Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Farm Financials and Establishing Priorities

Yesterday I gave a presentation to a class of college students. I talked about my growing methods (organic no-spray with a heaping dose of permaculture), about direct sales and relationship marketing, and about specific techniques that allow me to supply a CSA program while working at it part time. They were very interested in my hugelkultur beds and how I use them to boost potato yield. They asked a lot of questions about permaculture terms they hadn't heard before.

Then they wanted to know how many clients I had and what the price was for a year's subscription. The answer to both of these questions is readily available through my order page so I went ahead and told them. Their faces fell. I had been expecting that response so I had deliberately waited until the end of question time to give them that little tidbit. As soon as they learned that this is not a get rich quick enterprise the questions dried up and they had no more interest in what I had to say.

I need to remember that these are kids who have never maintained a household so all they see is the dollar amount of gross income. Homesteaders like you and I know there's a lot more to it than that.

1. While growing food for the CSA I also produce the majority of the food my family consumes. A conservative estimate of that savings adds $2200 to my bottom line. But that is based on an average family's food budget. You and I know that homestead folks often eat like kings. My family enjoys food that is much higher in quality, nutrients, and flavor.

2. By working from home I have no additional expenses that take away from my income. By now my neighbors are used to seeing me in the garden in my pajamas, coffee cup in hand. I don't pay for a working wardrobe, or lunches at a diner. I have no transportation costs associated with my part time work.

3. My growing techniques are such that I have no cost of production. I don't buy pesticides or herbicides, I don't need equipment. I don't buy fertilizer - that's what chickens are for. I grow open pollinated or heirloom varieties so I save seed from year to year.

4. I work about 10 hours a week for about 30 weeks of the year. I am able to be a full time student and still keep my home and family together.

5. I have a grand total of 1/3 acre and my house sits on it, too. Of that 1/3 acre about half is currently in use producing food. When I figure out my income based on $/acre the profit margin makes me very happy indeed.

6. I work from home. My daughter doesn't have a key to the house, she doesn't need it. I'm present and available for all the daily joys and trials of having a family.

These kids see the enormous amount of grain that comes off their parent's farms but they aren't there when mom starts writing checks to pay the bills. The overhead associated with that kind of farming makes it unsustainable without subsidies.

I'm probably preaching to the choir. Homesteading types get it.

Farm kids don't.

1 comment:

  1. I get it and I love that you get satisfaction from growing and sharing your food. There is something great about going out and collecting enough fresh vegetables to feed the family and it only being a few minutes from garden to plate. Good on you.

    I also had to smile about not needing a working wardrobe. My wardrobe has shrunk to about a quarter of what it used to be and is dropping even further.

    I am going to have to sign this as anonymous as my computer/Blogger/the internet won't let me select any profile for some reason, so I'll sign off.