Success with a home farm stand? Help and advice much appreciated!

YaeliApril 7, 2014

I have just purchased a one acre place in central Texas (between Austin and Waco). The mini farm is actually within a neighborhood of an adorable small town (population 6,000ish) but it is not on a major highway or throughway. The woman who lived there previously (until her death) raised chickens and goats and it is set up with a large paddock/grazing area with the special goat fencing, and there is still more than half an acre for growing produce. I am planning on 2 milk goats and 2 milk sheep in addition to 6-8 chickens. I plan to do a combination of bio-intensive and square foot raised bed and container growing, at least initially, of organic fruit and vegetables. I've been growing in an urban environment in central Israel with our desert soil and I'm not expecting the soil in this region of Texas to be a whole lot better --but it certainly could not be worse!

My living expenses will be the $1600 a year in taxes on the property, utilities, staples that I can't grow myself (grain products, toiletries etc), and (organic) feed/vet care for the animals (including the 32 rescued cats that will be living there). I'm not sure yet if I will have a car or not.

I'm wondering how much income a little farm stand on the property would bring in to help cover those costs. I would be able to sell the seasonal organic produce, plant starts, fresh eggs, and what would be considered specialty cheeses (they are daily staples here) such as feta, ricotta and levana (a cheese spread sort of between a yogurt-sour cream-kind of thing that you can't find in the U.S. for love or money), and yoghurt.

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Hard question to answer. How good are you at marketing? How well educated is your population? the better educated the population the more they will be inclined to buy local food and high end gourmet foods.

You are not growing much-8 hens will bring on average 6 eggs a day and if you have egg buyers you will sell out constantly and lose customers (why go get eggs if the place never seems to have them). I grow on about 4 acres and at best could gross maybe $50k from that and gross means I have not deducted the expenses which will take at least 2/3rds of the gross.

Cheeses are heavily regulated. A friend went legal with her goat cheese operation and had to spend around $25K to get compliant-she had to build a cheese house, get her milking parlour up to code and a lot of other things plus she gets inspected at least monthly by a few different entities on the state and federal level just so she can sell at farmers markets and to a couple of restaurants. granted she has made all her money back in a couple of years as goat cheese is a hot seller and she is willing to market it and sell it off the farm. And again, a couple of milkers will not be enough. My friend stared with 4 and now has around 15 on order to cover her markets and to be able to make any money.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:30AM
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I agree with the above post. I have been homesteading for 5 years and this is my first year growing a market garden so my advise isn't coming from someone with years of experience.
We have 3 mini goats, 1 mini donkey and 30 chickens on 4 acres. Half of the land wooded, half is cleared and level. In past years we have grown a large portion of our food in 500 sq/ft of raised garden beds. This spring season we added another 1000 sq/ft and plan to add another 1000 by fall. I sell eggs, chickens(live), seedlings and some produce to friends and neighbors.
I would advise you not to diversify too much on such a small parcel of land if you're trying to earn a profit. Choose something that resonates with you and go that route. If the market is there I would suggest selling seedlings and value-added goods that can sometimes be prepared in your home such as pickles.
The milk and eggs from 2 goats and 8 chickens may be enough to give extra to friends but not enough to sell. I'm not saying you shouldn't get them, you should! But keep the eggs and milk for you and use their lovely manure to improve your soil. If you are determined to profit off them buy and in-demand breed and sell your kids, fertile eggs and chicks. You could get 2-6 kids a year and sell them from $100-$400 each. I have a breed of chicken that I sell eggs of for $6 each!

I, for the life of me, can't find the link now but I recall a very nice article about a family who earned $25k a year from their 1/8 acre urban farm. They sold all their produce off their front porch.

I really hope something out of that rambling mess is useful to you! Good luck with everything and keep us posted on your progress!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:09AM
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This may be out ofline, but be sure you can present a clean attractive product. One of the things I have seen sink a ship in short order is that appearance , weather real or perceived, will sink a business faster than anything.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:03PM
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Good advice so far, many thanks. Boulderbelt thanks for the heads up on the cheeses -- here you can sell them with no problem and I'd thought you could in Texas since they passed the Cottage law last year but, while baked goods, jams, pickles, candy, etc are allowed, cheese is definitely not. The cheese certainly won't go to waste though it will definitely go to my waist :) Pretty much every egg that is laid will be able to be sold -- we eat a max of only 6 a month, but we do love chickens (as pets).

Everton Acre -- I've been really inspired by the Johnson family from Austin -- they started with just growing and selling from their backyard (something like 1/8th of an acre) and were able to do well enough from that to purchase 15 acres and start a huge CSA. I'd be thrilled with just being able to make ends meet. I'd be very interested in hearing about your efforts to get a market garden going!

Not diversifyng too much is very good advice (though hard when you look at all the lovely seeds and plants available!) and besides basic truck garden fare, heirloom tomatoes are going to be one of the major focuses.

Rio -- I agree. Clean and attractively displayed are critical components!

Does anyone know how much a home farmstand is likely to earn in a month (I know it will change radically from month to month and with the seasons) in a ballpark sort of way. Living expenses will run very close to $800 a month.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 8:49AM
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You may want to look at the CSA approach, it's upfront income, but comes with its own set of challenges. In our area an able bodied couple I know started out with 8 20 week shares (3200.00) in 3 years they are up to 20 shares (8000.00) gross. Course a significant amount of that goes out in producing and preparing for sale. People pick up from their home and they are happy with it. They practice the intensive crop placement similar to square foot gardening and do all that on 3 acres that includes house and yard.
An acer of veggies done properly is an enormous amount of product for two people in the peak of the year.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:21AM
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there's only 3 things that matter in retail. location, location, and location.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:00PM
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Yes Randy makes a good point about location, especially for a farm stand. What is the area like where your land is located? Are you close to a city or surrounded by other homesteaders? Do people in that area value real food or are they content eating junk?

Earnings from a farm stand are going to vary depending on you local demographic, the quality of the goods, and how much you're able to produce. Write a list of the things you will grow and how much space you can allot to each variety. Then, either using your past experience or the internet calculate the yield for each variety. Then find out what people in your area pay for those items by visiting a local farmers market or grocery store. Once you multiply the pounds of each item by your sale price, add your totals together and this should give you an idea of what could be earned in a season if you were able to sell everything.

Like some other posters suggested, I have toyed with the idea offering CSA shares but the thought of letting people down by not having enough produce has kept me from trying. But if you are confident enough in your ability to consistently grow and harvest enough food to share that may be your best bet. If you got 10 chickens you could offer 4 shares that would include a dozen eggs and a basket of produce each week. Since its your first year I would set the price low say $300 for a 20 week share. This would only earn you $1200 a year but it is paid up front and would give you a bit of capitol to get growing!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:19PM
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Do not start with a CSA as you have to know how to grow a market garden before you can start contracting with people. Far better to do a farmers market for a few years and learn how to grow a market garden before going the CSA route. Pretty much everyone I know who joined a start up CSA with newbie growers went away very, very disappointed as new growers almost always encounter big issues their first few years that they do not know how to solve but after several years growing for market will be able to deal with easily.

Yes the up front money is great but if you cannot keep harvesting an interesting mix of produce for your members every week for 20 or so weeks (which is a lot harder than most would imagine) than do not go with a CSA until you can.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:25PM
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I'd not thought of going the straight CSA route. I did think that, once or twice a week, I could put together boxes with a nice mix of the things I have on offer that people could purchase and that would be cheaper for them if they bought the whole box than if they bought each item individually at the stand and less than if they bought them in the store.

The acre of land is within the city limits of a small town (6000ish residents) and located in a neighbourhood that has houses on average-size suburban/semi-urban lots (other lots run on average about 7500 square feet). It is a town that is growing and attracting a lot of retirees especially but also people who work northward in Dallas and southward in Austin but who want a more buccolic kind of life than being in a larger city brings. It is not, however, on any sort of main drag.

This post was edited by Yaeli on Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 8:56

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 8:46AM
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