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What ways have you actually made money on your homestead?  RSS feed

 
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I haven’t sold anything yet, just provided for our family with the garden, eggs and meat.
I plan to sell things this year.
What have you sold from your homestead or plan to sell?
 
pollinator
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I have been selling seeds on ebay.  

https://www.ebay.com/itm/192607799836?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

I made like $100.00  last year  with 6 hours of work preparing the seed, and 15 min each time I sell so  9.75 hours  preparing items to mail.    

So I made  $7.2  per hour of work doing this.

Not outstanding, but I love that I can fit this work into any time I have free.

Other things I do is I trade time for $, as I cook meals from scratch and buy in bulk.      Making your own food in advance has save me $,  as does making my own energy via solar,  but it takes time.

It seems to be a trade off,  as you have to consider what is more valuable, time or $.
 
Amanda Pennington
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Are you selling seeds that you’ve saved from the plants?
If so what steps do you take to save them? Wash and let dry?
Do you sell all year or mostly just spring?
 
pollinator
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...Eggs
...Young hens for laying
...Bottle fed lambs and kids
...Meat lambs
...Rabbits
...Pigiets
...A wide range of veggies, fruits, and herbs
...Compost
...Manure
...Bamboo poles
...Potted plants and veggie starts
...Seeds
 
pollinator
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We have always focused on being a sheep farm, so that is where we have primarily spent our efforts, and made our money. We have sold into every sort of sheep market there is, from 4H lambs, to Easter Lambs to Pets, to Wool, etc. There are some we have not got into yet, like Lanoline or Milk, but who knows, maybe at some point. With a farm that is 3/4 forest, we have also made considerable money on forest products.

We have not really made any money, nor lost any. In fact in looking back at our records I can see where our recordkeeping is somewhat flawed in this regard. I keep track of every penny made or spent on this farm, but ultimately it gets attributed as a whole to farming. But that is not really accurate, for instance it would not matter if I have sheep or not, I would still have to pay property taxes, so while I made $21,000 last year on this farm, $10,200 of the $26,000 in expenses is for property taxes. That is allowed by tax law, but screws up the numbers on my overall farm profitability.

I go by "sheep days" here, which basically is say I have 100 sheep in the barn yesterday...that is 100 sheep days. But if I sell 90% of my flock, and today only have ten sheep in the barn, that is 10 sheep days. So for two calendar days, I have had 110 sheep days. I keep track on a day by day basis and have since 2008. By taking the number of sheep days over the last ten years, and dividing it by the amount of profit or loss collectively over the last ten years, I get a loss of 25 cents per sheep per day.

This thread though has kind of sprurned me to go back and eleminate some of the data that is skewing the numbers though so I can get a better idea of what is happening financially. Property taxes and Interest do not really count on direct expenses and profit.
 
pollinator
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My wife gets $6 a dozen for eggs from the folks in her office and she has way more customers than our small flock of chickens can possibly supply.  She sells about 2 dozen eggs a week that way.  That money pays for all the chicken feed, bedding and supplies, and still leaves more than enough for our family to have all the eggs we need.  My parents help themselves to the eggs as well.

We aren't as active in trying to sell our veggies or fruit, but occasionally my wife will take a big basket of peaches or tomatoes or pomegranates or whatever is ripe and leave them in the break room with a sign: "Take what you want -- suggested donation, 4 lemons for a dollar" or whatever price she deems fair.  People leave the money in the basket and cart off the produce.  She probably makes $400 - $500 a year on that -- all surplus that would otherwise end up in the compost or go to the chickens.   I'll bet that she made close to $50 this fall on persimmons alone.  Lemons and limes are always a hit, as people buy them weekly.  Avocados are a money maker.  Artichokes are super abundant and people are willing to pay a buck a piece.  People go crazy for home grown tomatoes and tomatillos.

A penny saved is a penny earned.  I think the most money that I "MAKE" is the money I don't spend at the grocery store.  Yesterday we picked a big basket full of blood oranges and cut those up for dinner.  Lovely -- nice, deep crimson, sweet and juicy - a whole bowl full of orange chunks.  We had a couple of avocados sitting on the kitchen counter that were pretty ripe so I made some guacamole to go with our fish.  I picked a couple of handfuls of kale and dressed that -- I served the fish on a lovely bed of dark greens.  In the bottom of the fridge, there are still about 2 dozen pomegranates, one of which got peeled and de-pommed for dinner.  That right there would have been about $10 or more in produce, just for one meal.  But had I earned the money to pay for that same produce at the store, I would have first have to make $16, of which the government would take a third, and then when I bought the food at the store, they'd take an additional 10%.  Every time you pull a carrot out of your garden rather than purchase it at the store, you are putting money into your pocket and keeping out of the hands of the government or big agriculture.  

So considering that scenario, I would conservatively estimate that we "earn" about $5000 a year from our garden -- about $400 a month in savings.  Perhaps that number is low.  I do know that we eat a whole lot better than if I were to go to the store and purchase this same amount of produce.  Right now there are so many tangerines getting soft and too ripe, so we are juicing them by the gallon.  How much would that cost?  We just wouldn't do that.  So it's a quality of life thing that you can't put a price on.  Living well, eating well, eating nutrient dense food from your own land, and being absolutely confident in the purity of the food as well (no toxic chemicals added anywhere in the production of that food).

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a couple of cabbages that need to be shredded so I can make a crock of kraut.  Free kraut.
 
Travis Johnson
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I would differ with Marco on the idea of this, as me and my wife were discussing this very topic yesterday. How much money does a person save raising their own food versus buying it. Myself, I think it can be bought at the store most times for less money. I can buy eggs at the store for 88 cents per dozen, I cannot produce my own eggs for that little money. Even vegetables have seed, seedling, nutrient, harvesting and preservation costs. Mason jars, canning supplies, energy to boil the water...all that has inherent hidden costs. A person can buy 50 pounds of poatoes for a lot less then I can grow it for. In fact I knew of one guy that complained about how his electricity costs per month were hundreds of dollars because he had three chest freezers running, and yet boasted about how much free meat he had in those freezers. An older man, it was just him and his wife...good gracious man, that is an expensive way to feed yourself!

I am not saying do not grow your own food. I think if you can do something for yourself a person should. And of course there is the health benefits to your own food, but I also know there is a lot of hidden costs to growing it too.

It is kind of like the person who has chainsaws, a truck, a woodspliter and a few forested acres and claims their heat their home with free firewood.
 
Mart Hale
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Amanda Pennington wrote:Are you selling seeds that you’ve saved from the plants?
If so what steps do you take to save them? Wash and let dry?
Do you sell all year or mostly just spring?




I sell all year long.   but most of my sales are Jan - March.

I first mash all of the tomatoes then I use different screens to remove the inner goo,   after that I rub the seeds to gether to wash of the remaining goo, then put them on a table to dry.

I then make sure the seeds don't stick together and dry them on a spare kitchen table, revisiting them to move them so they dry and don't clump up.

The seeds prove most viable, I do get good reviews from my customers.      


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Travis Johnson wrote:I would differ with Marco on the idea of this, as me and my wife were discussing this very topic yesterday. How much money does a person save raising their own food versus buying it. Myself, I think it can be bought at the store most times for less money. I can buy eggs at the store for 88 cents per dozen, I cannot produce my own eggs for that little money. Even vegetables have seed, seedling, nutrient, harvesting and preservation costs. Mason jars, canning supplies, energy to boil the water...all that has inherent hidden costs. A person can buy 50 pounds of poatoes for a lot less then I can grow it for. In fact I knew of one guy that complained about how his electricity costs per month were hundreds of dollars because he had three chest freezers running, and yet boasted about how much free meat he had in those freezers. An older man, it was just him and his wife...good gracious man, that is an expensive way to feed yourself!

I am not saying do not grow your own food. I think if you can do something for yourself a person should. And of course there is the health benefits to your own food, but I also know there is a lot of hidden costs to growing it too.

It is kind of like the person who has chainsaws, a truck, a woodspliter and a few forested acres and claims their heat their home with free firewood.



What I've noticed so far in the replies and from my own observations, are two things: doing more of what you are already doingORgetting more from what you are already doing.

Doing more: would be adding to your existing production to have a surplus for sale, there's an economy of scale, equipment at hand, knowledge in place.

Getting more: would be saving seeds from crops you already grow and selling them; or selling chicken manure, as well as eggs; or "adding value" like making pickles or sauce, especially as a way to use "second quality" produce.

To Travis' point of it being less expensive to buy things rather than providing for yourself "for free": It is easy to overlook the "hidden costs" which add up in dollars, but there are also "hidden benefits" which are more intangible... and it comes down to what anyone is willing, prepared, or able to do.

One may not be willing to scrub toilets to pay for propane, but happy to chop wood from their own land, and maybe even skip a gym membership. The guy with the freezers of meat is likely a hunter who has enjoyed his time in the woods, target shooting, and the meals he has waiting in the freezer. Certainly not $free$, but maybe free-dom? as in freedom to do things on your own terms.

There's also the notion of using dollars, and avoiding using dollars, which comes at a 30-40% discount... also, those $0.88/dozen eggs aren't the $5.99/dozen extra large free-range organic... so remember compare po-tay-tos to po-tah-toes in your calculations...

 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I would differ with Marco on the idea of this, as me and my wife were discussing this very topic yesterday. How much money does a person save raising their own food versus buying it. Myself, I think it can be bought at the store most times for less money. I can buy eggs at the store for 88 cents per dozen, I cannot produce my own eggs for that little money. Even vegetables have seed, seedling, nutrient, harvesting and preservation costs. Mason jars, canning supplies, energy to boil the water...all that has inherent hidden costs. A person can buy 50 pounds of poatoes for a lot less then I can grow it for. In fact I knew of one guy that complained about how his electricity costs per month were hundreds of dollars because he had three chest freezers running, and yet boasted about how much free meat he had in those freezers. An older man, it was just him and his wife...good gracious man, that is an expensive way to feed yourself!

I am not saying do not grow your own food. I think if you can do something for yourself a person should. And of course there is the health benefits to your own food, but I also know there is a lot of hidden costs to growing it too.

It is kind of like the person who has chainsaws, a truck, a woodspliter and a few forested acres and claims their heat their home with free firewood.



We share your "combination" approach, Travis.

My wife works tending our fruit and nut trees, grapevines, and our garden to provide us with seasonal food,
and I work to make money to buy whatever else we need.

Along with producing food, our homestead also produces clients.
Besides my regular job, as a hobby I install residential sewage treatment plants, and use ours as a demonstration. I host "Sewer Tours" Saturday mornings so folks can see for themselves exactly how it works and can decide if they would like to do it themselves or pay me to install it for them.

So in this regard our homestead has made us thousands of dollars.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I would differ with Marco on the idea of this, as me and my wife were discussing this very topic yesterday. How much money does a person save raising their own food versus buying it. Myself, I think it can be bought at the store most times for less money. I can buy eggs at the store for 88 cents per dozen, I cannot produce my own eggs for that little money. Even vegetables have seed, seedling, nutrient, harvesting and preservation costs. Mason jars, canning supplies, energy to boil the water...all that has inherent hidden costs. A person can buy 50 pounds of poatoes for a lot less then I can grow it for. In fact I knew of one guy that complained about how his electricity costs per month were hundreds of dollars because he had three chest freezers running, and yet boasted about how much free meat he had in those freezers. An older man, it was just him and his wife...good gracious man, that is an expensive way to feed yourself!

I am not saying do not grow your own food. I think if you can do something for yourself a person should. And of course there is the health benefits to your own food, but I also know there is a lot of hidden costs to growing it too.

It is kind of like the person who has chainsaws, a truck, a woodspliter and a few forested acres and claims their heat their home with free firewood.



I broadly agree with you, Travis - it is usually cheaper to let someone else grow (factory produce) your food.  However, I think you also need to account for an apples-to-apples comparison.  At my local grocery, regular eggs are around $2/dozen.  Free range organic eggs are closer to $5/dozen.  While eating my own eggs saves me $2/dozen, the quality of my home eggs is comparable to (possibly better than) the $5/dozen ones, so even if I wouldn't be willing to pay that much if I were paying for them, I think the calculations should reflect the quality difference.  True, I spend as much on seed potatoes as our annual potato consumption would cost from the store, but you rarely see organic potatoes around here.  For the (fairly limited) amount of effort it takes us to grow potatoes, I feel it is worth it.  I can't find chokecherry or crabapple jelly (my top two favorites) at the store for any price...and those cost me about as much to make (assuming I am using new jars and rings, and even counting picking and canning time at a reasonable wage) as it would cost me to get a jar of strawberry jam, so while those are not 'profitable', they at least don't lose money, and are a specialty item I really enjoy.  I won't sell my jams and jellies, though - I wouldn't be able to charge enough to make them worth the bother of selling, once I factored in the time sitting around at markets waiting for a sale.  

Our place bleeds money, in part because saving and making money are not our priorities.  We care more about enjoying the place, puttering in the garden, planting trees, and whatnot.  Gross National Happiness vs. Gross National Product type calculations.  I do sell eggs and veggies at my office, and the egg sales cover the acquisition, feed, and bedding costs for the hens (so our own egg consumption is effectively free).  The veggie sales are really just to make sure things don't get wasted when we have a small surplus.  Large surpluses go to the food bank.  None of this does more than help subsidize our hobby, really.

If I were really serious about making a profit, I would look into niche herbs.  Dill is basically a weed here, but I bet organic dill would sell for a pretty penny...without needing to use much space or invest in special equipment.  I bet locally grown medicinal herbs (purple coneflower, horehound, etc) would probably also have a decent market, and would fetch a good price.  Most of the major fruits and vegetables, and also eggs, are so cheap because of mass production that I think it would be really hard for a small player to make any profit at it.  
 
Travis Johnson
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I am the same way. From 1988 to 2008 we just leased our farm out, we never actively did much with it. That was when I took the farm over in 2008 and decided to reintroduce sheep again. I am glad I did as it had tangible benefits. I can say with honesty that I am trying to make money on this farm, and two years ago did go to full-time farming, but when asked about profit, I often state: "I have never made any money, but I have never lost any either."

This farm is totally different then it was ten years ago. Heavy haul roads going back to the farthest fields. 90 acres of forest now turned into more fields. Miles of sheep fencing. Barns, manure pads, etc... That all came about because of the lowly ole wooly sheep allowing for grants and farm loans. However it is not a tax write off. This is just how life works. You put the work...and the capital costs...up front, then reap the benefits years down the road. It might not even be for me, it might be for my daughter and her husband??? I am a 9th generational farmer, so this really is not "my" farm, it is merely under my control for a few years. Chief Executive officer's they average 6 years at a company; but farmers like me average 40 years. I already have ten years as farm owner, it will be interesting to see what 30 more years of my leadership looks like. There is no guarantee that it will be good, but I will do the best I can, looking far down the road.
 
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We had a home business here that made most of our income until we closed it last year.  Now my husband has another home business which brings in a small income.  My new employment is taking care of my dad who has Alzheimer's but that takes place in the city, unfortunately.  I sold eggs for a few years, but it was not lucrative.  Most money "made" has been in the form of savings by living a simpler life and growing some food. Also transitioning  to Wildlife Management tax status saves us about $2500 a year which is far more than I ever made selling eggs.
 
Marco Banks
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A couple of thoughts:

1.  The nutrient density and food quality of the food that is raised in my system is VASTLY superior to anything I can buy in a store, and that includes Whole Foods or Trader Joes.  The eggs from our birds would sell for $7 a dozen at Whole Foods.  Any eggs purchased for $1 a dozen are going to be small, runny, and factory farmed in some massive confined feeding operation.  You can't even begin to compare the difference between the two.  An egg from our free-range birds is so much more flavorful with a deep yellow yoke -- night and day different from a commercial egg that you buy at Costco or a grocery store.  That's why my wife is getting $6 a dozen.  So when someone posts, "I can buy apples at my local Safeway for $2 a pound", there is absolutely no comparison between what they are purchasing and what I'm growing in my garden.  Not even close.

2.  We get about 16 - 17 dozen eggs from a single bag of feed.  So at that price point ($6 a dozen), she is able to pay for the feed and straw bedding after she sells just 4 dozen eggs.  You do the math.  That's a 400% return on investment.  

3.  In my post above, I mentioned the blood orange tree that I picked a basket of fruit from.  There will be over 50 lbs of fruit on that tree this year.  I paid $29 for that tree at Costco about 8 years ago.  We get a big crop off the tree every year.  I do not water from November till March (our wet months) and don't do any more than run the existing sprinkler system the rest of the year (3 times a week, which is what you've got to do in Southern California).  If the orchard were not there, I'd be watering grass, so no additional water over what is normal is being used.  So basically, that tree paid for itself the first year we had a good crop, and I get 50 lbs of oranges from it for free every year thereafter.

Basically, it's free food.

Buy the tree once, and pick for years and years.  And citrus needs no pruning or any kind of special care.  Avocados are the same.  Artichokes, ditto.  Bay leaf and other herbs . . . same.  Free food, year after year after year, with only a minimal need for maintenance on many of those plants.  What's the cost of organic blood oranges at Whole Foods?  About $5 a pound.  But lets be SUPER conservative and assume you could find those oranges for $1 a pound.  Even at that price, I would pay off the cost of my tree with about half of one crop in one season.

When you collect your own seeds, capture rainwater, create your own compost and chicken manure for fertilizer . . . it costs no more than the labor I put into it.  Free.  My only input is water, (about 8 months of the year) and I'd be paying to water grass if I didn't have my food forest.  The HOA insists upon that.

I'll stick by my original estimate: my "homestead" returns about $4000 - $5000 a year in sales and savings, and I've got a full-time job as an educator: all gardening takes place outside of normal work hours.   With tools, seeds, trees, supplies . . . I maybe spend $1000 a year.  But I'd be buying tools and supplies if my land wasn't a food forest, so that expense is a fixed cost, whether I raise a calorie of food or not.

 
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I made money selling vegetables and a small amount of made goods, Like elderberry cordial and redcurrant jelly.
We also saved money with chickens (eggs) Ducks (meat) and of course our own vegetables. It is MUCH cheaper to grow them here than buy my seeds cost (all last years costs) 300DKK compost was 70DKK (two trailer fulls) Tools are hand tools that were free. there is no water used or any other inputs. 370DKK will buy about 24 1kg bags of vegetables like carrots or onions. whereas my 370DKK paid for half a years worth of most veg and an entire years worth of onions and carrots! Caged eggs here are 24DKK for 15 I found in feed and straw it was costing half that, and the chickens themselves cost 50 each.
 
Mart Hale
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Marco Banks wrote:A couple of thoughts:

1.  The nutrient density and food quality of the food that is raised in my system is VASTLY superior to anything I can buy in a store, and that includes Whole Foods or Trader Joes.  The eggs from our birds would sell for $7 a dozen at Whole Foods.  Any eggs purchased for $1 a dozen are going to be small, runny, and factory farmed in some massive confined feeding operation.  You can't even begin to compare the difference between the two.  An egg from our free-range birds is so much more flavorful with a deep yellow yoke -- night and day different from a commercial egg that you buy at Costco or a grocery store.  That's why my wife is getting $6 a dozen.  So when someone posts, "I can buy apples at my local Safeway for $2 a pound", there is absolutely no comparison between what they are purchasing and what I'm growing in my garden.  Not even close.




People still don't get this. food that has nutrition and food that does not have nutrition looks the same.




I buy from a farmer that mineralizes his food,  the food has wonderful taste.
 
Marco Banks
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Mart Hale wrote:
People still don't get this. food that has nutrition and food that does not have nutrition looks the same.

I buy from a farmer that mineralizes his food,  the food has wonderful taste.



Exactly.  Dan Barber's recent book, "The Third Plate" illustrates this so well.  In chapter 6 ("Dirt"), he tells a story of his farm manager walking into the kitchen of his restaurant and plunking-down a big bunch of carrots.  The farm manager had grown this bunch of carrots organically using bio-intensive techniques and a lot of compost.  They sampled a drop of carrot juice from those carrots and the brix reading was something like 18.  That's 18% sugars.  Unheard of.

Barber tasted the carrot and it was fantastic.  While we cannot measure the mineral content of things like carrots, the clearest way to tell nutrient density is looking at brix levels.  Those carrots were nutritional super foods.  Any veggies grown on that amazing soil (without any synthetic chemical inputs) was exactly like those carrots: juicy, flavorful, sweet and bursting with goodness.

Out of curiosity, Barber asked one of the guys in the kitchen to pull some of the carrots out of the refrigerator.  These were carrots that were "organically" grown in Mexico.  A restaurant like Blue Hill Stone Barns (Barber's restaurant) uses hundreds of pounds of carrots a month, making stocks and cooking them with other dishes.  A carrot is a carrot, yeah?  Well, no.

Those organic carrots that they pulled out of the refrigerator read 0.0 on the brix meter.  They didn't even move the needle.  No wonder they taste like cardboard.  This kind of agriculture, while technically "organic" is what people call "shallow organic".  The crops are still artificially pumped up with massive doses of organic sources of nitrogen, bombing the soil and destroying the natural soil food web.

So . . . trying to pull this back on topic . . . yes, you can buy shitty eggs at $2 a dozen from any Walmart in America.  And that's what you'll be eating -- shitty $2 a dozen eggs, void of flavor, void of nutrition and raised in a way that raped the earth to produce them.  Or you can raise eggs yourself at a fraction of the cost, control everything that your girls are eating, and when you crack that beautiful flavorful egg into the pan, you'll be putting nutritionally dense food into your body.  GREAT tasting nutritious food.

I didn't used to think this way.  I used to sneer at organic foods, and truth be told, I still do.  Much of what is sold in Whole Foods is "shallow organics".  The food that comes out of my food forest has so much more nutritional density and flavor than anything you'll buy in most grocery stores.

I'll stand my my original thesis:  You'll save far more money growing it yourself, and in the end, the food will taste better and be so much better for you.  What are the long-term repercussions of eating cheaply raised foods for a lifetime?  One only needs to look at the skyrocketing rates of disease to understand.

 
Travis Johnson
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This gets really confusing because the question originally asked was, "What ways have you actually made money on your homestead?" What often happens is, the question is answered by, "Yes, it is worth doing."

I agree with that wholeheartedly, otherwise I would not be doing it myself, but I often think we do a disservice to people by indiscreetly assigning value to something, when a comparison is trying to be made. Eggs from Walmart may be 88 cents a dozen and taste like crap, but they are eggs and still are 88 cents a dozen. This gets sticky because if a person thinks they are going to move out to the country and suddenly have free food, they are in for a rude awakening. The food may be better, but it will hardly be free. In fact, in comparison to the grocery store, probably cost considerably more.

Orchards are wonderful ways to get food because they pack a lot of nutrition in a small location for very little cost, but there are still hidden costs. My apple trees might produce 50 pounds of apples a year, but if I never harvested them, they would just fall to the ground and they would be worthless. The second they are harvested, there is hidden costs. There is storage and spoilage. Very few homesteaders have records like that because it would be depressing. Yes a tree might produce 50 pounds of apples, and be worth $5 a pound, but it is all irrelevant until those apples are actually consumed or sold. To get an accurate value, a homesteader would have to weight their total harvest, then weight their consumption as it occurred, then calculate assign it a value per pound. It is doubtful that all fifty pounds will make it to consumption without some spoilage. Equally what about the root cellar they are stored in? Even a bin in the basement has a cost...and the tree and bin a finite lifespan. And this is tree fruit we are talking about, meat and vegetables have even more hidden costs.

I keep incredible records, but even for me what the original poster is asking is really tough. For instance winter feed for my sheep. I do not spend a lot on feed at first glance, in fact very little because I have acreage enough to provide my own feed. BUT I do not have expensive haying equipment. So I work with other farmers to split the hay raised here on shares, they get half and I get half. So the reality is, it takes twice as much hay to feed my sheep as it first appears. What I am really doing is, paying for that haying equipment by consuming twice as many bales of hay as the sheep eat! Now how much would I get if I sold that hay consumed and traded at retail prices? A LOT, so in some ways I am losing tremendous money with my sheep. But that is what happens, both good and bad, when I assign a value to something, like the retail price of hay, the Return on Investment changes. That however is far different then if I actually make money on my sheep. To make money...which is really me just bartering a whole lot, to get Cash Flow. If the cash flow stops, I am dead! But that is all I really care about: having the money I need, when I need it.

For the Homesteader this often takes the shape of an off-farm job...and that is OKAY! It does not matter what form it takes, but it must take place.

My stance never wavers though, there is no free food out there.
 
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I worked from home as a weaver for more than thirty years, starting on a table loom and soon buying my first used floor loom.  
Gradually, through craft shows, wholesale orders to shops and some workshops and apprentices I worked up to keeping four looms and various inkle looms busy.
In the end, teaching weaving and twined rugs was great  to fall back on when I started having some physical problems after years of treating myself as a 'machine'....carpel tunnel, knee and ankle pain and hearing loss...all resolved except for the hearing loss once I stopped production weaving.

I tried at the same time to up our gardens production and gradually did some farmer's markets as I phased out my weaving.  The income from weaving was way better but not as satisfying in the end.

For about the same period my husband was a woodworker, some work at home but for him, working as a craft interpreter made his spoon, bowl and coopered bucket production and sales more lucrative.
 
Travis Johnson
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More to the original posters point:

One way in which I determine if I am making money on something or not is to break my farm down into "value streams". For me it is:

Crops
Forestry
Sheep
Poultry
Agritourism
Other

Some of these incomes and expenses are easy, and some are not. Lets say I buy a bag of sheep grain for $13.25, that gets assigned to the expense column of my expense report on Excel under Farm Expenses>Feed>Sheep. Likewise, if I was to buy a bag of grain for the ducks, it would go under the expense column for Poultry. Farm Expenses>Feed>Poultry. What this allows me to do is, see how much each "Value Stream" is making me for profit, or costing me. Excel makes nifty little charts so I can see how I am trending.

Now the difficult part is the overhead crap. A great example is our internet. Now I need that to communicate, so it does not matter if it is to help sell crops, sell sheep, sell eggs, or rent out houses. So whenever there is an overhead cost like an internet service bill, I just divide the bill by six (over all six value streams). So I pay $52 a month for phone, so divided by 6 that comes to $8.66 per value stream per month. In some ways that is accurate because the cost is accounted for, but in some ways not because for such things as crops, I do not use the internet specifically for that value stream in the winter months.

But overall I think people can see the value of this system. I get really accurate data.


(By the way, I track more then just expenses and income. I track my labor hours as well on a daily basis. By reviewing my notes, if I really wanted to, I got figure out how many hours I spent on what value stream and derive how much money each value stream netted me on a per hour basis...if I made a profit on that particular value stream).
 
Mart Hale
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Marco Banks wrote:

Mart Hale wrote:
People still don't get this. food that has nutrition and food that does not have nutrition looks the same.

I buy from a farmer that mineralizes his food,  the food has wonderful taste.



Exactly.  Dan Barber's recent book, "The Third Plate" illustrates this so well.  In chapter 6 ("Dirt"), he tells a story of his farm manager walking into the kitchen of his restaurant and plunking-down a big bunch of carrots.  The farm manager had grown this bunch of carrots organically using bio-intensive techniques and a lot of compost.  They sampled a drop of carrot juice from those carrots and the brix reading was something like 18.  That's 18% sugars.  Unheard of.

Barber tasted the carrot and it was fantastic.  While we cannot measure the mineral content of things like carrots, the clearest way to tell nutrient density is looking at brix levels.  Those carrots were nutritional super foods.  Any veggies grown on that amazing soil (without any synthetic chemical inputs) was exactly like those carrots: juicy, flavorful, sweet and bursting with goodness.

Out of curiosity, Barber asked one of the guys in the kitchen to pull some of the carrots out of the refrigerator.  These were carrots that were "organically" grown in Mexico.  A restaurant like Blue Hill Stone Barns (Barber's restaurant) uses hundreds of pounds of carrots a month, making stocks and cooking them with other dishes.  A carrot is a carrot, yeah?  Well, no.

Those organic carrots that they pulled out of the refrigerator read 0.0 on the brix meter.  They didn't even move the needle.  No wonder they taste like cardboard.  This kind of agriculture, while technically "organic" is what people call "shallow organic".  The crops are still artificially pumped up with massive doses of organic sources of nitrogen, bombing the soil and destroying the natural soil food web.

So . . . trying to pull this back on topic . . . yes, you can buy shitty eggs at $2 a dozen from any Walmart in America.  And that's what you'll be eating -- shitty $2 a dozen eggs, void of flavor, void of nutrition and raised in a way that raped the earth to produce them.  Or you can raise eggs yourself at a fraction of the cost, control everything that your girls are eating, and when you crack that beautiful flavorful egg into the pan, you'll be putting nutritionally dense food into your body.  GREAT tasting nutritious food.

I'll stand my my original thesis:  You'll save far more money growing it yourself, and in the end, the food will taste better and be so much better for you.  What are the long-term repercussions of eating cheaply raised foods for a lifetime?  One only needs to look at the skyrocketing rates of disease to understand.




My introduction to this was the book "The Intelligent Gardener" by Steve Solomon.     I do not like using sugar level to test nutrition.       Much better in my opinion is the plant tissue test which gives you not only sugar but also mineral / other very important chemical analysis.      I am a big believer in soil testing AND plant tissue testing.     You don't know what you have till you test it.







 
Su Ba
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As Travis makes clear, selling one's farm products for money doesn't equal making a profit from the farm. In my own case, while I bring in money, there is no profit to date. While I reap a lot of benefits from my farm, I have yet to have enough extra in order to pay a bill, such as my health insurance.

I'm looking at my sheep situation. This year I had 22 lambs. 5 were kept for replacements in the flock. Of the rest, they were sold for money or traded. My I expenses include.....
....fencing repair and repair of field shelters
...maintenance of shearer (clipper) and the cost to operate the thing, other minor equipment maintenance
...veterinary supplies
...plus a percentage of initial costs of the initial fencing, electric fencing, foul weather shelters, watering troughs, feeders, transport cage
...bottle fed lamb care supplies
...real estate taxes on the pasture
...costs of maintaining a flock guardian
If I just ask, what have I spent in cash this year and what did I bring in cashwise this year, then you could say I made a profit. But when you look at the initial investments which are depreciated over time, then I'm not even close to making a profit. The fencing alone cost over $20,000. The electric fencing and charger cost over a $1000. The rest was a couple thousand. Initial livestock purchases were close to $2000.  I'll have to be raising sheep for a long time before I see a profit, as long as I don't factor in my own time, and as long as I don't lose a bunch of sheep to death, theft, or predation.

Why do I do it? My city friends can't understand. To them its all about profit. But the farm gives me other benefits I value greater than the Friday paycheck. The farm gives me a good variety of high quality, chemical free food year around that I don't have to go shopping for. It provides me my water, electricity, housing, firewood, and other resources. It gives me the groundwork to become and continue to be a part of my community. I like my job and never dread going to work each morning. The work environment is super. It has proven to be good for both my physical and mental health. I get deep satisfaction from homestead farming. I don't mind the work. Yes, to me, homestead farming provides a lot more benefits than just the cash aspects.
 
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My wife and I raise purpose-bred American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana/lithobates).

We supply up to 6,000 live Bullfrogs a year to a small but nationwide niche market.

We run our farm year-round on less than 1/4 acre - .1 hectare, of rented ground in zone 6b.

I spend 20 - 25 hrs a week on the day to day operation of our farm/business and my wife spends 3 - 4 hrs a week sorting, counting, weighing, or measuring the Bullfrogs for shipment.

We sell four sizes: Medium, large, jumbo, and super jumbo. They are priced by the each which averages about $20.00, or $45.00/lb - $20.45/Kg.

We have 36 customers, some of them have been with us for over 20 years.

We aren't a completely Permaculture farm, but no herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, or electricity are used on our farm.

I love this occupation.
 
Steve Mendez
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Yikes! I just reread my reply from a few days ago. In my attempt to use the metric system I made a glaring mistake. Our animals do sell for an average of $45.00/lb. I divided $45.00/lb by 2.2 lbs in a Kg to get $20.45/Kg. I should have multiplied $45.00/lb by 2.2 lb/KG to get $99.00/Kg.  
 
pollinator
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This thread is a great discussion, and people have already conveyed lots of the important things.  Besides the quality, non-pesticide food we’ve always raised on our place for ourselves… Over the years, we’ve sold eggs & garlic and traded surplus from our produce, with friends, for numerous foodstuffs we aren't producing.  And I’ve traded welding (done in my homestead shop) for honey, giant turkeys, and other edibles.

For a time, a friend included us in his business by bringing barrels of organic vanilla extract to our place where we bottled and labelled it for him (on our own fairly flexible schedule) — again, something food-oriented that we did on our homestead.

We’ve also run several home-based businesses of our own, through the years, that we initiated here on our place, paying little or nothing for to-work & back-home transportation costs.  Admittedly, that became more possible once we got our initial land-investment and set-up expenses under control.

But here’s another aspect: unlike very many suburban and city dwellers, we’re not spending much on diversions, entertainment, and the sillier sorts of high-tech gadgetry.  We only very occasionally and selectively go out to a dance, concert, theatrical movie,  café, or restaurant.  Those places & pastimes are regular habits of urban/suburban people, and often add up to lots per month — our fulfillment needs are mostly met here via projects, hobbies, playing our own music, etc.  We don't pay to get our exercise at a fitness center, but by working on our place, or getting out nearby on cross-country skis or hiking.  I invested in tools & equipment that I’ve used routinely, and that has enabled us to save money for decades on plumbing, electrical work, building & maintenance, appliance & small-engine repairs, etc because we rarely hire the professionals.  All of this, and more I’m not thinking of at the moment, is typically part of the homesteading lifestyle.
 
pioneer
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What have you sold from your homestead or plan to sell?


I don't currently have a homestead but yrs back my 6 little chicks hobby for y2k turned into 36 chickens breeding hobby.
my family did eat the eggs n meat, so that was a great plus.
in doing the math back then the cost of buying the chicks, then later the incubator and the feed/straw didn't net any savings or income compared to what I would of spent at the store.

but to answer the original question at least from my point of view.
I did make extra/saved money from this hobby in:
1. I sold the feathers to other crafty people and sold the extra eggs.
2. I got rid of a pest problem with out having to pay some company to spray chemicals around every 6months.
3. I never had to pull/spray for weeds in my yard
4. I didn't have to by any extra mulch or fertilizer for the rest of my yard.

but what I gained over and beyond anything else was the experience of having fun, learning new things, teaching and sharing with my children and meeting new people who did buy the feathers n extra eggs. and that was all priceless.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Another thought, and an observation...

Try not to compete? I have heard of farmers who grow only early and late tomatoes in protected culture... they do not grow a main season crop (since there's a glut) nor do they grow year-round (since the costs are high). They get the high prices by being first and last at the market to have local tomatoes. So, filling a need or a niche where you can be the go-to supplier...

A corollary to this would be Travis' barter for haying equipment (not competing/keeping up with the Jones', by buying his own set of equipment). He is teaming up with another for a mutually beneficial outcome.

There are SO many folks who are okay with the intangible side of the equation! This may be "Gertitude" on some level, and the need being filled may just be to feed your own family well (and getting a small return on any surplus).
 
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Greg Mamishian wrote:
Besides my regular job, as a hobby I install residential sewage treatment plants, and use ours as a demonstration. I host "Sewer Tours" Saturday mornings so folks can see for themselves exactly how it works and can decide if they would like to do it themselves or pay me to install it for them.

So in this regard our homestead has made us thousands of dollars.



This sounds really interesting, Greg.  I take it this is something other than a septic system?

 
master steward
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We've made money off our homestead by selling eggs, fruit, veggies, jelly and plant starts.  All of them except for the jelly and plant starts were excess that we kind of intended to generate.  None of these have made any kind of substantial money.  The eggs pay for the chickens.  The fruit/veggies pay for the seeds and generate some beer money.  We made 7 dollars an hour making jelly so we're not doing that any more.  

Future plans are to sell more exotic fruits, possibly herbs/mushrooms to a restaurant and start selling permaculture perennial plants.  
 
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Personally I make the most money from raspberries, avacados squash and chayotes. I save money on meat by raising my own selling meat isn't very profitable for me.
 
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We rely primarily on my day job as we're only in year 3 of running a 1 acre permaculture farm in a peri-urban area, with 3 kids at home with us. This means time is still hard to come by, but I can see that we'll be able to support ourselves with only on-farm income if we want to, in about 2 years. This is also because we're saving most of my income as although we don't make much money on the farm, we also don't have many expenses anymore.

A year ago, we added a 1 acre neighbouring plot, which we run as a nursery. At the nursery, we sell very hardy plants, and cover the salaries of the 2 people it employs (we don't make any money yet, and don't cover taxes on that property).

The nursery: It's not a success in the sense that it's not making us any money, but it's a success in the sense that we were able to preserve 2 jobs during a catastrophic drought in our area, and these 2 people have incredible plant knowledge of this particular climate (which I'm finding very particular- even 10km away the climate grows different stuff), which they're sharing with me. It's also been a success because the many years of junk on that property has been useful for building fencing on our 1 acre, allowing us to gradually set up pastures without buying new wire/posts. Suddenly we also had a ready source of companion plants, which accelerated the progress of our food forest by at least a couple of years. We also got access to a around 10 bags of horse manure every week, which saves me a lot of time. And I now know how to propagate a lot of different plants, and have a newfound appreciation for non-edibles.

Our farm: On our 1 acre, we occasionally sell ducks and chickens (enough to cover feed costs).
Because we have slightly better wellpoint water and I now know how to propagate, I sell softer plants out of my house-- I track demand closely and focus on just a few plants because I still have a day-job: right now those are moringa, grandailla/guavadillas and tamarillos. I use this money to pay for our nursery staff member to have 1 more day's work every week, on our property-- which helps with my exhaustion and takes off some of the pressure of manual labour but again, it is not extra money. Selling these plants has allowed me to get to know many people trying to grow edibles, and also connected me to the permaculture growers in the area. That said, these cash crops-- particularly moringa-- could be pretty successful if I had more time!

We're also planting some of the hardy stock from our nursery into several small non-irrigated rotational pastures of forage for small dairy goats, which we hope to get next year. It'll be a while before those goats break even, but we hope to sell some goat cheese, and once the goats are on the farm I think we can honestly say we're using our space fully/to the max (it would be too long before we would have the time to really farm the full acre with something more time-intensive like tunnels-- and selling vegetables in our area at a larger scale is not lucrative).

We run a small monthly coop where we buy directly from farmers and small businesses and supply food to order (with a small markup) to around 30 families. Again, we don't make a huge amount of money doing this this-- but we cover our own off-farm food (grains, nuts, oil, dairy), and have a grateful and friendly network through which to directly supply our own produce when we start to have enough-- right now we just sell fresh herbs/herb plants & sometimes duck eggs, but we're starting to grow an excess of certain fruits, and in a couple of years we'll have a lot (hopefully!).

The goal is to sell enough/make just enough money to demonstrate that we're using our land effectively and being good stewards, not necessarily for it to be a financially viable operation for anyone. i.e. it's financially viable for us because we've spent years on this journey and have gone really gradually, and have paid for the land (both acres) and built our home with off-farm income. It's viable in the sense that we don't have a large income and we've been pretty frugal- and so anyone in our peer group would be well-poised to do similar if they wanted to-- i.e. I desperately want to show it's a viable and appropriate/sustainable option for the middle class. It's not viable in the sense that NGOs and policy makers in South Africa sometimes want everyone who is poor to take up urban agriculture, which is a generally fraught idea because the only thing that is keeping us going is having financial margin to fail occasionally. Since we're in an urban space, the problem is not the market for our products, but that the cost of land and cost of living is high, yet minimum wage is very low and most food is produced on a cheaper land by paying people minimum wage (ignoring the costs to the land and fossil fuels). So there's a mismatch. We cannot set our prices that give us the type of wage that would provide a good living for the work we do, because this cost would be so much higher than the minimum wage. So we meet in the middle and consider the learning and good food as the primary reward.  
 
Mike Jay
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I forgot to mention this other way we make money off our homesteaad.  I posted about it HERE.  It's a USDA program that rewards you for taking care of your property in an environmental manner.

Sorry but it's for US people only
 
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I bought my first ten acres on a land contract with money from selling firewood. Then bought  a hobby mill to build my house. Then started making money with the mill. No job from day one. Then paid off my land and bought the 13 acres next door and a new 4x4 loader tractor. Then paid off the loader tractor and bought a new professional sawmill, all with lumber sales from reclaimed trees. I'm 34 and could retire at any time. No mortgage. I own all my land and my own home debt free. We sell produce and campfire wood at the end of the driveway. But the real ticket that pays the way is the sawmill.  I never went to college, nor graduated high school. It's just my wife and my son and myself. It also allowed us to buy land in Florida to farm in the winter. Free and clear. It was a lot of hard work and broken bones but somehow I've survived it all. I also raised hogs and cattle for meat but have since become a pescatarian/vegetarian and found the real profit is in the dirt.
 
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