So You Want to Be a Small Farmer? Here is what you need to know...
Photo by Keith Weller, acquired from USDA ARS

If you are like Bennett Kireker, you might be thinking about a career as a small farmer. There is no question that this can be a challenging career choice given that farming is subject to a whole range of externalities including weather, global commodity prices, fads in food and more. However, with a bit of creative thinking, you can earn a living from your small farm in many different ways – some of which have nothing to do with actual farming. Here are some ideas to consider.

Snail Farming

Like mushrooms, snails can be marketed to local restaurants and specialty stores and require only small start-up costs. And, like mushrooms, they don’t require a large space – this makes them an idea “side business” to supplement your farming income. Snails reproduce quickly and can reach a marketable size within 6-12 months depending on how you have bred and fed them. Snails don’t smell, and won’t make noise to disturb your neighbors, which is a definite plus.

Worm Farming

Especially if you live near fishing communities or garden centers, you might consider worm farming. As with mushrooms and snails, worm farming requires little investment, little space, and is relatively easy to do. They can be raised in containers of whatever size you have space for, filled with peat moss. The worms themselves can be purchased from your local fishing shop or from a wholesaler, and can be fed basic things like grass clippings and wet leaves. It is hard to get easier than that! The soil they have been raised in makes excellent compost that can be used on your own farm or can be sold to local gardeners.

Sell Farm By-Products

Depending on the kind of farm you operate, you may be have financially valuable by-products that could be sold to generate income. Manure from animals, compost material from works, or feathers can all be sold.

Special Events

Especially if you have a picturesque farm, consider renting it out for special events. A barn that could be converted into a party hall makes a great space for weddings or other events. Work with local wedding planners and photographers to help attract business. Alternatively, consider creating a corn maze or petting zoo in order to attract visitors to your farm on a regular basis.

Grow Flowers

Flowers grown for local shops can be a lucrative side-business if you have the space. Flowers are relatively easy to grow, and can be sold freshly cut for flower vendors or dried for arts and crafts stores. This can be a natural complement to bee keeping, below.

Keep Bees

Especially with the environmentally devastating collapse of bee colonies across the country, there is a growing business in keeping hives and renting them out to fields in order to allow pollination. This is not a casual hobby as beehives do need to be managed and tended, but it can be very lucrative – in addition to renting out your healthy hives, you can also get into the organic honey business.

No matter what your primary crop may be, any of these small farming ideas can generate income streams that will help you turn a profit as a small farmer. Do your research, and be creative!