Multiple Income Streams is important to Making Ends Meet on the Farm. Major part is having several small income streams that will merge into a river. Think you can’t thrive on the farm without that one fat paycheck? Think again!
In Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Normal Redefined, we told you about what we think is a new normal for supporting a comfortable lifestyle. The key is using a number of methods to meet your needs. And a major part of that is having several small income streams that will merge into a river.
The concept of multiple income streams
Though our parents and grandparents may have each worked one job that paid all the bills, earning money from Multiple Income Streams is not a new idea. Throughout history, people have worked multiple jobs or had small side businesses going to help make ends meet. Actually, nowadays many families with two adults have more than one income stream.
It’s very common for both adults to work full time or one to work full time and the other part time. Many people with full-time jobs have sideline businesses that produce Multiple Income Streams. It’s not unusual for someone to deliver newspapers before work or put in a few hours at a second job in the evening. School employees often have alternate jobs during the non-school summer months.
Even Pa and Ma Ingalls did it!
In the Little House on the Prairie stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder we read that Pa Ingalls left the farm from time to time to go work on the railroad or some other short-term paying job. Like many pioneer women, Ma Ingalls and her neighbors sold extra eggs, milk, butter, and canned goods or traded them for credit at the general store. That’s not so far off from how some modern homesteaders and farmers make ends meet!
We know that many of you readers live on your homesteads and work in town. Other couples have one person employed away from home while one stays and focuses on farm projects. Some couples, like Jim and Marie here, are making ends meet with a number of small income streams.
For both a steady paycheck and medical benefits, it may make sense for one person to be employed elsewhere. That’s a decision for each family to make. But we’re here to say that it is possible to replace some or all of your previous income by developing on multiple income streams. The point is that multiple income streams combined can cover your living expenses and often even allow for savings and investments in upgrades for your home and farm.
Various sources of income
While living on the farm you might have one or more of the following types of Multiple Income Streams.
Regular paychecks from
- off-farm employment
- telecommuting/working at home for an off-farm employer
- your own small or large business that provides you a regular income
Irregular or sporadic income from
- freelancing or contracting in a field of expertise
- work-at-home opportunities
- a small business of your own that provides some income
- occasional or seasonal work for hire or temp jobs
Looking at that list, can you see how several types of work could collectively fill the coffers?
How to create your own income streams
Sit down with a pen and paper (or computer notepad if that’s more your style!) and consider each one of these areas. Fill in the blanks: in each category, what could you do to generate some income?
Using your field of expertise
- Consulting, freelancing, contracting
- Teaching at local schools, continuing education centers
- Tutoring, coaching, repairing
- Teaching workshops, classes, private lessons
- Sewing, making craft products to sell
- Monetized blogging
- Guiding hunting, fishing trips
Using your property and farm equipment
- Pumpkin patch, corn maze, U-pick
- Field trips, hay rides, sleigh rides, trail rides
- Event venue, retreat center, bed & breakfast, farmstay
- Selling farm produce, meat, eggs, fibers, plants
- Hands-on workshops, demonstrations, lessons
- Contracting to do garden tilling, snow plowing, harvesting, processing
We’re betting that you’ve got several possibilities on that list of yours!
Our family’s multi streams
In our previous post in this series, Jim mentioned how we ourselves are combining small amounts of income to earn our keep. Here’s how those sources fit into our notes on the categories listed above. We’re including Bethany as well because she and her husband, who works full time in town, have developed multiple income streams to help them move ahead in their home-building plans.
Using our education, training, and previous career experience, the three of us have all found ways to bring in some extra money: Jim does rural property development consulting and project management. Marie does freelance editing for print publishers and individual authors plus most of the writing for our RLT blog. Bethany is a marketing consultant who manages several blogs (all while being stay-at-home mom to her little ones). Combining all our experience, we’re developing a small publishing company for homesteading-themed publications.
Using other life experiences, hobbies, and interests, we have found some income-producing creative outlets: Jim has signed on to do some coaching and umpiring for youth sports teams in our community. Bethany started a business selling custom designed products. Marie manages our new business selling homesteading-themed gift items.
With our farm resources, we’re becoming producers of farm products. Jim raised pigs to sell by carcass weight at maturity. We have raised beef cattle before and plan to do that in the next couple of years. Marie and Bethany have been raising and breeding laying hens and meat birds. We may raise more hens and sell excess eggs, and we plan to start a small local hatchery. We’re expanding our garden and greenhouse setup to potentially sell plant starts and produce. We’re gearing up to grind and mix local ingredients for livestock feed.
So you can see we’re using our life experience and training, other special interests, and our farm resources. We also have a combination of goods and services bringing in dollars.
But that’s not all!
Some of our other family members are also doing consulting and contract work, reselling, teaching, and making new products to sell. As a family we’re discussing future farm production projects and the possibility of building a state-approved food processing kitchen. We have short-term plans for this year and long-term ideas that will take several years to develop. We’re also discussing special interests with our oldest grandkids and encouraging them to develop their own small businesses or sidelines to the family business.
- One granddaughter is very involved with the chickens.
- Her sister wants to partner with Jim to raise pigs this year.
- A third granddaughter, who loves handcrafts, has jewelry making in mind.
- All three girls are thinking of baking and sewing as well.
- Our oldest grandson thinks he’d like to raise herbs from seed.
- Another grandson loves running the grinder and might just develop a feed business someday.
We’re all for young entrepreneurs! In fact, Bethany discovered her entrepreneurial bent in high school and has been at it ever since.
Other real life examples
We has told you about one three-generation family we know that supports more than 15 family members with a combination of income streams. At their highway produce and antique store and local farmers markets, they sell their own produce, plant starts, beef, grains, and hay. They also bring in fruit from other producers in a nearby “banana belt.” During the winter when the store is closed, they take a vacation and refinish antiques to sell in their shop. They also start their tomato plants very early and are now known for the first tomatoes at the farmers markets.
Another couple combines a town job with farm production. The wife works to bring home a regular paycheck while her hubby sees to the daily farm work and marketing. They raise pigs, rabbits, and several types of poultry and sell meat to individuals, restaurants, and retail markets. They recently installed a state-licensed processing unit on their poultry farm. They not only sell processed poultry, but will process for others as well.
There’s a former schoolteacher who holds a weekly science lab class for homeschoolers. A father-son team cuts firewood from their forest and delivers it to local households; for an extra fee, they’ll stack it too. A young mom teaches a few piano students each week; another does machine quilting for those who can’t do it themselves.
The list goes on, but you get the idea!
What’s on your list?
Evaluate what you can do. Discover a gap to fill. Find a unique angle that will make your goods or services stand out from the rest. Don’t think any of your ideas are not worthy of a good evaluation. You might be surprised how you could fit right into a niche. We were. Even in our rural area, none of the farmers markets ever have enough eggs for sale. There also is a demand for local meat by the pound. Both of these products require special handling and permits, but neither is unusually costly or strenuous.
Some questions to ask yourself
1. What skills, experience, training, expertise, or resources do you have?
2. What goods and services are lacking in your area?
3. How can you use your abilities to fill a gap?
4. What unique spin do you have on that niche?
Ideas, ideas, and more ideas
Know the local rules and law of the land.
Always check on licensing and permit requirements at city, county, state/province, and federal levels.
You don’t have to go it alone!
Forming or joining a co-op or team makes a lot of sense. You can share ideas, equipment, and job rotations. You also have a ready group for those times when it’s “all hands on deck.” A team can be made up of family members, friends, neighbors, or any other group of people. It works best if you are compatible, with similar goals and mutual trust. But when it flows, it’s awesome! Remember our friends that sell farm products and antiques?
This extended family has a great teamwork system going. Each person has his or her own roles and responsibilities, but when there’s a need, they all join forces to get any job done. We have a “co-shop” team ourselves. A few years ago, Bethany started a business selling beverage ware and other items featuring quotes from popular books and movies.
In 2012 her business was booming, and we decided that Rural Living Today should start producing a similar line of items for the homesteading crowd. Both businesses were unexpectedly successful during the 2012 holiday season, and in January we were able to upgrade to equipment that produces higher-quality images. The two businesses share a barn workshop and equipment; we combine our wholesale orders for supplies. And most fun of all, we work together and join forces to meet deadlines.
Ideas for products
- Soap, candles, laundry detergent, firestarters, alternative personal care products
- Aprons, pot holders, baby bibs, receiving blankets, fleece blankets
- Quilts, pillows, wall hangings
- Jewelry, hair ornaments, belts
- Fresh herbs, produce
- Dehydrated/canned goods
- Seeds, garden tools, livestock equipment (buy wholesale and resell)
- Grain, ground and mixed animal feed
Ideas for services
- Repairing items or installing parts
- Handyman service, mobile farm service
- Sewing, quilting, home decorating
- Child care, birthday parties, event planning
- Pet care, house sitting, farm sitting
- Creating farm logos, writing website copy, photographing farms
- Designing gardens, irrigation systems
- Installing fencing, garden structures
Posts in this RLT blog series: