26 Ways to Make Money From Your Small Farm
How to Make Money From a Small Farm or Plot of Land
Many people think farmers have enviable lives. If you are 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 26 ideas for you to consider for making the most of your farm. Of course, some of these ideas will be more practical than others depending on 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 small farm into a money maker and begin enjoying your life on the homestead once again.
You are no longer just a farmer, you are an entrepreneur.
1. Grow Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
Growing mushrooms can be very lucrative. However, I 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.
If your knowledge of mushrooms is only eating them on a pizza, this is an interesting and comprehensive look into the field of mushroom cultivation. This is my 'go-to book' for anything that has to do with growing mushrooms. It is packed with information that will help a novice, and it will also answer questions of more experienced growers.
This book is targeted at those who wish to grow mushrooms for commercial reasons, even on a small scale. The author Paul Stamets, a mycologist with over 20 years of experience, has many books, awards, and patents, and is considered the leading authority in the US on mycology.
2. Turn Your Field Into a Campsite
Especially if you live close to an urban area, many people are always looking to find their next great outdoor vacation.
To turn your land (or part of it) into a campsite, you will 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 to consider. The area or field you choose should also be level and dry, ensuring that campers can correctly erect their tents.
- 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 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 a tad 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.
3. Farm Snails for Profit
It is easy to think of snails only as pests, but they can actually 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 use outdoor pens which are open, others use netting to keep them in. I 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.
4. Organize 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 $7 per car and $15 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.
5. 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 straight forward and many people have come to trust it. This could be run in conjunction with your own website promoting your available accommodation.
6. 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.
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 involvement and 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Raise Worms
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.
11. Breed Dogs
This is a controversial subject, and I am sure many people think I 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.
12. 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.
- Guinea fowl
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.
You can sell ostrich meat, Emu oil, feathers, and eggs.
You can sell goat meat, milk, butter, cheese, young, and hair.
You can sell llama wool. Young llamas. They also provide security for flocks of sheep.
You can sell deer meat, fur, and antlers.
13. Grow Dual Crops
Depending on what you are growing you may be able to plant two crops side-by-side, saving you space. Here on our farm, we have planted coconut trees that are spaced five meters apart, and between these we plant crops such as beans, zucchini (courgette), and cucumbers.
Because we have irrigation already in place to water the coconuts, which have deeper roots, we can use the space to greater, more profitable effect. The income generated from the earlier crop will pay for the cost of electricity to water the coconuts.
There are lots of combinations of crops that are good to grow together, helping you generate higher yields using the same amount of space and water.
14. Sell Farm By-Products
There are many by-products on a working farm, and some of them have resell value. Here are a few ideas:
- Feathers: If you have any feathered friends on your farm, be they wild or domesticated, consider collecting and selling the feathers. People love to include them in crafts such as jewelry-making, hat-making, and other kinds of accessories.
- Manure: If you raise animals, you know that manure is great for gardens. You can bag and sell manure to the public or small garden centers.
15. Win Farm Equipment
Although we are discussing making money on your farm, let's not forget the old saying that "A penny saved is a penny earned." With that in mind, consider entering the sweepstakes. Because of the explosion of people who are now homesteading or have small urban farms, many companies are offering prizes that are useful for farming, everything from chicken incubators to tractors.
I run a website called Ace Contests where I list sweepstakes, contests and competitions which can be entered online. There are sweepstakes which are open to the various regions and also worldwide. There is a link on my profile or you can simply type in the name into a search.
If you happen to win a prize that you can't use, you can sell it.
16. Public Speaking and Demonstrations
Money doesn't always have to come from just farming activities. Some people earn money by giving talks about farming activities. Schools, community centers, and public venues always need speakers. Many of these groups pay. The larger the group, the more they'll pay. If you are a confident speaker, this is an avenue you should consider. Topics such as:
- Bee Keeping
- Growing vegetables or flowers
- Natural pest control
- Organizing a farmers market .
- Homemade ice cream
- Jam making
This is just a selection of topics you could speak about. These talks can be at your farm or you may need to travel to their venue. You don't have to be an expert, but you do need to be entertaining, informed and passionate about your topic.
Some of these topics can be demonstrated and others would require a series of slides and videos.
There are many groups who require speakers, it is necessary to contact business owners, your chamber of commerce and even your local library. Begin networking and if you don't feel confident, start with small groups and speak for free until you become accustom to the limelight. Once you begin to get feedback and you know your subject matter backwards, you are ready to charge money for your talks.
Poll: Is Farming Right for You?
Could you live and work on a farm?
17. Rent Your Land for an Antenna, Turbines, or Solar Panels
Is your land at a high point? This could potentially bring you the bonus income you were looking for. Consider contacting cellular phone or internet companies to determine if an antenna could be placed on your property. Though they pay handsomely, you may be concerned about the potential cancer-causing problems. Do some research and find out what areas would be considered safe.
Are you in a windy area? Are there turbines already nearby? You could also see about getting a wind turbine. A farm near us has sand dunes which aren't suitable for growing anything, but he now has a few Korean-owned wind turbines on them and is raking in a small fortune for doing nothing. We also know of farmers in the UK who have these in their fields. They continue to farm but make more money from the turbines.
Another possibility is putting solar panels on your land, which are connected to the national grid. This is very big in Spain and is taking off in other sunny countries. You could not only receive free electricity yourself, but the electricity company could pay you! How is that for a good money-making idea?
18. Sell Seeds Over the Internet
If you grow any unique or different types of flowers, fruits, or vegetables, consider selling the seeds. Many people feel bound by what commercial 'home garden' seed companies provide, but there is so much more available. This has seen an increase in recent times with the worry about crops grown using genetically modified or GM seeds. Heirloom seeds, or those which are passed down or 'natural seeds' have seen a sharp increase in sales.
Whether it is an enormous pumpkin variety or a dainty flower, keen gardeners are always on the look-out for something new. Remember to get a photo of it when it's looking its best, as it will sell much easier. You could advertise your seeds on eBay or its equivalent in your country.
- Though seeds can be easily sold over the Internet, the one thing you can't do is send them abroad. There are strict laws in some countries about taking or mailing seeds or plants to a different country.
- Include instructions for planting in the packaging: When to plant, where to plant, the type of soil the plant prefers, etc. You should have all the information that you would normally see on the back of a seed packet. Type it up, print it out, and send a copy along with the seeds. This will ensure the customer is happy, and a happy customer will buy from you again. Plus they are also your best advertisement. If you exceed their expectations, they will leave a glowing review for you which will boost your business.
19. Publish Articles Online
Besides farming, you could also write articles about your farming activities. It is easy to get published online in a variety of places for free. HubPages is free to join, and if you keep with it, you might be able to start earning money from articles about a wide variety of topics that you choose.
Writing online isn't a get rich quick scheme, though. Like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. For me, it fits in nicely with my lifestyle here on the farm and provides an additional stream of passive income.
20. Rent Your Land for Special Events Like Weddings and Parties
Consider renting out your land as a wedding or special events venue. Having your wedding in a barn or on a farm is fairly popular nowadays, and people are always looking for beautiful locations for parties or other ceremonies.
Your level of involvement could be as much or as little as you wish. You could have the marquees including tables and chairs, or the party planner could do this. Again, you could provide the food or allow that to be outsourced.
- If you're considering renting out your space for weddings, you'll want to make sure you have bathrooms and dressing rooms that are clean and welcoming, especially for the bridal party.
- Depending on where you live, it might be fun to rent out your barn for a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.
21. Rent Out Bee Hives
Bees are currently in demand, not only for their honey but also for their ability to pollinate. There has been a dramatic decline in the bee population due to colony collapse disorder (CCD). It's unclear why it's happening, and there are many theories about the source, but the bottom line is that the demand is great for these little miracles of nature.
If you have hives and can take them to fields for pollination, you can expect to earn $136 for each hive you provide. This is based on figures provided by the article, "Bee-conomics and the Leap in Pollination Fees" (UC Davis).
22. Open Your Farm to the Public
There are many successful farms that are open to the public, providing a safe environment for adults and children to see animals and crops up close. Each person is charged upon entry, and some families make a day out of it. Some farmers even make more money through agro-tourism than from farming itself.
Although most of the time visitors will come on the weekends and during school vacations, many schools love taking children on field trips to local farms.
- Serving refreshments and even light meals can bring in even more money for your farm.
- You can sell feed pellets for the animals so children can feed chickens, goats, and other animals.
- Consider starting a petting zoo.
- Construct a corn maze.
- You could also offer classes or workshops on farming or making different kinds of products like meats, cheeses, or other foods.
23. Offer Parking for Bus Companies
Do you live near an industrial area that buses in its workers? Are you in an area where parking is in short supply? If so, you could benefit from supplying a flat, dry area for buses or cars to park.
You might need to build a small kiosk to house a worker who will collect money if people are paying as they go, day-to-day. If it's reserved parking, such as for buses, the money will go right into your bank account and save you from employing someone to stand and take money.
24. Offer Motorhome, Boat, and Trailer Storage
Since many urban and suburban areas restrict the number of vehicles that homeowners can have parked on their premises, consider offering trailer, motorhome, or boat storage. If you have a large, flat, dry, and secure area or can invest the money to make such an area secure, this is a good money generator.
- You could also have an area where they could clean their vehicles.
- You can charge them monthly or yearly.
- Check with your attorney and insurance company since it could be possible to have your clients sign a waiver releasing you from any liability for loss or damage.
25. Offer Space for a Private Air-Strip or Heliport
Does your farm have space for an air strip or a heliport? Do you live in an area where there is a need for this?
I live 65km away from an international airport, but locally there is a man who has an airstrip at his home. He allows a limited amount of traffic to use it, for which he is paid handsomely.
Many large businesses fly their representatives up here and land at this small airstrip, putting them just minutes away from where they need to be.
- Also, consider the opportunity for a private airstrip aimed at skydivers. If you live in a large open area, you could incorporate this idea, so long as you have the correct permissions from the aviation board and your local government.
- You could also supply parking for their aircraft as well.
26. Grow Flowers to Sell
Growing flowers may not seem like an obvious choice if you have been growing crops such as wheat, potatoes, or sugar beets. But consider the different avenues from growing flowers:
- Growing flowers for florists (cut)
- Growing flowers for nurseries (potted and ready for resale)
- Selling flowers direct to the public
- Selling dried flowers for arts and crafts
- Selling dried flowers for potpourri/confetti
Growing flowers can dramatically increase the yield of your land.
I hope this information helps! If you have any other ideas or resources, please pass them along in the comments.