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How would you make $500 a month on 1 acre?  RSS feed

 
Clare Marmalejo
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I have just over an acre and need to bring in $500 a month in order to quit my "supplemental income" job. If you were starting out, how would you go about doing this? I am really open to any ideas from wild and crazy to a specific plan.

My goal is to have a new stream of income established by next year sometime. I am getting some hens and ducks for eggs and eventually as meat birds. I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia so there are many Farms around.

So I would love to hear what you would do?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Are you already growing most of your own food? Savings on the home food expenses could easily amount to $500 per month. I'm only working a couple hours a day for $ now because we're covering so many of our needs with our permaculture system.

Once you're supplying your own needs, consider what your neighbors are not growing that there is a demand for - what do people buy at the store? Is there a high value item that you could produce for which there is a market? Do you want to market to households, or to businesses, or to both? Is there an item you could produce which you could market from home via the internet?

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I'd make sure my own household was designed as efficiently as possible to cover as many of our needs as we can without outside inputs, then, if I still needed more actual $, I'd try to determine if there is a market for what I can produce, perhaps as an excess or even waste product from the homestead.

 
wayne fajkus
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Breaking it down, it's $23 day excluding weekends.
 
Dale Hodgins
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You've chosen a very modest figure. If you were to do any sort of job, gardening that area intensively, I expect you could get several times that amount in a month.

Once you get production figured out, the make-or-break item is almost always marketing.

If you have adequate traffic, everything can be marketed from the site. If not then you will need to transport either to a central sales location or directly to customers.

I have sold hundreds of things in my life, and nothing has being easier to sell than fresh vegetables. There are many customers out there. it's a good idea to cultivate more than you can handle, so that those who are difficult, late to pay, or complaining, can be dropped like a hot potato. Marketing should be a fun, social time that does not gobble up all of your time.

I like to make up big baskets of stuff that have a flat rate price. No substitutions, All of my customers were people who could easily afford my product. I have no interest in quibbling with those who are on a financial shoestring. That is only my business if they tell me about it, but if they do this is a huge red flag.

There will be crops that pay well and there will be those that don't. If people are unable to pay the price for things that aren't as productive or that take more labor, don't grow them.
 
Kelly Smith
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need a bit more context, but seems like quail might be a good fit here as PART of what you do.
they are quick to produce and replace themselves pretty easily from what i can tell.


i would suggest 5 things that bring in $100 a month, vs looking at a single $500 income. As the seasons change different things should be ready for sale.

i would suggest smaller animals (rabbits, guinea pigs?, quail) as the would fit your land size better than larger animals.

 
Miranda Converse
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Hatching chicks out is a super easy way to make some income. You could potentially make the $500 (or more) by selling chicks, although I wouldn't rely on it as your only source of income because demand fluctuates throughout the different seasons. If you are good with your marketing and managing your money, the good months would balance with the bad months and you could easily average $500 a month.

Just some rough math:
With 15 laying hens (in their prime), lets say you average 10 eggs a day.
10 eggs/day=300 eggs/month
Take away personal use eggs~200 eggs to go into the incubator
With a (modest) 75% hatch rate=150 chicks
Sell each chick straight run for $3=$450
If you go with a higher-demand breed, sell each for $5=750

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, I could go into more detail and give some tips on getting started.

 
Clare Marmalejo
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@Tyler: We are not producing even 1% of our food right now. We purchased our home 8 years ago, but this is the first year we have had the time, resources and energy so we are beginners at permaculture. I would love to produce half of our food but as of now storage is an issue. And you are right, if we produce more we will spend much less on our groceries. We spend a little less than $200/week for 5 people.

@Dale Thank you. I do hope to get our farming production up to snuff this year. I do like the basket idea! It seems like you could almost use Facebook as a platform for selling baskets locally. I like that idea!

@Kelly I am very curious about quail. I have never eaten quail before. Is the processing worth the small bird?

@Miranda- I really love that idea! Hatching baby chicks and ducks even sounds right up my alley. The only concern I have is space. I have a porch that could work in warmer months but my house is tiny for the cooler months. We are planning on a greenhouse that could maybe be agreat spot to hatch chicks/ducks. Plus I see there is a demand out here!

 
Dale Hodgins
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If you get into doing deliveries, pick a small area and become the dominant guy there. This is more efficient than a willy-nilly approach that makes you spend half of your life in the car. If you have deliveries that are spread over a wide area, it will not be economic to deal with those in the outlying areas. Here in Victoria, my furthest customer was less than 2 km. from home. Still, I only delivered there if I was going to be in that part of town anyway.
 
Kelly Smith
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Clare Marmalejo wrote:

@Kelly I am very curious about quail. I have never eaten quail before. Is the processing worth the small bird?



im not sure, i dont personally raise them. i see a bunch of people online that do though. i would imagine processing is simple. i assume they are similar to quail, and those only take 60sec of so per bird to process.
my only beef is they are a free ranging type animal, they need constant caging. im sure something that could be tractored around would work though
i mainly recommended them as they are quick - think of them as the freely seeding annuals of poultry.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Clare Marmalejo wrote:@Tyler: We are not producing even 1% of our food right now.


I think producing one's own food is a good test to see if one is capable of growing anything in sufficient quantity to sell.

Don't forget that any kind of business is going to have more expenses than just growing food for yourself. A small business may not break even the first year or two because of expenses.

Production of animals demands adequate housing to protect from predators and weather, which can be expensive. This may be especially the case with chicks unless you already have a good barn or garage in which to raise them. We had half our baby turkeys from one hatching get eaten by one big snake in one night. Yes, one snake crammed down four baby turkeys.
 
R Scott
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Plant starts. A little late for veggies this year, but flowers are always wanted.

Some plants are ridiculously easy to propagate from cuttings. And crazy expensive to Buy. Buy one (if you don't already have one) and clone that bugger!

People want kitchen herbs year round. Pot them in nice looking pots to sit in the kitchen window.

But, if you could cut your grocery bill in half, you'd be there. And that doesn't mean you have to grow the other half, it could just mean making different choices at the store. You would be surprised how much you can cut from a food budget without cutting nutrition.
 
Su Ba
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$500 a week may or may not be doable for a beginner. Lack of experience will be a challenge. And as Dale points out, you need to have customers. Thus lack of established market is a major problem. Plus it sounds like you don't have the infrastructure already in place, therefore there may be significant cash outlay the first year just trying to set things up. And if $500 is your weekly requirement, are you anticipating doing things to create that income year around? Most crops, be they plant or animal, are seasonal in Virginia without heated indoor facilities, such as heated barns or heated greenhouses. If your business is only going to have sales 6 months of the year, then the figure is $1000 a week. And I'm guessing that you mean net profit, not gross.

As for growing your own food, if you are growing crops for sale, there will be plenty of veggies that are not sellable that you can use. As long as your family is willing to eat misshapen veggies or bug damaged ones, you should be fine. I grow food that I sell or use for trading, but only the nice looking, best stuff gets used for that. Hubby and I eat the rejects. But I don't tell him. Sshhhh. The reason we eat broccoli in soup or stir fry is because I sort through the junk and pick out the edible bits. Any nice broccoli gets sold.

My own goal is to make a livable income from the farm this year. So far I'm not even close to the mark! By livable, I'm looking at $300 a week. But we are already growing, foraging, or trading for over 90% of our food, so that's a big plus. But as far as hard cash.....that's a challenge. So I am diversifying into all sorts of directions. Growing veggies and fruits. Rearing livestock. Producing eggs. Selling materials to the local crafters. Growing cut flowers. Producing veggie, flower, and coffee starts. Producing seeds. Selling manure, compost, mulch, and wood ash. Making some crafts from resources from the farm (picture frames, towel racks, hooks, simple shelves and tables). I plan to make simple non-circulating hydroponic units to sell. And will go to people's properties to build raised beds, compost bins, grow boxes, etc. I'm still coming up with ideas to see what works.

I tell myself to be flexible, creative, willing to turn failures into successes. And not to get a swelled head on the weeks I bring in over $300, nor become depressed on the weeks that only bring in $30.
 
Miranda Converse
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Clare Marmalejo wrote:
@Miranda- I really love that idea! Hatching baby chicks and ducks even sounds right up my alley. The only concern I have is space. I have a porch that could work in warmer months but my house is tiny for the cooler months. We are planning on a greenhouse that could maybe be agreat spot to hatch chicks/ducks. Plus I see there is a demand out here!



If you are good about estimating your demand, you won't need much space at all. I sell most of my chicks within the first week of them hatching if not in the first two days. You can fit about 30 chicks into one of the large Rubbermaid bins. They won't fit in there long, but if you sell them right away, you won't have to worry about it. I would just start hatching small batches until you have a good understanding of the demand in your area. I would also start only hatching a new batch, once the last one is sold. That way you never have to worry about housing different aged chicks. Once you get the feel for it, you could work your way up to weekly hatches.
I'm just hatching as a hobby right now because all of my chicks are mixed breed. I'm pretty confident that once my breeder hens (BB Ameraucanas) are full grown, I will have a waiting list for chicks. I have Easter Eggers and White Rock/Faverolle mixes now. The Easter Eggers sell immediately but nobody seems interested in the White Rock mixes. When deciding your breed, I would go talk to the local feed stores. Ask them which chicks sell the fastest and if there is any that folks ask for regularly. You can also work a deal with them to provide them with chicks, although you will take a cut in profits, you won't have to worry about housing at all.
I would stay away from hatching ducks if you don't have a lot of space for them. Ducklings are disgusting, smelly, messy creatures (although incredibly adorable, I have a love/hate relationship with them) and they are not as easy to sell as chicks. I just hatched 10 Khaki Campbell ducklings a couple weeks ago and I haven't sold a single one. Those 10 ducklings made my entire house smell like poo, even with daily baths and cleaning the tub(where they stayed for the first two weeks). If you do want to hatch ducks, I would advertise them before you hatch and get a deposit from the buyer so you know you have a home for them.

I think I am going to create a new thread dedicated to this. There is so much else I could add but I have to go for now...
 
r ranson
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The first part of this post is discouraging. But stick with me, the second half has some ideas on how to make money.


Growing animals or vegetables is easy. Selling them his hard. If you live somewhere with a strong local food supply, then it may be difficult to find your niche.

When we first moved to this farm, my grandfather's idea was to grow tomatoes and cucumbers for sale - what a laugh. We already have a huge tomato and cucumber industry that sell 'perfect' produce for less than it would cost us to grow them. Same with all the standard crops. The only way to sell something was to create a food fad, which takes a lot of customer education and ends up about $1 per hour of labour. The next year, growing the same crop on our small scale is useless because the mid-size farms grew it and undersold us - despite guarantees that people would buy our crop if we grew it.

Growing animals for sale creates a much larger range of difficulties. If your animal has an illness, it infects your customer's farm... in some parts of the world you're liable to pay for all the damage. The thing about selling animals live that really breaks my heart, is the phone call 6 months to a year later. Learning about how the animal has been neglected and/or mistreated because the customer didn't understand that goats eat fruit trees (which is the absolutely most fundamental and essential quality that makes a goat a goat! It's so obvious that it doesn't even need mentioning because that's the first thing that one learns when learning about goats - they eat fruit trees, and beating the animal isn't going to make them stop - what it does do is make the animal a danger to humans and then the poor critter, for no fault of it's own, has to die, and it breaks my heart because this kind of thing is totally unnecessary) or that ducks need to be protected from predators. I very seldom sell live livestock anymore. It's just too heartbreaking. If you get into livestock, it pays to understand their basic nature before you bring hope the critter - pretty please, I'm begging you. Chickens dig up things and get eaten by no end of predators - the human is responsible for understanding this.

Basically selling anything perishable can be far more difficult than the books make out. For it to work, one needs to be good at both growing and more importantly, good at selling.


Saving money:
Now, we 'make' most of our money by saving money. Growing our own food (about 50 to 90% depending on the season) has saved a huge amount. At least $500 a month. Not eating out is another. Eating seasonally means what we do buy is on special in the shops. By this way, what we do spend money on is high quality, fair trade or local, and organic.

Cooking from scratch is a money saver. Instead of $2 to $4 for a can of beans, spend 4 to 10 cents on dry beans. With a little practice, you can eat healthy, home cooked, ecologically sound, time-saving, meals for under a dollar a plate.

Perhaps the one area we save the most money is taxes. Because we sell a few eggs to friends (we have really good eggs, so there's a high demand for them - we can pick and choose our customers), excess fruit and veg, we qualify for farm status. It cuts our property taxes down from several thousand a year, to $100. Although, it looks like it may go up to $120 this year... sigh.


As you're new to growing, start small. If I was starting on a new plot of land, I would probably grow a keyhole garden for the first year - the rest of the time I would spend observing the land and seeing what resources it naturally offers up. Wild harvesting is becoming quite popular. This weekend I made about $50 with pick-your-own fiddlehead ferns - which is about half what they cost in the grocery store right now, and twice what I would get wholesaling them. Your property might have a resource on it which could bring you money, but would be destroyed with too much human action.


Now, ways to actually make money:
  • grow non-perishable foods - like pulses which are super-easy. Artisan dry bean and peas are gaining momentum. What you don't grow, you can eat. Pulses also improve your soil for free - win, win win!
  • Find a craft that can be made with local materials (like basketry), get good at it, sell it on etsy.
  • Start small. If it's successful, then scale up. If you start large and it fails, then it can cost a lot of money. Start with the size you can do for $20 or less.
  • Get a library card - no really, this made lots of money. From learning how to make/grow things (both books and free workshops), to meeting new customers, to borrowing seeds from the seed library which I grew, 'returned'. The seeds I kept, I sell or grow plants for sale.
  • good quality seeds - another non-perishable item
  • Build a reputation for quality - I have a wait list as long as my arm for my eggs because they are better quality than any other free range, organic blablablawords in town. But I'm really good at keeping chickens happy, so they make good eggs. Quality is worth more than certification or anything else. Be it seeds that thrive in local weather or the sweetest berries, being good quality is often enough to bring people to your door - instead of the neighbour's door who sells the same thing
  • Be a little bit unique - If you are growing seeds, maybe grow landrace seeds
  • dry herbs
  • textiles - fibre plants like linen or flax, or dye plants that can be dried then shipped all over the world.
  • teach - become good at something interesting and teach it
  • consult - become amazing at something and people will pay you to give them your opinion
  • write - books, magazines, blog, even writing posts on this forum can bring income
  • residual income streams
  • cottage industry
  • cut flowers - organic, locally grown flowers are very popular with the smaller florist - but it takes skill to do it right. Consult with a local florists about what flowers they wish they could get, they will have a list, grow these, then get the florist to teach you the 'right' way to harvest them. Cultivate this relationship and bobs your uncle.
  • if you're close to town, set up allotment gardens and rent them out


  • Finding the right thing for you will make things easier. If growing garlic is too painful, maybe fava beans would be better, or perhaps recovering pallets and building furniture is more your thing.


     
    Dillon Nichols
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    Dale Hodgins wrote:If you get into doing deliveries, pick a small area and become the dominant guy there. This is more efficient than a willy-nilly approach that makes you spend half of your life in the car. If you have deliveries that are spread over a wide area, it will not be economic to deal with those in the outlying areas. Here in Victoria, my furthest customer was less than 2 km. from home. Still, I only delivered there if I was going to be in that part of town anyway.


    This is important. Delivering to inconveniently distant customers, even when arranging to meet more than from a general area at a central place, is a big time sink. If there is absolutely no other way, at least run the math ahead of time to see what your time will be worth...


    I think the best return in $/time terms on the farm that I interned on was stinging nettle. Not the quickest to pick, but with some practice it was bringing in a decent amount, and the overhead/investment was nil...
     
    chip sanft
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    R Scott wrote:
    People want kitchen herbs year round. Pot them in nice looking pots to sit in the kitchen window.


    I agree with this. Basil in pots plus basil cuttings. Compare the prices at the store with the ease of growing and it seems like a space where a small producer (who can handle things carefully) could make $500 a month for sure.
     
    Clare Marmalejo
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    Wow! I really love the flow of ideas here. I think what I am learning is that I just need to plant, grow, propagate and breed everything I can to feed my family and sell the rest.

    @R Scott- I have really been considering propagating and selling seedlings and plants made from cuttings. I have a lot of amazing plants on my property but I don't know all the variety names. Like I have redbuds, cherry trees, forsythia and a gorgeous japanese maple but I don't know if people would by them without the specific variety known? Everything I have planted has the info still attached.

    @Su Ba- I need $500 a month, not per week. That is about $125 per week. I think it is doable but I am trying to develop a bit of a strategy. Like certain things to focus on here.

    @Miranda- Thank you for the info! Do you have a specific incubator that you use? We do have a sealed. Woodshop/garage that would work depending on the space.

    @R Ranson- I do think growing more of our food will save us a lot! We spend most of our money on produce and meat so the more of that we save the better. We really don't eat out ever but I do think better planning could help our budget a little and reduce waste. Thank you for all the warnings and endless suggestions. I am doing a modified keyhole since we already made 4 hugelkultur mounds and plan to fill in around them with layers of complimentary plants. It's all a great experiment.

    I read somewhere that when you begin an orchard/food Forest that you can make money by focusing on annuals and poultry. I am writing all this down and hoping to see what works this year and perfect it by next year.

     
    Tobias Ber
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    hey clare...

    awesome thread. i wish you best luck an blessings.

    i d like you to ask yourself some questions first. please take a piece of paper (or more) for each group of questions:

  • what are my passions? what fills me with fun/joy? what s on my heart?


  • what are my skills? in which areas i m really good at?


  • what are my/our ressources? what do i/we have around here that can be used?


  • start from that. try to find ways to earn money that will combine things from different pieces of paper. do brainstorming. write down ideas, even when they might sound crazy.



    i think, you should look into options to involve other people. maybe especially the ones who could not afford to pay premium for beyond-organix-fresh-produce. like single moms or college students. you could think about things like:

  • pick your own, save 30%


  • help 3 hours on the farm, get a box of food


  • pick up deliveries for people in your neighborhood, deliver 5 boxes, get your own box for free


  • sell our product to your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, get your stuff for free (or even get a few bucks from it)


  • you cook marmelade/jam/jelly for our produce, i sell it, you get paid in produce


  • bring new customers/clients and you get a box of produce as reward


  • come and help and i ll teach you stuff (interns/volunteers)

    help to collect stuff we need (composting material, coffee grounds etc.). bring it, when you come to buy your food and you ll get extra


    this will need to generate big surplusses, so you can give away some (samples, gifts for marketing) and pay people in produce. look into bio-intense growing to get surplusses. look into perennial. what about berries? mulberry? cranberry? fruit trees? figs? nuts?
    if your place permits you could rent out a space for garden-parties, bbq or camping.


     
    David Livingston
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    mmm you are looking to make $500 a month thats 6000 a year thats 116 a week
    Growing veg and fruit for your family with just small additions subtractions to your diet could replace about $50 easy I would think So now you are only looking for 66$ to make up .
    People often come on this site looking for instant result but life is not like that Fruit trees take years to come into full production even more for nut tress . So start planting now . I would aim to gradually transition to this state rather than jump straight in

    David
     
    Miranda Converse
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    Clare Marmalejo wrote:
    @Miranda- Thank you for the info! Do you have a specific incubator that you use? We do have a sealed. Woodshop/garage that would work depending on the space.


    I have an incubator from Dickey's (http://dickeyincubators.com/). They are a bit pricey but easily pay for themselves if you do start selling chicks.

    I would start off with a simple Styrofoam incubator or build one yourself first until you know that you enjoy it though. You won't get the greatest hatches, but it will give you good experience.
     
    Thekla McDaniels
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    No one has mentioned cheesemaking. You could have a couple of goats on an acre. You would likely need to buy their alfalfa, but in addition to selling cheese, you would be able to quit buying most dairy products. There is a great book called Rising Goats Naturally by Deborah Niemann, which covers everything you need to know, but I would start by finding a very helpful local goat keeper. If keeping 2 goats on an acre, I would have a dry lot set up more than trying to graze them, because you probably have things on your acre you don't want them to eat. If you do not have all your area planted I would concentrate the areas where goats will NEVER go, and have areas you could put them on and off depending on the growth cycle in your climate. It's not for everybody, but it might fit your group, especially with so many people in your household.

    Another topic:

    I buy dry black beans in 25 pound bags, lots cheaper than the small bag, dry beans lots cheaper than precooked canned. Canning dry beans is easy, but it takes a pressure cooker, you re use your jars, so you cut down on trash or recycling. Once you have a pressure cooker, you can also can your chicken or other broth, and I can mine with some meat in it. I do the canning of dry beans and chicken meat and broth when I would be heating the house anyway, so I'm using the heat twice.

    If you are not already canning or buying in bulk, you could likely make up most of your 5oo a month by getting started there.

    If you are not already buying bulk for the things you do buy the change over can be made easier by making a gradual switch. Each time you go to the grocery store, buy the large amount of just one thing, and that won't be on your list again for awhile, slowly you'll end up with fewer things on your list each time, and almost everything will be costing you less. (You have to watch the prices, because once in a while the small containers cost less per volume or ounce thean the large ones. I know it did not cost less to get it packaged and to the store, so I get suspicious about how everything is arbitratily manipulated, but it's a pretty good habit to watch the price per pound or roll or what ever, no matter what we buy)
     
    colin stace
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    maybe try meat rabbits.
     
    Eric Rummler
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    A University student who was a frequent visitor to our store a few years back came in one day & asked me if I had ever been to Peru?

    "No" I said "but I have always wanted to go".

    She replied "Well I want to go and I checked out the cost of an airplane ticket & if I buy it now at a reduced rate I will only need to make $32.00 a day to pay for the ticket & two weeks in Peru if I live out of my backpack".

    She walked dogs, she raked yards, she delivered packages on her bicycle, painted a persons shed & I don't remember what else but she ended up spending 3 weeks in Peru.

    Point of this story is there is always a way. $500.00 a month sounds scary but a scared man never made a nickel or had any fun in life.

    Sometimes to find out what we can do we have to get our back put against the wall, why wait for that? Take a chance, believe in yourself, quit the job & make it work.

    It will be hard work & you will soon find out what you don't need in your life.

    When you get older you will not have many regrets for the things you did but you will for the things you did not do.
     
    alex Keenan
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    My first question would be what are the markets that you would actually have access to.
    Within each market who would be your customers?
    For each customer what good and/or service that the customer wants and has the ability to pay for, can you supply at a reasonable profit?
    If you can answer the above, than we can begin to talk about a cashflow of 500 a month or some seasonal cashflow that will give a similar yearly result.
     
    Steve Farmer
    Posts: 390
    Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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    forest garden greening the desert trees
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    Can you plant ten tree seeds or cuttings each day?
    Could four of the ten survive to 3 months old?
    Could each small tree be worth $4.50 after 3 months?

    Could you market on facebook, craigslist and other free sites to sell 4 trees each day?
    Could you get started in pots or borrow space in a friend's garden until you have built up a stock and tested the market.

    Could you plant twice as many and let half grow to 6 mths old so by end of year you are selling larger trees too?
     
    alex Keenan
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    Check after mothers day with commercial growers for liners on sale. You can also get deals in the fall or winter pre-sales.
    Getting small liners of specialty plants that are in demand in your area could be profitable to you.
    Same goes for other niche plant markets in your area. Avoid the Lowes and Homedepot commodity plants since it is unlikely you can make a profit at the prices they sell at.
     
    Barbara Allen
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    Would you consider having a pony or some ponies for children birthday parties, or train your dogs for a little show? How about small bed and breakfast for permie types to visit your place? Yoga ashram or classes? That's just a few of the ideas I have thought about. Maybe a farmer's market if you grow some veggies or do crafts.
     
    nikos pappas
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    i also own one acre and that's the one million dollar question that troubles me as well.life in Greece is difficult these days and i am looking at an extra income (without having to quit my day job). a few things/projects i am looking at are:

    a)construction of (automated in terms of watering) raised beds
    b)collection of rare/heirloom vegetable seeds, planting and growing the veggies for sale to restaurants (one can also sell the seeds)
    c)construction of a small pond where i could keep goldfish (hardy fish that can be easily sold)
    d)small animal husbandry: chicken and other poultry, sheep, small pigs (i think rabbits are the most cost efficient if you want to produce meat). you can also focus on rare breeds that you could sell instead of slaughter
    e)further development of my olive orchard (i don't know if you can grow olives where you live but if you can go for it, everybody wants good olive oil)

    no matter what you choose to do, make sure that you take loads and loads of pictures. during wintertime you can write e-books about your projects and supplement your income
    (https://www.amazon.com/Publish-Amazon-Kindle-Direct-Publishing-ebook/dp/B004LX069M?ie=UTF8&keywords=ebook%20publishing&qid=1464259871&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1).

    also don't underestimate the market for handcrafted items like wooden kitchen utensils( a search in eBay for wooden spoons produced 2,198 listings) or even more weird gadgets, all you need is an eBay account.
    i hope this was helpful for you.
     
    nikos pappas
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    if you are thinking about becoming full-time farmer John seymour's books are a good place to start
    http://www.amazon.com/New-Complete-Book-Self-Sufficiency/dp/1405345101/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
    he was not doing permaculture but he was one of the best in the self-sufficiency mevement and a REAL farmer writing books.
     
    Nicolai Barca
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    There are some good books on the topic on small farming profitably. People have already given you great advice and I can attest to the chicken hatchery idea. It can make good money if you can sell enough and is a quick turn around on investment. We do and with three small 42 egg incubators, make at last $500 most months. Brooder hens also may be more your thing and I've heard people proudly say they are better than incubators. ...make sure you have a good incubator. Some are terrible.

    Realistically, you can make a lot more than $500 a month on an acre. I've seen figures saying that intensive gardeners sell $40,000 worth of produce annually from just an acre when sold direct to consumer or via CSAs.

    Milk can also be highly profitable. I doubt you have the same situation where you are at but there is big demand for raw milk here. A milking cow at relatively modest production can get 4 gallons a day. Raw milk goes for $20 a gallon in these parts! That is one cow making $29,200 to $60,000 worth of milk. Seems ridiculous, right? Well, the secret is it's illegal. There are people who do pay off their mortgage that way. You'll want to check the law books on that one though because it is almost certainly illegal in most places. An acre also is not usually enough to sustain a cow unless you can bring in feed but an acre could hold milk goats. I don't know much about milking goats (not that i know much about cows either) but it may be worth looking into. Then there are cheeses and yogurts and other value added products you could potentially pull off and get other resources from like whey.

    You may also want to consider aquaponics depending on the situation. I've seen very productive systems on very little space. I seen one that was somewhat of a hybrid using an available water source, farming tilapia and periodically dumping the water into fields where it irrigated and fertilized a high value local crop. ...not closed-loop by any means but in this situation, it was a better way since it caused no pollution and water was abundant. In this case, they had a very productive system, but the owner/operator had so much other things going on in his life that it was nearly abandoned. I seen another very successful aquaponics system supplying sprouts and garnish greens to high end restaurants. I asked how much they made with this small scale system on 1/50th an acre and was very impressed! Sprouts have a very quick turn around too. The fish were basically their pets in that case.

    Main advice: 1) start small and expand products you feel comfortable growing and selling. 2) market direct to consumers. This may be difficult if you are far from a major market. 3) use tools to do the job you already do but more efficiently. ...the books actually have better advice. I'm trying to recreate what they said from the top of my head but I somehow don't think i'm quite "nailing it". 4) Plan your budgets. A farm is a business. 5) use permaculture principles that make you more money. Often when I am asked what permaculture is, I skip a lot of it and simply say "its a bunch of clever farming ideas."

    Good luck and more importantly, have fun.
     
    Nicolai Barca
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    You might want to listen to some episodes of the Farmer to Farmer podcast. Yesterday, I listened to one where a man was grossing $80,000 in sales from veggies from just 1/2 acre! He was using tunnels and a no-till style of gardening. Possibilities are endless.

    Farmer to Farmer podcast
     
    diana todd
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    I tried to give this post a thumbs up but the system would not take my thumbs up so I write to you R Ranson! Excellent post! thank you for sharing this!!!




    R Ranson wrote:The first part of this post is discouraging. But stick with me, the second half has some ideas on how to make money.


    Growing animals or vegetables is easy. Selling them his hard. If you live somewhere with a strong local food supply, then it may be difficult to find your niche.

    When we first moved to this farm, my grandfather's idea was to grow tomatoes and cucumbers for sale - what a laugh. We already have a huge tomato and cucumber industry that sell 'perfect' produce for less than it would cost us to grow them. Same with all the standard crops. The only way to sell something was to create a food fad, which takes a lot of customer education and ends up about $1 per hour of labour. The next year, growing the same crop on our small scale is useless because the mid-size farms grew it and undersold us - despite guarantees that people would buy our crop if we grew it.

    Growing animals for sale creates a much larger range of difficulties. If your animal has an illness, it infects your customer's farm... in some parts of the world you're liable to pay for all the damage. The thing about selling animals live that really breaks my heart, is the phone call 6 months to a year later. Learning about how the animal has been neglected and/or mistreated because the customer didn't understand that goats eat fruit trees (which is the absolutely most fundamental and essential quality that makes a goat a goat! It's so obvious that it doesn't even need mentioning because that's the first thing that one learns when learning about goats - they eat fruit trees, and beating the animal isn't going to make them stop - what it does do is make the animal a danger to humans and then the poor critter, for no fault of it's own, has to die, and it breaks my heart because this kind of thing is totally unnecessary) or that ducks need to be protected from predators. I very seldom sell live livestock anymore. It's just too heartbreaking. If you get into livestock, it pays to understand their basic nature before you bring hope the critter - pretty please, I'm begging you. Chickens dig up things and get eaten by no end of predators - the human is responsible for understanding this.

    Basically selling anything perishable can be far more difficult than the books make out. For it to work, one needs to be good at both growing and more importantly, good at selling.


    Saving money:
    Now, we 'make' most of our money by saving money. Growing our own food (about 50 to 90% depending on the season) has saved a huge amount. At least $500 a month. Not eating out is another. Eating seasonally means what we do buy is on special in the shops. By this way, what we do spend money on is high quality, fair trade or local, and organic.

    Cooking from scratch is a money saver. Instead of $2 to $4 for a can of beans, spend 4 to 10 cents on dry beans. With a little practice, you can eat healthy, home cooked, ecologically sound, time-saving, meals for under a dollar a plate.

    Perhaps the one area we save the most money is taxes. Because we sell a few eggs to friends (we have really good eggs, so there's a high demand for them - we can pick and choose our customers), excess fruit and veg, we qualify for farm status. It cuts our property taxes down from several thousand a year, to $100. Although, it looks like it may go up to $120 this year... sigh.


    As you're new to growing, start small. If I was starting on a new plot of land, I would probably grow a keyhole garden for the first year - the rest of the time I would spend observing the land and seeing what resources it naturally offers up. Wild harvesting is becoming quite popular. This weekend I made about $50 with pick-your-own fiddlehead ferns - which is about half what they cost in the grocery store right now, and twice what I would get wholesaling them. Your property might have a resource on it which could bring you money, but would be destroyed with too much human action.


    Now, ways to actually make money:
  • grow non-perishable foods - like pulses which are super-easy. Artisan dry bean and peas are gaining momentum. What you don't grow, you can eat. Pulses also improve your soil for free - win, win win!
  • Find a craft that can be made with local materials (like basketry), get good at it, sell it on etsy.
  • Start small. If it's successful, then scale up. If you start large and it fails, then it can cost a lot of money. Start with the size you can do for $20 or less.
  • Get a library card - no really, this made lots of money. From learning how to make/grow things (both books and free workshops), to meeting new customers, to borrowing seeds from the seed library which I grew, 'returned'. The seeds I kept, I sell or grow plants for sale.
  • good quality seeds - another non-perishable item
  • Build a reputation for quality - I have a wait list as long as my arm for my eggs because they are better quality than any other free range, organic blablablawords in town. But I'm really good at keeping chickens happy, so they make good eggs. Quality is worth more than certification or anything else. Be it seeds that thrive in local weather or the sweetest berries, being good quality is often enough to bring people to your door - instead of the neighbour's door who sells the same thing
  • Be a little bit unique - If you are growing seeds, maybe grow landrace seeds
  • dry herbs
  • textiles - fibre plants like linen or flax, or dye plants that can be dried then shipped all over the world.
  • teach - become good at something interesting and teach it
  • consult - become amazing at something and people will pay you to give them your opinion
  • write - books, magazines, blog, even writing posts on this forum can bring income
  • residual income streams
  • cottage industry
  • cut flowers - organic, locally grown flowers are very popular with the smaller florist - but it takes skill to do it right. Consult with a local florists about what flowers they wish they could get, they will have a list, grow these, then get the florist to teach you the 'right' way to harvest them. Cultivate this relationship and bobs your uncle.
  • if you're close to town, set up allotment gardens and rent them out


  • Finding the right thing for you will make things easier. If growing garlic is too painful, maybe fava beans would be better, or perhaps recovering pallets and building furniture is more your thing.


     
    Josephine Howland
    Posts: 36
    Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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    I agree with R Ranson.  We try to grow as much of our own food as we can,  The last couple of years have been bad, as illness and broken bones have gotten in the way.  Because my husband has lung issues now and is on oxygen, we can no longer have farm animals.  We also struggled with gardening as my broken hand and his lung illness hit within a month of each other.  This year we are getting back on track.  We cook 99% of our meals at home.  We have learned that if we are able to can between 35 & 40 qts of tomatoes each year, we can get through the long New England winter until the next years tomatoes are ready.  I know that might sound like a lot of tomatoes, but you haven't had my pasta sauce!  By cooking at home, mostly from scratch, we save a lot of money.  Since both my husband and I are now disabled, our income streams have diminished greatly.

    One thing I may sometime get back into is sewing (still hard to use my right hand after the break).  My mother, who turns 89 next month, was a dressmaker for most of her life.  For awhile she did alterations.  Now she was in an area that had a military base, and Woods hole Oceanography Academy.  That means, uniforms that need to be altered, hemmed, as well as stars and stripes that need to be sewn on.  She made about $300 a week just on alterations, IN HER 70s-80s!  Seriously!  I'm in a rural area where there just isn't much call for alterations.  Research your area and find out what there is a need for, then teach yourself that skill. 

    Take time and visit with your local economic bureau, librarian, USDA extension office, they may be to brainstorm up some ideas with you.  Across the way from us a family grows blueberries, lots of blueberries, they call them orgasmic organic!  They have U-pick, and a small stand.   Find your niche and go for it!  Good luck we are all rooting for you!

     
    T.E. Joseph
    Posts: 9
    Location: OK
    cat chicken urban
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    raising pigeons for meat (squab) is good for an acre... they'll pay off a lot more if you're willing to process them yourself.

    and agreeing with someone up this thread.. saving: if you're going to start using dry goods... you might look into getting a good dehydrator (albeit, there are alternatives; toying around with solar ovens can be a bit of fun. But there's also more variables in its use.) and in addition to that dehydrator, get a good grinder can handle grinding beans - (electric would save you some time, but it's easier to find an old turn crank these days that can manage it than that many electric ones and they tend to be in the more affordable range, but it can be time consuming and strenuous)- you can make 'flours' that you can bake with but also use to create 'instant' stocks that may cut down on your cooking time/resources... among other things.

    same to go with building a smoker (really, it's relatively simple build. Although, you can find small scale, portable ones for a decent price.), a dry house or even a cellar.

    the use of spices makes a ramen budget seem a little more grand. Also on that note, making your own infused oils and booze for cooking extends both your oils and spices as well as up scaling down home meals. Everything is quite variable to your own dietary needs...

    if you've got cats, particularly the indoor variety, some recommend switching to clumping chicken feed instead of using litter.

    If you're thinking of making homesteader crafts and goods, the pet and livestock market is a good way to go... say if you head towards the soap and skincare racket. It doesn't have to be quite so pretty. And its usually an under served market. A bit easier if you've got a couple goats, tho... seeing more of a trend for goat milk products, particularly in pet care. But that's the kind of investment that might be better to consider further down the road.

    and also, like fowl and other things... focusing on the specialty, rare and heritage breeds.. to well, breed is decent enough for small operations.  Like with chickens, you'd do better with raising them to just about breeding age (about four months) and selling them off as breeding pairs. Of course, you should probably focus on a single breed for the 'pure' racket - raise it up to show quality (or whatever standards are set for the abuse) while those you have to cull.. tossing into your lower stock to crossbreed.  Albeit most of the other breeders might prefer you humanely dispose of them and have a big breakfast than risking those not up to standard somehow making its way into the general market under the title of the 'pure' breed.

    specialty herbs and hybrids - especially for the local markets; mint hybrids are one of the easier to grow and there's demand or at least novelty with some of the hybrids out there. Jim Westerfield's being some of the more quirky and prolific ones.

    Quite a few people offer classes to others, too. And if you really want to work the scene, start networking with the local farms in the region... from workshopping to monthly cooking clubs / events... if you're in more of a rural area, you might consider investing in a van or trailer and working the barter & trade scene... we occasionally play that game out here, not necessarily door to door but usually some central stop that's just outside of the farmer market territory. With that, we tend to have more of a market with the isolated families and often it relates to more generalized goods... mostly dealing with used plus size clothing & baby clothing/equipment along with the occasional odd or end and just general time savers but haven't quite taken it to the 'fashion truck' level yet. 

    For some of the old school off the grid crowd, we also run personal shopping services and occasionally taxi...  which is one way to obtain affordable access to things you wouldn't otherwise be able to. And it can build up a decent word of mouth network.
     
    T.E. Joseph
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    Location: OK
    cat chicken urban
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    I also gotta wonder what is your layout like?

    the simplest for you might take a larger initial investment.. but it's what we're working on for our next project.

    which is building another home on the property... viably you could do a small granny flat or even just create a solid rv (tiny home) port

    sure, you might not need to do that.. where you are for the latter bit. But it's generally nicer, you could go for a two for one.. get a bit of rent not only for leasing out that space but a bit of your yard as well in a sharecropping like capacity -- work something as a very small scale intentional community. That's generally good for working with other newbies. Albeit, if you've got neighbors or nearby cityfolk or townies, the same angle might play out.. rent out a space of your yard plus get a few extra hands to help you with your projects.

    do the former, especially if you take your time with and well, there's something to be said about charging people to help you to build alternatively... albeit, it's usually good that you've taken a couple classes yourself or work out a deal with someone else to come out and host for it.


    taking on an intern or a wwoofer, there's a lot of crap gigs out there.. so you could pull just about any stunt and probably get a bite. But you might get a better selection by specifically reaching out to community colleges and universities that have degree or certification programs in sustainable farming, eco tourism or outdoor adventure.. and looking at the available "internships" in your region with the surrounding farms and businesses; one of those three majors is likely going to have some overlap with the others and a bit more skills for your project. In this way, you're just offering them housing out in bfe that might be better than a flop house, tho, most farms don't offer even that. So, you can  reduce or eliminate the rent substantially based on their skill level and gigs... even potentially write it off on your taxes -- so, you can get someone with a bit more knowledge helping you out with getting your project up and running, while for something so small, they're likely also working with other people in the region or having actual gig.

    of course, you're likely to find all kinds of skilled labor that just needs a space to rent. . . and many ways to barter that down to your projects need. If you want to bypass most of the rental or other potential restrictions, like with people living in rvs or tiny homes on your property.. if you're in an area with restrictions, then aim for seasonal or weekend 'stays'... that usually gets around most of those limitations. Plus might get you a variety of people to offer you a more rounded skillset, if you're unable to reach out or invest in educating yourself.

    either way, it might give you some income or save you some cash towards funding your other projects.
     
    Hope Marshall
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    I like quilting and sewing so I sell a few throw style lap quilts in the fall. I can make 5 in a month and sell them for $30.00 each. We breed and butcher cuy (guinea pig). We started with 3 females that were free and bought a long haired boar (peruvian) and barter the long haired babies to the pet stores in exchange for other supplies. The short hair variety are kept and fattened up then sold for meat. My main consistent buyer is the guy that owns the Latin Food Mart in town. He gives me 4.00 per pound and each pig brings about 2lbs and each liter averages 3 meat piggies. It takes about 4 months to get them this big but I have no overhead for food or anything so I consider this a win of pure profit. We also have Jonathan Apple's that ripen in June/July so we sell them at the farmer and flea markets. We have cherries in May/June and make pies and cobblers and sell them as well. I also make sourdough for the German Store in town. They give me 3.00 per lb loaf. I spend about 5.00 to make 8 loaves. I am handy with building and we are working on our first pallet home (be wary of pallets, make sure they are the right kind of stamp for human use as they are sometimes treated with toxic chemicals). If it is successful, I will advertise that service as well. My husband is toying with a sawmill idea that boasts repurposed materials to make it and we always have people wanting to give fallen trees away in our area. I'm not sure if all this adds up to 500.00 a month or not as it is kinda sporadic but it's a nice addition to my husband's working income since we homeschool our kids as well.
     
    Phil Rickard
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    Well personally I find teaching what skills I have to others can raise me a fair bit, the average workshop has approx 10 people. each paying $100-150, I do things such as bread baking, rocket fires, jams and preserves, foraging, make your own balms, earth building and other alternative building methods, and so on...... try to do a 2 day course once a month like this and you should find you make enough....
     
    Come have lunch with me Arthur. Adventure will follow. This tiny ad:
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