As you might imagine as local small farmers that also try to buy what we don’t produce from other local producers we live a very healthy food centric life. That leads to my other passion cooking. I love to cook even more I think than to eat what I cook.
Another thing I enjoy is cooking out doors. We do this with grills, smokers, in a fire pit, with rocket stoves and portable stove tops.
Recently on my podcast, The Survival Podcast, we had a question about portable propane stoves.
I recommended the one pictured above, The Ranger II by Camp Chef. It is a phenomenal stove and I recommend it for many reasons. First if your stove is electric you should have a back up way to cook. This stove is the most flexible one that still has full sized stove power I have ever found. It is absolutely safe to use indoors as well if the power is out and it is cold outside. Next though if you are stuck with an electric stove, you will find yourself wanting to cook with this stove frequently and likely outside. The best part is it sells for just under 100 bucks and ships free if you have Amazon Prime.
Anyway a person who listened to my podcast, asked about this stove/oven combination. Made by the same people so I am sure it is absolutely top quality. So hey why not add an oven. The issue is the stove top itself is only a 7000 BTU burner set vs a 17000 BTU burner set and the stove with the over costs over 100 dollars more.
Also while the oven is nice, it isn’t very flexible, and it isn’t very large either. Next the unit is a lot bigger so it is less convenient to just whip up some sausage and eggs on the deck on a sleepy Sunday morning with.
Some really like “all in one” type things well my take is a bit different. Again we have two goals when we add items to our on farm cookware.
~ One – Enhance our quality of life, give ourselves more fun options and when it comes to outdoors stuff, that includes options for camping or tail gating too.
~ Two – Improve our ability to deal with disasters and power outages if we need a back up cooking method.
So when asked about this I think a lot more about flexibility, adaptability and functionality along with good old fashioned frugality. In fact I have a slogan, always be frugal but never be cheap.
Here is the solution I put together.
Say I am happy to spend 213 bucks to up this part of my lifestyle and preps at the same time. Instead of buying a weaker stove, I would do this.
First I would buy the stove I recommend, http://bit.ly/pro-stove-1
Next I would buy one of these http://www.walmart.com/ip/Coleman-Portable-Camp-Oven/895626
It is only 30 bucks! It also folds down when not in use to be only 2 inches high. You can put it on your cook top, put it on a grill, use fire coals from a camp fire, you are not restricted just to gas. It is cheaper, works just as good, has a little bit more interior space and is dramatically more flexible.
Also a heck of a lot lighter.
Now I now still have 85 dollars!
So I go get myself a nice 6 quart dutch oven with a rimmed top, like this, http://amzn.to/1PpuuSL for 60 bucks shipped free by the way on Amazon Prime.
I still have 15 bucks left over! I can get a good dutch oven lid lifter tool with it for 11 bucks. Or if I don’t need one I could buy some food to get started cooking with my new stuff.
I now have the best small cook stove I know of, a camp oven that I can cook with and a dutch oven that I can use as an oven or make something like pot roast, stew or chili. If camping I can camp fire cook and still bring my stove and make eggs with that or say fried potatoes. I am not relying on just one thing that can break I am now sitting with three options. On top of it all my stove itself is more convenient so I am going to use it more.
So what does this all have to do with being a small farmer?
As a small farmer this is how you have to think about everything you do. We have to function stack our feeding, our egg collection, etc. for efficiency. Our new quail aviary will not just produce quail but grow food for the quail to cut our feed cost while improving product quality and it will also grow food for people too. On top of that it will produce compost all while giving the quail the freedom to really be quail they way they most like to be. Room to run, play and fly. Something we can show our customers that justifies the premium local food sells for.
The days of the giant farm in my opinion are coming to an end. Too much damage to soil, the product quality has been in decline steadily for over 50 years. Less nutrients in our food, less flavor too. The food may visually look good but it doesn’t taste to me like it did even back in the 80s.
We are encouraged daily by people that want to do business with us because they want more quality. What is even more encouraging is people doing it themselves and we see it daily. People asking for advice and getting started, some with just a small personal flock of chickens or quail and others doing far more then we do on our little 3 acre duck farm.
The key though is you have to THINK as a small producer. There is an often stated claim that small farms can’t be profitable, there is some truth to that, because many are not. But you can be viable if you work hard to make one thing do many things, or use the same investment to get multiple redundant solutions. To us this is the way forward for small farms. The systems are disinterested in our success, the corporations of the world want big food, big pharma, big everything. To succeed as small farmers we need more than big dreams and big ideas, we need efficiency and agility. This type of thought process is how we get that done.