Tag Archives: farmer

Side Hustle to Dream Job

Whereas Mike Rowe encourages people to explore the trades as a permanent position or a jumping point to starting your own business, Joel Salatin regards that a backup job is necessary to transition into farming full time. Both are right, of course. If you have the interest and natural ability to be an electrician or other, you can make a lot of money! However, if your dream is to be a farmer or, for that matter, any startup self employed career, a good supply of cash on hand and steady income before starting makes the idea a dream rather than a nightmare.

Consider Joel’s latest musing on the subject – food for thought.

NEW FARMER BACK UP

The Lunatic Farmer

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NEW FARMER BACK UP

            My post last week about whether or not farm aspirants should attend college stimulated some extremely thoughtful and heartfelt responses; thank you all for chiming in.  I was going to leave the discussion there but one young fellow asked if trade school would be beneficial to have a skill as a back up plan to the farm.

             I always loved Gene Logsdon’s books and writings and am disappointed I never met him personally.  His Contrary Farmer is iconic in sustainable ag writings.  About the only thing that stuck in my craw about him, though, was his adamant position that a small farm was not economically viable on its own.  He declared that you really needed an off-farm income to support the farm.  His writing filled that bill.

             I don’t disagree with Gene lightly, but when this question came out of the comments, I couldn’t help but think of Gene’s position.  While I do NOT agree that an off-farm income is necessary for success, I DO agree that it’s wise and can smooth some rough edges. 

             Almost no entrepreneurial venture starts pure.  Either it taps into an existing nest egg or it transitions using income from other sources to finance it until it scales to stand-alone viability.  I’ve always told folks who want to go from zero to full-time farming to have at least one year of living expenses before making the leap.  Scratch starting takes time to get things up and running.

             That nest egg would include being able to buy a property launch pad for cash.  Teresa and I were blessed with second-generation mortgage-free land, but didn’t jump until we had 1 year of living expenses in the bank.  I fully expected to go back to off farm income when that ran out; it never did.  But, during those first few years, I picked up some side jobs:  built a fence for a friend, helped another friend plant trees in the spring. 

             Teresa and I lived on $300 a month in the farmhouse attic, so these little side jobs of $1,000-$2,000 a year were huge in keeping us afloat as we struggled to get our production and sales income high enough to cover all our living expenses.  Fortunately, firewood sales were good at the time and I sold enough of that in the winter to keep gas in the car and utilities paid.

             Although I had not been to trade school, I had acquired skills just growing up on the farm:  building fence, planting trees, running a chain saw.  I’d say these were equivalent to saleable skills you might acquire at vocational school learning a trade like plumbing, electrical, small engine repair, welding, construction.

             While I wouldn’t say my bottom line disagreement with Gene Logsdon has changed, I would agree that at least starting out, a fall back option with a marketable trade is certainly wise, even if you never have to use it.  Chances are, if you have a marketable skill, opportunities will knock on your door to enable you to leverage that skill.  If you can synergize your willingness to help with some mastery, it makes your worth go way up.

             So yes, if you want to farm I would encourage knowing a trade, whether you do an apprenticeship or go to a vocational school.  In what I call the triumvirate of practical income strategies–building, growing, repairing–possessing a skill that complements growing (farming) offers another leg to your income stool.

             I appreciated the probing question and this chance to examine a bit more of the college/farm nuance.  It’s certainly not black and white.  Income redundancy never hurt anyone.  One more reminder:  achievability is easier the lower your living expenses .  Eliminating the mortgage, driving a $5,000 car, living in a camper, becoming a master of personal doctoring–these are all ingredients in the secret sauce of farming launch success.

             What are your favorite farm-complementary vocational skills?JOEL SALATIN

MARCH 3, 2021

Comments (10)

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Kevin Pennell 9 hours ago · 4 Likes  

Finally, something I can comment on.
I am a small farmer in Mississippi. I raise sheep and pastured poultry.
Before I pursued my farming dream, I was an electrician. I completed a five-year apprenticeship, and worked as a Journeyman for a few years before farming; and though it may seem like an unrelated trade, the skills, know-how, and work ethic I picked up during my apprenticeship was INVALUABLE in my farming venture.
Besides having practical knowledge of electrical theory, installation practices, and building codes, I also learned to calculate concrete, read blueprints and manufacturers schematics (which came in handy when I read Polyface Designs), and how to plan a project through. I learned the value of having a plan, and working hard to see it accomplished. I toughened my hands up. I learned that electrical tape makes a good bandage. Always lift with your legs. Do it right the first time. Have a positive attitude.
Watching the change in my attitude and work ethic during my apprenticeship really gave me a huge confidence boost. It was the greatest period of personal growth in my life, and I didn’t start until I was 22.
Also great to know that if farming doesn’t work, I have something to fall back on.
My apologies if this is hard to read, my written English skills need some work.

WILL 3 hours ago · 0 Likes  

It reads just fine. I’m a pipefitter making the transition soon. I agree 100 percent the skills you learn will never be wasted. Just the problem solving you are required to have being in the trades has helped me exponentially when it comes to thinking outside of the box with small scale farming.

Alex Sanderson 9 hours ago · 2 Likes  

A trade for income is valuable, yes. Any trade on a farm is absolutely invaluable. Whether it keeps purchase or repair costs down or helps with invention and innovation.

George 9 hours ago · 1 Like  

Tinkering still makes a lot of sense.

Sam 3 minutes ago · 0 Likes  

Thank you for answering my question and for the good advice. Also thanks to the people in the comments for sharing their stories. I do a lot of odd jobs already, cutting grass, landscape work, tilling gardens, etc. It might not be skilled work, but I’m building a reputation as someone who works hard. It seems like if your willing to work hard, jobs find you rather than you finding the jobs.

I thought about selling firewood, but it probably would not be worth it without a dump truck and front end loader. There’s so much good wood where I live that goes to waste.

I’ll think more about an apprenticeship or trade, and see where I am at the end of this season. What I would really like is a dependable winter job, during my off season.
Thank you again so much for the advice!

Permaculture Pimp Daddy 38 minutes ago · 0 Likes  

I’ve been an IBEW journeyman electrician for the last 24 years. While every tradesperson I know was out buying new trucks and houses my wife and I were saving, learning and doing. We were following your example.

I retired from the trade two years ago and now spend every single day joyfully working my farm.

Teresa Seed 4 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Just to say, Kevin Pennell, your English skills are well-nigh impeccable, you might have been self-deluding on that score!

Bonnie 7 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Absolutely agree that an apprenticeship of some sort would be an excellent “Plan B”, in the event that your farming endeavor hits an unexpected roadblock.
Another similar idea is to gain skills needed by a farmer, by using Paul Wheaton’s skill-building program (www.permies.com). This link shows the details:

https://permies.com/wiki/156601/Podcast

Plumby’s grandkid 7 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Not sure it complies as a trade school vocation – but my cousin married into a Northern Illinois big farm family. They are big farmers but are also known in their county for being the go to people for professional tax preparation. Their son even went from school to working for the IRS – before returning to the farm when the dad had health issues (and grain price reached 8 dollar corn) That always seemed to me to be a particularly smart play.

BJ 8 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Your advice to know a marketable trade is spot-on, and I don’t think it is at all in conflict with your disagreement with Logsdon about needing an outside income to support the farm. Having a back-up plan (along with the ability to implement it) is wise in just about any endeavor, whether it’s your life’s work or anything else. Not that one would pursue the trade to support the thing he or she really wants to do, but simply as a fall-back or temporary solution if and when it’s necessary. In a perfect world, we would all be able to simply pursue our passions and not worry about anything else. But in the real world, and especially in uncertain economic times, a backup plan not only is wise, it seems almost essential, even if the new farmer takes your wise advice and starts with at least a year’s worth of “nest egg” funds. The back-up skill will provide peace of mind, if nothing else, and I believe that having peace of mind will help facilitate the success of the farm.

NEXTAGRICULTURE COLLEGE:  TO GO OR NOT

© 2018. JOEL SALATIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Just A Bit of Cleanup

On Jun 6 a year ago, daughter, Jessica took me to a manicurist in Chillicothe because my hands and nails were a disaster and my son was to be married in a couple days.  We walked in and i sat down – the young girl took one look at my hands and commented ‘you must be a farmer.’  no exclamation, no criticism intended — just stated as a matter of fact what she saw.  Nevertheless, she commenced to work magic on my hands and nails in time for a very important day in my life – the marriage of my youngest to a wonderful new daughter.  

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My typical look – farm hands.

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And after a fair bit of scubbing and polishing. (And, yes, i did that by myself!)

Food System is Broken

Here, Joel is describing a legislative action in his state which might help consumers and producers both.  Other states have already stepped up to make these changes.  But, the back story as to why it is needed is the interesting part of his story here.

Self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

 

PRIME ACT NOW

            Yesterday I did a podcast with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie on Free the People and the discussion turned to his 5-year-old bill the Prime Act.  It has not gotten traction until now.  In the last ten days, he’s picked up 18 co-sponsors.  That’s pretty dramatic for a bill that couldn’t get a handful for 5 years.

             People want to know what to do that would be beneficial during these disturbing times.  Here is something you can do.  Call your Congressman today–yes, just pick up the phone and call–and ask if he/she supports the Prime Act.  This simple bill would unleash the full power of regional food security on the livestock sector, which you know is in complete disarray right now.

             When CEO and legacy family member John Tyson looks at a CNN camera and says “the food system is broken,” that’s a big hairy deal.  He and his ilk have spent their lifetimes creating this system that now can’t get burgers to Wendy’s and is foaming chickens, breaking broiler eggs, dumping milk, and euthanizing hogs.  So imagine that rather than 100 mega-processing facilities around the country handling 80 percent of the meat, poultry, and dairy, we had 200,000 small facilities scattered all over, distanced, if you will, doing this processing?

             That is where the Prime Act comes in.  Right now, custom slaughter houses that do beef, pork, and lamb are under health department and USDA sanitation oversight, but they do not have an inspector or the inspector’s paperwork on site.  These abattoirs service a person who brings in a live animal and wants it custom processed, like if you wanted to commission a woodworker to make a special table for your dining room.  Without all the onerous inspection paperwork and under-foot bureaucrats, these smaller community-based abattoirs can operate easier and cheaper.

             Inspection requires a host of additional licensing, infrastructure, paperwork (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point), bathrooms, inspector offices, and even prescribed hours of operation.  Minimal compliance to get a license, even for the smallest plant, is estimated at an average $1 million.  That’s a high entry fee.

             As a result, right now in most counties, including mine (Augusta) you cannot raise a cow and legally sell a pound of ground beef from that animal to a neighbor without exporting it to another county with an inspected facility and re-importing it.  But our county has a couple of operating small custom abattoirs within minutes of our local farms.  We used to have a dozen when I was a kid.  They can’t legally sell you a pound of ground beef; you have to buy at least a quarter of beef at a time.  That’s a $500 entry fee to buy local.

             The Prime Act simply says that custom slaughtered meat can be sold within the state.  Why should everyone who wants to get neighborhood raised and processed meat be required to buy it in $500 increments?  What if a neighbor only wants  T-bone and a pound of ground?  What if the neighbor doesn’t have a chest freezer?  The current regulations are both price and poverty discriminatory.  In addition, they force massive unnecessary transportation energy and time.

             What about food safety?  Folks, recalls come from the big plants, not these small custom places.  A burger patty at McDonald’s has pieces of 600 cows in it; a burger patty from a custom house has only one cow in it.  The risks are exponentially less in a smaller, community-based facility.  Scale exemptions exist throughout our country, from day care to elder care to requirements to provide medical insurance to employees.  Scale does matter.

             Congressman Massie told me yesterday that many former operators of these small facilities have assured him that the day the Prime Act passes, they will re-open their doors and gladly solve the processing bottleneck in our broken food system.  Few legislative initiatives could offer a more simple, comprehensive assurance of food security and marketplace competition to the 100 mega-processors that dominate our dysfunctional food chain.  It’s the Prime Act.  Massie says don’t email and don’t write a letter.  Call; he says if 12 people call on a subject, they own their congressman on that issue.

             Will you be part of the solution?

Glitches in System

The self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

MEAT SCARCITY AND OVERTIME

            By now all of us are well aware about the glitches in the meat and poultry processing food chain in the U.S.  It’s severe enough in pork and poultry that animals are being euthanized rather than going to processing.  Beef will probably not get to that point simply because beef grows slower and therefore has more forgiveness.  A month of holding pattern for a chicken is a long time; for a beef it’s not that long.

             As a result of these industry problems, the crush on smaller community-based abattoirs like the one Teresa and I co-own here in Harrisonburg (T&E Meats) is unprecedented.  With our facilities and crew we can only handle a certain number of animals per week and when the slots are filled, they’re filled.  We’ve had a sudden surge of perhaps 30-40 percent in slot requests.  Even Polyface can’t get in with all the animals we need processed; then we’re short and customers complain.  Sheesh.

             We’ve never run Saturday work or a second shift, but we’re examining all those alternatives now to squeeze some more use out of our concrete, stainless steel, and building.

             Hang with me here, because this will no doubt infuriate you like it does me.  Our small plant of about 20 employees is located on a roughly 1.5 acre lot surrounded by other small businesses.  It’s been on that lot for some 70 years.  We’re federal inspected which means an inspector pokes and sniffs at livers and looks over paperwork each day.

             The inspector has an office in the building to keep records but he’s only there less than an hour a day.  He goes to other plants during the day.  Of course, he has the right to pop in any time he wants to and see anything he wants to.  He also has the right to immediately shut us down if he sees egregious violations of his interpretation of the voluminous subjective codes.

             The way the system works is this:  if a plant owner passes all the compliance and licensing requirements, the federal government issues an establishment number which authorizes the facility to engage in business.  The stamp is called the “Blue Buzz” and it’s the little round blue circle on all federal inspected product that carries the FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) acronym and establishment number.  That license also requires the federal government to supply, at no charge, an inspector for up to 8 hours per day.

             If you need one for more than 8 hours per day, then the business and not the government picks up the tab at a time and half rate for every hour more than 8.  What you have to appreciate is that in the case of a small plant like ours, the inspector is actually only on site an hour a day and sometimes less.  He or she is not there on location for 8 hours; not anywhere close.

             But here’s the catch.  As we begin discussing running on Saturday or operating for an extra couple of hours to try to accommodate more of these local farmers who desperately need animals processed, the government requires us to pay a time and half inspector rate for every hour we OPERATE more than 8 hours, regardless of whether an inspector is there or not.

             The inspector shows up each day, checks things, and then leaves.  Why can’t that check be good for 10 hours instead of 8?  Or for 12 hours instead of 8?  He’s not there anyway, so if the system trusts us not  to cut corners in the 6th hour of an 8 hour shift,  why would it be suddenly risky for us to operate another 15 minutes past 8 hours?  It makes no sense whatsoever, but it definitely changes our economic picture dramatically the moment we have to pay $75 an hour for someone who isn’t even there.

             This is the kind of foolishness foisted upon local abattoirs by a scale-prejudicial system that refuses to accommodate or budge in order to alleviate the desperate need of people for food and farmers to get it to them.  This is accounting by the government.

             Is it time to build an underground railroad for processing?

Thank your Kate Simon for the photo!

The One Who Helps

I took this from Facebook this morning – there have been several write ups of this ilk and i’ve even made comments on Facebook sharing my experiences that in the agriculture world women ’empowerment’ (whatever that looks like as opposed to lifting up anyone and everyone)  is not necessary – men, women, and children respect and help each other.  (well, except me – i’m kind of mean and scary).  If you think you need to be in a march of some sort to promote women, then you hang out with the wrong crowd.  There is a world out there where people are pulling together and not ripping each other apart.

Shalom!

tauna

Sue Tebow

While women march the streets of America, protesting for rights that they already have, allow me to applaud a way of life that has honored women in ways the rest of the world never has (for a very long time).
I’m proud to be a part of the silent, steadfast women of rural America, where:

Little girls are taught to work alongside little boys, not hate them.

We let the men lead us on the dance floor, in prayer, and in life. There is strength in partnership.

The woman’s housekeeping and the man’s ranch work are both vital aspects of the operation’s success, even though gender roles don’t have much of a place on the ranch.

Women ride Bronc’s, wrestle calves, and rope just as often as men cook, sew and tend to children.

We actually participate in meetings, sit on boards, and vote to create REAL change.

We see the miracle of life in every foal, calf, and child and believe all life should be protected.

The men never question a woman’s strength, and women know that a door held open is a simple sign of respect.

The ranchers/farmers/blue collar people of America create empowered women, respectful men, and a brighter future than any “protest” could bring about.

Sue Tebow founder of agri.CULTURE
AUTHOR: Kaycee Monnes
PC – Robin L Green

Jim Gerrish on Making Change

Another great article by Jim Gerrish, consultant and owner of American Grazing Lands, published in The Stockman Grass Farmer.

Published as “Grassroots of Grazing” Jim’s regular column provides “Making Change is about Creating a New Comfort Zone” in the December 2017 issue which offers his observations about how people in the grazing/farming/ranching world accept or reject change often needed for the business to survive, or more importantly, thrive so that the next generation will be willing to be involved.

His closing comments of the article:  (you’ll have to buy a back issue for Jim’s full article as well as great articles by other authors)

“I had already come to understand people were not going to change just because something made biological and economic sense.  We all have to be comfortable with the idea of change before we will be willing to even consider change no matter how much empirical evidence is thrown at us supporting that change.

For many of us that comfort level is based on acceptance by our family and community.

I have found it is much easier to sell the ideas of MiG (management-intensive grazing), soil health, grassfed beef, summer calving, and a myriad of other atypical management concepts to someone who has no background at all in ranching and no tie to the local community than it is to get someone with 40 years of experience on a family ranch to change.  The lifelong rancher may grudgingly agree that those ideas make sense, but the most common retort is still, “but I can’t see how we can make that work here.”

That individual is absolutely correct, until you can see that it will work here, it probably won’t.  The biggest part of that “will it work here” question is how the rest of the family sees it.  The better a family knows itself, the easier it is for that one rabble-rouse to make a difference.  If the lines of communication are broken, the more likely it is that things will continue to operate the way they always have.

Then we are back to that sad situation so common in multi-generational agriculture:  We advance one funeral at a time.”

Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant providing service to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across the USA and internationally.  He can be contacted through www.americangrazinglands.com

American Grazing Lands, LLC on Facebook

When to Graze video

 

 

 

David Rankin, Farmer, 1906

In a recent farm magazine, a young farmer was recognised in an article as one of  America’s (United States)  best.  Lo, and behold, he is from Tarkio, Missouri and the article made mention of David Rankin, Missouri Corn King, who died in 1910, but had amassed 30,000 acres, 12,000 head of cattle, and 25,000 hogs. It was reported that he raised a million bushels of corn in a single season, much of it from a 6,000 acre field.

David Rankin, Farmer: Modern Agricultural Methods Contrasted With Primitive Agricultural Methods By The Life History Of A Plain Farmer (1909)

So, i did a quick search online about Farmer Rankin and to my delight, discovered he wrote a small book about his life and how he managed his assets to obtain such wealth.  ALthough the writing is not fancy and sometimes seems disjointed, his simple outline is a great insight into basic business management.  Some of his early income would have been taxed at a 3%-5% rate, but that income tax was rescinded in 1872.  Full on income tax didn’t come about until 1913.

But the crux of his idea, is to invest in time saving modern implements and buy land.  For a time, he was paying 17%-18% interest on money he borrowed to buy land.  Granted, he had some good hits that were just plain lucky, but not always.

You can read his short book here for free online or it can be ordered for a modest amount on Amazon.

Faith, Family, Farm

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