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Old 10-23-2013, 11:33 PM
672 posts, read 661,169 times
Reputation: 1203


Originally Posted by WhipperSnapper 88 View Post
Do you live on a farm? If not then you don't know. Just seeing a bunch of farms when you take a stroll through the country side does not equate to a bunch of successful farms.... Most farmers have been forced to supplement their income with outside jobs or abandon their farming all together. There are many farms in my area including my own. The only reason the farming community here has survived is because of the inception of Big Oil in to the region, that and most of the owners are older, and so they collect social security checks, which are their primary income. You don't see many young farmers in this area.

It may be different in different regions of the country, I don't know. But nobody around here is able to make a decent living raising beef/milk cattle or harvesting grain.
The secret is finding your niche. I'm in a very successful area for very small holdings. I'm in a area that people are still willing to pay more for organic and fresh vegetables, fruit and grass feed beef.

That's what someone dreaming of starting a small farm needs to focus on. Not necessarily what I stated for my area but a niche that isn't being fulfilled in your area.

The farmers markets set up in the four biggest cities closest to my area are all set on different days of the week and more than one outfit running on different days. This allows the local growers to literally be at market almost every day of the week. Our farmers markets are open all year long. The growing season is all year long here.

We also have aquaponics and hydroponics operators delivering fresh fish and vegetables all year long.

I agree that it is very hard to start a traditional commercial type farming operation on a small scale. Those fail and require farmers to seek outside work. Others however, get creative and fill a need in their community.

It can be done. You need to know your market. That's why the organic free range local chicken guy can sell out of his eggs at $5 a dozen even when the store across the street from the farmers market is running a special for $2 and something.
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Old 10-27-2013, 09:15 PM
1 posts, read 3,279 times
Reputation: 11
well, I've read all these post and understand where everyone is coming from. But I will have to make a comment. Business of any kind is hard. There are a lot of expected and unexpected expenses that come along., but nothing is impossible. making a living is different for us all. You as an individual have to decide what making a living is to you. I, like Carlingtonian want to live of the land as they say. I have just purchased 50 acres of land with a pond and a small creek, on the property that is mostly wooded. I have about 8 acres that is cleared that I hope to grow something on. I also purchased some farm equipment with it. I have had another successful business that has been very good to me. I am debt free except things like insurances and my utilities. I also have the money to build a house and not have a mortgage. I am not saying this to boast or brag, just to make a point. I think I can make a living on the farm if I learn how to grow some kind of something. I just need to get educated on the whole process of farming. Any advice will be appreciated greatly. Thank you, Philip
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Old 12-07-2013, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
Thank you all so much for these very informative responses.

Lily of the Valley, re. your point no. 3: I know none of those things. At all. Which would indicate that this is not a great idea in my situation--at least any time soon. I have zero ag experience, and my wife and I (assuming I could convince her of all this--which is a real stretch) have only a small nest egg and zero experience running a business.

We live just outside of Washington, DC. There's a lot of demand for organic everything, free-range everything.

SC Granny: Appreciate the reality check.

Ognend and PAHippo: I will check out the Spin Farming site.

Maybe if I win the lottery we can buy a farm and convince the seller to show us the ropes for six months.

Anyway. Thanks again!
I really like your ideas its not going to be easy. i say what the heck go for it. But if your wife isnt fully on board, it wont work. A saying i live by is " if my wife agrees, i have no greater friend, if my wife disagrees, i have no greater enemy. I love my wife but if she doesnt see the plan or idea the way i do, it wont work. Most of the time im glad she doesnt.
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Old 12-20-2014, 09:33 PM
Location: Martinez, ca
297 posts, read 287,165 times
Reputation: 217
Default wholey off topic batman..

11 pages and 3 real answers to the posters question? ouch....

Farm work is hard? Really? I never would have guessed! Nor would have found out once I started to actually research any proposed ideas...

What's the most profitable type small-scale farming? Thank you almost no one, except the potheads. (wait, really?)

I currently live in the SF bay area but I was stationed on both the east and west coasts and have traveled quit extensively. I have known many people who have been successful at small "hobby farms". Many of them had wives or husbands who worked or some had some type of secondary income (military pension/disability or civvie pension or in one case simply Social security). Some did not.
Here are a few larger suggestions.

I know of a ranch in washington state who breeds and sells exotic animals. IE kangaroos wallaroos giraffes alpaca ect. A bit bigger than what you had in mind I think, but it is successful.

Another gentleman i know in Texas breeds elk and in addition to selling the meat has a hunting service where you can hunt them for a fee.

At one time ostrich and emus as well as Rhea were farmed but everyone back then lost their investments when the US population shied away from eating Struthioniformes. I have seen some people bringing them back and a few farms do ok at it (fossil farms ect.)

There are currently quite a large number of smaller farms selling grass fed/free range/organic (or whatever) beef, doing very very well.

Now some smaller ones.

A guy I was stationed with breeds angora rabbits and sells the fiber and sells other breeds for meat. He does pretty well at it, but he has some income from the military (he also has 1 leg).

A Chief at one command had 5 wooded acres and kept a large heard of goats that were bred to produce cashmere. She was extremely successful at it, but she started with two goats while in the service and worked up to a pretty serious herd. She makes quite a bit of money, but also averages 70 to 80 hours weeks.

My cousin in Wisconsin breeds some type of mini cow like a Dexter, and it pays its own cost as well as the mortgage and utilities. His wife earns the play money. He works less that 20 hours a week at this, and writes the rest of the time.

An ex lived on a co-op farm and she had between 200 and 300 chickens. She had the cycle rate down to a science and would sell eggs as well as chicks. It paid for itself and her bills (which were meager) as well as provided barter for other goods and food for herself. It was a cash only basis, no FDA regulations (which might have killed it). But never underestimate the yuppies need to buy organic foods. "E.coli? whatever, at least it is GMO free and fed organically."

I helped a neighbor on occasion who grew and sold herbs and sold them at a farmers market. He grows various herbs and sells them fresh, or dried. To this day, he does very well for himself, but also collects S.S.

A buddy of mine has the ideal hobby farm here in California. He raises about 40 chickens for eggs and meat as well as potbellied pigs for meat, Nubian (I think) goats which provide cheese and milk, Miniature cattle (meat and milk), Rhea (meat) and has one hell of a vegetable vineyard/garden/fruit orchard/Timothy hay field. Him and his wife as well as her brother and his wife do all of that on just under 10 acres which they own. They work harder than anyone I have ever met (military or the trades) but they seem to do just fine. I know they also sell everything as organic/free range and they have several vendors in the area which he told me were the keys to success.

My fiances dads buddy has a vineyard/coffee ranch here in California (napa valley) and has more money than your average rap artist.

I know of one gentleman who is successful and breeds and sells crawdads, but i still do not understand how it works other than you need a large chunk of $$ to start it up and a great source of cheap water and very specific temperature requirements.

and lastly, an ex of mine had some land up in Washington state outside of Mount Vernon. It was given to her when her folks died. She ran a pretty dang good business training and stabling horses. She charged like $450 a month per horse and ran about $100 in the black per horse. On any given Sunday she stabled between 12 and 23 horses. She also provided riding lessons in her off time. She was fairly successful at this.

Sorry that your thread got as convoluted as string theory, but maybe one of these ideas will strike your fancy.

P.S shout out to the bubble heads and fellow squids!
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Old 12-20-2014, 10:11 PM
Location: Forests of Maine
31,146 posts, read 50,309,418 times
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Originally Posted by Westcoastnavy View Post
... Sorry that your thread got as convoluted as string theory, but maybe one of these ideas will strike your fancy.

P.S shout out to the bubble heads and fellow squids!
Ever follow the math behind string-theory?

Like the formula to inertial-navigation with gravity-vectors it is many pages long and it takes years to understand, if you ever lived underwater for 7 months/year.

Fair winds and following seas, shipwreck.
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Old 12-22-2014, 12:48 AM
Location: Martinez, ca
297 posts, read 287,165 times
Reputation: 217
Originally Posted by Submariner View Post
Ever follow the math behind string-theory?

Like the formula to inertial-navigation with gravity-vectors it is many pages long and it takes years to understand, if you ever lived underwater for 7 months/year.

Fair winds and following seas, shipwreck.

I took a basics physics Course and while I did fair in that class, I simply do not possess the math to follow string theory. Neither did our instructor but maybe that is why he taught basic physics at a JC.

And I was not wet navy, so I do not get the reference. Sorry.
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Old 12-22-2014, 03:24 AM
5,876 posts, read 5,356,049 times
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To answer the original question: it completely depends upon where your farm is located, eg: Soils/Weather/Readily Available Markets
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Old 12-22-2014, 11:57 AM
Location: Martinez, ca
297 posts, read 287,165 times
Reputation: 217
Where in the continental US would soil and weather prevent you from raising Angora, mohair, or cashmere?
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Old 12-22-2014, 06:08 PM
9,144 posts, read 8,407,413 times
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I was raised on a farm/ranch. I spent many years as an investment real estate broker, and sold quite a few farms and ranches. You have some problems, that will be hard to overcome.

1: You know nothing about farming. Big problem.

2: You don't have a lot of money to set one up. Big problem.

3: You are dreaming of a comfortable country living life. Big problem, is you do not know how hard you have to work on a small farm, and how much risk you take. Lets look at risks.

Weather. A hail storm, a heavy rain, a cold spring, etc., etc., can completely destroy an entire years crop in the blink of an eye. If you don't have irrigation and rely on rain, etc. for the moisture, a drought for the year, can again destroy your crop. Or a very hot summer, can reduce the crops so you lose money for the year. A wet spring can delay planting to the point that you cannot get a good crop in.

Question: Why are the young men leaving the farming areas to move to the city, leaving the farming to the grey haired fathers and grandfathers?

Answer: They are leaving the farms, as they want to have enough of an income to support themselves, wives, and possibly children. I know I left the farm, when I turned 18, as I could see the changes taking place in farming and the fact that it was getting harder and harder to make a living farming and that was 1949. Today it is a lot worse.

If you can afford to farm on a large scale, you can make money.

However: What you are describing and can possibly afford, would require you and your wife get full time jobs so you can support your farming dream and only live on part of your work income as the rest will be needed by the farm.

Farming is done on a huge scale, using very expensive equipment to make a living. What you are talking about is considered a hobby farm, and as you know hobbies cost money supported by your day job.
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Old 12-22-2014, 06:57 PM
11,257 posts, read 44,316,643 times
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Originally Posted by Westcoastnavy View Post
Where in the continental US would soil and weather prevent you from raising Angora, mohair, or cashmere?
"Angora" breed goats are the source of "mohair" fiber.

We used to raise (and show) registered Angora goats, and a few of our neighbors ... also handspinners/weavers like Mrs Sun ... got into the business, too. We aggressively sought to bring in the best genetics for the finest mil fiber we could get. Traveled around the USA to major auctions and the big one ... Fred Speck's annual auction in Kerrville, TX ... several times.

The goats were a good use of a couple hundred acres for pasture and relatively easy keepers, although we had to assist deliveries more times than I care to have done when we kept the girls in a kidding barn rather than having them drop kids out in the corrals in cold weather.

But the wool angora fiber market has dropped out to almost zip. This was the result of Clinton dropping the federal requirement for US Gov't uniforms being made from domestic product and by domestic producers. This change affected many industries; for example, the standard service shoes have been dropped by domestic manufacturers so the demand for the leather required has vaporized, too (for anybody who used to wear Red Wing 101 Style, the standard of the industry, that's why Red Wing quit making this shoe years ago. I know folk whose jobs had them on their feet all day, such as postmen, waitstaff ... who bought 6-10 pairs of these when Red Wing was closing them out. I only bought two pairs, wish I had bought more).

We are dependent upon a few commercial processor mills in the USA for the hobby angora fiber market. Their costs are substantial; Mrs Sun just got a 3' x 3' x 3' box of roving back from a mill in SC after waiting 8 months for a couple of shearling fleeces to be cleaned/carded/processed. She'll dye that fiber and spin it over that next year. In today's marketplace, other than the satisfaction of creating that product and typically winning Best of Show type ribbons for her product at County Fairs ... she has a product that isn't worth much anymore. Even when she gets $10-12/oz for her spun yarn, it's still a losing proposition from a financial standpoint. And she generally sells all that she spins each year to a loyal following of craftspeople in the area.

We're down to our last few angora goats. Our aging last buck died earlier this year and we'll not be breeding the remaining girls. When they pass on, we're out of this angora wool producing business. It was a marginal ROI at best back when mohair had a USA market and we had 85 head and several national caliber fiber producing bucks. It's strictly a hobby now for Mrs Sun to have the goats; when they're gone, the corrals will be converted back for our meat sheep business.

As a neighbor of ours found out over the last few years of showing/selling her spun and woven finished goods at craft fairs and artisan's retail outlets, the money was gone in this business years ago. She now brings in all of her spun/dyed yarn from South America along with all of her knit/woven goods for a fraction of the cost that she could raise her own fiber and then get it processed. She's just finished selling out her fiber producing animals this year ... Blue Faced Leceisters & other colored fiber sheep breeds, Llamas, Alpacas, and her 55 Angora goats. We bought her feed bunks, watering tanks, and a lot of corral fencing for our sheep operations; our meat sheep business is by far and away more profitable then the fiber business ever was.

While I bought commercial shearing equipment (1 HP motors and handpieces, sharpening equipment, extra cutters & combs ... over $2,000 worth of commercial gear) years ago and we sheared the goats ourselves, the sheep are too much for us to do in a timely manner ourselves anymore. We bring in a shearing crew and a couple of neighbors to help bring the sheep into the barn and keep up with clearing the fleeces into the bags; typically, it's a $1,000 bill for the shearing. Then I get to send the wool out for processing ... and that means packaging/shipping costs to WI and back. We used to be able to sell the bulk raw whiteface wool for 12 cents to 17 cents per lb; now, we are lucky to see a sale at all when the Chinese buyers enter the market and it's more like 3 cents to 5 cents per lb in 2,000lb bulk sacks. I don't even recoup the cost of the diesel fuel in my truck to deliver the wool sacks to the pick-up point anymore. My last two deliveries are still sitting, unsold, in the warehouse waiting for a buyer. That's two years worth of shearlings.

Similarly, even angora rabbit fiber is a minimal proposition. There's but an ounce or two from each rabbit, and it takes hand combing to remove the fibers. It's a lot of work and not much product to sell when that time comes.

Frankly, knowing what I've seen in the domestic hobbyist mohair fiber business these last few years ... and we attend/show/sell at some of the big national markets each year, such as Estes Park Wool Market ... somebody spouting off that they know folk making good money in this game is full of crap. By the time you acquire quality livestock with good genetics and saleable mil fiber, feed and shelter it, vet it, shear it, process it, and turn it into useable roving or spun product ... it's a losing proposition and has been for years. Even selling breeding stock is way down from prior years ... the premier auction is Fred Speck's and the prices are way down from years ago.

PS: a local lady has built up a business leasing goats out for weed control in the area. She's already found out the hard way that angora goats aren't well suited to the task and cannot keep up with the rest of them. As well, the coats get so contaminated with weed seeds and stickers that much of the sheared fiber must be trimmed off from the stuff that can be processed into mohair by the mills. Essentially, you cannot realistically process badly contaminated fleeces and it's an upcharge even if they're really only dirty without the vegetable material in the wool.

From a health maintenance standpoint, goats are a tricky business. Cold weather climates require supplemental feeding during the winter months, which can be a significant expense since they're not out grazing on pastures. They need shelter from the winter storms and an assured supply of fresh potable water. In warmer climates, worms can present health issues, and worming goats is an art rather than an exact veterinary science; one gets to learn the possible off-label uses of wormers marketed/developed for other livestock. We've seen a lot of health issues with goat operations across the country. One has but to follow the threads and reports on the various breed forums to know that this is a serious concern. For those of you who haven't seriously raised livestock for profit, it's a real eye-opener when your flock or herd develops recurring problems and the local vet isn't getting good results but does remember to send his bill each month. In the meantime, you may be seeing fatalities in your livestock. And the maintenance tasks aren't push them out into the field and forget them ... especially if you have predators in your area, such as we do (coyotes, mostly, and roaming Fido's from folk that moved to the country and don't or won't comprehend that livestock is our priority, not their pet well being when it comes to harass or snack upon our livestock). It's a 24/7/365 occupation. And how many of you are prepared to assist with difficult birthings of you livestock? Disposal of dead carcasses? vet'ting your livestock ... diagnosing ailments, administering med's, giving injections, tubing newborns who are off to a slow start, etc? dedicating livestock facilities on your property? you can spend a fortune on all this with outside help or learn ... as most successful livestock businesses do ... to do it yourself, up to a point.

The bottom line on this thread is that I'm not interested in hearsay about somebody who made it with a small hobby farm operation. My bet is that few even break even. We have a threshold for property tax exemptions as agricultural in our area where you must show $10,000 worth of sales volume to qualify for your ag exemption .... that's not PROFIT, that's GROSS SALES ... and many hobby farm/ranch operations around here simply cannot show that SALES VOLUME to qualify. A few head of beef, even at today's market prices won't do it. Even the sizable operations around my area of the USA are supported by families who hold off-the-farm jobs so that they can afford their farming/ranching habit. If you aren't actively involved in an operation where you can see the books, I doubt you even have a clue as to what the incomes are from these small businesses. And I know from being involved with several Farmer's Markets where the fees are a percentage of the gross sales and I see the sales volume of the participants ... many don't have sales volumes which return anything except a modest net profit. One cannot raise a product to market for nothing, and generally there's a lot of time involved. Even when we buy our 250 lot of meat bird chickens to raise organically and free range, at $15 retail per USDA processed bird, there's less than $1 per bird NET PROFIT. The margins are so slim these days in that business that we're down to our last batch and getting out of that because USDA compliance has driven the cost up of processors who accept outside birds to over $6/bird in our area. You can't raise birds and sell them yourself at the Farmer's Market, they must be processed in an appropriate facility. We've got one in a multi-state area now ... take it or leave it. The rest have been driven out of business by the fed regulations compliance, HAACP compliance, etc. New tests for salmonella and ecoli are being required, even for the small processors. And my farm insurance has gone up 300% over the last 10 years; the risk of selling a product where somebody dies is being noted by the insurance industry. Would you want to risk everything you've worked for over your lifetime to see it go away if somebody gets sick from your food product and it's your fault? While we do everything we can to assure a quality wholesome food product, that doesn't mean it's an absolute guarantee. Hence, business insurance is essential. That's off the top before we've even sold anything and received our first dollar of gross sales.

PPS: we're not amateurs in the food producing industry. Mrs Sun is a degreed pro and holds a job where she is a resource for other producers, so we get to see what's going on with hundreds of other small (and large) farming/ranching operations. We were OCIA certified for years, we know what it takes to qualify and maintain that certification. Simply saying you're "organic" is pure BS to a client if you haven't gone through the certification and comply with the standards ... and many operators don't do either. For us, the annual cost of certification ran into thousands of dollars each year. Again, that's a cost before you've deposited your first dollar sale.

Last edited by sunsprit; 12-22-2014 at 08:03 PM..
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