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A Farmer Walks Into a Print Shop….The True Story Behind the Free Grazing Charts

By   /  March 18, 2019  /  1 Comment

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“A farmer walks into a print shop” could be the beginning of a funny joke. The joke, however, is mostly on you, as many farmers and ranchers have said they can’t take our excel file of free grazing chart templates and get them printed on a door-sized piece of paper. And then, when Troy gets a call from the print-shop, it’s not so easy to help, since Troy is a linger grazier and no computer savant.

When we heard stories of the problems readers encounter at the big-box store print shops, how the staff tries and tries until they finally get it right, but the poor farmer ends up paying as much as $50 bucks for this service of frustration, and then is so fed up they may not even use the tool…well we had to do something.

So, from Troy and Kathy, here’s a look behind the scenes at what it takes to get you some “free” grazing charts.

Troy:

The project that made the original grazing charts possible was funded by SARE. You can read more about the project here.

Back 10 years ago, a group of us wanted something simple, readable, and that could be tacked to barn door because we weren’t computer savvy and some of us came from plain communities. We looked at all the different possibilities out there, talked about what we really needed, and came up with the templates I’ve been sharing for the last 7 years. The group looked to me to figure out on how to make them the right size. I was like a dung beetle on a fresh cow-pie seeing this process through. I went “local” because I knew it would take some time to craft the right sizes and readability issues. I’ll admit we recycled some paper in the try but we got it done.

What made it work was an awesome partnership between our Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and our county planning department headed up by Scott Ingmire, and the staff at our nearby Colgate University Print Shop led by Kip Manwarren. The key to the relationship – Their “Yes we can!” attitude. Their printing software took a few minutes to customize so one computer program could talk with another, but they were willing and happy to see the task through.

Scott Ingmire from Madison County Planning Department works on printing our grazing charts

Their big printing machines are amazing just like their problem solving, computer knowledge and willingness to help a paying customer.  This relationship and volume of charts generated every year has reduced the cost because we put in the hard work early and saved our template-making knowledge. Another local advantage is those nice color plotters make fantastic, large color maps of paddock layouts thus accentuating the grazing chart. They are almost inseparable at this point.

Now, we all have these agencies, groups and organizations nearby and many have large format printers. But not all of them are as helpful as the folks I work with. I don’t know if it’s because they forgot about customer service to the farmers they mean to help, or if the farmer is too demanding or not providing enough lead time to give it a try. I hope by letting others know what’s possible we will get you the same great partnership I have.

Kip Manwarren and his young printmasters work their grazing chart printing wizardry at the Colgate Universary print shop in Hamilton NY SM

You know what else has happened with this simple grazing chart exercise? Farmers and Conservation-minded professionals work together to manage environmental, financial and family resources, without the heavy presence of “programs.” Social investment is important too, as farmers are being asked to manage to higher and higher levels.

Kathy, Peter and I would like potential customers such as yourself to shake the federal, state, county or local tree for the talent and machines to get this seasonal endeavor formatted and printed without too much stress. So in case you don’t have someone with the skills to turn an Excel document into a lovely barndoor size charts, we went the next step for you.

Kathy:

As we were prepping to share this year’s grazing charts, Troy told me that a plain community dairy farmer and a printer dude had just been giving him a hard time because they couldn’t figure out how to get the grazing chart printed. We figured that if people can’t print a chart, they’re not going to use it. So, to make it easier, we decided to make PDFs of each chart. But turning them into PDFs took more effort than we thought.

Here’s the first attempt. Troy sent this to me and I took a screen shot to show him how it looked on arrival.

This seemed like a poor solution. 🙂

So, Peter Williams, (my husband and co-worker at On Pasture), and I took on the task of creating PDFs that might be a little more legible. It took us longer than expected but we finally came up with a simple transfer solution, opening the Excel files with Numbers (the Mac version of Excel) and its “Export to PDF” function.

The final step was to see if it would work for a printer. I took it over to our local Alphagraphics printshop and asked them to help me with instructions that would help a farmer or a rancher talk to a printer. I included those instructions with this year’s charts. All you have to do is download the instruction file, print it out and you have our farmer/printer translation. Take that and your grazing chart to the right kind of office/printer (ideas included in the instructions), and you’re good to go!

So, that’s the background behind your free grazing charts. As you can see there are a lot of people who have a lot of time invested in getting them to you, including the folks at SARE who funded the original development, all the farmers that worked with Troy to make it something perfect for you, Scott Ingmire and the folks at Colgate University who have printed lots of grazing charts for folks, to Troy persevering in sharing them, and now On Pasture with the help of folks from our local print shop. We hope they help you have a successful grazing season with plenty of fun and family time scheduled in! Get your chart here!

Do you like the grazing charts? Do you appreciate what On Pasture does for you? Let us know by becoming an On Pasture supporter. Ongoing Supporters are especially helpful because they tell outside funders that On Pasture is something they should support!

We can’t do it without you!

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  • Published: 4 weeks ago on March 18, 2019
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  • Last Modified: March 18, 2019 @ 2:53 pm
  • Filed Under: Consider This

About the author

contributor

Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is a seasoned grazier and grasslands advocate who owns, manages and linger-grazes at Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters, grandchildren and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raise dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased pastures. Troy also mentors farmers on holistic land management for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. This award-winning free-lance writer, essayist and photographer maintains a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com

1 Comment

  1. Curt Gesch says:

    I think a whiteboard will be my choice. We have no backup services, ag extension people, or other helpers in our area. If we did, I’d be there in a flash.

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