4 ways to add to your small farm income
One thing a farmer with a smaller operation must focus on is diversity. Small farms require multiple income sources to keep the farm going, since typically one product won’t cover all of the costs generated throughout the year. Here are some activities your small farm might be interested in venturing into in future years:
1. Custom harvest livestock
On a small farm you likely don’t have enough pasture to raise a large amount of livestock, so you’ll have to look into markets for custom harvesting. Many buyers are looking for local meat products lately, and even small acreage farms can produce a few cows, hogs, chickens, or even goats.
A downside to this venture is that you’ll have to find a processor that will be able to harvest your orders at the appropriate time. Also, each state has various rules for selling meat directly to the public, so make sure you’re following the law!
Some benefits to this operation is that meat with the “local” stamp, and any other labels qualifiers you may have, generally comes with a higher price tag, making it easier to generate income rather than selling “on the hoof” at a livestock market.
In addition, livestock are easier to tailor to your timing needs, since they don’t have a particular growing season, you can determine when your “busy” season will be and when you might have some down time. Or, you can grow multiple crops of animals in a year depending how you set it up and which species you choose.
To save on costs, considering adding a breeding aspect in order to supply your own future stock.
2. Exotic animals and the pet trade
Small farms typically come about from he hobby aspect rather than full-time farming job. This allows for the unique opportunity to house exotic animals.
“Exotic” comes with a hefty price tag, so you can do a few things here. Either breed exotic animals to sell, utilize them for rare eggs, or use them for meat.
The local pet trade can also generate more of an income since clients will pay more for cool pets than agricultural-minded clients will purchase animals for. Some animals that may be considered could be emu, ostrich, yak, elk, Nigerian dwarf or pygmy goats, rabbits, or rare breed poultry.
3. Cut flowers
Cut flowers can be a great addition to a small farm. Not only can flowers be relatively easy to grow, there is generally a large variety of species that will grow in any particular area.
Depending on where you live, flowers could be grown year-round—a small greenhouse can easily installed for this added income source.
Cut flowers have a low-input cost and general maintenance, although harvest can be a daily task as flowers mature at different rates. Arrangements can be sold at farmers markets or as added bonuses (for a price of course!) to other products your small farm sells. This additional operation is also an easy way to spruce up your farm while also making money!
4. House plants/potted ornamentals
Do you prefer gardening indoors, or in pots? There’s potential for you to sell plant cuttings or potted plants.
One upside to this venture is that it can be done by shipping your products—that can mean less time than sitting at a farmers market or constantly meeting clients in person. One house plant can produce a significant amount of cuttings over the course of a year, which will generate long-term income sources.
This business is easy to operate regardless of geographic location since you can maintain the proper growing environment indoors regardless of outdoor conditions.
Diversified income equals consistent income
Always be thinking of how you can incorporate income sources into your hobbies or interests. Small farms rely on consistent, diversified income sources to maintain their operations and should always be thinking of additional opportunities to add. Of course, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
One benefit of having a small or hobby farm is that it doesn’t take up all of our time or energy, so make sure anything you add to the operation is sustainable for you!
About the author
When not tending to her own 17-acre farm, Michelle Miller aka The Farm Babe is a writer, public speaker, and social media influencer on food and modern agriculture. Learn more about her at thefarmbabe.com.
Need more ideas? The USDA has plenty
A farmer talks diversity on his operation