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Matt Derosier 0:10
I was just gonna say, out of curiosity, have you ever gotten your eggs tested? Like we talked about testing the grass and stuff? Have you ever gotten one of your or a dozen for sampling? A dozen eggs tested?
Joe Senger 0:24
I have not watched that as depth. That is something I will be doing this next season. Once. So the challenges I’ve been facing are you alluded to something way back, I don’t know an hour ago, about shipping or getting the things you need in time to do the things you want to do. Feed has been a challenge for me until I can find that what I shouldn’t say find the words not find the word is until my setup is such that my feed is consistent for the entire season or, you know, whatever. I’ve had to switch feeds a lot because of supply because of price. locality, what have you. And so I don’t feel like it’s a fair picture to test eggs right now. Because that could change in a month. If I have to change feed again, right. So once I’m at my domain, some on but hay is another story. Hay is cut, it’s in a bale, you take a sample from 4050 bales, you get a pretty clear picture of what you’re going to feed your animals for the rest of that year. Feed comes in a bag, it’s made the week you buy it usually, you know, maybe two weeks before you buy it. And so the seasonality of that can change a lot. So until I get a consistent supply that I can depend on. I’m reluctant to it’s not cheap, it’s not $27 to get your eggs tested like it is to get your hate estimate. It’s quite a bit more, but I think it is worth a while Okay, there are organizations, the American let’s see APA, American pastured poultry producers Association, APA, a PP three peas, a PPP a.org, I believe might be.com. They have some excellent research that they have done testing eggs, so pastured eggs versus what they call conventionally raised eggs using a non organic feed in a barn, no grass underneath the chickens, what have you. And the nutritional breakdown is pretty shocking how, how there and then it is an app of video so I don’t know what they’re not telling us. But the good news is that there’s some really key nutritional ingredients that have we’ve been told that are good for humans that pastured eggs have so they’re triple in I forget the term antioxidants or something’s omega threes, maybe it’s some anyway, there’s there’s all kinds of nutritional values that they have studied. And pastured eggs when on those that they talk about. I don’t know the whole picture. So that’s, that’s why I would like to know, for myself, please test these two dozen eggs. This is a conventional dozen I just bought at the grocery store. And this is my dozen that I made. Give me the data for those two dozens of eggs. And then maybe we can come back and talk about that on your show again, because I would be fascinated to see the result. I really would.
Matt Derosier 3:40
And then and then all throw in a dozen if you’re paying for it. I will throw in a dozen of mine. Just to see the soy versus non soy just out of curiosity. Exactly. Because yeah, me so yeah. That when I was at your place, yeah, right.
Joe Senger 3:56
Right. My my feet is no soy, no corn. No canola. organic soy. That’s just
Matt Derosier 4:05
Oh, you’re you’re running no soy I thought you said you were running soy to get the protein content.
Joe Senger 4:11
We were that’s what I’m that is an example of what I was saying about my feed has changed over the over the summer. Because I have been I have been trying to dial my chickens in as far as lay rate consumption. So here’s an interesting I don’t know this shouldn’t take too long but I was buying a local feed. I actually started out because it couldn’t find organic feed. I was feeding conventional feed and which is just, you know, over the counter big box feed. My chickens would eat 150 265 pounds of that a day. So three bags plus a day. Well, okay, yeah. I don’t remember what I was paying 1625 bags. That’s let’s call it 48 $49 for Be 75 years old. For to feed my chickens for one day 50 bucks. organic feed costs almost 50% more. So you buy a 50 pound bag for 16 and a quarter. Our organic feed is 24 to $25 for the same 50 pound bags, that’s an extra eight bucks. So it’s about 50% More money. But eating organic feed, my chickens actually ate almost 60% less. What? Believe it really I could not believe it. So I tested it recently. I because I couldn’t I keep copious records of everything, every egg that could slay they have in a notebook, every feedback, I have a notebook. But I just was really curious, I thought was I seen something weird? Or did I you know, so I went back to conventional feed momentarily for 30 days, or whatever it was. And I tested it was about 150 165. And this is when the birds are fully adult, they’re mostly most of them are laying, there’s no big major changes. And then I switch back to organic V. Sure enough, 60% less feed. And the only thing I can think of is the nutritional content of that organic feed is that much higher. It’s better. Maybe Maybe it’s hard to digest. So it sticks around longer. I don’t know. But there’s there has been no no change in lay rate, there has been no change in chicken feather loss or, you know, whatever. I’m not raising meat birds, so I don’t know their weights. I don’t process them to know that. But anyway, blew my mind.
Matt Derosier 6:50
So that I’ve never heard that before.
Joe Senger 6:53
Well, I this is another conversation I was having with myself debating, do I really need to be organic feed? Nobody really cares about that. Right? Nobody really cares, really. I’m talking myself out of organic feed because it’s so much cheaper to buy conventional feed, read the label of conventional feed though What are you getting? You’re getting byproducts and wheat chaff and whatever. It’s it’s not the whole grains. They do add supplements. It’s not like it’s not hurting your chickens. But it’s I guess, McDonald’s versus making your own hamburger at home with bread that you made yourself and all the things right, you’re getting one that’s a version of food and the other one is real food. And it’s not going to kill you. But it’s not going to help you as much as the real stuff is. And the consumption rate really blew my mind and I thought oh god, maybe they don’t like it. Maybe they’re not eating it. My labor rates haven’t changed. The chickens aren’t killing each other. There’s no feathers flying around. And I mean, they’re not. They’re not acting like they’re starving, or it’s just bizarre. It blew my mind. And I thought well, maybe it was the pageant or maybe they got maybe they got in a really rich chunk of pasture and I’m like, Dude, your pasture sucks. There’s nothing out there for them to eat. It’s so cheap grass seeds and some mustard Ed’s. So until I have a real lush pasture of green grass. I think that argument settled itself. So it really was I think my opinion is that the organic feed that I was feeding them was that much more. It was better for them in the form of satiation, it satiated their, their their hunger. And I don’t know, maybe it was because it’s a mash compared to a pellet. They that took them longer to eat the same amount. So they got full, right, a pellet, they can eat one pellet, and they can just keep pounding pellets until they’re just gorged with food. And they eat almost all day. So if it if the pellet size gets smaller and smaller and smaller, they have to work harder to get full, but they still get fall and they’re getting better nutrition at the same time. I don’t know I’ve, I’m sure someone’s written a paper or a book or a YouTube video about this. And it was one guy’s observation. So take it
Matt Derosier 9:25
for what it’s on your balance sheet. Does that. Does that make it a wash going organic versus non organic? Or are you actually in the green a little bit by going organic?
Joe Senger 9:36
Yeah, when I did the math, it actually saved me a couple bucks a bag to go organic because the bag lasts longer. So instead of three bags a day I’m using one and a half one and a third. And that little tiny extra bit of feed over the course of a year. makes a huge difference finance Really, when you add up that dollar or $2 times 365 days, it’s an extra 700 bucks. It’s like Hell yeah, I’m doing that. Because God knows, you know, I can use all the padding, I can get on profit. So
Matt Derosier 10:15
definitely, yeah now, like, kind of like, I guess, like a principle question you like personally? Now if it was if it was completely even across the board, like, as far as financially, you know, they they eat 50% Last but it’s 50% More in cost. So like, it’s financially like a wash. But like, you know, you said like organic feed is harder to come by. Would you still do it?
Joe Senger 10:52
Well, I, at first, I thought I was going to have to drive three and a half hours each way to pick up this organic food. And that was a deal breaker. I can’t I can’t do that every two weeks. I can’t drive seven hours, plus loading for an hour unloading for an hour. I can’t do it at the whole day gone. Just on principle of having organic food that’s locally produced. I experimented purchasing organic food. There’s a brand called Scratch and peck. I think there were Oregon or Texas. I don’t know where they’re from. But great food man. Chickens dug it super expensive compared to conventional, a little bit more than the locally produced stuff. But it’s a different food. It’s not really comparable coming. You’re talking whole grains and seeds. And I mean, you could see it. It’s amazing sunflower seeds in there and all kinds of cool stuff. Chickens dug it. I mean, I felt really good about feeding it to him. It’s like feeding them filet mignon.
Matt Derosier 11:58
Every day. Yeah, really.
Joe Senger 12:01
But it broke the bank. I mean, it’s like there’s no way I can’t afford I’d have $8 $9 Dozens of eggs just to justify the cost. So So those are the things those are the questions I wrestle with, like how much price elasticity do I have in this marketplace? If I was in Portland, and I wanted to sell an $8 dozen of eggs. I’d have people lining up because it can’t get enough cool shit in their food. Oh my gosh, they’re organic. And you feed them with your left hand only Yes. And I always wear a flapper car t shirt when I do it. And I use only organic beard oil on my beard and all my clothing is made from hemp and they buy them.
Matt Derosier 12:46
They pay anything. Yeah. Yep.
Joe Senger 12:50
And that’s not to insult anybody, for principle. It’s just that the folks here in Montana, like my potential customer base here. They there are a few of those folks who will buy anything that they believe helps the earth helps her body is the right thing to do. animal husbandry, what have you. But there’s not nearly as many as there are in a metro market like Portland, Los Angeles or Austin, Texas. So I have to make those decisions based on Yeah, I can make a killer, Super Premium Egg that would cost nine bucks. It doesn’t. But I’d sell one dozen a week. And I’d have to deliver them to the top of the mountain in Missoula to the one guy who bought them. Yep. And then what good is, right. So and then you have to add some tough
Matt Derosier 13:45
market here for sure. Because I mean, wages in this area are like a third compared to, let’s say, Los Angeles. I looked up I looked up rent in Missoula versus Los Angeles and for it’s not like exactly apples to apples, but like, let’s say a one bed, one bath, maybe a studio, whatever. Like it’s almost the same. It’s ridiculous. I mean, yeah, it’s it is pretty crazy. So I mean, you got in here and your market.
Joe Senger 14:20
And having lived in both places, I can tell you that your income earning potential in Los Angeles is way higher. Even if you don’t hurt or even if you don’t have a job paying a great wage, there’s a job you can go get that has a great wage. Here. I don’t know what people earn. But I do know that it’s a lot less and I know that the industries are not here for people just to go get another $80,000 a year job and then have a bunch of disposable income divide $9 A dozen eggs because they feel like it. So right. I totally get it and that’s why I have to kind of play this balance. The act of well, and that’s why I have a range of prices. I’ve used my overall sales mix to cover my cost and make me money. hopefully over time I grow in customer loyalty, they talk about the amazing cakes and pies and things they make with my eggs or the breakfast spread they make or the restaurant decides he’s gonna go big on brunch, and he’s gonna buy a lot more of my eggs, whatever. Fantastic. Those are all ways I can grow. I just don’t see myself ever being a Bougie $8 A dozen egg. I, I think they’re worth it. I’d love to be able to make that much money off of my eggs. They cost me right now about 345 It doesn’t make because I all members aren’t laying. And I’m using a high cost feed to make them. So my cost is almost $3.45 I cannot possibly sell them for less than that I’d lose money every time I sold an egg. So I have to sell them for five bucks. That’s my base price. six bucks is better. 699 is better. But you hear a 699 a year like holy crap. That’s ridiculous. Not really. I have real cost given.
Matt Derosier 16:21
Given the latest kerfuffle, I guess which which we can go into? We’ve been kind of dancing around it a little bit here. We’re gonna get a little controversial, maybe a little political. So everybody just calm down. Wait, yeah, did the government’s response to COVID impact you in any way?
Joe Senger 16:54
Um, in a way, very, very roundabout. We moved here in November of 2020. COVID had pretty much run the hardcore course in 2020. I had COVID. In January of 2021 of the first people that I knew to have it Wow. My wife grants not No, no, I was just lucky. My wife travels all over the place all over the country for her job. And she traveled to Europe and brought it back to me. I got it spent four weeks on the couch. Anyway.
Matt Derosier 17:45
Holy smokes. It was a long time.
Joe Senger 17:48
It was bad. Took me three months to get back on my feet. Anyway, but I got it early. But I wasn’t a farmer then. So it really didn’t impact me. We moved here in November. I started in earnest the farm. By that time, COVID had sort of peaked and we were thinking we were out of the woods. We were thinking oh my gosh, 2020 one’s gonna be an awesome year. And that’s how the way I proceeded Montana’s economy seemed to be really doing pretty well, considering how small of a state is and the level of income folks have here. And there’s, you know, shortages of stuff. I mean, people were buying whatever was available. So food seemed like a natural business to get into because you couldn’t buy meat in the grocery store for most of last summer. You know, are there were rationing, you could only buy five pounds per family or whatever, you go to the grocery store. They had rules around that stuff. You remember the toilet paper thing? So I thought, Well, sure. I’ll just start a local business. And so no, I think the short answer is I don’t really think COVID negatively affected me, other than personally getting it. And then I got it again, January of 2021. That time I got tested, they didn’t have tests for it back in January 2020. But the symptoms were identical to the second time I had it. So I know. I’m pretty sure I had it twice. Wow. Other than that, and then you know, other than that, no, I don’t think I really was affected by it. I do know of other farms that had to switch completely their business models they selling exclusively to restaurants or a big portion of their business was to restaurant. And then when those restaurants shuttered, they had to pivot and find another outlet for an existing herd of cattle or layers or meat birds that were already on the pasture, you know, whatever. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with that. So now, the issue is that that’s interesting. I think the issues related to COVID were shipping, accessibility of ingredients, so feed the costs of goods Like, I bought some some new tools during COVID That cost me 20% All the costs of materials, lumber, especially 200% increase in cost of lumber. I was building chicken coops and you know, things like that. So I mean, I guess that that is a that is definitely a manifestation of the COVID experience of shortage. But the government’s response? Not really, no, we didn’t qualify, we didn’t qualify for any of the relief money because we didn’t we didn’t lose anything. You know, I didn’t have any impurities. I still don’t so. But just the sort of cultural stress of COVID. Yeah, that that affected me more than what the government did for sure.
Matt Derosier 20:49
I guess I was, what, when I wrote this question as just kind of, like, general questions to people. That questions that I want to ask farmers, you know, when I was thinking of this, this concept is, is Bo story. Like, because so they built like a new processing facility, my company that I work for we rewired their refrigeration units and freezing units and their processing line and all this thing. It’s a it’s a very nice facility. And, you know, we were just Bo and I were just talking and he had said that, you know that he would you would get shipments of birds, that they would all be dead because they sat on like the back of a loading dock for a day too long or two days too long or whatever. And so it’s like, okay, so I got a box of, let’s say, 400 or four, I don’t know what its volume is, but like 400 could be 4000 baby chicks. Thanks. You know, now I get to take a take a backhoe and bury them all or whatever. Yeah, and so like, you know, things like, you know, the the essential worker type of thing like, oh, you can only do this if you’re an essential worker and you know, you need to do this you need to do that. So like he and I really need to get him on at some point so he can properly explain spleen at all. But yeah, and
Joe Senger 22:21
you’re you’re you’re telling that story reminds me that I did have I did buy my 400 Chicken my layers this this year, I started. I placed my order for them in February knowing that I was going to have them. I needed to have them by April so I could have production going. My first so I ordered 200 birds from a hatchery, one hatchery. And I think I had three variety of birds in that mix. 200 Birds Shut up. As you describe those experience, my bird showed up one day longer than they were supposed to. It should have been two days shipping it took 335 of those burns were dead in the carton. 165 of them. 165 of them went into the brooder that night, I had to drive to Missoula to pick them up. They didn’t deliver them to my house like there’s no way I was going to wait, it would have been another another day. No, no. So what we routed them by the next morning, we’d lost all but 75
Matt Derosier 23:27
Joe Senger 23:28
so we’d lost 125 total. In the 12 hours between the time I picked him up and 12 hours later that next morning. And so that’s where we lost a couple here and there so short was we lost 100 And I think it was 130 540 chicks. The great news was because of it because of a delivery delay. That the USPS you know, I don’t I don’t know what happened. I’m not upset with them. It is what it is. Luckily, the hatchery had a two day guarantee on live delivery. So I contacted them they said no problem. I know what it was it was not COVID it was actually the polar vortex that came down and hit Texas and caused all that mayhem in the south and froze all the power lines and all that it was that same time window. And so the USPS put a moratorium. My chickens were already in the mail. When that all happened that two day window it was that same exact time. So I contacted the hatchery. They said no problem. We will replace your chicks free of charge. But the USPS has put a moratorium on live animals shipping because of this post polar vortex backlog that they have built up. So they admitted their their systems were so overloaded because of the weather related delays, maybe COVID related delays, I don’t know. But the story was it was weather weather related delays. And so they took a week off said, we are not going to accept any more live animals, we can’t get them there reliably. Give us a week, we’ll be back. The hatchery said we’re gonna give them two weeks. And it actually turned out to be three, because they the backlog was still just churning through. So I got my 140 replacement chicks. They also took three days to arrive. But no, but I think the weather conditions were more favorable. And I only lost like a dozen out of that 140. But the problem is now I have 65 ish, 60 chicks, therefore, that are four weeks old. And another group of chicks. I didn’t have to brooders. Right. So I had to make a brooder in a room and set up a whole new system. So that my afford the four week old chicks wouldn’t kill my day old chicks and just defeat the entire purpose. So anyway, because of that experience, I decided to buy locally and I bought another round of chicks and a fourth round of chicks to get my whole 325 I was kind of scrambling to fill my what I thought was going to be one order of 400 chicks and be one and done. And they’d all be the same age and I’ll get them all the same day. and everything would have been fine. So this was kind of a cluster on timing. And that’s why right now out in that pasture. I’m getting lay rates of 50 to 60%. Because 75 of those birds still have a week to two weeks to go before they’ll start laying. Because they’re that fourth group that will this fourth group anyway. It’s those nuances of detail are really they stick in my craw. The reality is every farmer goes through crap like this. It may be pig barreling, it may be rain cycles, and they’re trying to grow a wheat or something. You know, it could be calving seasons, whatever. But it was just to me this year it was it was shipping related issues. And it sounds like the guys that living river farm had the same the same problem.
Matt Derosier 27:30
Yeah, but that was that was 2020. That wasn’t 2021.
Joe Senger 27:34
So that was that was all specifically COVID related. Last year, I understood you couldn’t buy chicks. People bought them up so fast, like the toilet paper. They just went, Oh my gosh, I can’t find meat in the grocery store. I guess I’ll grow my own. And you couldn’t buy a chick last year. And if you
Matt Derosier 27:52
weren’t if you weren’t already gone as soon as they hit the Yeah, yeah, you are on the
Joe Senger 27:57
calendar. You were out of luck. And that’s why in February of 2021, I got my orders and I had 1000 meters ordered. I had all my 400 layers ordered. I have my calendar already planned out. I knew where everything was going to happen. And then yeah, so plan and then plan to throw the plan out.
Matt Derosier 28:21
Yeah. Plan to throw the plan out. So kind of leading into that, or this? Do you feel like the government needs to be more or less involved in how we produce food? I know I’m getting heavy here. On the end here. I got some I got a couple of lighter questions after this. But
Joe Senger 28:49
that’s a good question. Because it’s not it’s a nuanced answer. I think things I appreciate about what our government does for our food supply is the impression of safety.
Matt Derosier 29:06
I like the emphasis on impression.
Joe Senger 29:10
Well, because everything is an impression. I think we can’t know the truth about almost anything. We believe what we believe whether it’s what a politician says or a government agency says or your neighbor tells you some story. You’re allowed to believe as much of that or as little of that as you want. The powers that be government experts, media, whatever and media of all stripe not pointing the finger at any specific type of media podcasters I think there’s a lot of a lot of effort put on getting people to listen to them. As our culture evolves, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are looking for eyeballs clicks, listeners, viewers will say and do and represent the information that gets them that result. The clicks, the viewers, the listeners, the time spent watching. Sometimes the capital T truth, there may be an essence of it in there somewhere. Or sometimes it’s just straight up BS just to get you riled up and make it listen. I think, and I’m not pointing the finger at anybody, because I think it’s rampant. Marketers, advertisers, what have you, right? So the impression of safety, I mean, according to what I read, according to what I see in law, because I read Montana State law, I read the USDA codes, I read that information. And it looks well thought out. It looks. It looks like it’s there for a reason. There’s a funny, every time I see a goofy sign, like, don’t let your dog poop on the deck, or something stupid like that you’re like, that means somebody did that at one time. And they had to put up a sign to stop people from doing that. Well, that’s kind of how I feel about laws. If you read laws carefully. They’re not generally arbitrary. People don’t just make up laws to bring people down. They’re usually because there was something wrong or somebody made a point about something or somebody was being treated unfairly. And they want to change the way the world was. So anyway, I read the USD codes, I read those, those laws that allow or that tell us how many chickens we can produce in a year. And I, I liked the safety aspect of it, the intention feels to me, like we want to keep our people, our citizens of the country, the state, the county, the city, safe from bad actors, or ignorant actors, people who don’t know that, you should keep stuff clean, right? But who’s going to police that? Who’s going to keep track of all those laws and enforce those laws, and it’s just like any controversial subject, you might want to bring up, whether it be gun control, or border patrols or whatever, who’s going to enforce the laws. As scary as those laws sound, who’s going to enforce them? And it’s boils down to selective enforcement. So, so, okay, not every municipality, every government agency, every city has the means or interest in enforcing all the laws. So you learn over time, what you can and can’t get away with? And where people are getting away with stuff. Are we as a country, people, neighborhood safer or less safe? That That, to me, that’s the nuanced answer. Should the government get more involved or less involved both. They should get more involved in the policing of this, of the stuff that’s already out there. And really try to understand more about what they’re trying to legislate.
I know that there’s a whole group of folks out there in the world who really see the value of like raw milk, for example, the Currently, most places in the country, it’s illegal to buy it, it’s illegal. It’s not illegal to buy it. Maybe this is not illegal to consume it, if it’s from your animal for your family, I believe is sort of the phraseology, but it is illegal, it is illegal to sell it to somebody else. I believe,
Matt Derosier 34:33
even like a cow share would like they’ve done
Joe Senger 34:38
one of those potential workarounds. Well, it’s my cow, I own 118 to that cow, therefore, I’m not buying the milk. I already own the cow, right, whatever. Great. And so that’s people testing those edges and trying to find those ways to get what they want out of life. Despite what the government or people who think they’re doing something I really I guess I am of the opinion that government people are human beings. Some of them are greedy. Some of them are uninformed. Some of them are well intentioned, some of them are just jerks. Okay. But on the whole, the majority of the time, I don’t really feel like stuff is punitive, like just to mess with us as citizens or farmers, I think they just don’t have all the information. Or maybe there’s a bit of corruption involved. Maybe it’s a big entity, like, I’m not saying this is happening, but you have one kind of meat producer, saying I don’t want that other kind of meat producer to get purchased and to have as much success as I’m having, because it’ll take away from my sales, or one kind of ingredient. That science seems to say that ingredient in a food is probably not great for us to be eating. But because they have lots of money, they can control the outcome of the legislation lobbying, right? That science, right. And they come in if it’s science by posting their own flooding, the flooding the marketplace with science that they’ve created, because they paid for it. So right. So I mean, I’m not I’m not trying to say that I blindly follow every rule out there. But I do tend to look at them and scrutinize them and say, Is it fair that I can’t sell 1001 chickens? Or should I really work hard to make sure that I stop at 1000? Yeah, yes, Joel Salatin. He went through this extensively. And he said, I think he has an exemption of 1000 or 4000, or some number. And he looks straight in the camera and says, and we never exceed 1000 chickens a year. And then he works. It’s like the guy’s a multimillionaire. And it’s not because he’s still on 1000 chickens a year I guarantee it. Anyway, yeah. So So I think the answer is both. I would like to see smart legislation that allows people to do what’s safe and reasonable and prudent. Do I think you should be able to process a chicken in a dirty bathtub in your bedroom? No, I think that’s probably a good rule to have. But is it safe to process chickens in a pasture? On sanitized equipment? In a mean, in a processing model? That is basically the open air market of history, right? Can I produce a clean chicken Hail? Yes, I can. I’ve done it every time. So, but maybe I’m special? I doubt it. I think a lot of people didn’t mentioned nobody wants to make somebody sick in this industry. Nobody. That’s That’s suicide. Nobody in their right mind wants to hurt a customer hurt their family. So there’s a certain degree, and I guess you might call that. What does that cause no harm. It’s not putting up Democrat or Republican. It’s the middle
Matt Derosier 38:31
one. It’s kind of more like libertarian non Aggression Principle. Yeah.
Joe Senger 38:36
Thank you libertarian belief system. I’m not hurting anybody. Leave me alone.
Matt Derosier 38:42
Yeah. And I
Joe Senger 38:43
tend to fall down that that line, a lot of times, like, come on in. But the beautiful part is, enforcement really isn’t that strong. So no one’s really kind of creeped up behind me saying, Hey, can you show me records is that 1000 1001 Your exemption is only good for 1000 We’re gonna ding it. Now. There’s nobody calling so.
Matt Derosier 39:14
Have you ever tried to count 1000 chickens? Like, also, have you ever tried to count more than 25? It’s hard.
Joe Senger 39:22
Every time I walk out my pasture, I see that my I mentally go that’s 325 chickens. And then I will play the game. Sometimes. I’m like, 510 G’s. I get about to 25. And it’s like, okay, but I can’t. But yeah, sort of this. I mean, the record keeping. Anyway, so yeah. But no, I think it’s a complicated question. And, and if you’re if you if you my my opinion is, if you fall hard on one side or the other of that question, I would challenge you to really relax and think about the nuance of the question. Because government regulation can help you and government regulation can totally screw you. It just depends on where it sits. Right? Sure. And, and if you have principles and belief systems that align with where it sits, then go government. But if you’re right, and I think there’s no political party that’s immune, depending on where, what we’re talking about, who’s pushing it, what the benefits are tax codes, laws, whatever. There’s always somebody who’s going to benefit from the law, and there’s always going to be somebody who loses. So if you happen to be sitting in the right chair that day, then go government. But I think there’s nuance. So it’s not a black and white answer to me.
Matt Derosier 41:03
That’s interesting. I mean, we could obviously, we could talk theory about this all day. I mean, like, the laws are there. Yeah. Does it make that like, just because the laws are on the books? Does it make them morally right or morally wrong? And the people that choose to follow them? Do they choose to follow those laws? Because they are moral laws or just laws? Or are they following them out of fear for repercussions of what might happen to them? Like? It’s, you know, that’s a very, yeah, that’s, I mean, I was gonna go take their
Joe Senger 41:43
cannabis legislation is a great example. It’s still against the law to smoke marijuana in the United States, according to the federal government. However, how many states now have legal legalized, they started out incrementally with legalized medical marijuana for patients who had and now it’s widely acceptable for personal consumption, up to a certain value in every state has kind of managed that. But still, technically, the feds can come in and shut the whole show down tomorrow, if they were so inclined, because it is going against federal law. That’s a great case because there’s a winner. On both sides of that question. The winners in the states are the cannabis growers, the cannabis users, people who appreciate the freedom to do what they want to do with their body. Fantastic. The people who lose the people who are against it, that the cops, sometimes the legislators, the court systems who’ve put away a lot of people over the years, and now they have to reconcile with oh my gosh, we got jails full of people who we put away for drugs that now that drug is legal in our state, but it’s still illegal on the federal level. So we’re okay. But there’s gonna be a reckoning someday. Are they gonna let those people go? Right. I mean, those are complicated questions. Chickens feel like a lot easier question to me.
Matt Derosier 43:12
Yeah, where this question kind of comes from is that we, we live in a very centralized food system here, the United States. There’s a lot of people that go to the grocery store every day, no idea where their food comes from, like, chicken, for example, could be Tyson, Purdue or golden plum, or there might be a couple others in there, but I guess those are like the big ones. And like, you know, like to solve, like a food crisis like we did last year, obviously, we saw a lot of empty, empty shelves. People should be growing at least some of their own food, like that’s more or less why I did it for myself, like so that I had a freezer full of chicken, you know, that I could get wherever I want. That’s why I try to reach out to local farmers, other homesteaders, maybe we can barter, I’ll pay for it, you know, whatever. So like, I don’t have those connections are already made. The skills that I gained are already made. So if the shelves are empty, I’m not freaking out. Like the example I give. So like we were talking about, like regulation stuff. The example I give to people is like so I bought that lamb from that guy down in Hamilton. He can’t directly sell me the cuts of meat already processed. He has I’ll I’ll buy the live animal and pay a I don’t know $10 transport fee $20 transport To to the processing facility or whatever, and then they pay a $10 kill fee and then whatever price per pound to do the lamb or whatever, then I get I get the cuts of meat in a box.
Joe Senger 45:17
Yeah, I just got back from my neighbor.
Matt Derosier 45:22
Yeah, so the, the example I give is like, okay, so if the farmer, I guess in this case, the Shepherd was to handle that processing for me and hand me that box of meat, all of a sudden, I’m going to die from food poisoning or whatever, like Miss handling, like, like you said, if people get sick, it’s suicide on their part, like, you know, word gets out. And that’s kind of like the free market speaking like, you know, hey, I got sick from so and so like, don’t buy from him like it’s in his best interest to you know, do the best that he can where it really protects people, or I think those those types of laws more protect the big boys like big chicken, like Tyson, Purdue golden plump, that they can’t directly sell to consumer to give them a layer of protection that I can’t, hey, it’s golden clumps fault that I got sick, like, no, no, no, it’s processing facility.
Joe Senger 46:30
Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of these companies are vertically integrated. So they own their own processing facilities. And so it’s all smoke and mirrors, but it’s corporate law. Corporations have, you know, liability protections? You know, I think I think even your example, though, is nuanced. Let’s say that. You did buy that that the say that that lamb you bought? You purchased it? And I assume you paid him by the pound for a hanging weight on that lamb. Is that right? I think so. Yeah. So that’s how I bought my pig, I bought a half a pig. And the farmer delivered that pig to the processor. It still belongs to that farmer. The farmer made an arrangement with the processor that they’re going to kill that pig, they’re going to they’re going to process that pig into a hanging carcass, and then two people are going to buy that pig. So the processor is an intermediary, that transaction. But the processor that we used was not a processor that was an inspected facility, a state inspected facility. So that pig could not be cut up into pieces and sold in pieces. It had to be sold to me as a half a pig. And then me the customer had to make the decision of how it was to be dispensed. So cut it into 22, pork chops and three pounds of sausage and whatever I made the decision on the cuts, the wrapping, and I paid the farmer for the hanging weight per pound. And then I paid the processor for the cut and wrap fee and half of the kill fee. So but I still know where that meat came from. Right? If that farmer had killed that pig in his shop, hung it up in the in his cooler, let’s say he had a cooler, and he could control the temperature. Or maybe he didn’t maybe he hung it up in the shade in his barn. And he wrapped it up and protected it from flies and mice and whatever. And then two weeks later, it’s cured. And now we’re gonna go ahead and cut it up. And he sits up there and his patio and a bunch of knives and cuts it up and wraps it up and sells it to me. Which of those scenarios do I feel better about as a consumer? Well, it’s nuanced. Do I like having? Do I like having to have immediate immediate intermediary as a requirement in the transaction? No, because I don’t like people telling me what to do. But do I like the fact that this farmer who I really don’t know from Adam, I don’t know what his skill set is? Does he understand sanitation? Does he know how to cut a pig body into parts that are edible? I don’t know. I mean, am I going to get useful meat from this guy? I don’t know. But I love the idea that I’m directly paying the guy who raised the meat and paying him a nice price for this. And he’s keeping my costs low by cutting it up himself. So like I said, it’s pros and cons. I love the fact that these guys who are cutting up this pig at the process facility have been trained, probably certified, and they’re certainly inspected from time to time by somebody who’s holding them accountable for things that are gross, unsafe, dangerous for them, for the animal for the future of my family’s health. Right. I like that there’s a set of eyes on it that aren’t Mike’s, I don’t know everything there is to know about animal safety or food safety. So like I said, there’s pros and cons. So I’m paying a fee that I otherwise wouldn’t if I were killing my own pig, I’d cut them up and do my best. Like, if like when I shoot a deer or an elk, I process my own animal. I do my best. And am I the best butcher out there? No, but I get it done. And it’s fine. And it doesn’t bother me. So could I buy a light pick my guy and shoot it in my driveway and put it on a table and process it myself? Yeah, I could. But I’m busy. Right? So. So for our convenient American lifestyle of, I really have no time to do a pig. Which of those two scenarios I’m I’m more comfortable with? Well, they both have their pros and cons, I’m gonna go with the processor guy, because that feels like some accountability to somebody. sure that I can that I can say, Hey, man,
I got some weird meat. Or it was green, or I didn’t like the way it smelled, or it’s not the farmers fault. He’s out of the picture. So I have someone I can talk to. Anyway. So that’s what I mean, I tried to think about I tried to break it down into small little pieces and think, Well, if that one piece changed, how would I feel? If there was nobody keeping track of anything and the government weren’t in the food process at all? Man, I just might have to go to McDonald’s all the time, because at least it comes out in a wrapper and I don’t I just know, it’s probably overcooked and sanitized or something. I don’t know.
Matt Derosier 52:05
Just over a cooked. Oh, and I mean,
Joe Senger 52:09
but there’s, you know, I mean, you can get a medium or hamburgers. That’s perfectly safe. But McDonald’s isn’t gonna let you have one because they don’t want you to get sick.
Matt Derosier 52:17
No, but I mean, you step in the back of like behind the counter, like food prep area, you pull away some of those countertops. It’s pretty nasty in some of those fast food places.
Joe Senger 52:30
100%. I ran one for five years. All about it.
Matt Derosier 52:33
Yes. There you go. So I mean,
Joe Senger 52:37
who’s watching? I don’t know, the rules, the rules exist, they say you have to wipe down your countertops with a solution of XY and Z and use a disposable towel or keep that towel in a sanitizing solution that is changed every hour or whatever. How often does the health inspector come by? Maybe once a quarter if they’re really hyperactive? Sure. I saw my health inspector once a year. For a half hour, 30 minutes out of I don’t know how many 1000s of hours of my operation. Was I actually inspected? So it’s all an honor system in a real way? Yeah. So that’s where I kind of settled on. Yeah, just have to kind of go with your gut way back the beginning of this kind of question. Do I believe what I’m being told? Are they taking the procedure seriously in the back room? Are they trying to be as safe with it? With the food safety as it can? Or are they wiping down the counters? God? I hope so. Cross your fingers. I hope so. And I think that it goes
Matt Derosier 53:49
best show that illustrates this is is that show Bar Rescue. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that show. I’ve heard of it. So they’ll go read let’s like, basically bar like renovations, like I’m gonna turn this place around in a week type of show. And they always check out like the kitchen because they’ll do food prep or whatever it is like the nastiest places you’ve ever, ever seen. And like these are just dive bars either that they do like some of them have, like have very nice appearance, but it’s just like their hood vents are just dripping with crap and like their fryer grease hasn’t been changed in effort. And just again, it’s the illusion of, of safety. I forget the word that you use when you started it was
Joe Senger 54:42
Matt Derosier 54:43
Was it illusion,
Joe Senger 54:44
the the impression of safety and it’s a guy they’re all guidelines, but so we’re sower rules when you drive your car or buy a house or whatever I mean, do You trust the people you’re working with. And that is why I think farm tours are so important in their mind in my business. If you can come to the place where your food is actually grown, and see it in the process and ask the questions, you want to ask about it. Why do you do it that way? Why is that over there? What’s that over the right? And really, if you’re curious about it frickin awesome. Dude, I want you on my farm. Come please check me out. Talk to me grill me, because I have nothing to hide. And in fact, I think you will be as excited as I am about what we’re doing here. But where I think government and I’ve heard the term nanny state, right. That’s a very common phrase. It’s a derogatory term. I think what happens is our country has become complacent. Again, not any political party. We haven’t had a World War in a long time. So we’re pretty safe and secure. And we’ve had prosperity for 75 years in a row. And I gosh, we have a little blip in the housing market and everybody craps the bed and right I mean, we had a World War. My parents were the product of that world war ending they were born because we were so happy it ended. Now we have a government that doesn’t really I wouldn’t I mean, it depends on your definition of take care of but they’ve made it safe. We have a fantastic military we have fantastic laws. We have great infrastructure, although we you know, it’s getting old. And we’re a relatively safe progressive modern country with problems but we just trust that the things that work work, the water comes out the out the faucet the toilet, flushes away the bad stuff, I don’t have to look at it and deal with it. I don’t have to go carry water from the creek and boil it in my sink or my kitchen and then make it potable. It just shows up. We’re taken care of as a nation. That’s the whole idea of a civilization. Right. So how far do we want to go? Do we want to strip away laws that make us feel safe and make us feel insecure again? Or
Matt Derosier 57:36
is there nuance
think that’s a great that’s a great place to put this. This segment too bad because we are running very long. Not that I’m not enjoying this. I am. Like I said we could be talking theory and whatnot. All night, all night. I guess to wrap up here, what would you tell people that want to get started?
Joe Senger 58:21
Homework is important. pre pre homework. Joel Salatin said something in one of his books is their pastured poultry profits or beef? What are they with a salad Barbie for the one that you referenced? You can farm or something that effect. The first thing you need to understand is if you’re going to try to grow food for money and make a living at it. And that’s that’s my business. That’s I’m not a homesteader. This isn’t a hobby. This is a business for me. So that’s where I’m coming at this from. I honestly have no idea. I mean, hobby farmer or homesteader, or you want to have a day job and live on property? That’s a whole other question. If you want to run a business that depends and you want to put food into the food system and make money doing it, figure out your customers first. Figure out where you can sell what they’re willing to pay. Where do they live? How far do you have to get that product? Move it to get to them? Will they come to you for it? And that requires a lot of due diligence and a lot of research. There’s 13 questions that you’ll ask me. Where do they get the information? How do they do that to do list? Ironically, the government has a lot of that information handy. Because we do have systems that talk about demographics and income levels and people’s attitudes and perceptions. There are I see publicly available research studies that talk about people’s opinions about how much money they’re they’re spending on vacation or how much money they spend on food or whatever. Okay, so you may have to dig in, I don’t have any URLs to give anybody, I don’t have any shortcut for answer to this question. Every situation is going to be different. You may have a chamber of commerce office, you may have a agricultural office in your county, you may have a friendly restaurant tour, who can give you some insights. Other farmers are great resources for that kind of stuff. Talk to them. Sure, right. But know what who you’re going to sell to, and then figure out what you’re going to sell unless you just don’t give a rip, and you just want to sell what you want to sell. And then you’re taking a huge financial risk, great. But my, my, my success depends on selling a lot. I need a lot because I need I need money. And so I have to sell a lot. That means I have to find out what the most possible people want. Which means there’s a balancing act between selling a commodity product and 99 cents like Walmart eggs, for example. I could never produce an egg for 99 cents, and I’m not big enough. Nor do I want to. So how many customers do I have in the marketplace are willing to spend six bucks on a dozen eggs? I honestly don’t know. But I know there are more of them in Missoula than there are in Victor. So that’s where I go to sell. Right? And I gotta go run around and find them. Go to the farmers markets, see what they’re selling. Figure out what they’re selling. What are the prices? Take notes, take pictures, talk to people? I mean, look at it, like, imagine you’re buying a business? What are the questions you would ask to do that? Well, how much money do you make? How do you make that money? What are the shortcomings of your business? All those kind of questions, and answer those questions, and then decide, is it something I want to do? It’ll scare the hell out of you. But it’s super fun. It’s the best, the best I’ve ever had.
Matt Derosier 1:02:25
And it if you do go to farmers markets and talk to farmers buy something from them to thank them for their time. They’re like they don’t like looky loos like you’re you’re they’re being nice by answering your questions you can at least take the time and you know, buy some zucchini or sub whatever tomatoes from literally anything. Yeah, because they’re there in the hot sun all day or in the rain or whatever. You know, that’s the point.
Joe Senger 1:02:55
Matt Derosier 1:02:56
I think the statistic courtesy,
Joe Senger 1:02:58
gonna take a farm tour and then hit their farm store when you’re done. Give them the give them the thank you have the transaction. shop, buy the stuff. Don’t buy don’t buy stuff you don’t need but man if you need a dozen eggs, hey, I got these for six bucks. Do you think? Yeah. So yeah, that was
Matt Derosier 1:03:23
think about what do you think about woofers people like work or work weekends on organic farms or that type of thing? Like farm help?
Joe Senger 1:03:36
To be honest with you, I don’t know much. I’m familiar with the term. I don’t have an opinion on it. Because I don’t I don’t see controversy there. I think I am lucky that I’m able to do everything I do on this farm by myself with I mean, on a day to day basis. I don’t have hired hands. I don’t have staff. I have enough hours in the day to get my chores done and still chip away at projects. Maybe someday. And again, I think that comes mostly because I’m a privileged person who has a primary income coming in a different completely different door, my wife, right? She makes the money, and I get to play at the farm all day. I might relate my play as a business though. So I’m not it’s not just been screwing around. But you know, I think if we really evaluate what what are the I guess my question is people who work on farms are they trying to learn? Is that what they’re trying to learn? Pick up to the best practices and habits and understand how businesses operate and then take those that knowledge and go elsewhere and start their own farm. Is that kind of the controversy
Matt Derosier 1:05:00
Oh, there’s no controversy just just like some people don’t like, it’s more of a burden than they’re worth. So when, almost 10 years ago, now I worked on a, on a beef Mote the primary income was be if they had some, some dairy cows and stuff like that, like, for six weeks in Montana, and, you know, I just needed to get away from whatever I was doing that was kind of like my, like, my thing, I just whatever I was doing wasn’t happy need to go do this other thing, clear my head for a while. And so she was like, explaining to me how like, you know, oh, like woofers, or farm help, I guess, not just woofer specifically, that you’re your you shouldn’t run your farm, or whatever operation based on that kind of help, you should be able to run it without it. Because they’re not always going to be reliable. And it takes quite a bit of time, that usually they don’t have to get that help up to a level that you really need them at. I mean, it’s really just like training like an employee. At anything, they’re like, Okay, so you paid them $15 An hour or whatever an employee to start, they are worth maybe five when they start because they know nothing unless they’re, I mean, we’re talking brand new right out of high school, never worked a job before type of type of skills, right? They there. And so this, this was me working on a farm I’ve had, like, I’ve worked on my uncle’s hobby farm, but he didn’t have he had vegetables, he didn’t have beef, he didn’t have dairy cows. He didn’t have things like that. I just had had a work ethic. And so it so there’s that. And I had something else but I kind of forgot forgot what the rest of it was. But just Well, I
Joe Senger 1:07:20
think I think I get I’m getting where your question is. So there’s two sides to this. I’m not familiar with the term roofer. I’m sure it’s an acronym for something. I don’t know what it means. But work on farm, something. Yeah, it’s temporary workers or volunteers or interns or whatever. To be honest with you. I share the woman’s sentiment I am I am. Probably next year, we’ll be at a place 2022 I will be at a place where I need help. Okay, I’ll have so many animals, dropping calves and piglets and chickens and brooding and feeding and managing tons of feed at a time and what have you repairing structures, moving animals, my days are going to get away from me. And I’m not going to have time to do what I’m doing now, which is the additional projects to continue to grow the farm. So something’s going to have to give So either I get stuck at the same level that I’m at now forever, which is not my goal. I want to grow every year. And so I’ll have to add employees so I’m will be I’ve seen people farms in my area. Take on volunteers. And I think Man, like you’re saying, I have to hold this person’s hand I have to tell them exactly where the shovel is in the green shed and not the square shovel but the round shovel number not the trenching long skinny shovel. Let me show you. And now it takes me away from my work and I’ve got to go help them. Which should have been a simple ask, right? Simple, simple. So I understand that question. But there’s also that, that pinch point of but I still need help.
Matt Derosier 1:09:20
Sure. Yeah, they could leave you high and dry though. Like hey, you know this. I’m not really feeling it just like an employee, they can leave at anytime. You know?
Joe Senger 1:09:36
They can and that’s where you have to just build relationships with people and trust them.
Matt Derosier 1:09:43
And decide early,
Joe Senger 1:09:45
early and often is do I trust this person enough to have them on my farm as a co worker, support person, employee? What have you, right? And I think It goes back to a lot of how you think about the world how you see the world. Are people have to get you? Or are people generally good? and willing to help them? Yeah, step up so that I can this
Matt Derosier 1:10:14
person gonna show up on my property, break their leg and then try to sue me, you know, like,
Joe Senger 1:10:20
Matt Derosier 1:10:23
All these all these kinds of things. So yeah, this
Joe Senger 1:10:26
is probably not the best business to be in if you’re a person who’s skeptical of people’s intentions.
Matt Derosier 1:10:35
Probably not know, demographic makes a difference, too. But you know, there’s bad actors everywhere you go. So, you know, there
Joe Senger 1:10:46
are but it’s you talk about a long game. Man, I can’t even imagine how much how big of a pain in the neck it would be to try to game some farmer out of some profit or?
Matt Derosier 1:10:59
Yeah, they’re already, like, they’ll they’ll tell you they’re broke, you know, all their assets are tied up in farm equipment and whatnot, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, well, hey, was there anything else that you wanted to bring up that we didn’t cover? Cover yet?
Joe Senger 1:11:20
No. But as anybody who is, if there’s anybody still watching this, or listening to this, after almost two and three quarters of an hour, yeah. I can talk about this. This is, like I said, this is the best job I’ve ever had. And I’ve never spent this much time talking about a marketing program that I did, when I was an executive or any other work I’ve ever done. I it was a job. This is a passion, I really like this, it is not easy. It is not free of stress, it is not free of anxiety. But it’s extremely rewarding. And I feel good about what we do here. I feel good that the products I’m selling to my customers are truthful. And the claims that we make, the things we say about them are honest, it’s not some marketing spin about, you know, does not contain nuclear radiation.
Matt Derosier 1:12:33
It’s like come on, oh, gee, thanks. Like the milk
Joe Senger 1:12:36
industry does not that does not contain PTSD, PTSD, or wherever the artificial growth hormone that is illegal in our nation. Why do you put that on there? Because it’s a marketing claim that anyway, they’re preying on customer ignorance. So my preference is educated customers through opportunities like this, Matt, I love this, that you’re doing this, I’m excited to see where this thing goes. If this if this particular interview ever sees the light of day, fantastic. If not, we’ve both learned a few things. So thank you for having
Matt Derosier 1:13:07
me. It’ll just might be the only episode but at least it’ll it’ll we’ll see the light of day. And like, I’ll obviously send you all this once it’s once it’s finished and whatnot. And it may be you know, we can we can chunk it up in segments, or everyone won’t want to do it. But it could be something as like a little teaser or like a fish hook for other future customers. Like, hey, if you want to know more about me, here’s like a three hour interview I did. You don’t have to listen to the whole thing. Here’s a 10 minute segment, whatever. So like, ya know, obviously, you can’t you can’t spend three hours all the time with everybody, you know, so I’m not like I’m not saying I’m doing you a favor. But like, you can absolutely use me in trying.
Joe Senger 1:14:04
Right? It’s a great resource. I can definitely see how this is resource. And if there were Yeah, I might say shuttle ahead to two hours and 15 minutes. That’s where I get into politics.
Matt Derosier 1:14:18
Speaking of resources, is there a place that people can find you and follow what you’re doing websites, social media, any of that?
Joe Senger 1:14:26
Absolutely. Our website is grays and rome.com gra ZEANDR Oh A M like marry.com. We talked about our farm. We talked about our practices. We sell our products through the shop on that website. Instagram is Grayson Rome. Facebook is Greece and Rome. Being an ex marketer, I had to make sure that we picked a name that all those things were available.
Matt Derosier 1:14:58
I knew I thought about that when I asked that, like when I wrote that question, and I was like, I bet he’s got this nail that I don’t even need to ask him before we record that these guys.
Joe Senger 1:15:11
I’ve seen a lot of brands fail at that. And they can’t own their own name because they picked a great name, but they love but somebody else is sitting on it. So do your research, go to GoDaddy or some other website s reseller and see if your URL is available before you even start having a place to park information in the world of man on my website. We just started it. Probably April I think zero traffic none, not a person. And then we changed our name in June or July which was great because then you go from none back to none. But since then, we’ve started advertising in the form of communication through next door app Facebook marketplace. Craigslist bans you can’t sell eggs on Facebook or Craigslist technically, but Craigslist lets them through everyone smile and says little by little by little by little we are name is beginning out there and our traffic’s up about 400% which is not a lot when you’re tiny. It’s easy to get big numbers because Anyway, anyway. So yeah, the internet grows around.com Social media Grayson Rome. And yeah, we try to put up interesting content kind of keep it real. Keep it simple, not not tell big stories, you know, talk about our customers talk about what we do to share the the fun of what we do. So we think it’s fun. Good.
Matt Derosier 1:16:51
I think it’s fine a lot. I wouldn’t have talked to you for three hours about it. So yeah, for sure. Well, yeah, I can have links to all those things in the show notes. And thanks again for joining me today. It’s been really great having you and I look forward to seeing you again.
Joe Senger 1:17:07
Same Matt appreciate look forward to seeing that boy.
Matt Derosier 1:17:12
Man he is he’s running we I started trusting him carrying an egg from the chicken coop started yesterday. And today he I got him to say the word ag and actually got a got a little video on that. So that’s actually on our Instagram. And but yeah, I’ll have links to all that stuff in the show notes and you can follow FarmHopLife on social media and I’ll post all that links. So hey, I appreciate everyone listening. And we’ll catch you next time.