[Market-farming] Making money from farming

Full Circle Farm fullcirclefarm at msn.com
Tue Jan 28 19:16:01 EST 2003


This is an interesting question to me.  It is not totally clear to me that 
the people who are operating at a larger scale with more paid help are 
actually taking any more home at the end of the day than those of us who 
operate at a smaller scale.  More money going in, but more money going out 
as well.

We farm two-plus acres in certified organic veggies, selling at a farmers 
market (where we take in anywhere from several hundred dollars up to an 
all-time high of $2,400 in one day), plus we have a CSA of 50 members and a 
new processing kitchen that we hope will prove to be an income generator.  
The first three years we lost money, the fourth year we "made" money (which 
basically meant we supported me and my partner at cover-your-bills level) 
and last year we lost money mostly because of a poor season-production wise 
and some long-term investments in raspberry canes and other longer-term 
crops.

I don't know if we ever will be able to get above poverty level wages for 
ourselves, though I sure would like to.  I guess for me the issue isn't 
"profit" but achieving a sustainable way of living and paying bills.

And you're right, if you weren't crazy and passionate about what we do, I 
don't know why anyone would do it!  Maybe at the corporate level profit is 
an effective motivator (though you know it isn't for the migrant laborers 
being paid truly lousy wages) but it sure isn't operative at our level!

Katherine Kelly
Full Circle Farm
Kansas City, KS
http://www.fullcirclefarmkc.com





----Original Message Follows----
From: "Rick Williams" <mrfarm at frontiernet.net>
Reply-To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
To: <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [Market-farming] Making money from farming
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 18:01:41 -0600

marc Nameth wrote:
 > I'm wondering if Rick was tongue-in-cheek, bitter or honestly
 > meant what he
 > said.

Here is what I said: "You would be very wrong indeed. I have outlined our
farm philosophy before, and I can not imagine anyone going into market
farming for the money. You do it because you believe in it and get enjoyment
for producing fresh, local products for yourself and for others. You don't
do it for free, but the return is very small compared to most other
endeavors in life if you operate is as a small family run farm."

 > The market farmers I know make an excellent living - especially in the
 > Boulder and Ft. Collins (college towns), CO areas.

This would be due to an exceptional location for market farming. Most people
are not in such a position. It is basically impossible to make a living here
in our area **if you operate it as a small family run farm.** as I said
above.

I know of no one who is able to make their living unless they expand to a
much larger operation and hire in significant numbers of workers. One of the
largest CSA's in the midwest is below us in Newton Valley and now have 70
acres under organic cultivation. Their gross revenues exceed that of many of
the dairy farms in our area, which is many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
(Be nice if the net was that big too:)

To my knowledge, none of the folks who are at our local market actually make
a living with their market farming. Most are either retired, have other
income, make a small part of their income from farming in this manner, or
who actually are losing money but do it for the hobby aspects.

The latter folks may not really look at it as a loss because they may have a
cash flow. But they are not calculating their time, and especially the
opportunity cost of their operation. It is not uncommon for people to sell
$50 to $150 for a morning at the market. After deducting their expenses, I
doubt many actually have much left.

We are still in negative territory on our farm, but we have only been here
for seven years and only finalized our decison to raise and market grass-fed
beef about four years ago (two year lead time). We have about 120 acres for
grazing of the 150+ acres, so unless we would agree to have someone come in
and farm it (and that pretty much means chemicals), we would be forced to
sell the land since it would not be a productive investment. Like most
farmers, we not only make income from the sale of our products, but we also
shield some capital gains on the increased value of the farm. For many dairy
farmers (the main kind of farms in our area), their retirement is in the
capital gains of their real estate acquired over a lifetime.

Sincerely,

Rick Williams
Misty Ridge Farm
Direct marketed dairy beef and produce
(also dairy heifers and beef stockers)
Viroqua, WI


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