The most recent issue of Rural Missouri carried a short article on composting. I never seem to get around to building a compost pile, but i compost all the time on the fly. I compost straight into the garden or pasture. The less materials have to be handle the better in my book. BUT, on a small scale with limited space for growing plus needing a place to ditch those apple cores and coffee grounds, backyard or porch composting is awesome!
There are certainly obstacles – huge obstacles- in place to keep a person from farming, but if you don’t even have a garden and feeding your family from it – i will suggest you take a really hard look at the reasons keeping you from farming.
Do you lack motivation? knowledge? funding? land? Of those four, lack of motivation is the most deadly to keeping you off the land (or whatever your dream). The others are easily overcome.
The only way to get started is to do it! In four square feet you can grow 15-20 lbs of pole beans! That is 60 servings of fresh green beans at a start up cost of seed (4 seeds at $0.08 each for $0.32) and a tiny spot of earth. Plan ahead and start putting all your kitchen scraps into your planting area all winter long. Use the lasagne method of building compost in your garden (aka sheet composting). Retail Value of your crop – $34.35! On four square feet! Now, that is not counting your labor or water. But i can tell you that with green beans, the most labor is in harvesting!
What if you scale that up to 1/4 of an acre? Don’t forget that gardening doesn’t scale without an increase in labor on every single plant or vegetable that you harvest. And you can’t go on holiday during the growing season. Oh, right, the RETAIL value of crop on 1/4 of an acre = $49876!
Before getting too excited about long pole beans, bear in mind, that even though the seeds cost 8 cents a piece and retail value of your production could approach $210,680 per acre, (difference in math is number of plants on a larger property) it’s a LONG way between purchasing an acre, equipment costs, preparing the soil, purchasing and building trellises, watering when necessary during the next 5-6 months, and, without fail, hand harvesting every 2-3 days after the plants begin producing in about 80 days, finding a market for those fresh beans immediately, or be prepared with refrigeration and storage AND putting money in the bank. Add in crop failures every once in a while and that seemingly massive income per acre whittles away very quickly. BUT, with careful management, use of cover crops, crop rotations, offering a variety of staple produce, and developing an excellent market, a good living could be gleaned from a small property – even in town!
Additionally, i can tell you right now, that even if i was so motivated to produce this many best-tasting-beans in the world, there is no way i could find buyers for 92,000 lbs of long pole beans. We simply have too much food produced in this country (not in Linn, CO) for people to buy that many. That would be 19 lbs per household in Linn County, MO and $2.29/lb far too expensive. Cheaper products are available at big box stores.
Just my opinion, but the easiest crops to grow and sell (available market) are tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, snow peas, garlic, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, squashes (squash bugs are challenging though). Now, put a sharp pencil to inputs, especially labor and marketability. Only plant what you want to eat in case you can’t sell it all! Too much diversity just increases stress! But some variety all season can bring in more customers.
However, Missouri is considered a minor state in vegetable production, due to inappropriate soils and wide swings in weather variation. Heavy soils in our north central part are particularly challenging and other than small gardens, vegetable growing is not part of the agricultural base found in this part of Missouri.
Ready to explore alternative profitable plants? Read about these. But you must do your homework! Can you even find a market for ginseng or bamboo?
There is a movement across the country to embrace homesteading as a way of life. Remember, though, farming is hard work with little financial reward, but it can be profitable with careful management, hard work, and no debt. Keep your day job until the farm is paying.
What are your success stories of living on the land?!
Interesting article – Neat how survival/frugal living/done-for-centuries lifestyles are now becoming ‘haute‘! Doesn’t everyone already do this?! Well, maybe not the fancy recipes, but food should never be wasted. Egg shells and coffee grounds make awesome soil amendments. Whatever parts of plants you simply cannot stomach can be turned into compost or fed to the chooks. Or feed all those scraps to worms which you can use to go fishing. But don’t ever let food go to waste!
“All the comments to the article are spot on and i can add nothing to them. I thought most people already knew this stuff, but apparently not if the article is accurate in stating the 40% of our food produced goes to waste. Then again, I have personally seen family members throw out a bowl of perfectly good fruit simply because one item had a soft spot on it! I had to choke back my admonition!”