How to Make Money on an Urban Farm
Let’s Get down to the Nitty Gritty
I’ve written about the joys of living on an urban farm, the feeling of accomplishment as one grows their own food, and raises animals for the same purpose. I’ve written about the connection one feels to the earth, and the connection one feels with the past. I’ve written about memories from long ago, working on my grandparents’ farm, and how wonderful it makes me feel to be a part of that tradition handed down so long ago.
All well and good, but today let’s talk about a more practical aspect of urban farming, namely making money.
SHOW ME THE MONEY! Those famous words from the movie “Jerry McGuire” are still applicable today. Times are tough. You don’t need me to tell you that, and practically everyone is interested in ways to supplement their meager incomes. Well, I’m here to show you some ways, using the land you currently have, and some good old-fashioned creativity. Growing your own food is nice; making money from that food is better. Raising your own animals is nice; making money from those animals is better. Am I right?
Take what you need and leave the rest. Some of these ideas will not be for everyone, and that’s great. I’m sure you’ll find something in this article that you can live with, so read on and happy farming.
Check your city ordinance on this one. Where I live, we are allowed five hens and no roosters. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but those five hens provide us with four or five eggs per day, and we have a growing list of people who will pay $5 per dozen for fresh eggs. Yes, people will pay that, and they will consider it a bargain, because if you ever taste fresh, organic eggs, you will never again want store-bought eggs.
Once I get my acreage, I will have one-hundred hens. Listen, chickens are very easy to care for, and they are money-making machines. Take advantage of nature’s egg-layers and make some nice spare change.
The cost of a chick….$1. They will be laying eggs in about six months. They will lay for two, three, four or more years, day after day, week after week, month after…well, you get the point.
And if you are thinking of raising them for meat, and making money on that meat, forget about it. Chickens are a terrible investment if raised for meat, especially on the small scale of an urban farmer.
DARLING, CUTE LITTLE QUAIL
For those of you who are considering raising quail, but can’t stand the thought of killing them for meat, then consider raising them for eggs.
Quail are birds that most cities pay no attention to, and that is great news for urban farmers. They take up very little space, they are relatively quiet, and they lay eggs like crazy….and those eggs will sell for between three and six dollars a dozen, depending on the market at any given time. Today is a great time for selling organic eggs. People will pay if they know what they are buying is organic and healthy.
We currently have sixteen quail. We will be getting more. They cost $1.50 each and they will lay, on average, 1.7 eggs per day for a couple years. You do the math…say a dozen eggs each day…say five dozen per week…say four bucks per dozen….that’s twenty bucks per week, every week….nice little supplemental income.
Now, for those who have no problem butchering your own meat, consider raising those darling little birds for meat. They are absolutely delicious, they are ready for butchering after five weeks, and if you have an incubator you will have a steady supply of meat for years to come….and I promise you there are people who will pay from three to five bucks for a butchered bird. I personally think that raising quail for eggs is a much better investment.
FRESH VEGGIES, ANYONE?
Understand this basic fact: you can grow enough vegetables to feed a family of four on 400 square feet. For those of you who are math-challenged, that is a plot with dimensions of 10’x40’, and practically everyone has that much room in their backyard. Of course, you might have to get rid of that lawn back there, but when was the last time that lawn made you any money?
With the growing demand for organic vegetables, you will have no problem finding friends and neighbors who will buy off the excess of your harvest. To insure that you will always have customers, try growing something that is hard to find in supermarkets. Rarity sells in any business, as long as there is a demand for that rarity.
EASTER EVERY SINGLE DAY
Yes, we are going to talk about rabbits and no, we will not talk about slaughtering them, although if you choose to do so, people will pay for it.
There are two ways to make decent money from raising rabbits, exclusive of the slaughtering thing.
One, you can raise them for their poop. No, I have not lost my mind. Yes, I said poop. Rabbit manure is nature’s super fertilizer, higher in nitrogen than any other natural fertilizer. It is not messy, it does not smell, and it can go directly from the rabbit to the garden without having to compost it first.
Price rabbit manure at the feed store and then consider selling your own. One buck and two does will produce three cubic yards of manure each year, and that manure is money in your pocket.
If poop isn’t your things, although for the life of me I can’t imagine a gardener who would not appreciate rabbit poop, then raise these little darlings for pets. Get a buck, get a couple does, and then sit back and let nature do its thing. Babies can be sold for five bucks each. Full-grown purebreds will go for twenty-five dollars or more.
And yes, they are delicious, but I promised not to speak of such things.
THOSE SQUIGGLY, PROFITABLE WORMS
I love raising things that require very little care. Hey, I’m a busy guy, and I don’t have time to invest in certain animals like horses, so I go small and invest practically zero time in creatures like worms.
What I love about worms is that they will make me money and I don’t have to do a darned thing….and….they will also feed my chickens…and…they will also make compost for me. In fact, I can’t think of a single reason why a person wouldn’t raise worms, except for that squiggly, slimy thing they have going for them.
Whether you raise meal worms or red worms, there will always be people who will pay for them, and once you start your first batch, you literally will never pay another dollar on this little money-maker.
HONEYBEE I ADORE YOU
I was going to write about raising bees, but I haven’t done it yet, so my opinion is just like so many other opinions out there…practically worthless. I can tell you, from talking to neighbors who do this, that it is a hit-and-miss proposition that can be expensive and can, during a bad year, net you absolutely nothing in earnings. However, I do know of two people who have done quite well, and make over $500 each year selling honey. The jury is still out on this one.
DO YOU HAVE SOME HERBS, HERB?
People will pay for them, and if you make your own lotions from them, people will pay even more for them.
Remember the key word regarding foods in the year 2014….organic. People will pay for organic foods and spices and herbs, and if you have room on your property, you really need to do some research, plant some herbs, and count your cash.
BERRY, BERRY DELICIOUS
On our property, which is only 1/8 of an acre, we have raspberries, strawberries, Marionberries, blueberries, and blackberries. This year we have already harvested six gallons of berries and we are still picking.
Do you know what berries are selling for in a supermarket?
You do the math. Six gallons times…….
According to the Internal Revenue Service:
“You are in the business of farming if you cultivate, operate or manage a farm for profit, either as an owner or a tenant. A farm includes livestock, dairy, poultry, fish, fruit and truck farms. It also includes plantations, ranches, ranges and orchards.”
Check the statutes, and also check your individual state about tax deductions. You just might be surprised by the amount you can deduct from your taxes by running an urban farm.
And so Much More
Seriously, I could do another article about the other ways to make money on an urban farm, and maybe I will, but this gives you something to think about. None of it is guesswork by me. I have done everything I mentioned in this article except the bee thing, and I have made money on it all.
Every little bit helps, and it adds up to a nice, supplemental income.
And who, among you, would turn down a nice, supplemental income?
Happy farming my friends!
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)