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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

Analysing your assets

...Your abilities

...Your space

...Livestock or jam?

>..Your work pattern

...Your environment

...Your selling skills

...Your marketplace

...Your packaging

...Your books

Growing enterprises - vegetables, fruit or other crops - can often be left for short periods during the year. Enterprises like jam-making are spasmodic unless your market requires a regular service. We find that we have a mad peak of activity in the soft fruit season when many of our customers are catering for a tourist trade. One of the advantages our customers have is that we will make up orders on a rush basis. Sometimes it becomes hectic but it means that our customers appreciate our efforts and give us the valuable business in times of low demand.

With any seasonal enterprise the problem is of a frantic activity and then a lull. This is another factor to consider when choosing your enterprise: the time of year when you want to be the most active. We have various peaks. The jam in the summer, geese for Christmas and there is always a flurry in pork around Easter. Spring is also busy with lambs and growth starting on the land. With any enterprise that involves land use, the traditional 'dead' time after Christmas is filled with necessary repair work to drives, ditches and fences.

The important thing if you are relying on your enterprise to support you financially is either to have made enough in the busy months to cover the gap or to be producing something that sells through this period. In general, livestock that is fattened on the land is sold off the grass at the end of the summer. If you keep the animals through to January, you will have had to feed them expensive concentrates. Laying birds will produce an income through this time and any enterprise that is run intensively, such as pigs, can be timed to show a return now. Speciality vegetables are mainly summer crops, apart from forced roots such as chicory. The more traditional vegetables that are available at this time of year are often low-priced ones such as the humble carrot. A dairy enterprise will be producing an income unless you have goats that are about to kid and unless you have chosen to have cows dry at this time. Grafted items such as hand-spun wool are best sold before Christmas and in the summer in tourist areas. In the country enterprise then, the age-old tradition of the winter being a time to survive on the fat you made in the summer seems still to apply. This is another asset you must produce to survive any business that has seasonal peaks and troughs.

If your enterprise is simply planned as an extra to another income, then of course the seasonal aspect of earning can make the whole process even more satisfying. What could be nicer than a good bonus from your craft work just before Christmas. A good extra income from summer produce could perhaps pay for a late holiday. The main aim if this is your enterprise must be that you do not commit yourself to something that means you can never get away to enjoy the fruits of your success. There are various ways of arranging this. Sometimes you can find a friend who will look after your livestock when you are away in return for similar assistance from you. If it is a question of leaving growing crops, then as long as you time it correctly you only need someone to keep a vague eye on things. We once had the builder who was working on our house look after our pigs while we went away for a weekend. To our astonishment, he volunteered when he heard our normal back-up was unavailable. As it turned out he had had pigs himself some years ago and the whole arrangement worked very well. We paid him in pork at his request! So that is another asset to consider, having someone who can stand in if need be.