Dateline: 22 November 2013
|Kate and John Suscovich|
There are many aspiring small-scale agripreneurs like John Suscovich in the local-food, sustainable, "young-farmer movement" and it is great to see.
John, however, may be a bit different than most because he has some better-than-average marketing skills, especially when it comes to the internet. His web site, Foodcyclist.com is an ambitious effort that reflects John's focus and creativity. He has a farm blog, and a farm podcast, and has produced numerous YouTube videos.
Beyond that, if you watch some of John's YouTube videos you'll see that he is an affable guy, which is another plus when it comes to starting an agripreneurial venture.
John also has a web site called Farm Marketing Solutions, which is dedicated to helping start-up farmers better market themselves and their farms. If I were an aspiring young farmer, I would learn everything I could from John—from his example, and from his marketing savvy. With that in mind, check out John's YouTube movie telling How To Start A Farm With No Money
Suscovich Chicken Tractors
|Those are some nice chicken tractors, eh?|
I've been there, especially when it comes to marketing a how-to book. I know how much work it is and I know how I appreciate people who have taken an interest in my books along the way and helped me by telling others about them on their blogs.
Some bloggers are so focused on making money with affiliate links, advertising, and selling their own products that they aren't really interested in helping someone else, unless they can make money at it. That's not me. I don't have affiliate links, I don't have any advertising (unless it's for my own products), and I am delighted to use this blog to help anyone with a useful, "down-to-earth" product or service that I think my readers will enjoy knowing about.
So I checked out the complimentary copy of John's new "stress-free" Chicken Tractor E-Book, and I must say that I really like his design. Fact is, I like it so much I plan to make one (at least one).
John's chicken tractors are made to fit on the 6' x 12' trailer he uses to haul things on his farm. The tractor footprint is just about 60 square feet. He built 12 tractors for his chicken operation and puts 30 chickens in each tractor.
The structures are made with pressure treated lumber frames, 2' high on the sides. The roof is made of 3/4" electrical conduit "rafters" covered with a tarp. The door on one end allows people to walk into the tractor.That is a great feature. The chicken feeders and waterers are suspended and travel with the tractor as it is moved.
The tractors are moved by hand, pulling them with a rope on one end. Moving is made easy by two wheels that are temporarily slipped over a protruding bolt at the other end.
John uses his chicken tractors only for raising broilers, but he says they could be outfitted with nesting boxes for a few egg-layers. They can also be covered with plastic and be used as a small greenhouse. I like that idea.
John's e-book has a material cost breakdown and he figures each tractor has around $160 in materials in it. He makes it clear that he chose to use high quality (pressure treated) lumber, but the tractors can be made for less using other materials.
The e-book is 31 pages long. It has clear specifications for each component. It has lots of photos. It has links to YouTube movies that better explain certain things. It has additional information about the feeders and waterers he made, and how he raises his chickens. The book has a nice overall appearance.
On the downside, the tractor design requires a conduit bender to get the proper bend in the "rafters"…. and the know-how to use the bender. That's probably a stumbling block to a lot of people. The plan also calls for half-lap joints in the wood frame. It is possible to mortise the wood for these joints with an electric skillsaw and a chisel, but a dado blade in a radial arm saw is a much better tool. So, if you follow John's plan exactly, you will need some equipment that most people don't have—or you will need a friend with the equipment to help you.
Like I mentioned, I intend to make one of John's nifty chicken tractors, but I haven't done so yet. Therefore I can't tell you how well the tractor goes together. Chances are, when I get to making one, I will modify the design to some degree. One modification I'm pretty sure I'll make is to add some sort of long diagonal brace on the 2' high sides. A long brace would give the structure a whole lot more racking strength. And I think I would like to have the tarp on the roof come all the way down over the sides. But the finished product will retain the same overall look, and all the best design features.
John's book sells for $19.95. If you Listen To This Podcast (at least the first few minutes) John gives a discount code you can use to get the book for 25% less. Discount or not, I think the book is worth the cost if you want to make yourself a nifty looking chicken tractor with some real nice features.
By the way, John Suscovich also has an affiliate program for anyone who wants to sell his e-book at their blog or web site. If someone clicks through and buys a copy, you get a commission. I considered doing this but I decided against it. The guy is working hard, providing worthwhile products, and trying to support his family. I'd like to see him get the most from every book he sells.