Make a Living Off Homesteads

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Shepherd, Mar 27, 2005.

  1. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering if any of you had recommendations on how to make a living from a homestead.

    We have both worked professionally until the company we worked at closed down and I've "retired" early, LOL. DH has found another job, but I am a homemaker (exclusively) for the first time ever. YIPPEE. Of course, our income dropped substantially with my job loss and his income dropped slightly with the job change. We were able to pay the homestead off, praise God.

    We only have chickens but hope to have beef cattle and pigs for butchering this year (just for us)... and I hope to have dairy goats soon too. We have alfalfa in our fields, but a good share of our land is heavy timber and there are a lot of ravines and creek beds thru the land. It's hilly except for a couple of pastures. We probably have (I'm guestimating) around 55-65 acres of tillable ground.

    We own a small Case diesel tractor with a blade, potato plow and bale lift. We've planted 2 fruit trees per year and have 16 total so far. We have raspberry bushes, some gooseberry, grape vines, etc. You get the picture. We're probably too far away from the city to get people interested to rent garden space. We've considered the possibility of building a couple of cabins to rent out but truthfully we like our privacy and I'd rather not draw people out here when we like the seclusion so much. We don't want to allow hunting on our property due to the dangers (and again the privacy).

    It's late and I'm tired... so I'm probably forgetting a lot, but can add more later if anyone has any suggestions. Appreciate your input. We really need to get something going to help compensate our income.
     
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    There have been a few threads about this lately. You might want to go back through them.

    Have you considered renting/sharing your tillable acres to a farmer? Using the kind of yields we get here, I figure that can bring in several thousand a year. I'm pretty sure IA has much better soil than us, so it could be lots more. My ground would rent for about $100/acre, but I bet you could get up to $200.

    I sell meat and poultry and do ok with that, but it is seasonal. I think it will take me another couple years to be actually making a living with the meat. Last year I put all the money back into it. This year and I plan to do the same, then I think I'll be about as big as I want to get and can start keeping profits.

    I've a need for extra cash flow so I just started working for a teleservices company at home and that is kind of nice. I've been making about $8/hour from home (no gas, no work clothes, really flexible scheduling). The best part is that I can work more hours at this when the meat business is slow and less hours when I'm busier with that. I don't remember who mentioned this in a previous post, but THANKS! It's working out great!

    I'd rather be outside working, but it keeps my job skills up (I'm a customer services rep, mostly for utility companies, in my previous life), and it's not boring. I spend a lot of time on the computer so I might as well get paid for it!

    Jena
     

  3. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

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    Where are you in IA, I'll let you run some of our heifers,!!! Have you thought about logging any of the lumber, enrolling the ground in the crp or woodland preservation government programs, what about farmers markets. Des MOines has a really good one, and we think that the college towns and some more towns are offering potential. Depends where you are. If the crop ground is decent it should be in the 150-200 range. That all depends on the topography,tiling, ect, ect.( but it is the easiest) Meat goats seem to be more of a viable industry too. Just don't fall for the 3 alpacas (emus,bison, insert odd animal here) will net more income than a microsoft software designer. This is not to offend the software designers. Some people sell the hunting rights off to certain individual / or group.
     
  4. Matt NY

    Matt NY Well-Known Member

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    Read alot, something will set off that light bulb and you will know it is for you and your circumstances. This reading includes books, magazines and right here. Don't be unfair with your prices, but don't give your work away. Do something that you love, not like or tolerate just for the money, but really love doing: this will yield your highest income. If you are so inclined trust in fate, God or whatever you can get by with. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
     
  5. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Making a living off your homestead might have more to do with how high you set your standards than whether you can or won't.

    "I can't and I won't mean the same thing, except where morality is involved." Sir Walter Scott
     
  6. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I am getting into bee hives.

    One pitfall with beekeepers is the temptation to buy too much equipment. Extractors, uncapping knives, and various containers are not cheap.

    I am going to network a bit when it is time to harvest: I expect to rent an extractor, or pay to use another beekeepers extractor, or perhaps just crush the comb and let the honey drain.

    You get more honey if you do not crush the comb, of course. It is easier for the bees to re-use the comb than build more. Still, if you have just a few hives it will take years for the bees to pay off equipment.

    Now, because I am a newbie I am starting out small. I will try to make a profit off of a few hives and then expand as fast as I conveniently can. There is ALWAYS a learning curve, and I would like to make my bone-headed beginners mistakes on a few hives instead of 50.

    Right now, honey retails for $4 a pound, and the average Kansas hive will produce 65 pounds of honey. Since I do not want a stream of customers dropping in all day, I am going to leave honey on consignment with a couple of people with market stands. I am going to try for $2 a pound net.
     
  7. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We have our property signed up in a CRP program...actually, it was already signed up when we bought it. And we just signed up 30 acres for a different program...converting farmland back to wetlands. Planted just over 9000 trees. We will receive quarterly payments for 15 years after which the trees are ours to do with as we please. We plan to cut and sell firewood off it from blowdowns, etc.

    We are also renting a 12 acre plot to a local farmer this year. Hubby works for the FAA and will retire in three years. A lot of the people he works with are interested it buying beef from us, so we'll start that up hopefully next year. We still need to build some fences. There are folks there who are also interested in buying manure from us. Between the five horses and the cattle we should have enough to go into the manure business!

    I have one chicken who is supplying the two of us with eggs and next week will be getting six more chicks. Next year I should have eggs to sell. And we're considering getting a couple goats so I can make goat cheese and butter to sell. Plus, we're planting two acres in corn and peas for the livestock and planting an acre garden. This should provide a little income via the local farmer's market. I'm also thinking about planting a pumpkin patch for a little extra income in October.

    We're also dabbling in jellies/jams/etc. made from kudzu, elderberry, etc. Hubby is hopeful we can do a whole line of kudzu products as we have more than enough of the stuff!

    When we bought the place we didn't know if it would produce any income. Now we just need to decide what to concentrate on the most!
     
  8. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Shepherd,
    Sounds like you could have some interesting possibilities for small streams of income. As long as you can live with lower expectations than you had with a high paying job, it can be done.
    If you can stand spending less externally, and get used to growing and raising your own as part of the 'income', which it really is savings and better for you if it's organic and residue/artifical free.

    I know what you mean about renting out cabins and such. It could be a real headache and invasion if you enjoy your privacy, not to say possible liability problems should something not go right with the 'visitors'. I've been approached by lodge hunting guides about lease prospects for big game hunters. I say no, and for the small amount of income derived from that, I would rather find something else to make up for it.

    If you do some craft or skill to sell along with your market growing skills. The effort is the time and marketing which can be anything from enlightening to frustrating, but often less profitable than one would compare with a professional paying job.
    There are so many possibilities such as being mentioned on this board if you check out by reading here and other book sources. I think bee hives are a good possibililty also.
    What's in the heavy timber? Maybe you have a marketable walnut harvest availalble and don't know it yet. Check out the possibilities with that, and maybe something to do with woodwork. I'de make an assessment of the trees you have available to maybe harvest and find something for added value with that, or possibly firewood sales for some supplemental income.

    You seem to already have some head start about ideas in the animals you hope to get. The only difference between 'hoping' to do it and not doing it, is to actually DO it. I'de check into some heritage turkey breeds also.

    Good luck.

    Rich
     
  9. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    you have enough assets on the farm to make it well enough , expand your garden area, make sure you have about 3 acres in gardens, even if you have to drive30 minutes to the nearest town to market at the farmers market, when i lived in Wis. i made 5-7k per summer from just my market gardening , but the best thing is that i could market my other things, meat eggs, milk etc, things that for legal reasons i couldnt sell in the market i could hand out little flyers on my feeder pigs,goat kids, etc, you name it, so theres much more money that was actually made rather than just the reciepts from the market garden

    corn maze, pumpkin patch ,apple picking , strawberry field
    theres so many things you could do without working solidly at it daily ...

    right now we have rabbits, pigs goats chickens
    weve sold 2 dozen rabbits in the past 2 weeks, at between 5-10.00 each ( other areas might be able to charge more, we are in a heavy rabbit growing area)
    pgilets that are due this weekend ((got that, pre sold before they are even born!!)are already 1/2 pre sold to clients
    i have right now 2 raw milk clients that net me 20.00 a week, no its not alot , but it pays for almost all my goats feed, which means my milk is free !
    and thats just starting, an inventive person can make money on thier homestead, you need to face the fact that if an animal doesnt make money, you need to get it off the farm , period, you need to make it a plan , and then stick to it ,
    its not hard to do

    our hardest part has been lowering our bills and off farm expenses, up till december we were making a nearly obscene amount of money every month , then the owner of the business we were workign for , went out of business, cold turkey we were cut off from all income , so , its been a struggle, cuttign back the bills has been the biggest issue it can be done !

    Beth
     
  10. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

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    Thank you ALL for your ideas and input... much of which we've thought about. I'm still fairly new here so I haven't seen much on this topic yet... but I read all I can as time permits.

    Our timber is white oak, red oak, black walnut and of course, some cottonwood. But we have trees that are 40 - 60 feet tall and more. We have some of the last "virgin land" left that hasn't been timbered and we intend to keep it that way. I wouldn't mind parting with a few trees here and there, but nothing major... I just don't know who I would contact about this. Nature provides us with enough fallen trees to use for firewood without us having to cut any. I think we've only taken one tree down so far, and that was one that would have fallen on the house. We have tons of black walnuts but I dont know anything about how one goes about processing them for sale.

    I've thought about getting honey bees but my husband is terrified of bees and wasps and is against this idea. I love to cook and bake and make a lot of jellies, jams, etc. I used to be able to sell my eggs for $1/doz at work but have lost that market. I do all types of crafts and have a love for quilting. I've considered selling various things at Farmer's Markets, from bibbed aprons and small quilts to my jellies, eggs, baked goods and produce from the garden. I've also thought about selling fresh herbs, tea mixes, plants, and so on.

    Our land hasn't been farmed in the last several years, therefore as I understand it you cannot get it into the CRP plan - am I wrong there? I have thought I should visit with the County to see what recommendations they may have. I've heard about the "planting trees" program. LOL - if only we could add what we already HAVE to that! But the main thing we're positive about is - not allowing any govt control with regard to our land. We put in a 2 acre pond and my MIL insisted we could get the state or county to pay for at least half of it. We checked on that and found if we did that, we'd have to allow anyone to come fish it. NO thanks. I don't want a bunch of strangers walking around and trashing the land here. This is private property and it's staying that way. She thought we were crazy... considering how much money we could save. Oh WELL!

    We have adjusted to our current income level fairly well, but our aim is to make this place as self-sufficient as possible and prepare for our retirement days of no job income. We have no problem with working hard physically to get there. I want to get windpower and solar going here soon too, but that will take a huge chunk of our savings, which is why I think it would be wise to get more income opportunities established before long. Our home is a berm home with skylights, providing a lot of passive solar heat thru the winter and we can heat the house with our fireplace (with blowers and ducted thru the house like the furnace is).

    I believe it's important to have various sources of income, not putting everything into just one effort (like raising cattle). There's no guarantee the market's wouldn't drop substantially in any one thing you get into. I've read about a lady's love of gardening with flowers and how she eventually got to the place where she sells her flowers to a local florist. I've been adding more and more to the land here in the way of roses, bulbs, etc., and would like to get to that point too. There are SO many options.

    And you're right Moonwolf - there is great liability in putting up cabins and renting them out... or even allowing camping groups out here. I just don't know if we want our privacy invaded that much. Terri, you're wise to start small at first. Best of luck on your beehive operation! Evermoor, I take it you're in Iowa? We're south central.

    I admire the people here at this forum... and think it's a great place to learn from and visit with like-minded people. I value your advice.
     
  11. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You definitely need to go to your local FSA office and see if your property is signed up for CRP programs. Ours was and we didn't know it. There have been no crops on this property in over five years, but that didn't matter. Because it had at one time been used (can't remember the time frame of this) for cotton and soybeans we were still part of the program. How nice that the realtor (who owned the land) didn't bother to tell us. We owned the property two years before a neighbor advised us to check it out. The lady at FSA told us she'd asked the prior owner/realtor who had bought the property and he told her he couldn't remember!!! :no: We have not been able to find out if he was drawing checks on our property, but suspect that was the case.

    If your property was farmed in the past there is a very good chance that it is already on a CRP program. Definitely check on it.

    Here's a link to the FSA website: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/
     
  12. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Begin Easter Sunday rant here:

    Herself is thinking very seriously about retiring from teaching; what with all of the school shootings, and poor student behavior with parental support of the same. She wants to push our little croft for a living.

    We sell half of our eggs from about 100 chickens; enough to buy all of the feed we need, and then we give away the rest of them. Herself, being more enterprizing, says we need to sell most of our eggs, this would give us about $170 a month in income, or around $2,000 per year.

    We sell milk to just a few customers, but if Herself does decide to turn our farmstead into a business, we could sell all of the milk we will be takng in from what will eventually be 6 to 8 milking head. At $2.50 a gallon for milk and each cow averaging only about 1,100 of gallons of milk per year; minus the $700 for concentrates and hay, that would be around $2,000 income per cow per year.

    I just want to raise house cows broke to milk and trained to the yoke.

    I know there are lots of folks who what to mention "hidden" costs and say these figures are incorrect, but there is a big difference between gross net, and net after tax write offs, but some of these "hidden" costs are hard to put into perspective. For instance: the yearly insurance on our house is more than the cost of another good Jersey cow, the full coverage insurance premium on my old Jeep will feed a milk cow bought hay and feed store dairy ration for a year, our monthly satellite TV costs (my only vice other than the internet) will also buy the hay and ration for a cow for a year, the insurance Harley that I almost never ride in summer and can't ride during or 6 month winter will buy another Jersey milk cow, and our camping trailer that we bought new and have used 2 nights in 4 years cost more than my barn and all of my cows and it has full coverage insurance too!

    My point is that the $180 odd dollars that I've spent this past year on vet bills for 12 head of cattle doesn't amount to much, it wouldn't pay for much more than half of our yearly internet costs.

    I was watching a show on the RFD channel about cotton farming in Georgia and the farmer being interviewed said that his crop sales just cover his expenses, and if it wasn't for the farm subsidies he and others like him would have nothing to live on. It's kind of like saying that while he and others like him are business men they do so poorly at it that they need "farmer welfare" to live on. I suppose that following the commercial farmer's lead, a homesteader could get on foodstamps; another Agricultural Department program, but then the homesteader can raise his or her own food, and still have time to sell their homestead produce at retail prices, while working a parttime job for extra money.

    End Easter Sunday rant here:
     
  13. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Shepherd,
    From reading your follow up post, it's wonderful that you have the virgin big trees left. If you have walnut, that's valuable. If they are mature trees producing nuts, you could have marketable quantitiy of walnuts to forage in the fall... a nice time to get outdoors anyway.

    The 2 acre pond. I wouldn't bother with the govenment agencies to help pay it if that involves public traffic onto it. Stock it with something like channel cats and do some marketing of fresh fish from that. Raise redworms for feeding them and make it pay.

    Your eggs are too cheap. I think you should get at least $2 or more per dozen if marketed as grass fed or organic or free range. Especially jumbo sized brown eggs are worth a premium.

    Alll you other ideas that you are thinking already are great. I think you'll be on the right track.
     
  14. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    The problem with Farmers Markets is that they only bring in income in the summer.

    But, if you do as Bethlaf did and hand out fliers at your booth you might be able to market eggs and critters during the off season.
     
  15. questnvision

    questnvision New Member

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    Can you please give me information on working for such a teleservices company? THANK YOU. dogisluv@hotmail.com


     
  16. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I don't know if part of that Easter rant was aimed at me or not (I do know I'm in a foul mood today and prone to taking things the wrong way).

    "I was watching a show on the RFD channel about cotton farming in Georgia and the farmer being interviewed said that his crop sales just cover his expenses, and if it wasn't for the farm subsidies he and others like him would have nothing to live on. It's kind of like saying that while he and others like him are business men they do so poorly at it that they need "farmer welfare" to live on. I suppose that following the commercial farmer's lead, a homesteader could get on foodstamps; another Agricultural Department program..."

    I also know that my husband pays in over $30,000 a year in income tax and if the government wants to give him a tenth of that back in farm subsidies then we will take it and no one is going to make us feel like lowdown sorry worthless trash for doing so.

    Now if you'll excuse me I need to go figure out where my generally good-natured self is hiding today.
     
  17. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes, it is easier to cut expenses than it is to increase income-----especially in this economy.
     
  18. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    go over to the mirror and smile i bet you find it in there
     
  19. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Actually I wasn't throwing stones at anyone, or it wasn't my intention. I was just pointing out that there are farmers who get combined subsidies up to $1,000,000 a year from the Agricultural Department for just being a land owner/farmer, and if I were struggling to make it on a homestead I wouldn't bat an eye in trying to get every penny from that same department.

    Herself gives Uncle Sam nearly half of her salary every month and we still end up paying in April, while some guy down the road gets his or her million in "freebie" monies. Most farmers get less, if anything, but some do make out like bandits.
     
  20. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    This is the key to success in any economy.