton Farms products in a way that is convenient and suitable to you. Honestly, I was worried that our customers only wanted to buy "from the farmers hand". While that is a great model that worked for 13 years, the expansion I spoke about above requires me to be more available on the farm. Now that I am not trying to do both jobs, I can also be more available for my wife and children. It's the family availability that makes this such a significant shift that it can be seen from the 10,000 foot view. I am a better dad, husband, and farmer because you have allowed me to just guide the ship, and not drive the truck. 

I feel great about where we are as a farm. I hope you continue to support us into the future. We will surely give it everything we have to produce the best food you can find anywhere. As always we are proud to be your farmer.