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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can a family farm really succeed??

I've been posing this question to myself as of late.

I've spent the last month running to & fro, visiting farms & large farmers markets and wondering... can a small family farm make enough money to survive?  What's my opinion of surviving??  Well, how about this one - can it make enough to pay the mortgage & property taxes???

We just recently put another offer on the foreclosed farm property that we tried to buy last winter (it's back on the market).  We're scared to death!  I've been scanning the papers & internet for part-time jobs, we've been trying to brainstorm - it's just scary.  We'd be stuck with 2 mortgages for awhile.  If ours doesn't sell we could always rent it for what our mortgage costs just to get by, but still - what if the roof goes bad or something else happens that needs major repair?  We wouldn't be making enough in rental income to cover the repair.  We'd really rather sell it, but the market being what it is...

Yikes.  And then this place in the country needs some work, and the house is huge so we know to expect huge propane costs (we'll buy at least one wood stove, but that will cost money, too).

There are a couple of trailers on the property that could be fixed up & rented out, but again.... $$$.

So... I'm wondering, if we ever do end up on a farm of our own - can I make enough money to cover just the mortgage & taxes? 

After visiting some larger farmers markets and organic farms lately (had a great time at a farmer field day at Kinnikinick Farm), I'm just not sure.

I know you're out there - others who have been there, done this, doing this.  What do you think? 

Thanks for visiting the All-Natural-Mama blog!


  1. I too would be curious. We have a farmette (1/2 an acre) with a huge garden, some fruit trees, and hens. Nothing big yet it could be enough to supplement...maybe.

  2. Hi Penny

    We talked a lot about this at the CRAFT Farm Beginnings course last year. We did financials, balance sheets, P&Ls, defined our market, set price points, figured out if it would make any money and then revised, revised, revised.

    Frankly - it's pretty hard. That being said, it can be done. You have to know your market (is Freeport enough? Should you go to Madison or Chicago or the Chicago suburbs?) Are you a CSA or a market farmer? Or maybe wholesale? Depending upon the size of the farm - maybe supplementing with livestock might make more sense.

    The Farm Beginnings class removed my rose-colored glasses about farming. It is hard to make a living (hence why I'm keeping my day job for a while), but it can be done. But to do so, requires way more skills than farming - you need a business plan.

  3. p.s. We have a couple of rental properties too - and it is really hard in the beginning (and doing the maintenance is a pain, but the write-offs tax-wise are good) but over time they really are a good investment.

    Good luck! Where is the farm?

  4. Hi Angie,
    The farm is about 10 minutes from our current home. We'll see what happens - I'm scared to death one minute, happy the next. It's a huge risk; a very, very big house that will cost tons to heat until we can get a couple of wood stoves in there, and the property taxes are through the roof (hopefully we can get them re-evaluated).
    I started applying for part-time jobs today.
    As for a business plan, yes my bachelors degree is in business, so you'd think I would have had the sense to write up a nice business plan, right? Not so much. I'm terrible! Lol :-)
    Luckily, we don't need any farm income to survive.
    Hope you are well!

  5. Hi Penny,

    HA! The 'degree in business comment' made me bust out laughing! Good luck - keep us posted!