Farming Business

So Tom has been laid off again since July.  He has been a land surveyor for 15 years and had worked his way up to Party Chief and then to Chief of Parties.  When the economy took its nosedive, the business he was working for had  a lot less work so he was laid off.  He managed to find a good position with another company (the oldest in the county), but it lost a lot of its business too and laid him off in July.  This business is going to shut down at the end of the year .

So now decisions need to be made.  Surveying is not working out in this economy, and training for an entirely different career at our age is a little daunting.  So we have been talking and looking into ways to grow our farm business to make it more profitable.  So far we have been basically breaking even. We are able to pay for our animals’ feed, supplies and vet costs with our revenues but not much more.

So different ideas have come to mind (in no particular order):

 

Cider

 

Apple pressing service

 

Spinning Mill

 

Farmer’s Markets

 

Foraged products

Truffle cultivating

 

Poultry

These are just some brainstorming ideas.  There are Agricultural Entrepreneurship and similar courses that may be able to help us out with this.  Any input/comments are welcome!

INJURY UPDATES: Vanessa is getting better.  I am not.

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22 Responses to Farming Business

  1. Chai Chai says:

    How about a combination of all of the above? I know a lot of places in Michigan that are successful with Cider being their front line product, but they also produce other things.

    The spinning mill looks expensive for start-up costs.

    I know some folks in Wisconsin that have summer camps on their property where kids get an opportunity to see farmland and farm animals up close. Petting zoo? You have posted great pictures of hikes with llamas, that could be a niche market.

    Can you teach spinning classes? Is there a market for beginning sheep/goat raising classes?

    Inquire to the local University and see if they may be interested in using some of your land for a research project. I know someone who got a stocked fish pond out of just such an arrangement.

    Do you have ponds? Stock fish for sport fishermen or your own food needs.

    I know of a successful farm bed and breakfast, is that an option?

    Just a few thoughts.

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  2. Teresa says:

    Of course your health will be a big factor in what you can do. You have some great ideas. Winery–pumpkin patch–agritourism–combination of several things would be the best bet. Good luck!

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  3. eric says:

    I fell for you. I lost my full time job at the beginning of the year. Go with your strengths, and the things you are already doing. If it were me, I’d look at what you are doing profitably, ans build on that to start. Look for the niche market you can fill. You are a lot further along than we are. We are doing the produce and poultry, and are branching out into home-made crafts, i.e. candles, soap, etc.

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    • Thanks Eric. I am sorry to hear that you are in a similar situation with Tom. One problem is the market for our “strengths” seems to be drying up a little but, except the fiber. Some of our thoughts involve investment and risk. It looks like the entrepreneurship class is available in January. That class involves researching your options and developing a business plan. That may help us focus our efforts.

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  4. jackie says:

    Sorry about Tom being laid off of his job. Major bummer. We will be experiencing something like that in the next year or 2. The PUD is using stimulus money to provide fiber to all of Chelan County. We will be losing all but a couple of customers when that happens. Marshall is looking at other avenues for income too.
    I will put my thinking cap on for ideas for you guys.
    Sorry your back is so bad. can you work at your job at all? or are you on a leave of absence? I hope you can get an appointment sooner than Dec. hang in there!
    Jackie

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    • Thanks Jackie. I am sorry to hear about Marshall’s situation. I wil continue to use him, for what that’s worth. I am still working, but it is quite a struggle. At my appointment yesterday I was told if I am not improving in 2-3 weeks I need to take 2-3 months off.

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  5. Karen Anne says:

    I am so sorry. A friend has been out of steady work for over a year, but recently developed heart trouble. His doctor believes he can get Social Security disability. Perhaps you would qualify for that. He did say often people are initially rejected but approved when they appeal.

    There was an article in our local paper here in RI a few days ago about how farms here can’t keep up with the demand from farmers’ markets and restaurants. You could sell produce, cider, mushrooms, etc. Also visiting days with an admission charge and produce and cider and so on for sale. Those things here always seem to attract a crowd.

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    • Thanks! I am no where near diabled enough at thsi point for Social Security.

      Farmers markets and visiting days are great ideas! The regulations for having hard cider at Farmers markets looks a little daunting.

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  6. Karen Anne says:

    p.s. I am really furious at the government. How many brain cells does it take to see that allowing outsourcing to countries that pay slave labor wages, have no benefits for workers, and no costs for pollution controls because they create giant rivers of toxins will keep destroying more and more US jobs, and without jobs things will never recover.

    No matter what party is in power, they act like morons.

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  7. This is one of the few times I enjoyed listening to talk of the economy. Usually it is boring to me. I will have to find his blog. It all makes a lot more sense now.

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  8. sheepsclothing says:

    I think you could definitely get something going with your cider. No idea what sorts of rules and regulations there are about selling it, but it would probably be easier than say fresh poultry or fresh vegetables because once it’s bottle it can store for a while, I imagine.
    I myself would LOVE to have a wool mill business. But like Chai Chai mentioned earlier, there would be quite a bit of upfront cost. But what a cool idea, working with fiber as a day job. Belfast Mini Mills has everything you would need…

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    • Thanks Denise. I just worry Tom’s cider is too dry for most folks.
      With the mill, Tom is a great mechanic and I know fiber and we could potentially employ his son whose having trouble finding a job with the crappy economy. Every mill I know fills up with work fast, but them there’s the investment and the infrastructure needed (building, septic). But it sounds like you might be hinting at something 😉 I am wondering if we should visit local mills to see what there experience has been like.

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  9. Karen Anne says:

    I wonder if there’s a nearby mill that works only in the daytime/weekdays, that might let you rent to use it when they’re not. Or maybe that isn’t workable if the machines have stuff left on them from shift to shift.

    The people I know who like wine seem to think dry is better. Cider might be different.

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  10. Karen Anne says:

    There was a discussion of winter farmers markets on another blog. I can’t remember if you have chickens. Could you sell eggs in the winter, even if there isn’t a farmers’ market?

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