I was seven years old. I can still see my older brother and I sitting in lawn chairs at the top of the gravel road. We would jump up with excitement every time we saw dust in the distance. Every vehicle coming down the road was another potential customer for our pop stand. It was my first look at business. We needed to be financed to start off, but once we paid our initial debt, we were on our own. We paid wages, we had to manage supply and demand. We needed to manage our costs. Keeping ice in the coolers took some time and planning. Profit was put into our savings. I even remember expanding into making sandwiches for some of the truckers who would stop in for pop and snacks. If you ever stopped in at our pop stand near Lone Rock, Sask. during the summer in the early 1980s, thank you. It was my first taste of profit.
We also had a few crabapple trees in the garden on the farm. They were sour crabapples. Yummy. I still remember how it made your face twist up when you bit into them. I would pick a few and put them in my school lunch. I soon found out that the kids at school liked them too. In fact, they liked them better than the sour candies you could buy from the store. You guessed it. I was soon selling bags of crabapples at the school for a “buck a bag.” Like most successful businesses, other crabapple salesmen soon flooded the market. But lucky for me, none of them lasted. You see, I had a monopoly; I was the only one with sour crabapples. Plain old regular crabapples did not measure up. My business thrived for a number of years (each fall). A big thanks to all my classmates who purchased my product back in the early ’80s.
We then moved to beautiful British Columbia in the mid-’80s. My crabapple trees were gone so I needed to find another profit centre. We lived right along the Shuswap River and had hours and hours of enjoyment fishing off the banks of the Shuswap. I shall quote from one of my favourite cartoons, “See a need… fill a need.” Bait was in high demand and I happened to find a spot in the back of our property that had deep, black, beautiful peat soil… loaded with earthworms!!! With every shovel full, I could pull out a dozen big, fat worms. It was like printing money! It did not take me long to get the signs made and up on the road. Fresh Bait: A dollar a dozen. (Of course I always made it a baker’s dozen.) Once again, a big thanks to all you fishermen who stopped for bait along Mable Lake Road in the late ’80s.
So why am I telling you these stories? I have kids and I think it is very important to train the next generation. I feel it is very important to have a youth education program in your home. I was fortunate to have one in my home growing up. I have told you before that my reason for being is to raise my kids with the morals, values and life skills they will need to succeed in the years ahead. That’s my job. My business is to raise my kids. I just finance that with ranching.
My oldest started with a pop stand a few years ago. She did well, even on the quiet little back road that we live on here. A special thank you to all my neighbours coming home from work every night. She has since passed the pop stand down to her brother and now she works for a neighbour and for Greener Pastures when needed. She is now learning about employment expectations and savings. It is her job this summer to manage the donkeys and horses in a grazing rotation around the yard. She has to keep track of the moves, set up the fencing and fill in the grazing chart for the herd of six; a pasture manager in training. (A great 4-H project idea for any leaders out there.) Oh and don’t forget about her babysitting income.
Her brother is now in charge of the pop stand and sets it up whenever we go somewhere. For example, on a hot day we might go to the splash park in town. We have to load up the pop stand. Don’t worry, he is not “all work and no play.” He will hire his sisters to switch him off for part of the day so he can play too. He usually bribes them with a free pop and chocolate bar. You should hear how polite he is to his customers. The evening at the fireworks was a great success for his business. He also offers a recycling option for his customers on site as this leads to his other profit centre. He is in charge of all the pop cans, juice containers and milk carton recycling at home. If he cleans them up, and takes them to storage, he gets the money for them when I take them into the bottle depot. This seems to be quite lucrative for him. And don’t forget about his ducks, a new venture we started in hopes of selling all natural duck meat in the near future.
My youngest is seven now and she has started up her own All Natural, Pasture Raised Egg business. Financed of course by Greener Pastures Ranching but it is her business. (She has half the flock paid off already.) Egg sales is like any other business, supply and demand is the struggle. We have awesome neighbours.
So you can see, managing the ranch here is the easiest part of my job. Three thousand, eight hundred acres can run pretty smooth once they are set up. It is the youth education program that takes up most of my time and energy. It is very important to me to make sure they understand business. You can ask any one of my children, the two most important things in life are… managing money and dealing with people. You can bet my children will be prepared for both in the future. Do you have a youth education program?