Income Streams

It’s not easy to make a living off of a small diversified farm like ours. In fact, a couple of highly-publicized articles in the past year (one in the New York Times and one on Salon.com) argued that it is nearly impossible.

I choose to believe that it is possible to make ends meet, by living modestly and working hard. But one thing seems sure to me–in order to make it work it is necessary to generate multiple streams of income.

We’ve been able to add a few more this year and our hope is that in combination they will keep us economically sustainable. For anyone thinking of taking up this lifestyle, I highly recommend that you try to develop as many streams of income as possible, even if individually they seem small.

On our farm now we generate income from:

  • Vegetables
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Goats
  • Plants/seedlings
  • Herbs (fresh and dried)
  • Cut flowers
  • Mushrooms
  • Homemade granola
  • Handmade aprons and other crafts
  • Baked goods
  • Farm stay rentals through Air-BnB
  • Book sales (both Cherie and I published books this year)
  • “Worm tea” plant food
  • Bug bite salve
  • Decorative plants
  • And probably some other things I’ve forgotten

We’ll likely be adding jams, jellies, pickles, and hot sauce next year.

We sell our products at two farmers markets, by pre-order at drop points in nearby towns and on farm. Cherie also attends several craft shows each year.

We stay busy. We are the farm’s entire labor force.

Some of the “income streams” don’t produce much income (in fact, looking at it in comparison to more typical jobs, none of them do), but all help the bottom line.

By combining careful attention to expenses, a minimalist personal philosophy, and multiple streams of farm income, we’ve been able to make it work so far. And we’re trying to stay creative and remain receptive to new streams of income.

Advertisements

16 comments on “Income Streams

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Good grief!! And they wonder why kids of farming families aren’t carrying on the family legacy? I’m guessing that, if it weren’t for the immense amount of job satisfaction, no one would…
    With this massive new Trade agreement “they’ve” been working on, I can’t help but wonder what effects will be felt by small farms globally… ):

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The other kind of farming requires millions in capital/debt. Our kind requires lots of hard work for little pay. I’d say you have to love the lifestyle to do it.

      This morning we sat down for breakfast at 9:00. By then I’d already been up 3 hours and had done several things that would’ve seemed extraordinary in my prior life. For breakfast I had shakshouka, made with eggs and tomatoes from the farm, bacon from hogs we raised, and homemade bread. It wasn’t a weekend, I wasn’t on vacation and I wasn’t going to be late for work. Those kind of mornings keep me convinced that we’re doing the right thing.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. avwalters says:

    I suspect that the recent revelations about glyphosate are reaching a segment of the market who will look to farmer’s markets to control their exposure. Though I don’t see a farmer’s market future replacing the Standard American Diet, I see a vibrant, smaller market in sustainable and healthy foods continuing. Yes it’s work, but with multiple income streams and a thrifty outlook, it’s doable. Moreover, you do the things that you like, that feed you spiritually as well as financially.

    Like

  3. I admire those who do try to live off the land in a healthy and responsible way and do my best to support them. I could live that life style but it’s not in my husbands interest at all so I just grow my tiny garden and buy form others what I can’t grow. Hats off to you and your wife.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. It’s important to be on the same page as your partner. Cherie and I didn’t proceed on this journey at the same speed, but eventually we both ended up in the same place. Maybe over time that will happen to y’all too!

      Like

  4. ain't for city gals says:

    Almost the only way it is possible is to be debt free and no mortgage….and then it seems like it takes every thing you have. Don’t want to be negative but getting harder and harder…but we still all have so much!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I agree. In our case we paid off all our debt, made sure we had the basic things we needed to get started, paid for the kids’ college, etc. before launching into this life. It’s hard enough to make enough to pay the bills when you’re not in debt. With a mortgage, car payments, credit cards, etc. I don’t see how it would be possible.

      Like

  5. Joanna says:

    We were discussing how to start generating some revenue from our land, without killing ourselves in the process and thinking of how we could harness different revenue flows too (you were listening again, weren’t you?). I think though that those policymakers who demand that farmers diversify, should try working for a year on the farm. There are only so many hours in the day and whilst diversification is a good way to go, it also has its limits I think. We have to decide what those limits are, like you no longer cutting hay is a good point where you decided that it was not worth your time. We don’t think that a fully fledged market garden is the way to go here, we are too far away from the markets and travel is more expensive here. We are thinking more in terms of herbs, which can be dried, rather than selling much in the way of fresh herbs.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      My advice would be to experiment, be willing to abandon projects that aren’t working, and don’t sink a lot of money into something until you know it is going to be profitable. By far the most time-consuming thing we do is raise vegetables. It’s also our largest source of revenue. By comparison, pork is our second highest source of revenue and requires very little time commitment. Goats take even less time. It’s important to factor that in.

      We get some sales from herbs, but not much. It’s a good supplemental source of revenue but unless we ramped it up and sold them wholesale I don’t see how they could be a significant source of revenue for us here. But I’ve been surprised by some things. I didn’t think the farm-stay idea would amount to much and it’s been surprisingly successful. To make a farm like ours work we have to “think outside the box.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joanna says:

        Some very good advice there I think. Knowing what to let go and letting it go is just so important. The herbs we are thinking of are more the medicinal ones, many of which we know grow well here – aka weeds. I have a degree in Pharmacology, so an interesting return to my scientific roots in a roundabout way 😀 With those we can do the value added products like salves and the like – so that might mean bees too

        Like

  6. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, diversity in almost any thing we do in life is a good thing. To put all our effort and trust into one and only one thing (well other than God) is a foolish thing to do. Financial planners will tell you that. Your homestead must be paid for and I know your utilities are low because of wood heating. Everything has to be managed carefully including the culling of unproductive goats. I suspect it’s not easy living the lifestyle that you live but it has rewards on the good days that just can’t be equaled any where else which makes it all worth the effort. I’m glad that you are getting some relief from the rainy weather.

    Chapter five was quite interesting. Animal cruelty was prevalent even in Wesley’s time. I hadn’t heard about bull baiting before. Sending Pit bull dogs to torture bulls before slaughter seems a bit over the top in today’s world but then putting a sow in a crate that’s only seven feet long and 22 inches wide for two and a half years and make them produce 8 to 9 liters of piglets by insemination isn’t any better. I also thought it intriguing that Wesley was vegetables only for two years but gave it up not because he thought it wasn’t better for health but because he didn’t want anyone to make a religious activity out of not eating meat.

    I can’t believe that this was once a PHD thesis. You have certainly done a fine job of re writing it into a layman’s study book.

    Have a great diversified homestead day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m enjoying your comments Dave. One correction–this started out as a master’s thesis, not a Ph.D. But either way, I appreciate your comment. The one review I have on Amazon was very favorable, but commented that some might find the book too academic. He should have seen it before I rewrote it!

      Wesley kept to a vegetarian diet most of his life, but at one point he resumed eating meat for a while just because he didn’t want to give the impression that Christianity required vegetarianism. He always insisted that his vegetarianism was for health reasons only, but I think he could well have been influenced by Cheyne’s argument that there were also ethical reasons to avoid meat (that is, doing violence to animals). I took that part out of my manuscript before publication though because there isn’t any proof of that in Wesley’s writings.

      When we started this lifestyle we did so entirely free of debt. It took us a long time to reach that point, but I honestly don’t think we could make enough off the farm to pay a mortgage, car payments, etc. Becoming debt-free was an important part of our journey.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s