Barefoot & Genuine


Income Opportunities for You and Your Homestead

Carla ScharberRunning a farm and raising a family is an expensive endeavor.  Therefore, some extra cash is seldom unwelcome; particularly if you can integrate the opportunity into what you are already doing.  With the ideas shared below, advertising and marketing will be your key to success, so get the word out utilizing as many modes and venues as possible.  In addition, some activities may be regulated or have restrictions, so contact your county office for further information.

1)  Host a Yearly Event – I know it’s not always easy to find a free window of time in a farmer’s schedule, but scheduling fun into life is important too.   If you have the space, along with good planning and organizational skills, this might be the very opportunity to bring some extra cash to your homestead.  Think of activities you enjoy and consider hosting an event at your place.   Income can be made from entrance fees, vendor fees, and/or your own booth sales.   Examples might include:  Car or Tractor Show; Music Concert featuring local talent, with or without a Barn Dance; Fireworks Display; Consignment Auction with a take of the earnings; Outdoor Games Competition (Bocce Ball, Volleyball, Croquet, Badminton); Tractor, Snowmobile or Sledding Races; etc. 

2)  Trail Runs and Adventure Runs – This is something that one of our local farms, Treasured Haven Farm, organizes each year.  They have trail runs, half marathons and half of a half marathons that are open courses throughout their working farm and woodlands without major obstacles or water crossings.   Adventure Runs traverse the farm field and woodland access trails and may have natural obstacles like downed logs, single lane track, steep inclines, water or creek crossings where you will get wet, muddy areas depending on recent rainfall, and others depending on the event. Each race in their farm series in unique.   For more information on Treasured Haven Farm Runs and what the runners are saying, visit their website.

3)  Airbnb – Do you have a spare room in your farmhouse?  Do you have a building that could be renovated into a tiny house or a camp cottage?  Perhaps you have an RV, yurt, tipi or permanent canvas tent dwelling?  Many homesteads can offer an experience that families who do not live in the country would enjoy sharing with their children.   Perchance you have a particularly private and/or scenic homestead that offers quiet solitude for those who need to unplug from their hectic lifestyle?   Airbnb Inc‌.‌ is an American online marketplace and hospitality service brokerage company based in San Francisco, California whose members can use the service to arrange or offer lodging, primarily homestays, or tourism experiences.   There are several books available for learning more about running a successful Airbnb.

young girl walking through garden rows
Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

4) Teaching an On-Site Class – Many is the time that I have wanted to learn a new skill, but taking a class involved hours of drive time.   Homesteaders, and country folk in general, often have unique or specialty skills that are of interest to others.   The possibilities are endless but to get you thinking about your own skill set, here are some ideas: how to grow and prepare herbs for use; canning and food preservation; weaving; needlework, felting and other handwork;  sewing and quilting;  knitting and crocheting;  trapping, hunting and tanning; welding; specialized building and carpentry; repairing farm implements and tractors; carving; cast iron restoration and cooking; candle and soap making; beekeeping; how to arrange flowers and establish a cutting garden; building an outdoor oven; etc.  

5) Weekend On-Farm Sales of Extra Produce & Your Specialty Products – If you live near town or a weekender’s paradise, this may be a great opportunity for you.   If you have an active following, and the time, you can grow your income and local interest by adding a petting zoo, pony or tractor rides, craft vendors, etc. 

Why Homestead? One Woman’s Journey—Part II

Carla ScharberWe had moved from suburbia to the country with a dream of homesteading, but had no definitive plan or funds for moving forward with that venture.  When our toddler was diagnosed with asthma, I immediately became somewhat obsessed with environmental toxins.  The only way we could afford organically grown foods and natural cleansers was to produce them ourselves.  The fire was lit and I turned my attention to addressing the first item on my homesteading agenda.  I needed to increase our income so I could purchase plants, seeds and eventually poultry.  I began by selling my mother-in-law’s stash of my husband’s childhood toys on eBay.  From there, we spent weekends at garage sales and auctions looking for inventory to sell online.   My husband thoroughly enjoyed the hunt which sometimes meant that more money was going out then was coming in.  This did jeopardize our household budget from time to time… so beware.

I purchased organic, heirlooms seeds for a large garden which I carefully planted and watered.  Plants appeared as expected in the newly rototilled soil and I was ecstatic.  Time passed, and while I was busy with toddlers and selling online the weeds thrived.  I did not realize how quickly weeds can overtake a garden or the amount of time necessary to properly weed a large garden.  Some plants produced, but many withered away.  I continued to read and learn.  In the following years, I tried moon cycle planting calendars, companion planting systems, etc.  However, I believe my greatest error was failing to consider our soil and the importance of soil health.  We have sandy soil on which there had been a potato farm for many years prior to the land being subdivided into a housing development.  The soil was tired, overworked and lacked nutrients.

chicks
Photo Credit: Mia Scharber

There were immediate options of course: straw bale gardening, raised beds, using horse or cow manure to improve the soil, etc.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any connections when it came to sourcing any of the above.  Funds were low with nothing leftover to purchase soil amendments, materials for raised beds or enough straw bales to meet our garden needs.  I resigned myself to slow, but hopefully effective, improvements.  We built a compost bin for our coffee grounds, food scraps and other compostable materials.   Instead of planting fruits and vegetables for one season, we planted green manures: buckwheat and hairy vetch.  Although both green crops grew, they never looked as strong and healthy as the picture posted.  We also planted legumes and practiced rotation cropping.   All our efforts helped, but ultimately, it was the purchase of laying hens that made the greatest impact on the productivity of our soil.  We had to wait an entire season to utilize the black gold, chicken manure being too nitrogen rich for immediate use), but we were pleased with the improvement of our soil and increased crop production.

ChickensGateW
Photo Credit:  Mia Scharber

Although we now had enough produce to meet our summer needs, berries for jams and jellies to sell at the local farmer’s market, and eggs to sell to family and neighbors, we were far from achieving my dream of a sustainable homestead. In the Fall of 2017, our youngest went off to college.  After years of the endless comings and goings of teenagers and friends, the house felt too empty, too quiet.  Initially, I had wanted to go “back to work” to connect with others and to increase my earnings to help with education costs.  I made a few unsatisfactory attempts to rejoin the 9 to 5 workforce but  I found the workplace too constricting and less rewarding than I remembered.  Ironically, the very lifestyle that I once perceived as unrelenting work, has enticed me back.    

Now empty nesters in our 50’s, I have come to the realization that our tiny 1.67 acres could, with some thoughtful planning, be developed into a productive, sustainable micro farm.  I consider myself a lifetime learner and there is still so much to learn, many ideas to pursue and more improvements to be made.  I’m still a novice homesteader, but I’m happy to say the adventure continues. 

Carl Jung
Photo Credit:  Mia Scharber

Why Homestead? One Woman's Journey to Micro Farming-Part 1

Carla ScharberMy road to farming and homesteading has been circuitous.  I was raised in suburban Minnesota where family and neighbors would have considered themselves to be of the working or middle class.  If there had been family members who farmed, it was many generations past.

fence

During my college years, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a summer on a farm in Northern Norway.  Initially, I found the rhythm of the lifestyle to be disorienting; having already been indoctrinated in the idea that work happened behind a desk from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  I perceived farm work to be unending as there was no formally scheduled end time and it seemingly continued throughout the day.  As the summer passed, however, I realized that there was lots of time for laughter, fun, adventure, even relaxation… and it was often intermixed with what would otherwise be termed ‘work’.  In addition, and much to my surprise, I found it oddly exhilarating to work hard physically, fall into bed exhausted and wake up refreshed.  At home, I frequently went to bed mentally exhausted, yet seldom awoke feeling truly refreshed.  The country life definitely suited my empathic temperament and free-spirited disposition; and yet, I did not consider it as a career or lifestyle opportunity at the time.  It was decidedly outside the realm of my experience.

chicken

Eventually I would marry and we brought two beautiful beings into this world.  I realized at that time how much I wanted life to slow so I could be fully present and enjoy the moment.  I didn’t want to miss out on a moment with our daughters.  I wanted to sit in the grass, make dandelion hair wreaths, investigate gopher holes, feed lambs and search for bird nests with them.  Our financial needs were greater, but my interest in an outside career dwindled. I longed for that lifestyle I had sampled in Norway… busy and productive days focusing on hearth and home.

With a vague dream and rapidly diminishing savings, I dragged my city born and bred husband out to the country.  We found a small home on a 1.67 acre parcel located in an east central Minnesota township housing development that was still zoned agricultural.  It was a start, but this was definitely new territory.  My mother had remained at home while her children were young and pursued various income opportunities from time to time so there was precedent for such a decision; still, most people of our acquaintance viewed my ideas and choices with skepticism and derision. My husband had humored my insistence that we move to the country, but the idea of farming, or even sustainable living, was completely alien to him.  I had no mentors, few supporters, and my use of the internet was minimal at the time.  As I was no longer employed outside our home, there were no funds beyond those required to meet our immediate needs.  Although my enthusiasm has never waned, it was a slow and rocky start with many failures and few successes.

dandelion

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II…







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