Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Can I Do to Make Money with My Land?

I get that question all the time.  My typical response is, "If I knew I'd be doing it and not telling you."  Of course I say it teasingly.  But in reality, that is a very difficult question to answer.  There are so many factors that go into the decision making that no one answer is automatic.

Generally, I ask people what it is they like to do and don't like to to.  If you don't like to do it, then chances are you won't enjoy doing it and won't be successful at it.  So first, always select something that you know you will enjoy doing.  Next, what are the skills that you already possess and are good at and what skills do you know that you don't have.  I know I enjoy talking to people and I know I hate math.  So guess what part of the business I'd probably do - marketing - and the part I wouldn't be doing - recordkeeping and anything else that includes math skills. 

I tell folks that when you are looking at alternative agricultural enterprises, chances are you will have to do all the marketing yourself, direct marketing.  So if you are the type of person who prefers to get your hands dirty and drive a tractor over talking to people, that's ok.  But then you will need to find someone within your family, a friend or hire someone who can do that marketing for you.  

Next check out what that market is, where it is and what people are buying and not buying.  Do you want to grow/raise something that everyone else is then you better be sure you can produce a better quality product then the others.  Or can you "see" what is not being marketed?  My boys and I simply love white turnips in the spring.  We can't seem to get enough of them.  There are only a couple of vendors at the local farmers' market that grow and sell them.  Or what about hulless seeded pumpkins?  No one sells them which someone should in my opinion.  Not only do they make a wonderful pie from the meat of the pumpkin but the seeds are hulless which means the white coating of the seed isn't there and all you have is that wonderful green seed for roasting.  OK, I digress.  Now you know my two weaknesses for purchasing at a farmers' market.

What about your farm location?  How far are you away from town?  Do you live on a backtop road near a four corner intersection or down a long gravel road?  What buidlings are on the land?  Where does the water flow off and on the farm?  What kind of slope do you have to the land?  What type of soil do you have?  Chances are most folks can't answer those immediately to me on the phone.

I'm now just getting started in asking these questions to the caller on the phone when I finally say that I really can't answer their original question - What can I do to make money with my land?  It truly is more complicated than one thinks.

I usually recommend to the caller to read a great publication from Oregon State University titled "What Can I Do with My Small Farm?  If you are serious about trying to make a bit of money or even more than a bit, I would hope you would print off and read this publication and complete the exercises in it.  It will help you to move off center point where you are and into a direction somewhere which is better than you were before.

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