Author Topic: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?  (Read 7501 times)

farmstache

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Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« on: May 24, 2013, 10:42:22 PM »
I know most mustachians at least try their hand on a bit of gardening, but what about actual farming? Plants can be self-sustainable, and maybe even a few chickens, which will also provide fertilizer for the plants if you need some besides a good compost pile. But I know how anti-mustachian it is to have a dog, so what about sheep, goats, cows, pigs? Growing your own meat and wool? Selling extra? Would the maintenance costs involved be just too much?

Are there any mustachians out there that can give their two cents on this?

gooki

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2013, 01:05:41 AM »
My 2 cents.

Forget about:
Wool
Dairy farming

Both require large amounts of capital to make them work


I would investigate:
Crops
Eggs from chickens
Lamb form meet (1 year old sheep)
Pigs (in conjunction with crops)
Buying/selling cattle (I.e. part raising them).

BlackRat

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2013, 02:18:18 AM »
I wouldn't say any lifestyle is necessarily un-mustaschian and a semi-self sufficient one seems like one of the most compatible - producing your own food, and quite a lot of entertainment and potentially producing extra to trade or sell.

It could earn you money or cost you a lot depending on what you keep...
Horses aren't really going to be productive and will just cost you money, chooks or sheep can be not much work, meat goats or shedding/carpet sheep don't need shearing but goats need better fences, dairy animals take more work and usually need supplementary feeding, I think it would be quite difficult to butcher a whole beef cow by yourself. My landlord's parents get a butcher in to kill a couple of cows every year and they give (or sell, at cost) a lot of it to their 4 kids or their friends (they have a 600 acre farm with beef and sheep). My step-father has 14 acres and has 2 cows which he breeds a bull belonging to a farmer down the road (he doesn't pay, but he usually does him some sort of favour); he sells the calves and ends up with several hundred dollars a year. His 14 acres was overgrazed when he got it, and then we had a drought for about 8 years, but he could probably stock 3 or 4 cows now if he wanted - this is a pretty simple way to make some money out of your land, but more management means you can keep more stock, but spend more time.

We know a couple of people who have sheep and if they have orphan lambs they're often happy to give some away for nothing - you have to buy milk for them (as powder, so not hugely expensive), when we lived out of town we raised some for meat. I know a lady who built herself a small flock like this, so she didn't pay for them.
If you don't overstock or have a drought (or really bad winters) sheep, meat goats and beef cows should live on grass, dairy animals need more nutrient/energy dense food to keep up with the demands on their bodies while they're lactating. When I kept dairy goats it cost maybe $50/month in feed for 2 does in milk, they weren't on grass but usually got a couple of large tree branches a few times a week. It was usually $50 for a stud fee to get them bred, unregistered doe kids sold for ~$80-100, and you could probably get $40 for a whether (desexed male) - registered animals are worth a lot more, bucks bring similar prices to does, but there is still a limited market for bucks - we usually ate the male kids.

If you want to live in the country you can just start simple then experiment with new animals as you get interested or feel ready for a new challenge.
As long a you work out the costs before and sick within what your money/time/land can handle it should work out ok.

Sorry its a long response - I like thinking about this!

Oh, and you can usually sell fruit, veggies and eggs (and maybe baked stuff) without a problem, if you want to sell meat of milk there are usually a lot of regulations if you want to do it legally - raising meat potentially gives you the most value (in terms of retail value) for your time and money, it just depends on whether you have to buy feed or potential vet bills. Good luck :)
(I'm mostly talking about farming as a hobby/side hustle, it could be a good money-maker too,)

KC

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2013, 04:45:15 AM »
Hello!
I suggest reading this post by Erica to get all the facts before getting chickens.

http://www.nwedible.com/2013/05/you-absolutely-should-not-get-backyard-chickens.html

Rural

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2013, 04:52:36 AM »
Farmers have to be Mustachian to make it. There aren't many left for a reason.

hybrid

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2013, 06:14:59 AM »
Hello!
I suggest reading this post by Erica to get all the facts before getting chickens.

http://www.nwedible.com/2013/05/you-absolutely-should-not-get-backyard-chickens.html

That was a great read, thanks for sharing.  I've never actually considered the prospect (for all sorts of practical reasons), this really drives the point home.  I'll stick to my gardening....  :)

Mr. Minsc

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2013, 08:29:50 AM »
Hello!
I suggest reading this post by Erica to get all the facts before getting chickens.

http://www.nwedible.com/2013/05/you-absolutely-should-not-get-backyard-chickens.html

As a dairy farmer a lot points she brings up are true.  A cow will only produce milk during her lactation period, this will last roughly 9-10 months. Obviously a cow will only keep producing milk by continuously having calves.  We'll average this out to a calf a year for 4-8 years.  I could go on but you see where I'm headed.

Something people may find of interest/informative:  Milk quota prices in Canada.  Basically one unit of quota allows you to produce 1kg of butter fat per day annually.  1kg of quota averages out to one cow.  Where I live, PEI, 1kg of quota is worth $25,000.  We milk on average 45-50 cows which works out to $1,125,000-$1,250,000 worth of quota.  So, if you want the ability to produce four cows worth extra of milk you either need to have $100,000 tucked away or take out a loan.  I know we don't have $100,000* in the bank.

* I'm not in charge of the books so I can not speak of how difficult/easy this would be in a business.

nubbs180

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2013, 09:11:12 AM »
It really depends on your approach to farming, and what you mean by "Mustachian."

If by Mustachian you mean part of your life that can add a great deal of happiness and some occasional income (don't count on much), then here's what I've figured for my own sake (mind you, we're paying off student loans and still in grad school, so this is theoretical advice).

If you're talking what can be called "conventional" farming, the short answer is no.

If you're talking about what can be called "surface organic" you're only slightly better off than the conventional farmer.  The surface organic farmer buys organic pesticides, buys manure from other sources for soil fertility and so on.

If you're talking deep organic, than the answer is yes.  It will be time and labor intensive, you will definitely have large herbivores and/or pigs on hand (for all your fertilizer requirements, your own food and to sell meat).  You will grow only open pollinated vegetables and save your own seed.  You will not be hiring out for any task you can do yourself--and you'd better be doing it all yourself, and very little of it with machinery to boot.  So basically, you'll be running a nearly-Amish operation.  This won't be a hobby farm, but it won't really be a "business" either because turning profits on any farm isn't easy. 

It will be an investment.  It will be a lifestyle.  It is possible.  And depending on where you're located it may actually be possible to turn profits regularly, depending on the markets.  I'd recommend a host of books to you if you're seriously considering it, but you'll have to PM me for that list.

farmstache

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2013, 09:48:01 AM »
Thank you all for the useful answers!

As for 1: the style. Yes, I'm thinking permacultural, full organic if possible, not necessarily certified (since certification costs yearly and I'd need to assure profitability which isn't really the goal - all I want is self-sustenance).

Gooki, aren't there any double-vocation sheep breeds where the ewe could give me wool while I sell/cull the lambs?

I never even thought about buying-selling cattle, but it could be something to consider. I know pig farmers that do that: they purchase at a month old and sell when it's hitting full size.

Crops and chickens are a given (specially with our current egg consumption!). I'm still unsure on what to do with all the chicken soup, though. :)

BlackRat, love your comments! Makes me think maybe I'll be able to add a milk cow to the flock eventually, or at least some goats. But the most important: I have to estimate the spend and work and see what I can do, one thing at a time. There are some good ideas there. I was thinking of, while still living in the city, having a single goat for milk, or milk-oriented sheep (also to help with lawn mowing!). It might be too much cost (will have to find out local prices), as you two pointed out, so maybe I'll just stick with the chickens for now.

Thanks for the link, KC! I haven't culled a chicken yet, just plucked and cleaned a chicken of my mother's that drowned. It's a bit of a dirty work, but I think I can get better at it from practice. I couldn't eat the chicken on the same day (a bit of a turned stomach from the process), but it was awesome on the next. I'd have no problem delivering them to a more experienced hand, either. Loved to have this new blog to read. :)

Mr. Minsc, I have no idea what quotas are. Is that what you are allowed to sell? You have to pay it? I'm totally lost. Better find out how this works for my country...

Thanks for all the replies, this really helps me think the whole process through! Also, I'm getting my first beehive of native (non-sting) bees this year (hopefully if they take the bait, otherwise I'll have to buy for R$60). So, yeah, aside from the two money-sucking optional companions of the house (dog and cat), I'll have some animals that help with pollination and even give me produce!

Mr. Minsc

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2013, 11:14:08 AM »
Mr. Minsc, I have no idea what quotas are. Is that what you are allowed to sell? You have to pay it? I'm totally lost. Better find out how this works for my country...

I can't speak for what it's like in Brazil.  To be honest I don't understand it all myself.  Something I should pay closer attention to but management is something I have yet to get all that involved in.  Here are a couple opinions on the topic:  One, two.

Onlyif

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2013, 10:07:51 PM »
I wouldn't recommend quitting whatever your current job is and trying to be a farmer.   It's not something you can learn overnight.  Start on evenings and weekends.  Compost, grow as much of your own food as possible.   Learn to cook it.  You'll save much money and discover if you really want to be a farmer.   

I recommend any books by Brett Markham,  he's an engineer and stresses using low cost optimized ways to grow lots of good food based on the latest science and his own extensive experience. 

http://www.markhamfarm.com/mainsite/?page_id=2



Ishmael

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2013, 05:48:20 AM »
I think the term you're looking for is "homesteader", as opposed to farmer.

Farming is a tough, tough industry. Lots of risk, little reward. To really compete and earn a upper-middle class living you have to have a huge mechanized operation, employees, lots of stress, capital investment, etc.

So, the homesteading option allow you to focus on 2 things: 1) reducing your living expenses, and 2) earning a bit of extra cash. What it effectively is is a part-time job. So, you have to really enjoy all the activities. Money-wise, it doesn't make a huge amount of sense, but if you enjoy it, then it's a great, fun hobby with a positive economic side. If you're looking at it purely from the POV of economics, it's a demanding job with really crappy pay.

The best thing economically is the potential tax savings, depending on your current income level and tax rate. If your marginal tax rate is 50%, then to buy a bag of potatoes you might pay $10, meaning you have to actually earn $20 to buy them. However, if you grow them yourself, you pay nothing, and don't have to earn the $20. Also, if you actually do some of it for profit you open up the small business tax credit side of things - but not an area I know much about.

So, dip your foot in slowly by planting a small garden. Do NOT get any animals at this stage - too long of a commitment. If you end up liking the gardening, try meat chickens - they are only are around for 8 weeks, but they are unpleasant and don't save you any money. The meat tastes better though, as it has actual texture and more flavour (assuming you let them "run" around the yard and eat bugs... "running", in the case of meat birds, consists of waddling a dozen feet and sitting in the shade all day, pecking at bugs if they happen to run by).

Build it up over time. If you get to the point where your job becomes a distraction, and you've managed to generate a good income, quit the job. But don't jump in with both feet.

limeandpepper

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2013, 06:06:48 AM »
I read this article last year and this kid really has my respect:

http://www.denverpost.com/athome/ci_21967690/feeling-grateful-yet-teenage-poultry-farmer-dishes-straight

It may or may not be relevant to you but it's a great read and provides, errr, food for thought. ;)

DocCyane

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2013, 06:25:05 AM »
If I were going to add anything to my gardening efforts, I would choose beekeeping. The start up costs are relatively small and you get honey and wax to use or trade. Plus it's just an awesome hobby.

Source: I'm a beekeeper

Mr. Minsc

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2013, 07:04:35 AM »
I read this article last year and this kid really has my respect:

http://www.denverpost.com/athome/ci_21967690/feeling-grateful-yet-teenage-poultry-farmer-dishes-straight

It may or may not be relevant to you but it's a great read and provides, errr, food for thought. ;)

Great article, she brings up a lot of good points.  People don't understand the true cost of food, especially the organic varieties found at the local farmers market.

On another topic, one thing I like about being on this it gives me the chance to not ignore the other side of the story.  Take for example the reason for not eating grains, I just never looked at the reasons why before.  Interesting stuff.

farmstache

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2013, 07:47:07 AM »
Thank you, guys!

Yes, I'm not thinking of farming (or homesteading) as an income source. That's why we're looking at the early-retirement kind of lifestyle - to get our main income from other sources, then dip into farming. We think we could maybe eventually turn a profit, but certainly not at first. As long as it doesn't drain the 'Stash, it's okay. We'd also like to do some bioarchitectural construction on site, and hold courses on how to do it (how do you think we'll build the barn?).

I've started growing my own vegetables, but my south-faced home (in a southern hemisphere) means a lot of wind and little sun, most of the vegetables don't last too much. Whatever I planted at my mother's house would grow like weed! It could also be the soil (though I did add compost to it, I didn't look for other things like acidity), or some other factor I'm not detecting. I'm still learning. Also, we have very very little room. I mostly grow on pots (one of them is an old concrete laundry sink). I love sprouting seeds and seeing veggies grow, but I haven't found my green thumb yet. We're looking into renting a house with at least a 1000 sq meters lot, when we move, so we can start gardening for real and see if that's really what we want.

I'm going with the garden-first approach, but really, I'm so much better with animals that I think having some 3 chickens (and the bees) could actually improve my homesteading experience. At least I wouldn't be frustrated on all sides. :)

Do chicken eat bees?

Also, thanks for the article, limeandpepper! I had seen it before, and I love it. I've known a kid who breeds chickens, ducks, cows and horses, and has a really long commute to school every day. He wakes up at 4am to take care of everyone. He spends his afternoons and early evenings taming horses for neighbors (which he learned from books and youtube and self-taught practice). While I was staying there, I kept up with his schedule to help and learn a bit, but to be fair, on vacations he'd wake up at 6am. :) It was awesome.

I hear you Mr. Minsc! I have no idea if I can even grow grain here. I think we do produce them on the southern parts of the country, but I doubt we have any where I live (except soy). Rice is okay, though it takes loads of room for little produce, like most grain. I remember reading a history book that said the first colonizers on the south of Brazil took down nut trees with trunks as large as 3m wide to clear land and plant grain. Each tree would yield 300kg of food per year (in a 4-6m radius). Rough calculations give me only 19kg of wheat on the same area. Not to consider the desertification of the region...

Erica/NWEdible

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2013, 08:12:48 PM »
Hi, I'm Erica. I wrote that "Don't get chickens post." Just in case we haven't met. :)

I'm what you might call an "input conscious large-scale urban gardener."

The input consciousness has taught me a few things. One: this can be the most productive hobby (in terms of "negabucks" generated) you'll ever have. Two: you will never save enough to justify the time investment unless you like doing it. If you love doing it, it's great. You'll eat better veggies than 99% of the country for less than what the imported 4-week old sad stale broccoli would have cost you.  If you don't really like doing it, and you're JUST in it for the savings, you are far better optimizing your grocery spending in other ways, and getting ANY other job, because your hourlies will never pencil if you try to "pay yourself" for the time you spend growing, weeding, harvesting, putting by, etc.

Here's a post I did that looks at this aspect of edible gardening in a bit more depth: http://www.nwedible.com/2013/01/is-growing-your-own-food-worth-it.html

I pretty much live and breathe this stuff (non-income-generating productive gardening and homemaking), so if you have any specific questions let me know.

Also, the stuff people think they should grow is often not what they REALLY should grow from a cost-benefit standpoint. Like, homegrown potatoes are UH-MAZE-ING but if you are looking to optimize dollars, buy the potatoes and grow leafy greens and herbs instead. Your dollar yield per foot planted will be a ton higher.

Erica/NWEdible

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2013, 08:19:09 PM »
I just saw you are in Brazil. That changes things. Go visit Permies.com if you haven't already and look around. Edible fruit and nut tree-based food forests are probably ideal for your climate. Very self-sustaining, minimal input. Lots of time to set up in terms of thinking it through, but once established an edible permaculture-style garden system will require far less hands on time to maintain.  Permaculture is possible everywhere, but many of the concepts seems to be especially well suited to more tropical climates. Livestock can be incorporated (and in fact should be, to keep a more closed-loop system) later on when and if you are ready for it. Have fun!

farmstache

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2013, 09:03:08 AM »
Sweet, Erica!

Glad to see you are here! :)

I loved your post. Actually, urban homesteading here is so young (in this generation) that people aren't craving chickens, they actually consider me crazy. So I don't think we'll have a problem soon with people adopting chickens and then not knowing what to do with them. My mom, for instance, simply can't kill or eat her chickens, but she prepares it for those who will without a problem. I think each person deals in their own way with death and killing to eat.

As for what we call AgroForest - yeah! The key with moving out to the country, where I'll have more room, is to be able to plant trees. I'm not sure you ever stopped to google earth any brazilian city or town. Even our smallest towns are organized in the same way - and that means small plots with houses that occupy most of them, if not all (even though legally they should keep 30% dirt/vegetation floor for water drainage). So we really don't find good urban lots with enough room for gardening, unless you go for even larger houses (if you go high profile, you can find a 400sq meters house in a 500sq m lot - and you get a whole 100sqm garden to plant!). That's why we're looking at smaller towns, where "countryside" is still close enough for a daily commute.

I'm not saying I'm 100% sure I'll love it. I loved growing pumkins, because they were so easy and low maintenance, but I'm really frustrated with tomatoes and beans. Beans specially, because they sprout so beautifully and quickly! And then either ants get them, or they wilt without me knowing why. So maybe I'll have to find what I can deal with. In our community garden things are going better - but then, there's always so many people paying attention that hardly any problem goes unnoticed.

BlackRat

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2013, 06:55:06 AM »
I like the post about the teenage chicken farmer - once you get commercial it gets harder... you could probably trade a home butchered chicken for a similar amount without having to pay $5/chicken, it just wouldn't be legal.

I don't think chickens usually eat bees, rabbits might work well in town as well, unless you can get veggie scraps to feed them it probably won't be cheaper than buying food, but it would give you some experience. Or maybe you could do something with fish and aquaponics... it looks a bit complicated to set up a system, but it wouldn't take much space.

DK

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Re: Can you be a farmer and Mustachian at the same time?
« Reply #20 on: May 29, 2013, 10:36:15 AM »
Hi, I'm Erica. I wrote that "Don't get chickens post." Just in case we haven't met. :)

I'm what you might call an "input conscious large-scale urban gardener."

The input consciousness has taught me a few things. One: this can be the most productive hobby (in terms of "negabucks" generated) you'll ever have. Two: you will never save enough to justify the time investment unless you like doing it. If you love doing it, it's great. You'll eat better veggies than 99% of the country for less than what the imported 4-week old sad stale broccoli would have cost you.  If you don't really like doing it, and you're JUST in it for the savings, you are far better optimizing your grocery spending in other ways, and getting ANY other job, because your hourlies will never pencil if you try to "pay yourself" for the time you spend growing, weeding, harvesting, putting by, etc.

Here's a post I did that looks at this aspect of edible gardening in a bit more depth: http://www.nwedible.com/2013/01/is-growing-your-own-food-worth-it.html

I pretty much live and breathe this stuff (non-income-generating productive gardening and homemaking), so if you have any specific questions let me know.

Also, the stuff people think they should grow is often not what they REALLY should grow from a cost-benefit standpoint. Like, homegrown potatoes are UH-MAZE-ING but if you are looking to optimize dollars, buy the potatoes and grow leafy greens and herbs instead. Your dollar yield per foot planted will be a ton higher.

Not to hijack - but I like your site Erica. Do you happen to have any tips on my somewhat-similar-but-just-started site? I finally got around to starting it after the Blog article on MMM. (Or wait - maybe are we competitors in the online gardening blogging world...)

I'm more or less playing it by ear writing stuff that comes to mind and setting things up on it.

www.thebackyardmicrofarm.com