By Scott Anderson
You have a can-do attitude, but your operation just isn’t making ends meat. A wonderful reality is working in your favor: There are people in the world who will pay you to do certain work for them in more places than the farm. And this extra work might just help you keep your farm.
I recently interviewed Matt Brechwald, co-host of the Off Farm Income podcast, about what that extra work might look like for you. Here are six sources of off-farm income.
1. Rodent control. Matt once felt like he was living two separate lives, working four days a week in town as a police officer and three days on his Kuna, Idaho, farm. He found a machine made for exterminating gophers, and after some market research, he started a business exterminating gophers, ground squirrels and other rodents. He was shocked at the high demand. He had to split his time among police work, farming, his new business, teaching and being a father and husband. That wasn’t sustainable, so he gave up his police job of 12 years and put his energy into agriculture. The side business allowed him to do that.
2. Portable sawmilling. Bill Sandusky bought a portable sawmill with hydraulic lifts and uses it for extra income. Basically, when he gets to a location, people have already fallen the logs. He cuts the trees into lumber right there and mills them into beams and rails, etc., that can be used to build barns, houses or pens. It’s enjoyable work, economical for his customers, and sawmills aren’t expensive, either.
3. Farm sitting. Many people are leaving city jobs and getting small farms that need to be tended on a daily basis. But it’s hard to leave if you don’t trust whoever’s managing the farm. This opens the opportunity for someone with farming and livestock knowledge to step in.
4. Selling ag real estate. Matt interviewed a man who’s made himself the go-to guy for agricultural ground in California’s Central Valley. Matt and the man discussed whether somebody who wanted to farm could use real estate to support their endeavors. Their conclusion: yes. If you’re a farmer, you already have a huge advantage over any broker who knows nothing about ag real estate.
5. Value-added products. Make your products worth more than they are if you just sell them after they’re produced. One young lady from Kentucky grew sorghum, but instead of selling it at harvest, she pressed it and made a liquid she turned into syrup and barbecue sauce. It sells for four times the commodity rate. You can do the same with corn mazes, making birdseed or turning corn into whiskey, if you’re willing to put in the effort.
6. Custom hay wrapping. Few farmers have the equipment to wrap hay. It’s a great business because the 10% to 20% loss farmers avoid by wrapping their bales makes this a win-win for you and your customer.
These are just a few examples of finding a profitable niche. But there are more. Find other off-farm income ideas at www.offincome.com.
This blog is based on an episode of The Cash Cow Farmer podcast. The original version appeared on AgWeb. Read it here: www.AgWeb.com/blog/cashcow-farmer/7-sources- of-off-farm-income