Josh Heyneke – Small scale farmers going potentially bankrupt with regen duck eggs and fertiliser

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A conversation with Josh Heyneke, founder of Parc Carreg together with Abigail, about buying 10 acres in Wales to farm, Back to the land movement, duck eggs, feed prices, black soldier flies, vermicompost, and the difficulties in the space. After 7 years of regenerative farming they might go bankrupt this month.

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It seems so idyllic, selling your apartment in London, quitting your well-paid job and starting farming. Farming isn’t easy, let alone profitably and ecologically sound.
If Parc Carreg makes it through the winter, they are planning to dramatically change their business and scale their impact.

SMALL SCALE REGEN FARMING IS INCREDIBLY HARD

Josh and Abigail decided to start a little series on YouTube called ‘How to fail at farming’. They do it to extract some value out of this failure and to take something good away from it. They want to help educate people about the realities of small-scale agriculture and agriculture in general and how tough it is.

“Our farm is about to go bankrupt and we’ve pretty much just got November. Our cash flows tell us that you reach the end of November, and unless you figure something out, that’s game over.” – Josh Heyneke

“I want to share our learnings with people, I want to share what I think we’ve done wrong, what we could have done better, how are we going to potentially get out of this. I decided I’d like to document the process because no matter what happens, I think that will be of value to the community moving forward.” – Josh Heyneke

“They think, for example, that our ducks could potentially forage more land or that potentially we’re not managing our grassland properly in order to help feed the animals or that we should be somehow growing our own food or feed for the poultry for our ducks, and I think it’s because regenerative agriculture, generally a lot of the focus is on ruminants, on grazing animals. And with poultry, it’s a whole different story.” – Josh Heyneke

BACK TO THE LAND IS VERY ROMANTIC BUT NOT VERY PRACTICAL

Josh and Abigail were part of the most recent wave of Back to the land movement, a journey that some people started around 2015, when there was a big, sudden wave of people moving into rural areas and trying to carry forward an alternative kind of life. According to them this happened in the 60s and 80s and some other occasions, and most of the time it ends in tears, in divorce, in debt and financial ruin, mainly because of the ideas and expectations around having the good life and not clearly seeing the reality of Mother Nature and farming, which is really tough.

“I was told by several different farmers, there’s a saying around here, ‘they arrive in their fancy cars, and they leave on their bicycles.’ And it’s because they have seen it many times.” – Josh Heyneke

“There’s a huge cultural gap between rural folk and city folk. I mean, there’s just such a huge divide there. And, you know, they looked at us and we were just a classic example of tonies that had money and wanted to come and buy some land and live the good life”. – Josh Heyneke

FEED COSTS CAN KILL YOUR BUSINESS

Their prices have gone up by more than 50% if you factor in all the inflation across all the other costs in their business. It becomes hard to get retailers and suppliers to understand the speed at which they have to put the prices up. The main thing that is nailing them is the rising cost of feeds linked to the Russia and Ukraine war.

“Our feed bill every month is 1000s. And for such a small business like us, that is massive. People who’ve watched the YouTube series, so far, we’ve done part one, and part two, will know that we’ve just recently called a large portion of our flock, and that’s to help produce our feed bill.” – Josh Heyneke

“I really want to emphasize that although the feed bill has really been the nail in the coffin, I think that it’s important that we take responsibility for the fact that there are other factors at play here, other reasons why we’re in trouble. A lot of that is due to the fact that we are inexperienced farmers” – Josh Heyneke

“Our costs have increased by more than 50% since I installed our new feed bin, our feed silo that we’ve got last year, early last year, we installed that feed bin so that we could benefit from bulk feed prices, before then I was buying bagged feed, and I was hauling it by hand.” – Josh Heyneke

THE FUTURE LIES IN HATCHING EGGS AND SUPER COMPOST

Josh and Abigail’s ideas on how they are planning to get through the winter and beyond, although these are not fully guaranteed.

“One of the potential options for us in the future is to really sell our genetics and to take the role of a leading breeder in that space for Khaki Campbell ducks. And this farm in Europe wants hatching eggs from us. And the very unique thing is they want quite a lot of hatching eggs from us. And it’ll be a long period of supplying them hatching eggs because they want to build up a flock of Khaki Campbell and they don’t have access to them. So that’s one opportunity on the horizon.” – Josh Heyneke

“The next really big opportunity for us and what I’m very excited about is essentially to produce a super compost from our ducks. And so we have these aspirations for the farm moving forward if we can get through the winter, if we can get over this hump and we can survive, where we want to ultimately take the business on our 10 acres… we need to be profitable, and we need to be more resilient. We are suffering right now with the feed price increase because we’re just not resilient enough.” – Josh Heyneke

OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:

Koen and Josh also talked about

  • Farming is hard work;
  • Geese meat;
  • Hatching eggs are incredibly valuable;
  • Black soldier fly larvae production.

LINKS:

LINKED INTERVIEWS:

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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