Author Topic: Making Money on A Small Farm  (Read 81879 times)

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Offline learnin-n-tx

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Re: Making Money on A Small Farm
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2010, 09:45:04 AM »
"automated" potato beds (see related information and photographs under the Resilience Research board on this forum below
Excuse the resurrection of an old thread. Can someone direct me to the thread with pictures and information on the potato beds? The closest thing I could locate was this thread with pictures discussing planting instead of beds.

Offline cvanmilligen

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Re: Making Money on A Small Farm
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2008, 09:06:22 PM »
That was a wonderful story. I felt my blood pressure go down several points just from the pleasant read. It is inspirational.

We have maintained that 20 acres of well managed ground can not only support a family but let them buy a new truck when they want to and put the kids through college.  There is no reason to do without.

A well managed 5 acre farm can supply nearly all of your food and income needs but 10-20 acres offers more options. With the additional land you can expect to also supply all of your energy needs as well. This includes heat, electricity and even gasoline (ethanol).

ATTRA can supply a prospective farmer with enough options to swamp his kitchen table with information.  There are many other sources of tips and plans as we see on the Back 40 Bookshelf.  Finding the opportunities that set your heart on fire is the secret to success since you will put more into what you love than what just gets you by.

« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 11:40:57 AM by Little Feather »

Offline CatManDo

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Making Money on A Small Farm
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2008, 04:14:49 AM »

By Herman Beck-Chenoweth
Recently, on another forum, there was a discussion about making money on a small acreage.  Since I have some personal experience on this subject I thought I would share it.  I always wanted to farm, even since high school, but never could figure out a way to buy the land.  Then, I became successful in another business and was able to purchase a worn out 160 hill farm in southern Ohio in 1990.

     It had run down but usable buildings, minimal water but some systems in place to capture roof runoff in substantial cisterns, and some tillable ground.  We went to Soil & Water and they dug up some aerial photos of our farm from the late 1940's.  There we discovered contour lines and what the individual fields were used for (they gave us the complete information package they had about the farm).

     We had purchased the farm for $100,000, and due to owning other property we were only able to put 5% down.  We started slowly, working in our other business while we grew more and more self-reliant.  By 1992 we were ready to move into more farm based products.  We sold our other business on terms payable over two years after a $25,000 down payment.  So basically I had an "off-farm" income to help buy a good used tractor (Massey 175 diesel) and some new equipment.

     To keep this story to a reasonable length I will omit some details (maybe I'll write another book someday) to concentrate on the process and the results.  At the conclusion of a year or so of experimenting we started raising free-range chickens (broilers, fryers & roasters) on about five acres of our land.  At our height (1994-2001) we produced 5,000 meat chickens, kept 2,000 egg layers, raised 500 turkeys per year, grew "dairy beef" on pasture (no grain, raised 3 years before sale), and gardened 5 acres of vegetables.  We were effectively utilizing about 20 acres of our farm to produce 90% of our income.  All products we sold to restaurants, a health food store and at a Farmer's Market.  We processed all of the meat, eggs and vegetables on our farm.  Our poultry processing plant was equipped with used machinery and staffed with FFA students after school.  I had 1 full-time farm hand.  So, the bottom line here was that we worked hard, but were self supporting on 20 acres.  We did hay about 35 more but that was not a major net income producer and the rest of the land was forest and open areas for our own pleasure and isolation.

      I neglected to mention the reason that we were only able to put 5% down on the farm was because we had our other home on the market but it had not sold.  We rented it but it was a wash as far as income went.

   We became regionally famous because everyone said you couldn't make enough money on that small acreage to make it pay but we were doing it anyway.  So we led farm tours to show how we worked and invariably some 20 something asked where they could get the money to buy a farm such as ours.  I explained that we had waited until we were in our late 40's to acquire our land, but that they could start by renting 5 acres and keeping a few chickens to sell and collect manure from, sell at retail like we did, work the land by hand (after hiring out garden preparation) live frugally, and save their money to purchase 20-50 acres somewhere where land was still reasonably priced.  Usually, the response was they wanted the whole enchilada without waiting.

     Now here is the story behind how we made everything work.  I hand built feeders and housing on skids buying "outs" (imperfect white oak) lumber purchased from a local sawmill.  Purchased used equipment from retired farmers, ate what we grew (less than 10% purchased off the farm), balanced animal production with gardening fertilization needs, spent next to nothing on farm inputs such as fertilizer or ag chemicals, and sold all our products at retail (no commodities).

     The results:  We paid off our farm in 11 years solely from farm income.  We ate like kings and queens.  We had FUN even doing the hard work.  Our son, and nieces and nephews had a great place to hang out and learn to work and love animals and gardening.  Basically we farmed as though it was the 1930's, even to the point of adapting horse drawn equipment of appropriate size and scale to cut down on our work load.  I can't tell you how much money we made from our "automated" potato beds (see related information and photographs under the Resilience Research board on this forum below, but I can tell you it was a substantial amount. We had "new" potatoes all year and potatoes to sell all winter long.

      The bittersweet side of this story is that our County Commissioners decided our County should become a "bedroom community" or weekend getaway for folks in a city 50 miles away.  Land around us was subdivided into small plots.  Folks found following my farm equipment on the road frustrating and blew their horns or passed in inappropriate places.  I became the last full-time farmer between our farm and 12 miles to the county seat.  All ag support systems (feed mills, in-field tire repair, etc.) shut down.  We could have made these newcomers our customers and stayed, but as more and more of our pets died on the county road running past our homestead, we decided it was time to move on.  We knew that because the land prices had increased dramatically that no one could purchase our farm at market price and make a living from the land.

      Even though it was a hard decision to make, we had a survey done, divided our land up into 10-40 acre workable parcels, set restrictions that made the land un-resubdividable, encouraged farm production, supported the construction of smaller homes and in general tried to make sure the farm would continue to be farmed but as smaller acreages, and the neighborhood would be impacted as little as possible.  Realtors told us land restricted in such a way would never sell so we put the farmettes on the market ourselves.  We sold 2/3 of the parcels within a week after I put a 4" ad in the local Sunday classifieds.  The rest sold just as quickly and all to folks that LOVED the restrictions.  For our part we made a substantial profit on the land and that enabled us to buy a better 175 acre farm in the Missouri Ozarks.

     We no longer produce food for others because we are too far from the markets for our products.  We now operate a Research Farm, run an on-line book store, continue to grow nearly all of our own food, breed animals and vegetable varieties, and market native nursery stock and heirloom seeds that we produce.  The end result: A beautiful remote farm, never going to work off the farm, making trips to town about every two weeks, and loving where we are and what we do.

     My fondest wish is that our experiences can give others the faith to start small, farm sustainably and supply good local food at prices equal to or greater prices than the local food markets.  "Greater". Yes, I did write "greater".  Good quality, properly grown and processed, fresher local food is worth more.  But, that is another story for another time.  Production agriculture and agricultural marketing ARE different but successful farmers can make them work together for the good of all.  How do I know?  Not only did we succeed but so did my Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers.  I know.  I have inherited the photographs of the old home places:  giant 3-story barns, beautiful well-built houses, farms to pass on to future generations.  They marketed as well as produced and they prospered.  In fact, they did it so well that the period from the 1920's through the 1940's became known as "The Golden Era of Farming"

       Today a return trip to those farms would most likely find an old house falling down, the glorious barns collapsed, a pole building for a combine (some farmers don't even plant of till their own crops, the equipment is too expensive), no livestock and a double wide for a home.  The farmer (and most of the time) his wife work off the farm for income and to make payments on the equipment and their 2000 acres of mono-cropped land.  A sad turn of events, indeed.

Copyright 2008 Herman Beck-Chenoweth.  All rights reserved.  May not be used in any form without written permission.  Such permission may be negotiated by e-mailing Info@ResilienceOnLine.org

Click Here for Info About The Free-Range System I Developed:http://www.back40books.com/get_item_9780918779045_free-range-poultry-production.htm Click Here for Info About Small Farm Management: http://www.back40books.com/get_list_1114.htm,
« Last Edit: April 19, 2011, 08:28:32 AM by CatManDo »