Business Profile: Cleary Family FarmIn 2009, after raising laying hens at the Intervale for several years, John and Lauren Cleary purchased a sloping property in Plainfield where they established the Cleary Family Farm with their four children. Since then, they have greatly improved the farm’s overgrown fields into high quality pasture for their small herd of beef cows, pigs, and laying hens. They were enrolled in the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability business planning program from 2010 to 2012 and worked on their plan with Willie Gibson. “The process helped us figure out which enterprises were making money so we have more confidence to expand. With an off-farm job and four young kids we need to use our time as efficiently as possible.”
One outcome of their business planning process was that the Clearys decided to stop keeping their own herd of breeding sows and go back to buying feeder piglets, as well as finding an alternate source of pig feed (whey) to reduce their organic grain bill. They also decided to expand the laying flock more slowly. “We’ve been working on improving our infrastructure first to create an efficient and productive system without taking on new debt.” While they still hope to scale up toward a 1000-bird flock in the future, their current plan is to maintain their flock at around 400 “Lucky Ladies” and increase their labor efficiency by moving away from washing eggs in a sink to using a mechanized egg-washer.
During the 2012 round of VFFVP implementation grants, Lauren and John received a $2000 grant to both improve their cold storage space and purchase a Gibson Ridge Farm egg washer that can efficiently manage the production of a several-hundred bird flock. They have been pleased with the performance of the egg washer and particularly happy to have the time it has saved them. “It was great to find a machine that is designed for an operation of our size. There is a strong demand for local eggs, and other farmers should check these out.” It's also clear that the mechanized washer can engage the attention of a several-child flock as well!