Making money from your small farm
Many people think farmers have enviable lives. If you’re a farmer, however, you may think otherwise. You work non-stop for very little money. Sometimes you feel like a prisoner to your buyers, and occasionally you wonder how much longer you can keep going. The weather seems to be against you, and you feel like you are working for nothing.
Though small farmers believe their lives are far from ideal, I can’t think of any farmer who would switch to a life in the city. So how do you get the best of both worlds? How can you maximize profit from your land, small farm or homestead? You don’t have to stop at growing crops. Through diversification and thinking like an entrepreneur, you can achieve a much higher yield from your farm while keeping the lifestyle you love.
Here are 27 ideas for you to consider for making the most of your small farm. Of course, some of these ideas will be more practical than others depending on your region, type of farm, etc.
There are also restrictions, both federal and state, that need to be looked into before beginning some of these activities. That said, farmers are a determined breed. With a bit of planning, you can turn your farm into a money maker and begin enjoying life on your homestead once again.
Grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms
Growing mushrooms can be very lucrative. However, we recommend that you opt for specialist types of mushrooms if you’re looking into cultivation. There is more money to be made from growing ones for medicinal use or the restaurant market. Trying to compete with the supermarket on button mushrooms wouldn’t be an option unless your pricing or quality is better. Depending on the type of mushroom you choose to grow, you could harvest some in just 15 weeks, with a yield of up to 4 lbs. per square foot.
Prior to harvest, contact local restaurants and take orders from them for a quick sale.
Get a stall at a farmer’s market to grow your reach and your sales.
Educate yourself on the best practices for mushroom growing.
Turn your field into a campsite
Especially if you live close to an urban area, people are always looking to find their next great outdoor vacation or just to escape the city limits for a change.
To turn your land (or part of it) into a campsite, you’ll need to construct a simple shower and toilet unit for your campers. Some campsites are quite basic and don’t provide electrical outlets while others have installed electricity for the campers to use. If your farm is near a tourist area, this is definitely one avenue to consider. The area or field you choose should also be level and dry, ensuring that campers can correctly and safely erect their tents. You can start small and put any profits into improving the facilities of your campsite. By reinvesting your earnings you will be creating a sustainable business without an initial expensive outlay.
Depending on your area, you could also have spots for motorhomes and caravans. For these, you’ll need to supply electricity and water.
Consider opening a small shop with essential food items and toiletries, if you aren’t close to a town. Campers who don’t want to travel back into town will be happy to buy from you even if your prices are slightly higher than in a supermarket.
Many people, especially retired couples, live in RV’s permanently. They will often spend a few weeks at a campsite if they like it.
Offer free Wi-fi for your campers. Everyone expects to remain connected to the internet 24/7 even when they are camping. The access code can be changed weekly to keep those who aren’t camping from using it.
If you are going to allow campers to bring dogs, have an area fenced off as a dog latrine. No one wants to step in dog mess.
Farm snails for profit
It is easy to think of snails only as pests, but they can earn you great money. Snail farming (or heliciculture) has been around for many years. In some developing nations, it is becoming an important export crop.
To farm snails, you’ll need to provide them with shelter, plants, and food.This can vary depending on your situation. Some farmers use outdoor pens which are open, others use netting to keep them in. We have also seen them grown commercially in poly tunnels. Below you can see a video of a woman who started small and has now built it into a profitable venture in Africa. As she says snails are the ideal livestock to have as they don’t smell or make noise.
Organise a swap meet
If you have a field that’s being left fallow, consider using it on the weekend for a large swap meet. People love to wander around a field to see what kind of bargains they can find.
Charge the vendors a small fee, maybe per car and per truck (depending on your area and demand). If you stick with it, this could develop into a profitable weekend venture that can be moved to a different field each season. Depending on where you live, you could even have the swap meet year-round.
Ensure you have an area for parking off road for those looking to buy. Signs on the street and even an ad in the newspaper will bring people flocking to your field for potential bargains. Once your swap meet (car boot sale in the UK) gets known, advertising won’t be necessary as word of mouth is your best advertisement, and your client base expands.
Start a bed and breakfast
If you have spare rooms or a barn that can be converted into rooms, consider opening a bed and breakfast. This is one of the most popular ways to earn more money from your farm. People who are raised in cities love to experience a slice of life on a working farm. They love to see the animals and possibly even help out as well. It can be an exciting time for both adults and children.
The level of accommodation you offer can vary depending on the type of customer you wish to attract. Even offering simple sleeping rooms as a youth hostel could bring in extra cash. If your farm is near an area that requires many workers, even if it is only seasonally, you could rent the rooms to the company. By renting to a (reputable) company, you’re more likely to get paid on time and paid regularly.
Companies such as AirBnB make it simple to rent out spare rooms for guests. Their website is straightforward and many people have come to trust it. This could be run in conjunction with your own website promoting your available accommodation. If your farm is near a cycle way, hiking trails, or a popular tourist attraction you could do quite nicely from renting rooms. Be sure to mention the nearby attractions and activities on your website or advertisement.
Rental space for meetings or gatherings
Do you have a barn that could be easily converted into open space? Consider renting it for a range of gatherings, such as business meetings, classrooms, or an exercise facility such as for step classes. Advertise in local newspapers or on supermarket bulletin boards in your area.
There are always people looking for areas for meetings. This could earn you money during the day, evenings, and weekends. Parking availability is always a bonus for some.
Depending on the level of improvement you want to do, you could supply chairs and tables, exercise equipment, or other supplies. You should offer to help supply refreshments or have them on hand since that can be a valuable source of income as well.
Rent your field to metal detecting clubs or allow metal detectors to scan your land
Between plantings, you could allow metal detectors to scan your land. They may find a bounty that would be half yours if you own the land.
Alternatively, you could bury metallic objects in your field and hire it out to metal detecting clubs. People in these clubs are always looking for places to test and improve their skills. Contact your local metal detecting club to find out what they would require.
Remember that refreshments, even just drinks out of an ice chest or from the trunk of your car, can earn you money.
Raise tilapia or other kinds of fish
Raising fish such as tilapia can be a very profitable business. For tilapia, you will need to be in an area where the water temperature stays about 20°C (68°F). If your temperature is lower than this, you may need to heat the water which, of course, is costly.
Depending on the size of fry (young fish) you buy, your harvest could be ready in approximately six months depending on what size you wish to sell your fish at. This is one of the ways my husband and I make money from our farm here in Brazil.
Private fishing lakes
If you have lakes or can dig them, you can develop public fishing lakes. Normally there are two types: The first is a catch and release, and is solely for the enjoyment of fishing. The customer would pay as they enter and then stay there all day. This could also be combined with camping as mentioned earlier.
The other type is fish and pay. They catch the fish, which are then weighed and paid for. Either option is profitable. You will, of course, need to stock your lakes and ensure you have parking facilities fairly close by.
In addition to these, if you had refreshments for sale you would be earning from those since not everyone brings their own food and drinks.
You could also run a small bait and tackle shop on the premises to cater for your customers.
Consider raising worms to sell as bait to fishing shops. The worms can be raised in tubs, bins, or barrels and you could be harvesting your crop in just 90 days. But it isn’t just the worms that have value, since the soil left behind is full of worm casings and provides some of the richest sources of nutrients for your garden.
This could bring in a secondary income stream as compost for gardens. Not only is it an easy, low-maintenance way of earning more from your farm. It is also completely eco-friendly and as such opens your farm to another type of customer.
More ideas for making small acreage profitable:
Raise specialty animals (like ostriches, llama, or deer).
Grow dual crops.
Sell farm by-products.
Enter sweepstakes to win farm equipment.
Give talks and demonstrations.
Rent your land for antennae, turbines, or solar panels.
Write about farming.
Rent your land for weddings and other special events.
Open your farm to the public.
Rent fields for parking.
Rent space for motorhome or boat storage.
Rent space for airstrips or heliports.
Make farming videos.
This is a controversial subject, and we are sure many people think we shouldn’t include this since in many countries there are animal shelters that are full of dogs waiting for a good home. That said, there are still people who want certain pedigree breeds of dogs. I am not suggesting anything like a “puppy mill.”
Consider breeding small dogs, or an unusual breed since the return on investment will be better. Large dogs, of course, will cost more to feed.
You should ensure that your kennels are purpose-built and that you have factored in the cost of veterinarian bills.
This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Breeding dogs is challenging, and there is significant start-up cost. That said, it can be rewarding and lucrative.
Raise specialist breeds of animals (e.g. ostriches)
If space allows, consider raising what I call niche market animals. Some of these could include the following, and there are often multiple products that you can sell from the same animal.
You can sell guinea fowl meat, feathers, eggs, and young.
You can sell quail young, meat, and eggs.
You can sell rabbit meat, pets, and fur.