Author Topic: Anyone do farming as a side business?  (Read 1728 times)

nara

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Anyone do farming as a side business?
« on: April 15, 2018, 03:34:02 PM »
Does anyone here do small scale farming as a way to earn income? We live on 5 acres and have a garden and young fruit trees. We are considering the possibility of doing a CSA or selling at farmer's markets in a few years after we are FI. Would love to hear experiences from others who are doing this successfully or may have similar plans.

less4success

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 03:57:09 PM »
Posting to follow (unfortunately, I don't have anything to add other than to express interest in this topic :)

Gone Fishing

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 04:08:06 PM »
We've sold extra animals on occasion, but never pursued it as a source of cash.  All of our production has been for home consumption. Everything I considered as a cash crop just didn't yield a high enough per hour return to make it worth my while. Plus I wanted to keep the farm fun, as soon as it becames a job, the fun factor drops considerably. It also gets in the way of our summer travels!

ender

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 04:20:33 PM »
My wife told me earlier today that she thinks I'll retire early and then sell stuff at the farmer's though we don't right now due to land constraints.

There are a ton of resources out there for how to get started farming on relatively low budget, too. I often listen to Curtis Stone (http://theurbanfarmer.co/) who has a nice vlog on youtube about urban farming, which is growing food on even smaller land.

That being said, I don't think anyone who does this would say it's an easy way to pull in income. It's a lot of work. 

furrychickens

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2018, 11:35:06 AM »
Are you drawn more towards animals? Plants?

For primarily veg focused farming, some great resources:

Farmer to Farmer podcast ó> this covers a huge diversity of business models and scales within vegetable farming, also gets into life stories and evolution of farms rather than just nuts and bolts production
Farm Small, Farm Smart podcast ó> tends to focus mostly on salad green and other high profit (but high labor) crops
Curtis Stone YouTube channel
Diego Footer YouTube channel (Diego does the Farm Small podcast as well)

For animal farming, my favorite is the Grass Fed Life podcast.

For a fascinating diversified farmer in a very challenging climate (rural Sweden) who is very Mustachian in his approach to using as much salvaged materials, but also knowing when to invest heavily in expensive projects, etc. watch Richard Perkins on YouTube.

Lots of others. A lot really depends on your area, what niches there are in the market that are underserved in quantity, quality, or variety, and what you enjoy doing.

I really wouldnít even think of doing it if you donít enjoy the process. You have to really love it.

If youíre not already familiar with spreadsheets, learn to love them. Way too many farmers, especially at hobby/PT level, are terrible at spreadsheets and drastically undercharge for their product, and as a result are working for well below minimum wage.

I love talking stuff like this, though I personally am an urban homesteader without the time or land base to sell much currently. I track my animal expenses (chicken eggs and meat rabbits) to the penny as if I was a commercial farmer, but gardening I do just for fun now after trying a small remote market garden for a couple years that took too much time away from my homeschool duties.

ghsebldr

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2018, 03:20:15 PM »
 I went the local nursery route the first time out of the gate. Got tired of getting laid off as a machinist so we developed our own jobs in a small town nursery. Years of hard work later we sold out and split up. Seems the only time you really make any real cash is when you sell out.

 I semi retired a few years later after starting and selling another nursery in Socal. On returning to Washington I put up a greenhouse (20x150)and started growing for market. I loved it. You spend almost as much time working on your product but you don't have to be open seven days a week just waiting for someone to pull into your driveway.

 Farmers markets are totally addicting, once you start all you can think of is "what else can I grow and sell" After ten years doing a couple of markets a week I have finally tapered off to nothing. The greatest benefit I found to markets over a sticks and bricks nursery is that every customer that comes to the market is looking for some of  the products you grow, and at the end of the day you pack up count your cash and go home.

 Start small plan for a long run and don't let any other vendor discourage you and you will do fine. You won't get rich but I guarantee you will have fun.

Questions gladly answered

 Happy planting

ncornilsen

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2018, 04:38:04 PM »
My parents run something like 85 cows, with about that many calves and yearlings (less losses due to injury, illness or predators.)

They work full time, and do this on the side, and have done so since the mid 1980s.

Over that time, it's paid for the land they live on, most of my parents vehicles, the tractors needed to support it, and it's variable costs.

It has not ever made them much money, but it sure has given them something to do!

Fishindude

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2018, 06:51:21 AM »
We have 245 acres of farm ground.   Some is cash rented for row crops (corn & soybeans), some is wooded and some is in various CRP / wildlife habitat programs.   The cash rented ground generates an annual income.   Some of the CRP / wildlife ground generates an annual income.   The wooded ground can be logged every 15-20 years or so for income.   I take care of all of the CRP / wildlife habitat ground which requires lots of mowing, planting and re-planting, controlled burns, disking, etc.   

I wouldn't even consider farming the soils to grow crops for a profit or raising livestock for a profit.   Too much work and investment in equipment, for too little return.

nara

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2018, 09:08:24 AM »
We want to do mainly vegetable farming (focusing on garlic and mushrooms). We have animals, but they are pets (and we're vegetarian). However, we would be willing to sell wool from our sheep. We love gardening as a hobby and as a way to keep us off of our computers. I did just finish a book called The Market Gardener where the author claims that their 1.5 acre property has supported them financially for 10 years and they make over $100k per year. I don't expect to make anywhere near that much, but was surprised to see that small scale farming could actually be profitable long-term.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2018, 09:17:55 AM »
I have been toying with the idea of making a grow op on our 28 acres in Washington.   There are a lot of rules and startup costs though.

kimmarg

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2018, 11:42:03 AM »
I think it takes a LOT more work than you'd think to earn an income. I have bees. I sell honey. I have gone to a few markets but overall I don't make a lot of money for the hassle. On the other end of the spectrum I have a sign in the front yard and a box for people to stop by and pick up some honey and put money in the box. I make even less but it's zero effort so for me that's the money/effort I'm willing to do.

furrychickens

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2018, 11:42:17 AM »
We want to do mainly vegetable farming (focusing on garlic and mushrooms). We have animals, but they are pets (and we're vegetarian). However, we would be willing to sell wool from our sheep. We love gardening as a hobby and as a way to keep us off of our computers. I did just finish a book called The Market Gardener where the author claims that their 1.5 acre property has supported them financially for 10 years and they make over $100k per year. I don't expect to make anywhere near that much, but was surprised to see that small scale farming could actually be profitable long-term.

JM Fortier is a brilliant farmer. Curtis Stone has some videos, both of JMís old farm (which his wife still runs) and the new, very ambitious, very capital intensive, research farm he is running now on his YouTube channel.

Curtisí book covers a slightly different take on JMís system adapted for smaller scale and urban production, and there are many farmers using a similar 30Ē bed system, high profit crop, production model featured in both of the veg podcasts I mentioned above :)

Thereís been a lot of mention of farmers market sales, but something to consider is that you can often make a much better hourly wage (even though you sacrifice profit margin) working with food co-ops, food hubs, etc and selling wholesale. If I decide to ever tackle market farming again, I may go that route as market days can be exhausting.

asauer

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2018, 05:47:34 AM »
I haven't but most of my family are farmers.  If you're focusing on small scale fruit/ veggies here are some things to consider:
1. fast-growing, valuable crops like salad mix, baby spinach, micro greens- little investment, high yield, high value.
2. Boutique veg like French breakfast radishes, butterscotch squash, brandywine tomatoes harlequin beets, salad turnips....nobody pays good $ for carrots and corn
3. Consider a grow-house/ hoop house- your products need to be early to market if at all possible


 

nessness

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2018, 06:14:42 AM »
I have a friend who raises meat goats, which you probably wouldn't be interested in as a vegetarian. But if he has a baby that won't nurse for whatever reason, he'll bottle feed it and sell it as a pet. He recently mentioned that he thinks raising pet goats would be more profitable, as people will pay a higher price for them, and buy them at a younger age. Of course it would be labor-intensive though during kid season.

Dances With Fire

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2018, 06:22:00 AM »
I haven't but most of my family are farmers.  If you're focusing on small scale fruit/ veggies here are some things to consider:
1. fast-growing, valuable crops like salad mix, baby spinach, micro greens- little investment, high yield, high value.
2. Boutique veg like French breakfast radishes, butterscotch squash, brandywine tomatoes harlequin beets, salad turnips....nobody pays good $ for carrots and corn
3. Consider a grow-house/ hoop house- your products need to be early to market if at all possible

+1 I have been thinking about doing this after Mega-corp. (I love gardening, there is ALWAYS something new to learn.) That said, I also have talked with a number of venders at the local market. I would suggest that you do the same to get an idea of what it takes. Time, work, and resources.

One young grower that I talked to said that he had to "make one big sale" just to "break even" to pay for fuel, supplies, etc.

Not saying that you shouldn't do what you enjoy, however if you are looking to make a profit at it, really do your homework to see what is the best way to make it all work...And it is a lot of work. Best of Luck to you.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2018, 07:45:52 AM by Dances With Fire »

Rightflyer

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2018, 01:11:24 PM »
Yes, we have done this.

It is more marketing than farming.

-Growing things is easy.

-Growing things to sell is harder.

-Growing what is easy to sell is harder still.

-Growing what is easy to sell profitably is the pinnacle.

It is a business and it needs to be run like a business, not a hobby.

@ghsebldr has the most resonant reply for me.
If you like it do it and if you make some "pin money" you should be happy.
If you only do it to make money, you will hate it.

One real tangible benefit is the exercise and interaction with generally decent folk.



 




Imma

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Re: Anyone do farming as a side business?
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2018, 02:09:21 PM »
I have a friend who raises meat goats, which you probably wouldn't be interested in as a vegetarian. But if he has a baby that won't nurse for whatever reason, he'll bottle feed it and sell it as a pet. He recently mentioned that he thinks raising pet goats would be more profitable, as people will pay a higher price for them, and buy them at a younger age. Of course it would be labor-intensive though during kid season.

I can confirm this, as someone who's family used to breed rabbits. It was a hobby rather than business, but it still brought in some moeny. A family member was breeding show rabbits and 90% of the young animals just isn't good enough for that. The animals are perfectly healthy, but they might have the wrong shape of ear, the wrong colour of coat etc. We sold the "leftovers" (which sounds kind of crude, but I don't know a better word) as pets and I think at some point we even had a waiting list. An animal good enough for breeding can also earn a lot of money, but it takes a lot of time and effort, building up your blood line year after year.

( Just to be clear: all our animals were treated well and had quality food. We weren't running some kind of bunny mill. )