Sattin Hill Market Farming Course Module 1: Goal Setting (FSFS239)

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Episode Summary

This episode of Farm Small Farm Smart features the first module in the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, where Josh Sattin talks about the importance of setting goals prior to starting your farm business—from how many hours you want to work on the farm, to your expectations in your first year of farming.

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

            Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • The course: who is it for, how will it be structured, and how to get the most out of it (02:11)
  • Josh Sattin’s farming story (05:18)
  • A farm is a business (08:07)
  • Homesteading vs. farmsteading vs. farming (09:13)
  • It takes money to start a business, but don’t take on debt right away (10:27)
  • How much money do you need to make? (11:19)
  • How much time do you have to do this? (11:57)
  • What are your goals with the farm? (12:28)
  • Farming is not just a business, it’s also a lifestyle (13:17)
  • For tools, check out Paperpot Co. (13:43)
  • Starting without a lot of capital by bootstrapping (14:27)
  • Starting a farm business under $10,000 (15:52)
  • Some questions you might have (16:27)
    • Market research and sales outlets (16:32)
    • Land access (16:48)
    • Be aware of your local laws and regulations (17:52)
    • Marketing (18:23)
  • Action items to get started (19:00)
    • Set up systems early (19:06)
    • You’re going to be a bad farmer at first (19:54)
    • Gardening skills don’t translate exactly into farming (20:31)
    • Make friends with local growers (21:17)
    • Volunteer or find an apprenticeship (21:57)
    • Write out a business plan (22:23)
    • Ask for help (23:43)

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Sattin Hill Farm Course

[00:00:00] Josh Sattin: Welcome to the Sattin Hill Farm Course. I am super excited to be doing this. I've wanted to do this for a very long time, and I'm hoping that it is helpful for a lot of people out there. And before we get into this today, I have to have a huge thank you to the sponsor of the course, which is Paperpot Co. Without Diego and Paperpot Co., this whole course would never have happened. And they're really what's making it possible. So more on that later.

[00:00:28] Now, in this video today, I want to talk about setting goals and by goals, I mean goals for your farm or your homestead or your garden, but also for this course. And I want to make sure you understand how this is going to work, and we're just going to get it rolling. We have a lot of great topics coming up over the next 20 or so weeks.

[00:00:45] And I'm really excited to share them with you. So, first of all, let's get into some general housekeeping.

[00:00:53] All right. So, I'm going to start this out with a couple of disclaimers, and I often do say this, but everything that I'm going to be sharing with you is just what I�ve done, and just remember, there is no right way to do anything. So, I just share what I've done in my experiences and what works for me, but this may not work for you in your context.

[00:01:09] And there are probably better ways of doing all this stuff, but I just want to share with you what I know, what I've experienced, what's done well, and what hasn't done well. And in terms of context here, I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is in zone 7b. I live on a two-acre lot. And my total market garden is under an eighth of an acre.

[00:01:26] Just to give you a little bit of context, if you're not already familiar with my farm and what I'm doing here. Who is this course for? Well, I think it's for pretty much anyone that's interested in growing food, but specifically, it's going to be showing the systems and techniques that I've developed for my no-till market garden, growing vegetables here, and that kind of stuff.

[00:01:45] I'll talk about a lot of other things as I can incorporate it, but really, it's gonna be focusing on my farm and how it works, so you guys can see this as a model. And I think if you're just learning how to grow food in your backyard or your patio, or maybe you have a farm, and you're trying to get bigger, or just trying to get more efficient, I think it will speak to everyone out there.

[00:02:00] But really, I'm going to be focusing mainly on how this is set up in my farm here. The structure of the course. Well, as I said in the intro video�hopefully you got a chance to watch that�there'll be one video a week. They'll be coming out on Thursday mornings. And what I'm going to be doing is I'll be turning the comments off, so as you can see down below, there are no comments on this video.

[00:02:17] And the reason for that is I want to treat this more like a course and not just a YouTube video. And I'm trying to get a little creative with it, but one thing is I want to try to, as I said, make it more like a course. So, you come and watch this video, and then we're going to do a live stream Monday afternoons at 3:00 PM Eastern, right on this channel.

[00:02:36] So I know that time doesn't work for everybody, but that's the time that works for me. And that's important because I'm super busy, and I have a lot of family obligations and stuff. So again, videos will come out on Thursday. You have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday to watch them.

[00:02:48] And then the livestreams will be on Monday. The livestreams will stay up, but that's when they'll be happening live, if you want to come in and participate in those. So if you have questions, that's when you want to come and ask them. There will also be a playlist with all of the videos, and I'll put that together as we go along.

[00:03:04] And the other thing I want to point out is there'll be chapters down below at the bottom of the screen here, where you're watching. So if you need to skip around or do you want to get to a certain topic or rewatch a certain topic, that's there for your reference as well. Just like every other video I put on YouTube, there'll be related videos and links to products and stuff like that down below.

[00:03:22] So if you want to follow up and have more questions with what I'm talking about, there'll be additional resources down below for you guys to check out. Now, how do you get the most out of this course? Well, as a former teacher, if you don't know, I taught high school math for five years, and one thing that I always tried to do was have students learn how to learn, because if someone just spoon feeds you information all the time if that doesn't directly apply to your context, you don't have any problem solving skills.

[00:03:48] So what I really want to try to emphasize is I will provide as much information as possible and additional resources, but you need to sometimes watch this video more than once, or any of these videos more than once, watch digital resources and think through it and try to figure out some of the answers yourself.

[00:04:03] And then that's what the live streams for, if you guys want to come and ask me questions there. So again, don't like just bombard me with DMs and emails and stuff like that because I'm just super busy, and I need to focus on this. So please come to the live stream if you can make it then, and that's when I'll be taking questions.

[00:04:19] So again, this will be set up so it's like you can do it yourself. There'll be lots of resources there. And if you do have questions, as I said, try to watch through the video again and look at those videos and hopefully, you'll get some of those questions answered.

[00:04:35] Before we start talking about setting up goals and structure for your farm business, I want to give you a little bit of a backstory about my context and my story, because I think it helps when you kind of understand where I've come from and what I've gone through and understand what my experiences are.

[00:04:50] So most of you know this stuff if you've been following along the channel, but we bought this property about six years ago, and it's a two-acre suburban lot in Raleigh, North Carolina. And when we moved here, my family wanted to start growing some of our own food and try to live a little more sustainably.

[00:05:05] And so we started by like getting chickens and then eventually, getting into, setting up a market garden, because I was like, I'm just the kind of person that goes all in on whatever I'm doing. So I started setting a bed just like market gardeners, because that, to me, that was like the coolest way of growing vegetables.

[00:05:19] And all of a sudden, I had too much food, and I had friends that were like, Hey, we'll buy food from you. So, I started doing like a vegetable delivery box program, kind of like a CSA, but it was week to week. I literally barely knew what I was doing, but I was learning how to grow food and learning how to start a business and learning how to do marketing and all that kind of stuff.

[00:05:38] And so I use Instagram to market my farm. And then in my second season, which was in 2019, that's when I started the YouTube channel because I was getting a lot of questions about growing, and I wanted to be able to share my resources and what I was going through on my little farm here in North Carolina.

[00:05:55] And so that really has been me trying to find a balance between the YouTube and farming at the same time. So, it's always been a part-time farm for me. And at the end of 2019, I was introduced to some people at Raleigh City Farm, and they offered me a position to manage the farm there. And it is a non-profit urban farm located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

[00:06:17] And many of you have seen all the things that went on during 2020. We rebuild that farm basically from the ground up and had a great experience with a bunch of just like super cool people and interns and volunteers and made some great friends. But what happened at the end of that year as I came back home to farm myself again, because I really firmly believe in the for-profit model when it comes to farming, non-profits, didn't quite sit with me after a while.

[00:06:43] So what it allowed me to do was just rebuild the farm completely. And so as of now, I have three 14x100 foot tunnels and a nursery, and that's basically it. So, I don't have any animals here anymore. I have a very simple operation. It allows me to farm part-time and still grow and sell food every single week.

[00:07:02] And I absolutely love this setup right now. And I think one thing that I'm really excited to share with you is really my systems here, because that's how I think that's�I'm very system-oriented, and I really want to show you everything I have in here to help you think through some of the things, some of the decisions in setting up a farm and making it run really efficiently.

[00:07:21] So, that's where I'm at right now. This is now going to be my fifth season in 2022. But luckily, I've certainly built three farms. This farm has been built twice because after I left here, it got wiped clean, and we rebuilt it in a completely different way, so that's my backstory. That's what I'm up to. And let's start talking about how a farm is a business.

[00:07:48] So a farm is a business, and I think we all need to accept that because if you don't accept that, and a farm is this just fun thing that you do, it's not going to be a farm very long. That's really more of a homestead. And we'll get into that in a second, but for a farm to be sustainable, it has to be a sustainable business.

[00:08:03] And I can't be�I can't stress this enough, because if a farm isn't making money, if you're not making a profit from your farm, then you will not be doing this very long. Even if it's a passion of yours, unless you have a whole bunch of money set aside, and you're independently wealthy, and you can just do this for fun, but I don't know many people like that.

[00:08:18] So, we really need to focus on how we can be productive. We can save time. We can actually make money and support your family with this kind of stuff. And I think that's one of the big things I want to talk about with this model, because it's going to get scaled up quite a bit. So, let's first talk about the difference between homesteading, and what I call farmsteading, and then farming.

[00:08:38] So homesteading is where you are growing food for your family, maybe some friends, and you're not selling any food. You're just growing whatever you can, whatever you like to eat, maybe have a little bit extra, maybe you share with people, that kind of stuff. If you have a little backyard garden or you have a couple chickens or whatever, you can be homesteading.

[00:08:53] Some people take this much further and grow the majority of their food or even all their food, and that's really, really cool. Now sometimes, when you get into homesteading, you wind up having a ton of food. You have like, way more than you can save, preserve, give to friends, that kind of stuff. And you start thinking like, maybe I should sell some of this.

[00:09:09] Maybe I should like go to a farmer's market, that kind of stuff. And that's what I kind of call farmsteading where it's just a little bit of extra income. And then lastly is, we're going to talk about farming, which is when you're treating it as a business. And so, you don't have to�you know, there's no problem being any of those stages and going back and forth.

[00:09:25] Like if you're just homesteading and you try farmsteading and you try selling some products and go back to homesteading, that's fine. Or if you're farming full-time, and then you want to go, Hey, I just want to do this part-time or I want to just homestead, that's fine too. So, you can be at any of those stages, but I think you need to realize where you're at and sort of what your goals are for your farm.

[00:09:43] And how that makes sense for your family and your family finances. So if you're going to be talking about farm business, you do need capital to start a farm because frankly, to start any business, you need capital to do that. And I know a lot of people want to get started building a farm for $2,000 or $3,000.

[00:10:02] And frankly, you need more money. You need stuff to buy infrastructure, to build your business, to do marketing, all the kind of stuff that you need to do. It does take money to start a business, but I highly recommend that you do not take on debt. And I think that I have some great strategies to help you with this.

[00:10:17] But one thing that's important is like, until you get into this, you may not realize that you want to do this. So don't take on a whole bunch of debt, and you're also going to be learning a lot along the way. So, it's okay to just put your toe in the water, you do some farmsteading or maybe you do some homesteading, but I really recommend that you build up the equity that you have in the infrastructure, maybe over time, before taking on debt.

[00:10:40] So the big questions you have to ask yourself is how much money do you actually need to make? If you're going to be using this as a part-time income or full-time income, you need to actually figure out like, can you get by on 40,000, 60,000, 80,000?

[00:10:53] What is the number that you need to supply money for your family and keep that afloat? And we can all get like careful about our finances and stuff like that, but make sure you are realistic about how much money you need to make and do some actual calculations. If it's just on a piece of paper, if it's on a spreadsheet, whatever it needs to do, there's no right or wrong way to do this, but please, be realistic about this and really think about how much money you need.

[00:11:18] Also, how much time do you have to do this, right? So, for me, I can't do this full-time because I'm doing YouTube and other videography work, and I'm also a dad and a husband. So, for me, I know how much time. I put in about 15 to 20 hours a week for the farm. Now, you have to be realistic about that.

[00:11:34] Maybe when you're younger, you could work a full-time job and have all this energy and you can work early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends, and kind of make it work. And I think that works for a little while, and I think there's a lot of great strategy involved in that, but be realistic about how much time you have.

[00:11:49] Also think about what your goals are. What are your goals for year one, year two, year three? It's helpful to write these down, brainstorm, show them to other people. Talk with your partner, your spouse, your friends about these kinds of things, and get some feedback about it. Do you want to keep the small farm�er, keep the farm small? Or do you plan on like, growing the farm bigger? Do you want it to like, be a multi�a multiple acre farm?

[00:12:11] Do you want to have employees? Do you want to be more of a manager? Do you want to keep it nice and small where you have your hands in the dirt all the time, and you're doing all this stuff, and you're talking to the customers, and you're selling things, and you're going to the farmer's market?

[00:12:22] So these are kind of the overall goals that you have to think about because these are�this is how you're going to structure your business, because you have to think about the capital you need to get started and all the other things that go in line with that. But these are the questions you really want to be asking yourself when you get started.

[00:12:38] And the other thing is you have to remember: farming is not just a business, but it's also a lifestyle. You are tied to the farm. You are going to be doing something on the farm every single day, no matter what. And if you go away, someone has to take care of it for you. You are really tied to it, so that means taking less vacations.

[00:12:54] It means going, doing stuff on holidays and in bad weather and all that kind of stuff. And you really have to think about that when you start relying on the income from your farm. As you're putting your farm business together, you're going to be thinking about purchasing some tools and equipment. And for that, I highly recommend you check out Paperpot Co.

[00:13:10] Paperpot Co. is the sponsor of this entire course. They sell really high-quality tools that are both time and labor-saving. They are a trusted supplier, and they have great customer service. There's also some great resources on their website, so there's links down below for you. Check them out. I highly recommend Paperpot Co. for some of your next purchases. Go check out what they have. And I really want to thank Diego and Paperpot Co. for making this whole course possible.

[00:13:37] Now, we can talk about our growth plan and how to get started, because I think a lot of people don't have access to capital when you want to start a farm business. And let's talk about some ways you can bootstrap your farm, because I think that you can do this, but it takes a little bit longer and you have to work extra hours.

[00:13:53] So you're putting in time versus money. And when you're really eager to do something, and you don't have the capital, you can do that. And so, what I highly recommend is starting part-time, start with that farmsteading model or just a small farm business where you're not like relying on your income. Maybe you have another job that you're working a normal 40-hour week or whatever.

[00:14:12] And you can put an extra time here or there to try to learn how to grow better food, to learn how to build infrastructure, to get your systems in place. And what you can do is start with something like two or three tunnels and a bunch of beds. And start growing vegetables and getting better growing those things and selling them.

[00:14:28] And all the money that you take from the farm business, you can then reinvest that in infrastructure, more tunnels, more composts, better tools, that kind of stuff, and really dial things in. But if you can start small and build just what you need and then get your business going, you can just reinvest that money. And that way, you can work on this on the side, maybe it takes a few years.

[00:14:50] And in that time period where you're part-time farming, you'll realize, like, hey, I absolutely love this. Like I want to go full-time, or maybe this isn't the right thing for me. Or maybe I'm just not really good at this. Or maybe I made some guesses about the market here and if that's going to be able support what I'm doing.

[00:15:08] And so, starting part-time I think is great, and taking that money and reinvesting. For me, one of these tunnels, plus the compost and the irrigation and pretty much everything I need to start one of these tunnels is going to be about $3,000. So, for under $10,000, you could have two or three tunnels, the tools, the wash pack station, all that kind of stuff, and you can get going.

[00:15:30] Now, that's not going to give you a full time income, but within a year, you can pay yourself back and have more money to then reinvest in the farm. So anyways, that's a great way to get bootstrapped and to start your business on having less capital.

[00:15:46] If you're looking to get started with a farm business, there are some questions that you're going to have to research, and you're going to get answers to. First of which is you've got to do some market research and think about your sales outlets. I will talk about this in a later video about different sales outlets and all that kind of stuff and how to decide between that.

[00:16:00] But you gotta think about where you are, what people are getting in terms of money for certain kinds of produce, and then you can go back and calculate how much money you can make, and I think that's really important. Land access is huge. Make sure you have a place you can do this farm. The nice thing is with this model, as I said, I'm under an eighth of an acre, so it's very small.

[00:16:18] You can, if you're in an urban area, you can even farm on other people's lands or if you're in a rural area, it�d probably be even easier to find land to farm on. You'd be surprised if you are�you work out some sort of agreement in terms of either money or maybe someone letting you use their land and giving them food or some sort of bartering system.

[00:16:36] If you really want to do this, there are ways to get to land. Don't like, give yourself the excuse where, oh, when I can buy like, 20 acres, then I'll start a farm. Well, you don't need a lot of space. I'm on a two-acre lot here. And I said, this whole thing is under an eighth of an acre. So maybe you have a friend, maybe there's a church nearby that�s not using land.

[00:16:53] Maybe there's a school, maybe there's some other way to incorporate what you're doing into another piece of land and kind of, maybe it's a win-win situation. Maybe there's a symbiotic relationship with that organization, too, and you can provide food or education or things like that.

[00:17:07] So keep that in mind. There's a lot of other ways to get at it versus just like buying land. Also, please, research your local laws and regulations, zoning, et cetera, those kinds of things. People ask me all the time, but I am not an expert. You need to figure out what works in where you are and you have to do your research.

[00:17:24] You might need to talk to an attorney or maybe your local government and figure out what's going on and make sure you're not going to get in trouble moving forwards. And then if there's any laws or regulations, make sure you're covering your butt there and making sure that you're not gonna get in trouble down the line.

[00:17:37] Cause that would be terrible if you built your farm, put all this money and time into it, started running, and then ran into some issues. Also, keep in mind who is going to be doing the marketing for your farm. A lot of farmers really do enjoy the growing and the farming part of it. But if you aren't marketing your farm and getting in front of customers and selling it, then all the food you grow is worth nothing.

[00:17:55] So if you cannot do the marketing yourself, please find someone that can and get some help with that because when you are doing this direct sales�this is how the small farm model works�we've got to sell directly to the customer, we actually have to do all the marketing as well. So, who's going to be doing the marketing, figure that out if it's not you. And if it is you, figure it out, learn how to do it. If not, get some help with that.

[00:18:19] Now that you thought about some of those questions and did some homework and some research and tried to figure out what the game plan is going to be, here's some action items to get started. Really want to stress the importance of setting up systems early, that you can grow into, as the farm expands.

[00:18:34] So, I'm a huge proponent, and this is going to be a theme throughout this course of putting in a whole bunch of work upfront so that you can do less work day-to-day and week-to-week. And I think that's going to be super important to do, so any sort of systems in terms of wash pack, tools, soil management, infrastructure, irrigation, all that stuff that I've personally put a lot of time in upfront is what's allowing me to run this farm really efficiently every single day.

[00:19:00] And that's, I think really important. It's important, not only on this size farm, but larger farms. And I think that's a huge proponent of the no-till system is by putting all the work up front, so that you have a lot less energy going into it, moving forwards. Keep in mind that you're going to be a bad farmer at first.

[00:19:16] So your yields are probably going to be a third of what you expect to be in the first year. Every year, you do get better, but there's always crop losses, and there's always curve balls. But keep in mind, like, you see people like myself and farmers that are way better than me at all this stuff. You see their pictures on Instagram.

[00:19:31] You hear them talking about their yields. You hear them talking about this many dollars per acre. You realize you're not going to be anywhere close to that for a while. Those are like the best people at this. So be realistic with how much you can grow and how much you can sell and really scale back your expectations.

[00:19:44] And I think whatever you start thinking about in terms of yields and all that kind of stuff, I would say probably a quarter to a third of what you expect. Now, if you are gardener, let's say you're a backyard gardener, and you're thinking about farmsteading or farming, and you think that the skills will translate, well they don't translate exactly.

[00:20:02] And there's a lot of things you can get from gardening, but when you start doing it at scale, and you start planting this many plants in a small space, there are different issues that arise, so just because you're a good gardener does not mean you're going to necessarily be a good farmer. And if you're a good farmer, you may not be a great gardener.

[00:20:17] Like, I'm not a great gardener. I'm a better farmer than I am a gardener. So, keep that in mind, too. But it's important to start growing food. So if you are just gardening, make sure you're just trying out a lot of different kinds of crops, learning what grows well in your area, what you like to grow, what people want to buy, or what your family likes to eat, those kinds of things.

[00:20:34] But start growing food, because it's going to take a lot of experience to get better at those things. Make friends with local farmers, other growers in the area. If you can do that, they'll tell you so many things that are unique to your area. I know when I started this YouTube channel, I could not find a lot of information about growing in the south east.

[00:20:50] And that's one of the reasons I wanted to share what I was doing. There was a lot of information coming out of the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast and Canada. And so for me, now that I've met a lot of other growers in the area, I can ask them questions, and we can share knowledge and those sorts of things.

[00:21:03] So if you can do that, that's great. I think one of the best ways is to just go to local farmer's market and chat up the�you know, buy some products first from some farmers, chat them up if you're like, Hey, I'm trying to start this thing. I'm sure they'll want to talk to you as long as they're not super busy. But yeah, meet some food people that are local.

[00:21:17] The other thing you can try to do, if you don't want to just jump right in, is try to find an apprenticeship or volunteer somewhere. This can be tricky sometimes. Not all farmers want to have volunteers on their farms. A lot of people ask me all the time, and I don't take volunteers because this is my family.

[00:21:31] Like, we all�we live here, and I want to keep it private, but there's a lot of people that will let you come out for a day, a week, a month. You can do some WWOOFing. There's a lot of opportunities out there if you are someone that wants to do some hands-on experience before jumping in. But, you can do that or you can not, you can also get started.

[00:21:47] As I said before, do your research. Start answering all those questions, and try to think through your business plan. And that leads me to talking about writing a business plan. I think it is important to write a business plan, but don't get hung up on the format. Like, I think there's traditional formats for writing business plans, and you don't need to worry about that.

[00:22:05] What the business plan�to me, and I've written business plans before, it's really� What's important about writing the business plan is writing the business plan. It�s going through that exercise of what's important, how it's going to work, put it in writing. And the biggest thing for me is working on a spreadsheet, working through profit and loss.

[00:22:22] So even if you don't know, like all these technical terms, like look at your inputs, look at your outputs, think about labor, think about other things that might come up, and that's when you can start figuring out if the business is going to work or not. You know, in the exercise of trying to start other businesses I've tried to start in the past, that's the first thing I do before putting any money into the business or any real time or energy into the businesses.

[00:22:46] Figure out like, can this actually make money and do be realistic about your expectations. Because the worst thing you can do is think you're going to make a whole bunch of money because you're thinking best case scenario, and then you get into it and you don't.

[00:22:57] So try to be concerned with it, but make sure that you are going through and doing the exercise. Also, if you have questions about starting a business or building a farm, ask for help about things that you don't understand. And the other thing you could do is hire a consultant. That's another definite opportunity.

[00:23:14] If you really have questions, you can�you know, the people that I've helped�and I'm not here just to advertise my consulting�but when I have helped other farmers get started, the amount of information you can get out of someone in an hour who's knowledgeable, and it may be an attorney, it could be a farmer, it could be an irrigation specialist.

[00:23:33] It could be someone helping you with rainwater capture or renewable energy or whatever the specialty is, the amount of information you get out of someone like that in an hour or something is totally worth it. You could save so much money and frustration down the road. So, keep that in mind as well.

[00:23:52] Well, that wraps up this video. And there was a lot of things in there for you to think about. I think you have your homework. If you are looking to start a farm business, but lots of things to research, calculate, think through. And as I said, be realistic and ask those tough questions because the worst thing would be to get started and fail.

[00:24:07] We want to be successful. We want to have a sustainable business, and we want to make money and enjoy what we�re doing. So, as I said before, if you have questions about this, there'll be related videos down below. And if you have questions that you would like answered, please, I'll see you on Monday afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern for the live Q and A.

[00:24:23] Otherwise, thanks for watching. And we will see you in a week, talking about researching your market.


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