Are nerdy accountant type folk allowed to be farmers? I hate to admit it but I’m not a very good farmer nor am I educated or experienced in such realms. One of the most looked at posts on The Simple farm is when I discuss whether land can pay for itself. So I assume some of you must be of the nerdy influence as well.
My day job includes mostly financial skills and with that background I always find myself crunching numbers on the feasibility of various profit centered activities.
For instance, does the time and effort it takes to keep a flock of chickens have the potential to make it rich if we just stick with it?
Or how much garden area would we need to plant to have a viable long term chance at quitting my day job and doing it full time?
Or maybe, just maybe, if the stars align we can earn a living raising super duper grass fed and finished beef? I mean, some people are making money doing this right?
Well over the past year we’ve had quite an eye opener on how much money, effort, and luck it takes in various farming activities. Let me list all the things we were tangled up in:
- Planted a fairly decent beginning size garden
- Bought a Jersey milk cow which also came with a steer. We milked the cow morning and night for several months until we dried her up as she calves in early January
- Acquired a flock of 30 chickens (give or as a few died and we just picked up a few point of lay hens). About 19 of them are laying hens
- We (Milly) butchered 15 roosters. (Remind me to post on that. I wasn’t there as I was away on business (which is a rather sore topic) but she took pictures and gave me vivid details of the process while I ate pizza and watched TV in my hotel room. (Opps, did I just confess to that out loud))
- Harvested and stacked around 25 acres of hay
- Started building a farm house
- Picked berries in the river bottom
- Blogged about the experience
- Picked herbs and plants for medicinal purposes around the area
- Moved several…well used (I didn’t want to use the word decrepit) buildings for farm animals to our place
- Built fence to keep in farm animals and another fence to keep out wild ones
Well, I’m not sure if you’re impressed with the list above but I’m pretty dang tired and I’ve worked my wife and kids to the bone so I assume the above is a pretty good list for one spring/summer/fall seeing that I still held down a full-time day job as well.
So where do the numbers come into play? If you are starting to shake and sweat with me even mentioning the phrase expense and revenue I’d suggest skipping to the end of this set of posts to read my summary.
This is your last chance to bail to the end. I mean it. I’m going to get really boring. The following is the stuff Milly asks me to talk about at night when she can’t sleep.
Yuck, Numbers Type Stuff
OK, if you are reading this you are either:
- An accounting nerd
- Glutton for punishment
- Deciding if any of the above activities are worth it
- Have done any of the above activities and are wanting to compare my experience with yours
- An accounting nerd
So, for those brave enough to still be reading this I will make an attempt at determining a profit and loss number for each activity.
Assumptions: To be fair I’ve included as revenue the amount of money we would have spent if we wouldn’t have done each activity. We didn’t really sell anything as I’d rather keep anything we produce than give away our best source of fine quality delectable's.
Please don’t question my numbers too closely. I’ll admit we are hippy, granola type folks that like good local food and we’ve gone to great length and expense in the past to acquire such wares. Why don’t you plug your own numbers in as a comparison to see if I’m off my rocker.
We tilled and planted a garden 30 feet by 30 feet. We knew we wouldn’t have that much time this summer so we started small. Next year we will probably double the area at least. We probably have enough seeds left over to do a good portion of our planting next year. We’ll have to take out the fence and put in a new one but I seem to find posts and wire all over the country side.
|Potatoes||$150||50 lbs @$3/lbs|
|Carrots||$75||25 lbs @$3/lbs|
|Onions||$25||25 lbs @ $1/lbs|
|Squash||$2||2 lbs @ $1/lbs|
|Parsnips||$20||20 lbs @ $1/lbs|
|Peas||$4||4 lbs @$1/lbs|
|Tomatoes||$40||10 lbs @ $4/lbs|
|Summer Squash||$40||20 lbs @ $2/lbs|
|Radishes||$6||3 lbs @ $2/lbs|
|Seed||$150||(didn’t use it all)|
|Gas||$100||Probably low est.|
|Labor||$1500 – (That’s just ridiculous. I’m going to keep out labor but you get the point)||(2 adults, 50 hours a piece in total @$15 per hour. No child labor included)|
So was planting a garden worth it? Financially speaking, probably not. We didn’t have to go to the grocery store at all for about 5 months. I like that a lot. I hope to grow enough in the future to last me the whole year. We will continue to do this. We like growing things and find great self fulfillment working with our kids in the garden.
How big would you have to be to make money at this? I’ve been to small farms that are at full capacity for one to two people that plant 2 acres worth of garden. But that takes all efforts in managing such an area for the one to two people.
I’ve estimated that such a farmer, one who sells their wares at a farmers market, would roughly bring in around $4000 worth of revenue per month during the growing season (that has a lot of assumptions along with it as well). I’d guess expenses would be around $1000 per month. So not too bad of an income I suppose as long as you don’t include labor numbers. And that is probably only for about 5 months worth of time.
I could go on but you are probably already tired of this post.
We bought a 6 or so year old Jersey cow in June.
Selling raw milk is illegal in almost any state or province in North America. There are also quota’s sold to dairy farmers so to get into this business is rather difficult. I’ve confessed some nefarious activities we’ve been apart of in the past regarding raw milk.
I don’t want to sell milk to anyone. I love our milk and I’m itching for the day I can start milking again when Rosebud calves in January. However for this exercise I’m going to include how much money we have saved as revenue.
|Milk, Cheese, Butter, Kefir, Yogurt, Chicken feed, Calf feed,||$10,800||Average of 3 gallons/day @$12/gallon for 9 months|
|Feed – Hay||$750||$5/bale. 1 bale a day for 5 months|
|Feed – Treats||$150||Alfalfa pellets, ets.|
|Purchase price Dep||$360||$1800/5 years|
|Labor||$8100||1 hour/day for 9 months, $15/milking|
|Equipment- Ropes, halter, buckets, sheds||$300||Generously on the low side|
I fluctuate between really liking having a milk cow and wishing I cold just buy the stupid stuff. Having a milk cow has made it so we don’t have to go to the store. Veggies are important but if we didn’t have such an over abundant source of milk we’d still have to frequent the grocery store with out question.
We also wouldn’t use milk in nearly the quantities we do if we had to buy it by the gallon. We were paying $12 per gallon to buy pasteurized whole milk so only bought about 3 or 4 gallons a week. Having a cow we use about 2 gallons a day on just drinking. ha. Not including butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. We also feed the chickens with the skimmed milk or butter milk. It’s hard to drink that stuff after having full cream Jersey goodness.
The negative part is the time commitment. Rain or shine or cold the cow needs to be milked morning and night. It’s also very hard to go away at all when the thought of Rosebud engorging by the minute is in the back of our minds.
We also have a ready source of hay as we harvested bales from our land this year. It would be way stressful if I had to pay $5 every time I throw a bale into the cow. I guess the hay really is costing me that much as I could sell it for $5/bale if I didn’t need it myself but it seems differently for some reason.
Everyone says a cow only needs like 18 lbs a day for feed but our Jersey is way more than that. All the old time farmer are saying we are wasting hay as the cow just poops it out but none the less we still feed her about 50 to 65 lbs a day.
In weighing negatives and positives I’d do the cow again.
To Be Continued
I’m going to need to break this post up. I doubt this post will fit on the blog it’s getting so long and I need to go feed the cow and chickens.
To Be Continued…