On Quotes and Sales People
As I've mentioned before, I'm incredibly shy. It's hard for me to make phone calls and get in contact with people. I greatly prefer email, and go with that whenever possible. But when dealing with all of these quotes and farm needs, emails are not always possible.
We've been considering at least three major purchases for the farm: a hoop house, a tractor, and perimeter fencing (for the back five acres). Getting those things have been interesting.
We went out on a tractor scouting trip a few weeks ago. We really don't know a lot about tractors, we didn't really know how much to expect cost to be, and both of us were skeptical about going to tractor dealers. We quickly learned a few things:
- Tractors are expensive
- Tractors hold their value far, far better than automobiles
- Tractor dealers are hard to deal with
Our first stop was at the Kubota dealership in our area. Though we may, eventually, end up with a Kubota machine, I highly doubt we will purchase from that dealer. In fact, we used our experience at that dealership to have a conversation with our children on why he wasn't an effective conversationalist or salesman 🙁
The biggest advantage of that shop was the large used inventory, but the salesman wasn't really one to help us understand tractors and what we needed. He just bulldozed (could that be a pun?) it over us that we needed a bigger tractor. It didn't feel like he was genuinely trying to educate and help us… it felt like he wanted a bigger sale.
We then visited a small Massey-Ferguson dealer. At that shop we met with the Saturday mechanic, as the salesman wasn't in. He patiently answered every question (even when Scott was grilling him about our ride-on lawnmower and not a tractor!) and was happy to show us all the machines: tractors, bush hogs, etc. He also let us know that the main store (one county over) would be happy to bring a tractor out to our land so we could test it out.
Night and day difference. I'm scared to go to the main dealership because after such a great experience I don't know that I want to meet a salesman 😉
Ultimately we decided that we just can't afford a tractor, even with all the 0% financing offers. So hand tools it us for us… more research for me!!
Hoop House Hoopla
We need a hoop house (a cold tunnel) to overwinter our chickens. I also really want to try and get some early spring crops in to take to the winter market in Traverse City. I'm not sure how feasible this is or if I'll pull it off, but I want to try. Our chickens will only take up a small portion of the hoop house, and our vermiculture bin will be under a small portion of walkway.
Anyways, more on the plans in another post… actually getting the hoop house is what I want to focus on right now.
Getting a quote for this thing has been close to impossible. I had pretty much settled on my company, but they didn't respond to my email request for a quote. I finally called them last Thursday and I got a quote today (Monday). I don't know if this is standard but it's frustrating.
I also don't feel that the quote is exactly what I asked for.
I got an email quote from another company (because I was getting tired of waiting on the first company) and that one is honestly much more detailed than the first company's but still a little overwhelming.
What I really need is somebody who is patient, and who gives good advice. Both companies have advised me to avoid the hoop design and go for a gable design (with an arch at the top, as high tunnels do), but both CSA's we have worked with (Sweeter Song Farm and Clean Plate Farm) have hoop designs. In the book I'm studying now (written by a gardener in Maine, again, more later) they have both designs. I'm still researching this, but I wish I could feel I was being given advice because of what's best for us and not just to make a sale.
The most frustrating thing with the hoop house is that this is a potential long-term relationship. We need an inexpensive model right now, but if we qualify for the NRCS high tunnel project next spring, we will be able to buy a much larger high tunnel to put in for market gardening. That's a potential for a future sale and a much larger purchase. Why would they not be patient and helpful?
I need a salesman who doesn't talk down to me, but rather helps me understand what I need to know, what I may be naive about, etc… Again, he needs to do in a way that helps educate me, not makes me feel like I'm stupid or being taken :/
We need the hoop house, so I'll keep you updated on how this plays out as I do a little more research, call one more company, and pick our kit.
We need perimeter fencing around at least the back five acres to get ready to set up an intensive grazing system with our goats next year (aka to learn how to move goats around so we can sound like we know what “Management Intensive Grazing” actually entails). This will also give our puppy plenty of room to roam and guard while being inside a protected fence.
As you can imagine, 5 acres is a lot of fencing, and it's just the first part of our project. We can get fencing locally at Tractor Supply, but I also wanted to price out bringing in other fencing.
Today I called the company we got our elctronet from. The difference between talking to their person and talking to the tractor and hoop house sales person was amazing.
She did talk over me a little bit, but when I went back and asked her to clarify, she did. When I made it clear that I wanted her advice on what would work best, she gave it to me kindly. When I shared the animals we plan to have (goats, sheep, and possibly small cattle), she let me know that a smooth wire above our woven wire (rather than “hot” electrified wires) would work fine… even though hot wires would make her more money from us.
She did advise options that would be more expensive, such as closer spacing on the fence posts, but she let me know exactly why she was advising that from multiple perspectives (more secure, better looking fencing, less sagging and wear and tear on the fence from animals, etc.) It didn't feel like she was just trying to sell me more to make money.
I still have at least one other company to call (relatively close to us), and I'd like to see if I can find any other companies that might wholesale fencing. After all, I'm talking 2,000 feet of goat sized woven wire!
Essentially I'm having to learn to be really level-headed with run-around, and I'm having to learn which companies are good with beginners and which aren't. It's really unfortunate to me that all of them aren't… after all, there's a growing population of beginning farmers. And when it comes to something like fencing, hoop houses/high tunnels, etc., there's a big chance for repeat business. Even with a tractor for a small farm, there are future 3 point hitch implements (tools you hook to the back of the tractor) or parts that go on the front.
I've also talked to the NRCS person in our area, and he's been nice (as was the one in Antrim County, who helped me get his name after another farmer referred me to her). That's a government office, and from what I understand, one I will probably speak with a lot.
So learning to learn from other farmers… talk to sales people and get quotes… and I suspect a lot of governmental officials. It's mind-boggling and intimidating, but I'm hoping most of our interactions are positive. I still feel like I'm on a colossal learning curve and have realized I'm likely to be for the rest of my life. And really, even as exhausting and intimidating as it is, it's really cool to know there's still a wide, wide world full of lessons for me to learn 🙂