Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Viability of Micro-Farms

At just 5.5 acres, I consider my farm small, especially considering that only about 2.5 acres of it is usable right now.  Things are just getting started, but I feel pretty confident that eventually, my small piece of land can provide 70% of required food for two adults.  My goal is to provide food, not to make a living.  Which begs the question, can micro farms do both?

I ran across an interesting post about the vaibility of small farms.  I thought the profit/acre anecdote was particularly interesting.  This is just a single datum point, but it is a datum point.


jenj said...

Funny, this is a question I just discussed with my husband last night. Due to various life happenings, I was not able to put in much of a garden this spring. However, our four hens are laying like gangbusters, and on the bus ride home yesterday, I was wondering if we could sell perhaps a dozen eggs per week. At $5/dozen, the going rate for eggs at the farmer's market, that would completely cover all our costs for the chickens for the year, plus we'd have plenty of eggs left for ourselves. But this raises all sorts of questions. If we could find neighbor willing to buy a dozen eggs per week, what would happen if someone got sick from eating our eggs? We're careful with our eggs and wipe them with a dilute bleach solution before putting them in the fridge, but still... should that prevent us from selling them? Do we need a license to do so? What are the regulations (because you KNOW there are some)? I don't know - and I don't know if it's worth all the headache to sell eggs. Trials of the micro-farmer!

Funder said...

Like jenj mentioned, I think food safety is the real sticking point. If you study the history of food safety in America, you'll be very happy we have the laws, but they're definitely a trap for the small farmer.

Just feeding your family - or offsetting the food bill partially - is a noble goal. And definitely attainable!

Don't forget that once you start selling the products of your farm, you have to account for the costs of actually doing business. Even on the most low-key end of things, it takes a little of your valuable time to, say, find a carton, pack some eggs in it, refrigerate, meet up with someone, and swap eggs for money. If you sell at the farmer's market, there goes an entire DAY every single week. If you sell off the farm, weirdos are going to show up at all hours. Don't forget to account for the value of your free time!