How many risk management meetings have you been to in the last two years? I must've attended at least three or four and been invited to over a dozen. They all say the same thing, “You need to diversify.” To which I always respond, “How?”
My family farm is not big enough to have multiple managers overseeing multiple agricultural endeavors, but we’re also too big to be able to handle the day to day that cows demand and still run a business on the side. We farm what we need to feed our cows, and we keep our labor costs low by doing most of the work ourselves.
So, seriously, just tell us how to diversify. I’ve actually raised my hand and asked the question. They always respond with something vague like, “You need to examine your unique situation and find what fits best for you.” So, basically, “I don’t know.” Well, recently, I discovered a new way to diversify.
Two years ago, I wrote a children’s book full of farm nursery songs for my 2-year-old nephew. He lives in Florida but loves the farm. I filled it with photos of the real thing and wrote songs that talked about how hard we worked, why we did what we did, and the quality product we provide.
After sending a few copies to family and friends, I also sent one to his preschool. Soon, his teacher started asking questions about farming, and the other parents were asking where they could buy the book.
Some more encouragement and 18 months later, Farm Nursery Songs, by Jessica Peters, is for sale online in paperback or digitally via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Financially, extra personal income meant I could adjust my farm salary and divert a little extra money somewhere else. And right now, every little bit helps. And holy cow! Through every risk management meeting I survived, no one ever thought to mention how fulfilling it can be to diversify personally.
From the beginning, this little “side project” was never about making money. It began as a fun way for my nephew to experience the farm when he couldn’t physically be here. It ended as a fun way for kids all over the world to experience farming in a cute, realistic way.
So, if in the back of your head, you’ve ever had a stupid little idea — follow it. All I did was try. And now, apparently, I’m an author!
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.