Experts in the small farm business like Bennett Kireker, can tell you that a career as a small farmer can be very rewarding. But, because of weather or price fluctuations it can sometimes be a challenge to generate a predictable income. Thankfully, small farmers have the resources and space to develop lucrative side-businesses that can provide some additional income to support their farms. Here are some ideas.
Mushroom farming may be an idea way for new small farmers to test out their skills and earn some money. Some mushrooms are easier to grow than others, but in general mushrooms are a relatively easy crop to grow – they don’t require much space and with their short growth times, a crop can yield profits within a few months. If you find you have some talent for growing the easiest mushrooms (oyster mushrooms are generally considered to be the easiest variety to grow for beginners), you can branch out to any number of gourmet or medicinal varieties. Explore your options in the local market place – farmers’ markets, specialty shops and local restaurants may be natural customers.
Especially with the environmentally devastating collapse of bee colonies across the country, there is a growing business in keeping hives and renting them out to fields in order to allow pollination. This is not a casual undertaking as beehives do need to be managed and tended, but it can be very lucrative – in addition to renting out your healthy hives, you can also get into the organic honey business.
Tours and Demonstrations
If you live within “day-trip” distance of schools or other community centers, consider opening your farm for tours and demonstrations. Learn about the school curriculum in your state, and reach out to the local schools with ideas to help them teach their students about nature and sustainable farming practices. If you are using organic farming practices, there will likely be many people interested in learning more about what organic farming involves.
Set up a Bed and Breakfast
If you have some room to spare in your house – or even better, have a barn you could convert into bedrooms – consider running a bed and breakfast. If you are close to some local attractions like vineyards, you can target city-dwellers on weekend getaways with “country-chic” rooms and services. Or, if you are near a farm that hires seasonable workers, you could provide less upscale temporary dormitory-style residences. Either way, you might find this to be a relatively simple way to generate some income from otherwise unused space.
Snails have a dedicated fan base and can be marketed to local restaurants and specialty stores. They don’t require a large space, and don’t require a large start-up investment. This makes them an idea “side business” to supplement your farming income. Snails reproduce quickly and can reach a marketable size within 6-12 months depending on how you have bred and fed them. Snails don’t smell, and won’t make noise to disturb your neighbors, which is a definite plus.
With a bit of space and some creative thinking, these are just some of the ways that you can supplement your income as a small farmer!