Doe's any one...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Phillip, Apr 8, 2006.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2006
    ...Make a living farming? If you do.... How big is your farm? Are you intensive or extensive? Are you organic/natural or covenantal? Do you grow a variety or just a few crops/livestock?
  2. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 11, 2005
    My grandparents never did. Grandpa raised most of the food needed to feed the cows, soy, corn, wheat, and hay but they always bought chicken feed. I think they had about 20 or so cows, sold or ate the calves, and up to 200 chickens at a time. We had plenty of regular egg and chicken customers. Grandma had a huge garden, bigger than the proerty my house sets on, and she sold lots of strawberries. We always had strawberry and grape jelly. Too bad they never milked the cows, from what I hear we missed out by not having fresh milk to drink, but Grandpa just didn't have time to work and milk every day. I wish he'ld have taught me how to milk a cow, but I think he hated doing it after having to milk when he was young. They bought their dream farm in 1966 and had it paid off within 15 years. Grandpa was just shy of 50 when they bought the place. They never had much spending cash (might have just been penny-pinching meisers) but we always ate well. Oh how I miss that life!

    Forgot to mention they had 120 acres, pasture land, woods, house and yard, and tilled land. Oh and the huge gardens.

  3. Highland

    Highland Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    I have a small dairy farm that provides 100% of my income.I currently milk 18 cows. I am grade A.I own 45 acres and lease 60.I use rotational grazing for the cows and hiefers.The only crop I raise is hay.I buy the grain.
    By most peoples standards I live in poverty!LOL Lots of things I have to do without.I am single,there is no way I could support a family.Health insurance is one thing I wish i had.I am like most people I have far more wants than needs!
  4. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2004
    Reflecting off of Highland's post... "living" is subjective. Self sustaining may be a better barometer.

    In Ohio I can raise (without USDA red tape):

    up to 1000 chickens to slaughter and sell for meat. If I sell them for $3 per pound and they average 5 pounds, I have about $15,000 of annual income ($1500 of which is accounted for by the 100 I'm keeping for personal consumption).

    up to 500 laying chickens. That realistically yields 35 dozen eggs per day. If I sell them for $3 per dozen, there's another $38.000.

    unlimited number of pigs. 100 [feeder] pigs grown out to 240# at $3 per pound (hanging weight) = $45,000

    Total expense to raise the above is about $40,000 leaving a GROSS profit (after feed, meds etc) of about $50K

    Suck the capital expenses (fencing, equip, buildings,etc), taxes da da da da da out and you have about $25K of spendable dollars left.

    If you are ambitious enough to maintain your own breeding stock of pigs, you can improve those numbers somewhat, especially if you sell excess feeder piglets (and especially in MI & WI apparantly). Forget trying to raise your own laying flock unless you are going for 3-5,000+ birds.

    Throw a moderate size meat goat herd and a small beef operation into the mix and you could make another $10-20K per year (again, if you can find the market to sell them).

    I'm not even going to touch dairy, cause I've never even touched the numbers.

    Now for the tricky part - go find 3-400 customers to buy that.

    At this point you are probably only working 3000-3500 hours per year.

    Yes there are folks making a living farming - I even know folks that make a moderate living baling hay and straw - or boarding horses - or selling produce - or Christmas trees - or perrineal plants - or timber....

    Diversifying is always good.
    Acerage depends on your management philosophy and method.
    Management philosophy (organic, sustainable, natural, 'conventional') is a personal decision and dictates the customer base that you need to seek.

    Go for it...
  5. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

    Nov 28, 2005
    We make 100% of our living off of our farm. We milk 60 dairy cows. We farm 500-600 acres. This is mostly unimproved hay feilds. We make most of our own hay. We sold all of our own silage making equipment so we just make round bales. We buy dairy quality alfalfa from Canada to feed our dairy cows. We don't raise any crops to sell. We buy all of our grain. We rotational graze the entire grazing season. We have been working on extending the grazing season by growing cold season crops like turnips. We started out farming with a conventional mindset but that has drastically changed. Conventional farming relies too much on expensive machinery and drugs. We don't think this is right. We don't have any plans to go organic but we are trying to raise our animals as naturally as possible.

    We are currently working on diversifying our farm. This year we got into raising our own pigs. I have 3 females and one boar. I also raise poultry. In the future we want to start a on-farm store. We would sell naturally raised meats, and anything else our farm produces.

  6. Nette

    Nette Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 17, 2003
    Well said. DH milks 170 cows at two dairies. He raises all his own feed, thus requiring all that expensive equipment. Until last year we had always raised tobacco, and income from that paid for most of the equipment and ALL of the land we've bought. I work an off-farm job and it provides health insurance and pays most of the household bills. The farming operation *could* support itself and us, but we would have to do without some things. The complexity of that operation would just floor people if they really understood it. I love the fact that we have a farming lifestyle, but it's not as simple and idyllic as some would imagine. I'd like to see us pare things down a bit...
  7. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    Nette has nailed it on the head... we too "could" make a living from our farm, but the complexity and sheer number of hours involved mean we prefer to work off farm and keep the "farming" end of our life less complex and more at a break even point. And there's that nasty issue of health insurance. I don't think we'd be able to afford health insurance on only farm income (not at about $1000/month when property taxes run us around $750... that's $2000 in overhead and we haven't even started talking about utilities, vet bills etc).

    I like the flexibility working off farm provides us with. We can go "up and down" (expand and contract) our farm as our lifestyle and needs require without having to worry about a corresponding hit to our income. Or losing the health insurance.
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 20, 2004
    Couple 100 acres. Corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa, cattle. I don't know that it pays the bills of living, but it is self-supprting. I only know one real farming couple under the age of 60 where neither spouse has a 'real' job for health insurance & regular dependable income purposes. And that includes the 3000 and up acre farms around here.

    In farming you cannot afford to be profitable. 15% plus social security taxes, income tax, etc. means you gain assets, _not_ profit.

  9. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2004
    Washington State
    Self sustaining is definietly a better term than making a living :rolleyes: My grandparents were dairy farmers; they both had outside jobs as well. Compared to what's out there today, their farm would be a laughing stock with just 30 cows. But one thing that will never leave my sister's or my memory is Grandma relating how when the rest of the world was rationing food, they ate well. Always food on the table, always shoes on the feet. Farmers, even small ones, are the first to be fed.