Grit Blogs > The One-Acre Farm

To Do Or Not To Do

Jim BakerOK, I have taken the plunge and am retired, now what? Maybe you are not, yet you have some land, maybe just a large lot, in the county or inside city limits. You also want to have more control over what you eat, even what is going into what you eat, than you have just walking into your local store and buying a dozen eggs or a pound of bacon.

So now it is the 'what to do' stage. What CAN you do, legally? Where I live, I can have all the chickens I feel comfortable with. I can even have a rooster or two should I so decide. Not all places are as lenient. I have a friend inside the city limits who can have only five hens and no roosters on his roughly 1/4 acre of subdivision. Enough eggs for a young family or a retired couple for sure, with maybe even a few left over for baking or sharing with neighbors. Enough for a supplemental income? Very doubtful.

backyard chicken |

Photo: Stentaford

So now the what becomes as important as the why. Is all this 'homesteading' strictly for personal consumption? Is it to become a small income business? Will you need a business license? Insurance? A bookkeeper or a tax man? What about 'the Man'? Will what you want to do require inspections, a county agent or a visit from the USDA to check on things?

These are all things I had to work through by phone, email or personal visits even before I retired from the work force. And the results vary. If I have a roadside stand on my property, and it remains a 'no name' sole proprietorship, in my state I am not required to have a business license. I am not even required to have a 'doing business as' permit. My state is also working with the USDA to promote small commercial operations regarding a high-tunnel operation. That prompted me to become an official 'farm' with a USDA assigned farm number. It was quite easy to do, it was all done by phone and email, yet it was time consuming.

The same holds true for the high tunnel issue. That is a minimum of at least a year to implement where I live. The caveat regarding the tunnel is that it has to be a new kit and you pay for the unit out of pocket. Then once established, in this case, only produce is allowed (not including herbs or aromatics and no flowers for sale) and you must generate X dollars of income then you will be reimbursed so much a square foot up to a preset size limit.

In my case I located some greenhouse hoop skeletons and was able to get those for for about 20 percent the cost of a new high tunnel of the same size. No reimbursement, yet no massive cash outlay either.

So dear reader, this is not a 'hey, let's raise goats' type of proposition. This now becomes what would I like to do, what am I physically able to do and then what will the state, the county or the city allow me to do with the least amount of attached red tape. For example, I can legally raise a hog where I live. Yet I know I cannot produce enough to feed said hog and now it gets to the point of purchased feed taking me right back to where I don't want to be in regards to all the additives and such in what I eat. I want to put in beehives, yet am in a dilemma of sorts since I have limited space (an acre gets very small very rapidly!), and I have smaller children living right next door. A child being stung carries issues as well, especially if they are allergic.

So, to do or not to do? By all means do. Just know it is not 100 or 200 years ago when you could just do and the consequences were all but non-existent.

picking blueberries |

Photo: Mead

Consider this last example. I will be putting in blueberries, I hope, roughly 50 bushes minimum. And it has been suggested I make it a 'pick your own' patch. Yet in the back of my mind is the nagging issue of 'what if someone gets hurt?' What of someone says they got hurt? Where does that leave me?

So yes, by all means do, just do so making sure all the I's are dotted and all the T's crossed.

Until next time.