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Beginning with the End in Sight - Project Goals

There are two major goals we have.  The first is to greatly improve the quality of life and opportunities available for the single mothers and their children.  This includes giving them a comfortable and safe place to live, good food, daycare so they can finish their high school education, business and farm experience, and finally a monthly stipend/profit -share.

The second goal is to achieve the first goal while being as profitable and sustainable as possible.  We want to not only improve the lives of these young women, we want to teach them and show them that what they are learning can be replicated on their own land to produce a profitable business.

One important part of profitability and also risk-management is to reduces expenses as much as possible.  Our farm is being designed in such a way that we will have to buy very little outside food or supplies.  The majority of our expenses will be the upfront cost of setting up the farm and then major upgrades down the line such as solar panels and a well.  As the farm matures, we will gradually ween ourselves off of farm expenses such as seeds, organic fertilizers and hopefully electricity and water.

As a rough and very preliminary evaluation, we anticipate being able to produce at maximum $6000 worth of sell-able produce each month on our one acre property based on Nicaraguan prices.   This includes vegetables grown in our cages, micro-greens and eggs.  This does not include the value of food that will be consumed on premises such as meat, which won´t be sold at all.  This $6000 figure is hypothetical and simply assumes the maximum amount of crops we can produce each month in a cage, the amount of eggs we expect the hens to lay along with the amount of micro-greens we anticipate producing. 

One of the most important aspects of our cage system of succession planting is that we can quickly adapt what we grow depending on demand from our customers.  While each cage has a limited amount of space (60 square meters) the way we arrange the inside of each cage is adjustable with our Arms Reach style of planting.  This means if we are overproducing one crop and under-producing another, we can adjust each month the ratios of the crops.  hot only will our farm become more profitable over time based on our system of constantly improving the soil quality, but each month we can re-evaluate our crop selections in order to increase profitability.  There are market gardeners that we have followed for years and the crops they are producing now are completely different than what they were producing even five years ago as they gradually, month after month, react to the demands of their local customers and maximize the profitability of their limited land.

Our plan for profit sharing is to give monthly stipends based on sales and expenses of the farm.  Our plan is for 25% of the profits to be used for major expansions such as solar panels, a well and other big ticket items.  Another 25% would be saved for emergencies and also to act as a loan service to the women once they complete their time with us.  The final 50% of the profits would be divided between the ten women living on the farm.   Having done fairly extensive research on our expected costs, we are estimating about $1000 per month in expenses which would gradually decrease as we start being able to save seeds and become more efficient.  During the first year, seeds and potting soil will be the major expenses.  This means that at maximum production, would would have profits of about $5000 per month which would result in a monthly stipend payment of $250 for each mother.  To put that in perspective, that is about what a school teacher or policeman earns in Nicaragua and our mothers would be working part time, provided housing and meals along with daycare for their children.  To make another comparison of the $250 stipend.  If we hired someone to work at the pulperia, they would make $150 per month, work 10-12 hours a day and not be provided housing or meals.  Even if we do not come close to maximum production, the stipend will be a good deal.  The other major part of profit-sharing is that we will be explaining the expenses each month to the mothers so that they can see how being wasteful or unproductive hurts their own stipend.

We will also be running a small store on our premises ( See blog: What is a Pulperia?).  We do not expect the pulperia to be profitable, but rather as a way to offset the cost of supplies we do not produce ourselves.  This includes things like laundry detergent, diapers, soap, toothpaste as well as food items such as salt and sugar.  The pulperia also gives us an opportunity to sell a limited amount of crops  that locals will buy including tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, potatoes and bananas.  Generally the same low cost foods that we will use for our meals will also be available in the pulperia at competitive prices.

For the longer term, what we hope is that the mothers spend a few years with us, earning their high school degrees, learning business and organic farming and then set off to make their own path using the knowledge they gained and the money they saved while living on the farm.  One hope is that some of the women will move nearby and start their micro-farms.  In this case, they can either try to sell directly to their own customers or sell to us and we will act as an aggregator for our larger customers.   Nicaragua is ripe for this type of farming.  Only a small variety of crops are even attempted here and because of hiring/labor laws, the farms generally do not do continuous succession planting even on the easy-to-grow crops which makes their price very low during harvest time and very high when not being harvest.  For this reason, even small farm succession planting would give the farmer a major pricing advantage during the times when the major farmers have no employees and no crops to harvest.  During the times of the year when the major farms are harvesting a crop, our farm can switch to a different crop rather than selling and competing against them at low prices.

We feel that by using modern farming techniques and reaching a customer base that currently isn´t being served well, we can teach these young women enough to have prosperous lives.  Of course we don´t expect to reach $6000/month in sales, but like the title says, it is good to have goals as to where you want to get to someday because then you can evaluate the places where you came up short.  If there is any interest, we can publish our ´per product´ estimated sales figures or maybe include that information in a future blog post when we talk about our cage succession system.

If you would like to support our project, you can make a donation here.

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