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The three income streams - what are you doing?  RSS feed

 
Gary Lewis
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Location: Maine, USA
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There seem to be three income streams people are following - work off-farm to finance things, sell farm produce and/or make money online. I am trying my hand at all three of thse (well..the first is still a hand over of my move to homesteading). Here are my notes on these: http://www.almostafarmer.com/homestead-income-streams/

What are other folks doing to provide cash for their dreams?

How many folks are working off-farm?
How are people doing selling products?
Who is making a real living online (and how)?

Gaz
www.almostafarmer.com
 
Ryan Harp
Posts: 97
hugelkultur urban woodworking
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Great topic, Gary.

This is a subject that pings around my head a good deal and I know we're not alone. I'm lucky to really like my 9-5 job developing online education which has a very bright future for telecommuting. For now I'm happy with a predictable work schedule that lets me spend plenty of time with my young family and working on my many projects. I also have a lot more to learn so until we can transition into a few acres or so our suburban back yard is proving to be a great laboratory.

So after that transition, tentatively the income streams would be as follows:

- Freelance Online Education / Corporate Training Development
- Some type of farm income, a small orchard long term would be ideal
- Would also be relying on talents from my first career as an artisan/craftsman

The craftsman gig I've been part time with for many years already and have recently discovered a really promising angle to boost the income from this model. There is a site called Patreon.com that is a way that online content providers, bloggers, youtubers, musicians and the such can essentially get tipped by their fans on a per project or monthly basis. It works a lot like Kickstarter but it's an ongoing service, not just for a single project. I've started making videos of my projects in hopes that I can develop an audience of sorts. It doesn't cost me anything to record these projects as I have all the equipment already and the client's projects are getting built no matter what. Stacking functions! Not a sure bet but I'm confident that if I can find the time to edit the videos and engage with the viewers it will be a worthwhile experience.

Thanks for sharing the article and for this conversation!
 
Gary Lewis
Posts: 132
Location: Maine, USA
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Ryan Harp wrote:Great topic, Gary.

This is a subject that pings around my head a good deal and I know we're not alone. I'm lucky to really like my 9-5 job developing online education which has a very bright future for telecommuting. For now I'm happy with a predictable work schedule that lets me spend plenty of time with my young family and working on my many projects. I also have a lot more to learn so until we can transition into a few acres or so our suburban back yard is proving to be a great laboratory.

So after that transition, tentatively the income streams would be as follows:

- Freelance Online Education / Corporate Training Development
- Some type of farm income, a small orchard long term would be ideal
- Would also be relying on talents from my first career as an artisan/craftsman

The craftsman gig I've been part time with for many years already and have recently discovered a really promising angle to boost the income from this model. There is a site called Patreon.com that is a way that online content providers, bloggers, youtubers, musicians and the such can essentially get tipped by their fans on a per project or monthly basis. It works a lot like Kickstarter but it's an ongoing service, not just for a single project. I've started making videos of my projects in hopes that I can develop an audience of sorts. It doesn't cost me anything to record these projects as I have all the equipment already and the client's projects are getting built no matter what. Stacking functions! Not a sure bet but I'm confident that if I can find the time to edit the videos and engage with the viewers it will be a worthwhile experience.

Thanks for sharing the article and for this conversation!


Hi Ryan

Sounds like you and me are coming from almost the same background in education - and I am so very lucky to be able to telecommute. But this whole concept has been heavily on my mind for a number of years now, and I am working at ways to transition (in maybe 5 years) to having more income from the second two streams so I am not totally reliant on the first. It will be a hard transition to be sure - i love my off-farm job, it pays well and I can telecommute...so my head grapples with the 'why change??" issue.

For me its one about being flexible....the world is changing and I don't want to find myself in a position where the off-farm job ends and I am struggling.

Gaz
 
Ryan Harp
Posts: 97
hugelkultur urban woodworking
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One factor that conserns me most is planning for health care. Looking at a 5 year goal to be self employed, and an everchanging HC system, it's a pretty big dark spot on what moves to be making to prepare.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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I earn a living through my two Etsy shops (and working on transitioning one to my own domain online store with Shopify right now) where I print and sell mugs, phone cases, luggage tags, and other similar gift type items that I'm adding this year.

One of the big benefits of this is being able to live in a low cost of living area while selling a high quality product to a high income demographic.

I'm also working and experimenting with growing a few specialty crops - mushrooms are going in this year, and I am also going to plant sugar maples as well as look into growing Oregon truffles. So when my kids are older, I will probably have a few farm products I can sell locally and I may do more of the selling education/ebooks making money online type thing, I used to do that and I really enjoyed it but then my Etsy shops took off and I had to quit with my limited time. Right now, my online shops are all I can handle.
 
Gary Lewis
Posts: 132
Location: Maine, USA
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Bethany Dutch wrote:I earn a living through my two Etsy shops (and working on transitioning one to my own domain online store with Shopify right now) where I print and sell mugs, phone cases, luggage tags, and other similar gift type items that I'm adding this year.

One of the big benefits of this is being able to live in a low cost of living area while selling a high quality product to a high income demographic.

I'm also working and experimenting with growing a few specialty crops - mushrooms are going in this year, and I am also going to plant sugar maples as well as look into growing Oregon truffles. So when my kids are older, I will probably have a few farm products I can sell locally and I may do more of the selling education/ebooks making money online type thing, I used to do that and I really enjoyed it but then my Etsy shops took off and I had to quit with my limited time. Right now, my online shops are all I can handle.


Awesome Bethany! I love the 'plan ahead' approach to fit in with family

Gaz

 
John Master
Posts: 519
Location: Wisconsin
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been selling replacement snowmobile parts for 11 years now mostly online, as time goes on I'm learning more and more about growing, cooking, nutrition, frugality, healing, beekeeping. Went through some incredibly wasteful spells and now I have am trying to continually simplify and declutter, reduce toxins and eat clean. Maybe one day I can add honey and hive products as income, for now it is learning and hobby.
 
Max Frable
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i personally work off farm for a company that was too big to fail. I just closed on my land in January, so the first year is just going to be earth works projects. i dont expect to make any money until year two, posobly turning a profit year three. as such the off farm income is needed for now.
 
Justin Rhodes
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I've got a punch press in my basement, in which I make retainer wires for straightening teeth. It's a part time gig I've had for almost 16 years now. I make them for my dad, who sells them to orthodontic salesmen.
 
Grant Schultz
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Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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I use the farm itself as my major income stream, with several on-farm enterprises.

The most popular enterprise is the on-farm nursery, specializing in permaculture plants and trees. #maxpermo plant varieties are hard to come by, and we have them in abundance. We sell trees like chestnuts, pawpaw, apple, and persimmon exclusively through New Farm Supply http://newfarmsupply.com/

We've added a 1,000 log mushroom operation, sell up to 500 large round bales of hay a year, and graze pigs on 100% pasture eating NO supplemental grain.

Many arrows slay the mastodon. Mmmmm steak!

http://newfarmsupply.com/
 
John Rogers
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Gary Lewis wrote:
Who is making a real living online (and how)?

I made about $60k/year from 2009-2012 doing online marketing for a small software company. It was good while it lasted, but the gig ended virtually overnight and left me without what had become my primary income stream. Over those four years I had become complacent and ended all of my own online projects, so I had nothing to fall back on. That was a hard lesson learned. So many things can kill online income streams... Just be wary. Building a community is a good foundation, then find ways to leverage that community. (note: by leverage I don't mean take advantage of). Observe how Paul has leveraged the Permies community into several wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns. Part of that is due to the size of the community, but more importantly, the community members like and trust him. I know of several people who have built online communities similar to this one in structure (basically a forum), and when they decided it was time to quit, sold the online properties for seven figures. Even when you consider that those properties were built over a period of years, that's still a pretty good payday.
 
Sheri Menelli
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Bethany Dutch wrote:I earn a living through my two Etsy shops (and working on transitioning one to my own domain online store with Shopify right now) where I print and sell mugs, phone cases, luggage tags, and other similar gift type items that I'm adding this year.

One of the big benefits of this is being able to live in a low cost of living area while selling a high quality product to a high income demographic.

I'm also working and experimenting with growing a few specialty crops - mushrooms are going in this year, and I am also going to plant sugar maples as well as look into growing Oregon truffles. So when my kids are older, I will probably have a few farm products I can sell locally and I may do more of the selling education/ebooks making money online type thing, I used to do that and I really enjoyed it but then my Etsy shops took off and I had to quit with my limited time. Right now, my online shops are all I can handle.


Hi Bethany,

I was selling a bit through Etsy just for fun. i started to sell comfrey but after a few sales I realized I need more for myself so I stopped. How has Etsy done for you? Any tips on what works or doesn't?

I keep feeling the urge to sell permaculture plants - much like the http://www.foodforestfarm.com. At least that would be one stream of income. Right now I have a full time business with my husband doing design and manufacturing of electronics for Guitar players - yeah, not too permaculture. One day I'd also like to buy dozens of acres that is aweful, degraded won't grow anything, green it and resell it (kind of like Geoff Lawson's greening the desert). So, instead of flipping houses, flipping land but of course it would take several years per property. (And I could only sell to the right kind of buyer)

Sheri
 
John Mercer
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Location: Montrose, CO
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Do you have a skill, particularly a rare skill? I'm one of those people and I started a consulting business. Pretty easy to do, but pretty time consuming too. I do craft brewery wastewater design, using the skills I have and working from home. Now I have maybe more work than I want, spread around the US as well as Canada and Australia. One of the issues now is getting time to build & improve my farm when I have all of this work that pays really well. Funny dilemma.
 
Sheri Menelli
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John Mercer wrote:Do you have a skill, particularly a rare skill? I'm one of those people and I started a consulting business. Pretty easy to do, but pretty time consuming too. I do craft brewery wastewater design, using the skills I have and working from home. Now I have maybe more work than I want, spread around the US as well as Canada and Australia. One of the issues now is getting time to build & improve my farm when I have all of this work that pays really well. Funny dilemma.


John, that is the coolest thing I've heard in a while. We used to brew 14 years ago and now the micro and nano breweries are stalking us. We've had dozens pop up around our home and business. Please tell us more about this. I've always wanted to do something with wastewater. Your work alone would be a fascinating thread. Care to share more on what you do?

Sheri
 
Tim Southwell
Posts: 117
Location: Hamilton, MT
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and graze pigs on 100% pasture eating NO supplemental grain.

Grant,

Good meeting you at PV2 with my buddy and employee, Grant Shadden.

Can you expound on what your piggies eat on pasture? Salatin's pastured hogs are supplemented with grain, Walter's hogs out of Sugar Mtn Farm are supplemented with either milk or eggs... you don't give them anything else? We presently supplement with both grain and sprouted grain. We are presently dialing back grain as we come off of winter and into spring, but thought you had to supplement an omnivore with more than simple grass pasture. Please do let me know some details.

All the best, and let me know when you are headed for MT... the door is always open!
 
Jeremiah Mangrum
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Hi Gary,

I think if you're someone like me [normal 9-5 m-f] limited extra income its important to do the best with what you can and build your financial resources as well as ample experience/skill/knowledge pertaining to anything you might be interested in replacing your primary source of income with.

I don't own any land, with my circumstances I've just been working in flooring contracting trying to achieve some sense of financial security. In my spare time I've been dabbling in organic gardening and planting in containers to take advantage of my limited space. I've had some success but probably 3 fold its been a learning experience to say the least. I intend to primarily work in flooring/sales/advertising

For people planning on doing something permaculture or craft/trade related for a primary source of income i would suggest spending a good bit of time learning about it and getting a grasp on a system that can profit through it. mediums like youtube, other social media enable you to grow support and recognition.

Personally my dream is to produce paintings and other pieces of art, farm produce and livestock, have a little farm to fork restaurant that maybe serves just lunch maybe breakfast. Maybe have a store connected to the restaurant kind of like cracker barrel or something similar except with only products produced on site.

I also wish to pursue and maybe even teach in martial arts somewhere down the road.
In the end, all these things are peachy but I'm very comfortable taking this all slow.

This may be a odd mantra but its helped me so much

"High hopes, Low expectations"




 
Tyler Omand
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Location: Maine
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ON our homestead My wife Heather who has an MBA works off the farm for MOFGA as their business and marketing coordinator and makes great connections with a lot of the organic farmers in Maine and we get great deals on fruits, veggies, maple syrup, meat, etc. She is also gaining a lot of experience writing grants which will come in handy when we transition to a larger property and will be applying for funding through NRCS, USDA, etc to help implement when ever possible. I currently work 2 days a week (16 hours) at a garden center where I get 30% off all our gardening supplies, and drastically reduced or free plants and seeds, as well as make many connections with area gardeners, I can sell my 5 gallon vortex compost tea brewer right from the store and promote permaculture as well as our business.

My wife and I started our own business "Omand's Organics" and provide agricultural consulting, permaculture design, nutrient dense food from a permied out 1/2 acre of our 2 ac property (we have grown/raised over 17,000 lbs of food off of this 1/2 acre over the past five years, and for the past 2 years we have produced about 80% of our diet off this 1/2 acre) , mix custom organic potting soil mixes ( I can mix 1000 gallons in 8 hours and make $1000 in profit, AFTER I pay myself $50 per hour- plus I get some of this soil back for free from several customers after they use it several times because they have no place to store/use it which means I have mountains of used potting soil to use as mulch, chicken bedding, etc, etc, etc.), and I also build custom vortex compost tea brewers (5-110 gallons +). All told "Omand's Organics" has grossed 40k a year for the past several years. Check out some pictures on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OmandsOrganics

I am also a registered medicinal cannabis caregiver in Maine and for the last two years have made over $100 per square foot out of our 432 sq ft hoophouse providing premium high quality completely organic cannabis for 5 clients, using only a small amount of electricity for fans (some statistics suggest that indoor grown cannabis with its artificial lighting, HVAC systems, etc burns 200 lbs of coal to produce ONE pound of cannabis). I sell the cannabis for way less than the registered dispensaries in Maine (which only grow indoors, hydroponically with chemical fertilizers), permaculture principles definitely help me make that possible. I work an average of 10 hours a week for 9 months during the growing season as a caregiver.

I constructed a 12'x 36' hoophouse with 4' hemlock walls and 1-3/8 " galvanized chain link top rail bent into hoops with 8mm twinwall "solarsoft 80" polycarbonate for the roof (check it out I HIGHLY recommend it for anywhere with hot summers and cold winters). I insulated inside the sill down below frost line with upcycled 2" foam and the inside of the walls with upcycled 1" foil faced foam. I built a 8" rocket mass heater into the gravel terrace that the hoophouse sits on along the inside of the north wall. I buried 200' feet of perforated 4" corrugated drain pipe 18" deep in a zig zag pattern in the gravel terrace with a fan that circulates hot air from inside the peak of the hoophouse through the pipe, and because its hot moist air hitting cold earth the water vapor condensates and the air comes out the other end with less humidity. I have installed auto opening intake shutters on one end and a a solar powered 2200 cfm gable exhaust fan in the other.

All totaled we gross 80k off of our property each year utilizing a 1/2 acre, and net roughly 50k with about 1000 hours of work (850 hours for me, 150 or so for Heather) , so we make an average of $50 per hour. Omand's Organics spends 20k+ a year in tools, books, materials, supplies and education for us which comes out of the gross. I work about 32 hours a week including the 16 at the garden center, leaving plenty of time to run the homestead and learn, experiment , and learn some more. Heather works about 50 hours a week, 40-45 of them for MOFGA and although I believe Heather is underpaid for what she does for MOFGA, she still brings home a respectable 35k a year from there as well. Its also worth noting that around 80% of the money we spend is spent in the surrounding local communities primarily at small businesses.

It is our intention for Heather and I to transition to on farm full time over the next 5-7 years and we are currently looking for a larger farm property in Central, South, or western Maine on which we will create a perennial paradise. In the future we hope to provide full permi production system consulting and design including business and enterprise development.
 
Gary Lewis
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Location: Maine, USA
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Tyler Omand wrote:ON our homestead My wife Heather who has an MBA works off the farm for MOFGA as their business.............


Wow Tyler - this is wonderful! Congrats for doing so well (and right in my home state).

I very mush appreciate everyone for sharing in this post...there are so many lessons for all of us!

Gaz
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 309
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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- About 90% of my income comes from off-farm, a 9-5 job in IT.
- The last 10% comes from craft projects, I make glass lampwork beads and marbles and sell them on etsy and at craft fairs. I don't sell much, I could sell much more but the IT job pays much better and is much easier! I've also been really busy renovating our house so its the craft stuff that has been cut back.
- So the homestead hasn't been making us money, but it has been saving us money. Doing all the renovating of our shell of a house ourselves has saved tens of thousands, the homestead provides vegetables and eggs and a testing ground for everything I hope to implement when/if we ever get more land. I have spare eggs but they're mostly swapped for favours- the neighbour gives me compostables if I give him eggs, in exchange for a bacon and egg breakfast the workers in the park dumepd some woodchip on my drive... etc.
- My Other Half works part time in a hardware store, so we get cheap seeds/plants/chicken food/tools/other random things.

The grand plan is that eventually we'll have a deposit for some land, and maybe I can telecommute in my field of work. I'll always have to work off-farm as land is really expensive around here.
 
Gary Lewis
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Location: Maine, USA
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Charli Wilson wrote:- About 90% of my income comes from off-farm, a 9-5 job in IT.
- The last 10% comes from craft projects, I make glass lampwork beads and marbles and sell them on etsy and at craft fairs. I don't sell much, I could sell much more but the IT job pays much better and is much easier! I've also been really busy renovating our house so its the craft stuff that has been cut back.
- So the homestead hasn't been making us money, but it has been saving us money. Doing all the renovating of our shell of a house ourselves has saved tens of thousands, the homestead provides vegetables and eggs and a testing ground for everything I hope to implement when/if we ever get more land. I have spare eggs but they're mostly swapped for favours- the neighbour gives me compostables if I give him eggs, in exchange for a bacon and egg breakfast the workers in the park dumepd some woodchip on my drive... etc.
- My Other Half works part time in a hardware store, so we get cheap seeds/plants/chicken food/tools/other random things.

The grand plan is that eventually we'll have a deposit for some land, and maybe I can telecommute in my field of work. I'll always have to work off-farm as land is really expensive around here.


Awesome Charli

We are in the same boat - I work a job and really do use the homestead to SAVE money.

I love the bater system...but have not yet really worked out a way to do it outside of family members.

I telecommute - and it is a HUGE bonus to us...just the money saved on gas to commute for example.

Gaz

 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Gary Lewis wrote:Who is making a real living online (and how)?

I've never gotten to the point where I was making a "real living" online, but I have had a venture or two that were quite lucrative while they lasted. On a per hour basis, my most profitable business was acting a virtual currency trader on one of the massive multiplayer online games (like World of Warcraft, but that wasn't the game). After I had everything set up (website/programing), I ended up bringing in about $1000 for every hour I worked, but unfortunately could never scale it up much past working an hour or two per month. Eventually, the operators of the game caught on to me and the venture was shut down, but it was a good run while it lasted.
 
Lindsay Hodge
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"Many Arrows slay the mastadon."

I love that! It's really the best way that I can see to make it on a permaculture farm.

We are in the transition stage from "having" to do off farm work to doing only farm stuff and it's so exciting! We keep going over our revenue streams and expenses and we say, "this is totally doable!"

Our place is called Haven Homestead and we are in Onalaska, Wa.

www.havenhomestead.com

One of the things that we did was set up a business plan that mimics the seven layers of a food forest. One stream of income for each element in the food forest. It helps to have a plan.

We are teaching classes through the local community college's continuing ed program (neither of us have a degree, just lots of experience! ) We hold a majority of these class on our property, and we are developing new classes. The goal is to have a stay rotation of Saturday only courses, and one or two major week-long workshops a year. Just remember, teach what you know!

We are establishing a harvesting service, we are calling it Haven Harvests. Every year hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of fruit from local trees goes to waste and people go hungry because there isn't an adequate vehicle to get the fruit to the bellies! The idea is to register tree owners (the pay some sort of membership fee) and volunteers, harvest the fruit and divide it for ways; 1/4 to the owner, 1/4 divided among volunteers, 1/4 to charities, and 1/4 gets sold or made into products that can be sold and we'll return that surplus to the business! It's still in its planning stage, but I see a lot of potential from this stream of income! We may end up do a garden harvesting device, honey harvesting service, etc. I'm very excited about the potential from this.

I'm also a writer and I am working on building up some content to release as e-books, etc.

We plan on hosting an intimate Calvin's/tiny house cabins/communal eating area/need and breakfast some day... this is more long term, but still in the plan!

Chris is a certified permaculture designer and we are designing several properties (for real money! ) right now.

Hmmmnnn... Oh! We'll have a farm store too! But I think that that will be a smaller revenue stream, simply because so many people on our community are DIY-ers, but it is a must-do since we enjoy making products to sell and what not.

I could go on, but I won't! You can just check it out at our website, feel free to ask questions, pick brains, etc. And good luck!

Go to, www.havenhomestead.com


 
John Mercer
Posts: 9
Location: Montrose, CO
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Sheri Menelli wrote:
John Mercer wrote:Do you have a skill, particularly a rare skill? I'm one of those people and I started a consulting business. Pretty easy to do, but pretty time consuming too. I do craft brewery wastewater design, using the skills I have and working from home. Now I have maybe more work than I want, spread around the US as well as Canada and Australia. One of the issues now is getting time to build & improve my farm when I have all of this work that pays really well. Funny dilemma.


John, that is the coolest thing I've heard in a while. We used to brew 14 years ago and now the micro and nano breweries are stalking us. We've had dozens pop up around our home and business. Please tell us more about this. I've always wanted to do something with wastewater. Your work alone would be a fascinating thread. Care to share more on what you do?

Sheri


Hi Sheri,
See my website, www.brewerywastewater.com to learn a bit more about it all. Most of my clients are small production brewers, at this size doing something cool with the wastewater (anaerobic) usually doesn't pencil out. I do get a lot of interest from breweries in remote areas looking for on site disposal options, generally they're thinking hops. But I advise for pasture or hay fields, not human food crops. Anyway, fun stuff. John

Another thing I highly recommend, unrelated to the brewery stuff is Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning. This is a course any of us can take, it's excellent. It's a 5 day class and it gives a different perspective to the business side of what we all do and it's very complimentary to our train of thought.
 
Tara Swenson
Posts: 26
Location: Portland, OR
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Lindsay Hodge wrote:"Many Arrows slay the mastadon."

I love that! It's really the best way that I can see to make it on a permaculture farm.

We are in the transition stage from "having" to do off farm work to doing only farm stuff and it's so exciting! We keep going over our revenue streams and expenses and we say, "this is totally doable!"

Our place is called Haven Homestead and we are in Onalaska, Wa.

www.havenhomestead.com

One of the things that we did was set up a business plan that mimics the seven layers of a food forest. One stream of income for each element in the food forest. It helps to have a plan.

We are teaching classes through the local community college's continuing ed program (neither of us have a degree, just lots of experience! ) We hold a majority of these class on our property, and we are developing new classes. The goal is to have a stay rotation of Saturday only courses, and one or two major week-long workshops a year. Just remember, teach what you know!

We are establishing a harvesting service, we are calling it Haven Harvests. Every year hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of fruit from local trees goes to waste and people go hungry because there isn't an adequate vehicle to get the fruit to the bellies! The idea is to register tree owners (the pay some sort of membership fee) and volunteers, harvest the fruit and divide it for ways; 1/4 to the owner, 1/4 divided among volunteers, 1/4 to charities, and 1/4 gets sold or made into products that can be sold and we'll return that surplus to the business! It's still in its planning stage, but I see a lot of potential from this stream of income! We may end up do a garden harvesting device, honey harvesting service, etc. I'm very excited about the potential from this.

I'm also a writer and I am working on building up some content to release as e-books, etc.

We plan on hosting an intimate Calvin's/tiny house cabins/communal eating area/need and breakfast some day... this is more long term, but still in the plan!

Chris is a certified permaculture designer and we are designing several properties (for real money! ) right now.

Hmmmnnn... Oh! We'll have a farm store too! But I think that that will be a smaller revenue stream, simply because so many people on our community are DIY-ers, but it is a must-do since we enjoy making products to sell and what not.

I could go on, but I won't! You can just check it out at our website, feel free to ask questions, pick brains, etc. And good luck!

Go to, www.havenhomestead.com




Hi Lindsay,
Your website is so informative! I foresee myself spending a lot of time there... I'm from Olympia and currently living in Portland and would love to find out more about your permaculture classes. Sounds like you guys are really creative and its inspiring to hear how you're making money through so many different sources - I'm currently looking for work, living in a tiny apartment with limited income... Daydreaming about one day having land to work on!

Tara
 
Tara Swenson
Posts: 26
Location: Portland, OR
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Great topic, Gary! Very interesting to hear how others are making money. Its something I've wondered often... as for myself, I'm currently unemployed (just quit my severely underpaying job) and my partner does IT remotely most days. I'm hoping to get into web design so that we can both work remote on our property and have the ability to work on the land and be with our infant son as well. But I'd love to learn permaculture design and potentially teach classes on both landscape/permaculture design and am also interested in a career in alternative building design. Lots of different paths...
 
Lindsay Hodge
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Thanks Tara! I'm glad you like our site! I've worked really hard on that

The rest of this post is for anyone who wants to make a living on their farm... (including you Tara!)

One thing I've heard a lot about lately is that anything worth doing takes time, and this has become my mantra, "slow, deliberate steps."

It's the permaculture way to opt for the slow, well-thought-out, permanent fix, instead of the quick, messy, bandaids. Haste makes waste, and that's not an efficient use of your valuable time and talents!

I think that anyone embarking on making multiple streams of income work, would do well to remember that! It's not about getting project ADD. It's about finding complimentary jobs that you are passionate about doing, that can be generating income simultaneously.

Maybe I'll blog about this! I seem to have a lot to say here! Hehehe good luck!

 
Don Dufresne
Posts: 24
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A remarkable set of income streams, to say the least. Thanks for sharing.

Tyler Omand wrote:ON our homestead My wife Heather who has an MBA works off the farm for MOFGA as their business and marketing coordinator and makes great connections with a lot of the organic farmers in Maine and we get great deals on fruits, veggies, maple syrup, meat, etc. She is also gaining a lot of experience writing grants which will come in handy when we transition to a larger property and will be applying for funding through NRCS, USDA, etc to help implement when ever possible. I currently work 2 days a week (16 hours) at a garden center where I get 30% off all our gardening supplies, and drastically reduced or free plants and seeds, as well as make many connections with area gardeners, I can sell my 5 gallon vortex compost tea brewer right from the store and promote permaculture as well as our business.

My wife and I started our own business "Omand's Organics" and provide agricultural consulting, permaculture design, nutrient dense food from a permied out 1/2 acre of our 2 ac property (we have grown/raised over 17,000 lbs of food off of this 1/2 acre over the past five years, and for the past 2 years we have produced about 80% of our diet off this 1/2 acre) , mix custom organic potting soil mixes ( I can mix 1000 gallons in 8 hours and make $1000 in profit, AFTER I pay myself $50 per hour- plus I get some of this soil back for free from several customers after they use it several times because they have no place to store/use it which means I have mountains of used potting soil to use as mulch, chicken bedding, etc, etc, etc.), and I also build custom vortex compost tea brewers (5-110 gallons +). All told "Omand's Organics" has grossed 40k a year for the past several years. Check out some pictures on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OmandsOrganics

I am also a registered medicinal cannabis caregiver in Maine and for the last two years have made over $100 per square foot out of our 432 sq ft hoophouse providing premium high quality completely organic cannabis for 5 clients, using only a small amount of electricity for fans (some statistics suggest that indoor grown cannabis with its artificial lighting, HVAC systems, etc burns 200 lbs of coal to produce ONE pound of cannabis). I sell the cannabis for way less than the registered dispensaries in Maine (which only grow indoors, hydroponically with chemical fertilizers), permaculture principles definitely help me make that possible. I work an average of 10 hours a week for 9 months during the growing season as a caregiver.

I constructed a 12'x 36' hoophouse with 4' hemlock walls and 1-3/8 " galvanized chain link top rail bent into hoops with 8mm twinwall "solarsoft 80" polycarbonate for the roof (check it out I HIGHLY recommend it for anywhere with hot summers and cold winters). I insulated inside the sill down below frost line with upcycled 2" foam and the inside of the walls with upcycled 1" foil faced foam. I built a 8" rocket mass heater into the gravel terrace that the hoophouse sits on along the inside of the north wall. I buried 200' feet of perforated 4" corrugated drain pipe 18" deep in a zig zag pattern in the gravel terrace with a fan that circulates hot air from inside the peak of the hoophouse through the pipe, and because its hot moist air hitting cold earth the water vapor condensates and the air comes out the other end with less humidity. I have installed auto opening intake shutters on one end and a a solar powered 2200 cfm gable exhaust fan in the other.

All totaled we gross 80k off of our property each year utilizing a 1/2 acre, and net roughly 50k with about 1000 hours of work (850 hours for me, 150 or so for Heather) , so we make an average of $50 per hour. Omand's Organics spends 20k+ a year in tools, books, materials, supplies and education for us which comes out of the gross. I work about 32 hours a week including the 16 at the garden center, leaving plenty of time to run the homestead and learn, experiment , and learn some more. Heather works about 50 hours a week, 40-45 of them for MOFGA and although I believe Heather is underpaid for what she does for MOFGA, she still brings home a respectable 35k a year from there as well. Its also worth noting that around 80% of the money we spend is spent in the surrounding local communities primarily at small businesses.

It is our intention for Heather and I to transition to on farm full time over the next 5-7 years and we are currently looking for a larger farm property in Central, South, or western Maine on which we will create a perennial paradise. In the future we hope to provide full permi production system consulting and design including business and enterprise development.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Sheri Menelli wrote:
Bethany Dutch wrote:I earn a living through my two Etsy shops (and working on transitioning one to my own domain online store with Shopify right now) where I print and sell mugs, phone cases, luggage tags, and other similar gift type items that I'm adding this year.

One of the big benefits of this is being able to live in a low cost of living area while selling a high quality product to a high income demographic.

I'm also working and experimenting with growing a few specialty crops - mushrooms are going in this year, and I am also going to plant sugar maples as well as look into growing Oregon truffles. So when my kids are older, I will probably have a few farm products I can sell locally and I may do more of the selling education/ebooks making money online type thing, I used to do that and I really enjoyed it but then my Etsy shops took off and I had to quit with my limited time. Right now, my online shops are all I can handle.


Hi Bethany,

I was selling a bit through Etsy just for fun. i started to sell comfrey but after a few sales I realized I need more for myself so I stopped. How has Etsy done for you? Any tips on what works or doesn't?

I keep feeling the urge to sell permaculture plants - much like the http://www.foodforestfarm.com. At least that would be one stream of income. Right now I have a full time business with my husband doing design and manufacturing of electronics for Guitar players - yeah, not too permaculture. One day I'd also like to buy dozens of acres that is aweful, degraded won't grow anything, green it and resell it (kind of like Geoff Lawson's greening the desert). So, instead of flipping houses, flipping land but of course it would take several years per property. (And I could only sell to the right kind of buyer)

Sheri


Hi Sheri,

Sorry so late on the ball, been absent for a while. Regarding your question, I would say yes, Etsy has done very well for me. I am a single mom and I support my family of four with it Having said that, I am at the point where I want to grow beyond Etsy. All my eggs are in the Etsy basket at the moment and it kinda freaks me out, because they could choose to shut down my shop or change their search algorithm and my sales would drop. I'm taking my most successful shop right now and building an online store of my own.

The thing about Etsy is that it's a great business incubator and a place to test demand for products. I've been on there since 2012 and these last couple years have helped me refine my brand, refine my product, and now I am at a point where I feel comfortable in my brand and my audience to go off on my own. They have a lot of built in traffic and it's a cheap place to sell. The hard part I think for a lot of people is understanding that it isn't like an online mishmash place in the sense that you probably won't do well if you go on there selling a bunch of different items that you happen to make because you like making stuff. A lot of people don't understand that it isn't like a garage sale place where you can sell your various crafts... I mean you can try, but chances are it won't succeed.

Etsy works best if you focus on creating a brand for yourself - having a product line that is cohesive and also repeatable (in other words, not one of a kind, but things you can make over and over again). And of course, if the demand is there and not too much competition. I wouldn't recommend doing jewelry, because I think there's too much competition, for example.

Not a whole lot of easy way to figure out demand except to start and hope for the best One thing I do tell people is to go to the website, and start typing keywords or search phrases into the search bar. Etsy will do an auto complete with what it thinks you are searching for. Chances are, if it's giving you lots of relevant options, there's a demand for that product, but if it's only giving you one or two auto completes, there's not a lot of demand. So for example, if you go and type "slipcover" in there, you'll see a whole list of options there for the top searches which are things that are searched frequently. But if you type in "mushroom log" you can see that there's no autocomplete, so there's not much demand on Etsy for inoculated mushroom logs But there might be a demand for something else you can create. Who knows.

But even if there's not a lot of demand, there might be extremely low competition so still worth trying, does that make sense? And even if there's no built in Etsy traffic, you can always drive traffic - social media like Instagram and Pinterest are fantastic ways to drive traffic for online shops.
 
Gary Lewis
Posts: 132
Location: Maine, USA
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This is great advice Bethany! I have not used Etsy, but I know lots of people talk about using it as a way to sell crafts etc.

Your post really provides good solid information to help folks along...and thats what I like about this thread

When we lived in Colorado I did run a small online business selling items for a modeling hobby and I made some good money. I got all my sales through eBay selling....and so it was very much 'let the market' decide the prices...but it brought in some extra money for the farm

When we hit Maine with two kid, a new homestead and a lot of other outside work pressures, it fell by the side. It was about priorities I guess.

But knowing that people are having good success doing this sort of things is very helpful for those still seeking better financial independence.

Gaz
 
Bethany Dutch
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Thanks Gary! One of my biggest passions is helping others succeed in business and entrepreneurship - I'd give away all my secrets! lol.

Another thought - here's a great example of an extended family of homesteaders, working together who have created a very distinct brand for their product, which is wooden handmade cookware.
https://www.etsy.com/shop/OldWorldKitchen?

You can see their shop has a beautiful cohesive look and feel. The photos are very evocative and just perusing their shop has made me want their items, when before I saw their shop I'd never even considered buying handmade wooden cookware before.

And I'm not going to point any fingers, but earlier today I saw a shop where someone was definitely just selling crafts they had made - a few necklaces, some wreaths, some aprons, and even pinecones. The photos didn't go together and the items weren't really that cohesive either, so it just seemed chaotic.

IMO, pick something you can make, and are good at, and go with that. Pick ONE thing, and make it a success and THEN branch out. Things that tend to work best are items people will actively use, consume, or give as a gift.

I started with coffee mugs only. I then tested other products periodically. Right now I'm in mugs, t-shirts, phone cases and luggage tags. I have a list of about 20 products I'm going to test adding to my line this year, but if I'd tried to start with all of them I would have been overwhelmed and frustrated.

For what it's worth, art itself doesn't seem to sell as well. If you are an artist, create something people can USE or consume in some way. While there are certainly no hard and fast rules about what can and can't succeed, my thinking is this: if I want to spend as much time doing the fun parts of my homesteading, I need to be as efficient as possible with my moneymaking endeavors. Selling art is often an uphill battle. Selling an item people can use or consume (including skincare, etc) is not as much of an uphill battle. I'm here to make a living so I can spend my time with my girls, can support my family w/o putting my kids in daycare and getting a 9-5, and have the freedom to spend as much time as I can working on my homestead.

Selling online via Etsy or Amazon or eBay or wherever, has a few distinct advantages.

For one, you can live in a low-income area and sell high quality products to a demographic that lives in a higher income area. I would never pay $20 to ship a coffee mug, but I have people who order coffee mugs to be shipped overseas to the tune of $19 all the time.

The other big advantage is that as homesteaders and permies, we tend to be very busy during the spring and summer. Winter tends to be a slow season. In my experience, selling items that are frequently gifted, my shop busy times tend to be the opposite, so they fit in well together. In November and December, while I'm not doing anything on the land, I do about 10x my normal sales volume for Christmas sales. And conversely, early springtime (right now) is the slowest time of year for me on my shop, which fits in nicely with chores and work I have to do on the homestead and planting my garden.
 
Ernest Rando
Posts: 31
Location: Fredericktown, Ohio
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I am an on farm, residential permaculturist. I live with the folks that I do design work for cooperatively. My Income strategies are the following:

I structure my life to require as little money as possible. Avoid all debt and don't help others get into debt. My cell phone is my only expense that I am billed for each month, gave up my car a few years ago, and live in rural america.
My work contracts are structured with cash payments as much as possible but mainly at end of contracts I get an agreed upon end of contract bonus. I do part time labour and part time design/governance work with the farm I work with (not for).
Wage Labour is oppressive. We all have 24hours in a day so one hour of my time is worth one hour of your time.
I am more concerned about my resource streams and ethics than my income streams.
Constantly reduce my ecological footprint and reliant on fossil fuels.
I always accept tips and gifts they are far more valuable and usually have a human relationship connection to them that money just does not have.
 
Caitlin Horigan
Posts: 2
Location: Belgrade, ME
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Ernest Rando wrote:
I structure my life to require as little money as possible.


Yes!

I am a learning Permaculturist and am slowly transitioning to rural homesteading (from urban living). I live off grid in a basic lodge (with solar and wood stove heat/cooking) and although I do pay a little for rent it's less than the average rates in my area. I have access to forested areas and fields on a 175 acre property with an easygoing landowner so it works out pretty well. Cell phone bill and car lease are the things I haven't been able to eliminate.

I do a lot of freelancing, mostly marketing consulting, web design, and business coaching. I also teach yoga.

It seems funny to be doing an "Internet" job like web design from my little lodge in the woods but it works!

Sometimes I can't balance the work I want to do with the work I have to do - but I'm new to Central Maine and hoping that as I make more connections the yoga thing will grow and I will be tied to the computer less often...

Freelancing for urban clients area also allows me to continue charging a premium for services which is much more difficult in Central Maine!

And ... Can't forget to mention the TIME BANK !! JOIN ONE NOW
 
Terry Paul Calhoun
Posts: 32
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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A fourth stream - recreation! On our 19 acres, we've plotted out a 27-hole disc (Frisbee) golf course and a number of walking and cross country trails. We're also preparing tent camping platforms. In the same sense as a CSA, we intend a membership model with annual dues to enjoy the recreation: Think of it as row cropping between trees and the crops are fairways for recreation. Since we are sure the disc golf will be a financial success, we figure it will bring in a constituency that we can provide perennial products to, as well as recreation.
 
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you - Fred Rogers. Tiny ad:
21 podcast review of Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
https://permies.com/wiki/54445/digital-market/digital-market/podcast-review-Sepp-Holzer-Permaculture
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