Ideas from the backyard gardener to the family farm and everything in between.
Entrepreneurship… owning your own business, is on the rise.1)http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8346-entrepreneurial-optimism-growing.html People are starting their own businesses in all areas of interest, today more than ever before. We’re seeing a keen interest in how to make money farming specialty crops and backyard gardening, as well as related kinds of small business endeavors. Folks of all ages and walks of life are becoming increasingly interested in growing their own food and going off the grid toward energy independence, as well as how to leave their “9-5” job and be their own boss.
We’ve all heard the terms “homesteaders”, “preppers”, “survivalists”, and “doomsdayers”. and many people are interested in these concepts. But there are also lots of folks just striving towards greater self-sufficiency. People want to be more independent and less reliant on the whims of the market and high prices for less nutritious, contaminant laden foods. They want to have ready access to healthier organic food for less. You know… normal stuff…. stuff our grandparents and great grandparents took for granted. From homesteading on acreage to urban farming, more people today, from young millennial families to baby boomers, want to know how to make money farming and gardening in their own yard.
The are many reasons people are choosing to work for themselves, but for most it’s about the freedom to do work they enjoy. For some it includes job security from being laid off. For many baby boomers and seniors, it’s about supplemental income and creating their own retirement, while also finally getting to do work they love. For parents of young and growing families, it’s about being able to be home for the kids—some homeschooling—while also earning a living. Sometimes it’s the mom or dad at home. Sometimes it’s both parents at home. Some of these are including their children into creating a family business.
The New Family Farm
The family farm is not obsolete. Today there’s a resurgence of the family farm, where the entire family pitches in to make it work. There’s a rise today in young people—millennials—choosing to go into urban farming with aspirations of raising their family closer to nature and “back to the earth” living.
In 2014, 89.7% of farms were small family farms, according to the USDA.2)http://blogs.usda.gov/tag/small-farms/
Families that work together stay together.
Families that work together around a common goal, tend to thrive in family unity. They develop a “team” mentality that’s often lost when everyone in the family goes their separate ways to their separate interests day after day.
Kids who grow up contributing to the family by sharing in responsibilities, not just around the home, but also in the family business, learn many valuable lessons not found in school. When the family culture is an environment of learning and growing together, children—and parents—thrive.
Families who work together in this way form lasting bonds that can serve for generations and build more than a family business: They can build a family legacy. Children are learning in real time in real situations how to work through problems together. In this environment, the burden is not all on dad’s shoulders, and home responsibilities are not all on mom.
It’s a family affair, with Everyone pulling together.
Children naturally grow in responsibility and self esteem through their contribution to the big picture of the family unit, pulling together as a whole. Working together can be so healthy for the entire family that to write about it could be a book unto itself.
Here’s an article on gardening with children that you may enjoy.
So for now, back on topic toward crops you can grow, but first, the most important bit of advice.
But First, Don’t Quit Your Job!
So how can you get started? First, our best recommendation is don’t quit your job…yet. Whether it’s farming or any other business venture you wish to start, if you’re still working for others and earning that steady paycheck, keep it up for now. Since growing things and learning anything new does take time, even if you hate your job, look on it as a means to a better end goal. Be grateful that you have an income you can count on, and that can finance your start-up costs while you study, plan and prepare your new business endeavor. Devote evenings and weekends to building your family entrepreneurial enterprise, and if you have a family, make it a family affair so that you’re not divided between learning how to do this to support your family over spending time with them.
Building your business should be an exciting process you look forward to.
If you’re taking on this new venture as though it’s a chore, then likely this is not for you. If, you’re always thinking about this new endeavor, enjoy brainstorm and planning around it, and working on it energizes and excites you, you’re on the right track, so keep on going.
If you’ve already lost or left your job, then you’ll be able to dive in full time. Hopefully you have some money in savings that you can fall back on, because it does take money to make money.
The next thing to do is to consider all the options that interest you, and of those, which ones could produce the most profit in the least amount of time. Then focus on that. You can—and should—branch out later, but chances are you’ll want to look for those options that will bring in money sooner.
If you don’t have much land, that’s okay, we touch on that next.
You Don’t Need a Lot of Land to Make Money Farming
Today, even folks who live in average suburban and urban neighborhoods are finding ways to grow enough food for their family, with enough leftover to sell. Some are inspired to give food away to friends, neighbors and community programs. We know of a few in the GardensAll community who are doing this. But if you need additional income, and most of us do, you can plan for surplus by growing with the intention to sell.
More money means more freedom.
If you don’t have much of your own land but have more time, you could look at land sharing. There are a number of ways this could happen, such as people who have land but don’t want to farm or garden. You could approach them about allowing you to garden for free in exchange for sharing the produce with them. You could plant enough for you, them and to sell.
We all want to live the life we dream of and to be able to care for our family’s needs while planning and investing for our old age. By now we should all know that the social security system is broken. So every effort we can make to create our own income will bring us closer to independence and self-sufficiency. Even when it seems that we’re taking two steps back for every step forward, as is often the case in any business, we’re still progressing because we’re learning valuable lessons in the School of Life.
Growing Abundance in Small Spaces
Even people living in apartments that have balconies, are finding ways to garden enough to save money from buying groceries, while enjoying the peace and activity that typically accompanies gardening. Another way to look at making money farming or gardening, is to consider that saving money is almost like putting money in your pocket. Spending less on grocery bills because you’re growing you own food, even it’s just tomato plants or fresh herbs on a balcony, saves money.3)https://gardensall.com/vertical-gardening-no-space-garden-go-up/
Money not spent, is money in your pocket.
You can grow a lot of your own food on just a balcony using hanging pots, grow towers, and vertical garden walls. Plant towers can produce lots of plants in smaller spaces, but there is an issue of the “shadow” cast by the tower. So if you choose this option, be prepared to turn it frequently, or use grow lights to supplement. This works, but can add to your power bill, so these are all things to consider. We’ve written more about this in other articles you can find in the footnotes.4)https://gardensall.com/learn-how-to-build-your-own-plant-tower-pyramid/
This Composting Garden Tower (available from Amazon) is another solution for limited spaces, but again, just beware the shadow effect mentioned previously. We’ve found that pots, trays and raised garden beds or elevated planters work best for patios, but if you have really limited space with good light, you can try a tower. We’d just recommend you try one of the less expensive smaller version first to be sure it’s a fit for you before investing in the larger, more expensive towers. We’ve written more about that in an article on best strawberry planters.5)https://www.gardensall.com/5-great-strawberry-planters/
Bottom line, these towers are for those with small areas or patios, and not for market gardening, but they can help you grow food for your family. We know of one Gardens All Facebook member who had three in her yard garden area and planned to add more because it helped keep her from bending as much.
If you do have land, even if it’s just a little, there’s a lot you can do. You can certainly grow enough to feed your family on 1/4 acre, as Brett L. Markham writes about in his book Mini Farming, Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. And if you plan it right, you could grow enough to make a decent supplemental income, especially focusing on top-revenue generating crops.
Now that we’ve set the scaffolding of context, it’s time to explore some of the many ideas to consider for your first for-profit growing venture. Toward that, here are our top recommended books to help you on your journey.
Beyond Feeding Family
There’s a rise in entrepreneurship, with more people than ever, seeking to start their own businesses. Many in the GardensAll community are interested in how they can earn from growing, farming and other home and family businesses.
Gardeners are looking at not only how to feed their family with what they grow, but also how to turn that into extra revenue to pay bills or save up for dreams beyond self-sufficiency.
Where to Sell Your Produce and Goods?
We will need to delve deeper into avenues for selling your goods in future articles, else this one will be too long, but this is a critical bit of information. So for starters, farmer’s markets are one of the most popular places to sell what you grow. In our area of North Carolina, the rates are reasonable at $20-$35 per day as of this writing, which is not bad for a day’s access to ready traffic there to buy.
So check with the Farmer’s Market in your area first. Beyond that, many grocery stores today have “buy local” programs you can apply to. Another resource mentioned earlier, but worth repeating, is your local extension service. They track and study trends and generally know which are your state’s most profitable crops as well as most of what you’ll need to get going with it.6)http://nifa.usda.gov/extension
For selling non-produce items online, Amazon is the top marketplace for traffic, but it isn’t something to go into blindly. In order to make profit, you’ll need to study and learn how to become a profitable seller on Amazon or Etsy (or both).
Those are links to how-to books on Amazon, however, before you buy any books, you can begin to search and study all that’s available for free first, beginning with Amazon’s own site and tutorials. After that, branch into blogs online, where you may learn things Amazon won’t tell you, such as you’re not likely to make money on Amazon if you don’t advertise. There are a number of these with lots of substantial free information. Just be wary of upsells to expensive courses when there are books you can buy for so much less.
Benefits to Creating Your Own Business
The benefits of running your own business are numerous, but here are a few:
- Provides organic produce for your family, free or for less
- Supply your family and sell the surplus
- Excess not sold, can be repurposed and canned, e.g. tomatoes into salsa; fruit into jam.
- Doing work you enjoy while being our own boss
- Deduct expenses: create a business structure, and your expenses are tax deductible.7)https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/10-Things-to-Know-about-Farm-Income-and-Deductions
- For farming, you can earn real estate tax credits
Valuable Resources for Free
One of your first free resources to put to good use is your local extension service. These government agencies run off our tax dollars and the more they can help us the more they can validate the importance of their jobs. Extension agents are also usually deeply knowledgeable and love to teach on their area of expertise, so start there. Most can make site visits to help you identify problems and opportunities and give advice.8)http://nifa.usda.gov/extension
Numerous online blogs and websites such as this one with lots of information for free. These sites such as GardensAll.com, are able to bring you free information because we get paid from advertisers and affiliates. So start with these free resources to save money, learn what you can and when you find that you’re not getting deep enough, then you could always invest in books.
Learn for free first, then books, before buying courses.
Okay! Now that we’ve covered the overall picture, let’s hone in on some specifics. Next up, are some top ways you can make money from your yard.
How to Make Money Farming from Your Home Garden
By Jill Winger of ThePrairieHomestead.com
Although we raise a lot of food on our property, are obsessive DIYers, and try to be as self-sufficient as possible, my husband has always had a “job in town”.
Thankfully, the ways of making money while homesteading are endless. Here is a list to jump-start your entrepreneur juices—>
Editor’s Note: we’re sharing just some of Jill’s. For more, visit her awesome blog.9)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/01/make-money-homesteading.html
ThePennyHoarder.com has a great point when she says, “While produce comes in and out of season, eggs are always ‘in’. That’s right, for those with the inclination, egg farming can be an eggs-cellent opportunity to eggs-ponentially increase your side income. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.:-)”10)http://www.thepennyhoarder.com/egg-farming/
However, our research indicates that it takes a lot of chickens and eggs to make a profit.11)http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/323148/how-do-you-make-a-profit-selling-eating-eggs That said, if you and your family consume a lot of eggs, raising chickens for eggs can replace what you spend at the store, and could be worth it to you. IF you enjoy animals and chickens, and don’t mind creating a protected area for them to graze. Not only will you save in not buying eggs from the store, but each egg you consume will be significantly more nutritious.
Mother Earth News reports: Eggs from hens raised on pasture are far more nutritious than eggs from confined hens in factory farms.
LATEST RESULTS: New test results show that pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s derriere when it comes to vitamin D! Eggs from hens raised on pasture show 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs. Learn more: Eggciting News!!!
Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol• 1⁄4 less saturated fat• 2⁄3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotene.12)http://www.motherearthnews.com/relish/pastured-eggs-vitamin-d-content.aspx?blogid=1508
WOW! That’s significant! So… if raising chickens for eggs only neutralizes the amount you spend on eggs each year, having that as a tax deductible business means that you will save money in groceries and taxes, while having ready access to eggs that have so much more nutritional value. That means you may also save on supplements illness and medicines!
So… what’s the actual profit? Hard to say.
Best to study up on this, enjoy the learning process, let us know what you find out. As we learn more, we’ll also share more specifics. Meanwhile, you can read more about it here, and we love to hear from you on how things are going and what you’re learning.
Excerpts continued from article by Jill Winger of ThePrairieHomestead.com13)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/01/make-money-homesteading.html
Grow extra vegetables and herbs to sell at your local farmer’s market. If you have an orchard, berry bushes, or fruit trees, sell fresh fruit. Make homemade baked goods and sell them at your local farmers market. Homemade french bread,14)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2013/04/easy-homemade-french-bread.htmlbuns,15)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/03/whole-wheat-bun-recipe.html or cinnamon rolls are always a hit! Make and sell homemade jams, jellies, and preserves.
By purchasing the ingredients for this in larger quantities through your business, you also reduce your family grocery budget through bulk buying, plus feeding your family through the product and recipe testing you need to do for this aspect of your business.
Excerpts continued from article by Jill Winger of ThePrairieHomestead.com16)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/01/make-money-homesteading.html
To boost your honey and products over others, plant specialty crops near your bees for “gourmet honeys” such as lavender, echinacea or calendula. Chances are your honey will end up with additional nutritional value for you and your family as well as your customers, giving you and edge over the competition.
For a more earthy approach, the next option may intrigue you.
Excerpts continued from article by Jill Winger of ThePrairieHomestead.com17)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/01/make-money-homesteading.html
Delight the ‘shroom lovers in your area, selling at Farmer’s Market and local restaurants.18)http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/how-to-grow-shiitake-mushrooms You can read more about growing mushrooms cheaply at home in this article on GardensAll.19)https://gardensall.com/grow-mushrooms-in-a-laundry-basket/
This 3-minute video will give you a good intro into how to grow mushrooms within a couple months.
Excerpts continued from article by Jill Winger of ThePrairieHomestead.com20)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/01/make-money-homesteading.html
Incubate eggs and sell day-old chicks to other homesteaders. Now this might be more profitable than selling the eggs, so if it’s of interest, check with your local extension service.
If you love dogs, here are some options to consider:
Doggie Day Care: if you have some space, you could create a sectioned dog pen. Your requirement could be well socialized dogs who need a family environment while owners are at work and or vacation.
Dog walking: many folks leave their dogs at home during work for hours. If you need exercise or just love to be outside walking, love dogs, and are looking for supplemental income, you could create a dog-walking service in your neighborhood or one nearby.
In-Home Dog Care: many folks also need someone to come in and care for their animals while they’re away. Look for people who travel regularly and sign them up for you to be there for their pets once a day for whenever they’re away. More people would have pets if they had someone to rely on to care for their pets when they’re away.
Raise worms either for fishing purposes, or raise red wigglers,21)http://homeguides.sfgate.com/started-raising-red-wiggler-worms-33559.htmlknown as vermiculture, to sell to other people interested in compost worms.
There are many advantages to raising vermiculture. One being that you can actually leave for the farm without having someone come in to feed the animals!
See a vermi composting set up you may enjoy this article on vermicomposting, which we’ve also linked in the footnotes.22)https://gardensall.com/vermiculture-compost-gardeners-gold/
By now your head should be buzzing with so many ideas of things you could do. So let’s end this article with just a few more items before you head off to start researching and planning what you’re going to do.
What to Do First
There are so many possibilities, and in order to profit from any of them, you’ll need to do your homework. It’s more than we can cover in this overview articls, so dive deep and take a sharp pencil to the bottom line of profitability versus time spent. Many DIYers forget to value their time overall.
In closing, here’s a list of a few more options. Just research the profitability aspects as best you can and think carefully on how much of your time, energy, money and other resources the options you’re interested in will take.
Choose your favorite idea that can be done in the least amount of time for the least amount of money and effort.
The goal is to get you self-sustaining as soon as possible so that you and your family are taken care of. From there you can grow and branch out.
More Ideas to Make Money Farming, Crafting and More
Keep fiber animals and sell wool: this is labor intensive and expensive, so only do this if you love animals like alpaca, lamas and sheep, and have the land and budget to invest in these animals. Research it deeply first.
Make and sell homemade candles24)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/01/tallow-emergency-candles.html
Knitting, Crocheting, Sewing to create homemade hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, and more. These are hard to profit on versus your time, but if you love it, it’s something you can do during relaxing time with family that can bring in extra income. To earn more, create and sell your own how-to course.
Woodcrafting: create rustic handmade furniture or other wooden items out of “found wood”
Compost: Become a compost-master and sell the best garden fertilizer for miles around.25)https://gardensall.com/pile-on-the-compost/
Sell Seedlings: Use your greenhouse to grow and sell bedding plants and seedlings. What we love about this idea is how plants can propagate virtually endlessly for free.
Create an Experience: Create a U-Pick Farm and allow others to harvest their own fruit, veggies, or berries for a fee.26)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/08/u-pick-farm-recipes.html
Bed & Breakfast: Turn your house into a bed and breakfast and give your guests a first-hand taste of homestead life.
Grow a pumpkin patch, and create the ultimate fall farm experience in October.
Rent Your Land: If you live in an especially picturesque location, rent out your pasture, barn, or land for weddings, parties, photo shoots, or other events.
Teach Others: Teach classes — Cheesemaking, fiber arts, meat processing, soap making, candle making, beekeeping… If you have mastered an aspect of homesteading, there’s a good chance others will pay to learn from you!
Write and publish a book: Self-publishing makes becoming an author easier than ever. I personally have published through Amazon Createspace, and you can also publish via Kindle, too.
Editor’s Note: Just be careful with this. It’s the rare author who really makes money directly from book sales. Think of it: you can buy Kindle books for a couple dollars on average now… and authors actually get a tiny fraction of that after Amazon’s cut, and presuming you can let hundreds of thousands know about your book to find it, because that’s what it takes to sell a few. It can be done, but just go in informed and aware, eyes wide open.
For more, visit ideas visit ThePrairieHomestead.com.27)http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/08/u-pick-farm-recipes.html
Let us know what you decide to start, or what you’re already doing. We love to hear from you and will share your story if you’re interested.
And… some wisdom from the GardensAll Facebook community… John Keytack:
John went on to add that: “We would give them to individuals, but we had so much surplus we began taking them to Asian food stores. We thought we would just give them away, but they always bought everything we had. I can’t tell you what it means to see someone happy when they find a vegetable you’ve grown that they haven’t seen since they left their homeland. :-)”
Wishing you green gardens and the freedom to live your dreams.
GROWING FOR PROFIT: If you’re interested in learning about earning money from gardening or farming, we invite you to join our Facebook group: Planting for Retirement. We’re a new group of people interested in learning how to supplement our income through growing something by sharing our wins, losses and lessons in the field.
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