Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Can One Really Make Money Homesteading?

Can you really make money homesteading? Can you make a living? Gee, I'm asked that a lot. The answer really depends on what the inquirer means by "make money" "make a living". Plus it depends upon what standard of living, what lifestyle they expect. And it depends upon how much time and effort they plan to put into it. If they see homesteading simply as a job, then they will most likely be very disappointed.

First let me say that there are indeed people living a homestead style life here in Hawaii. But I have seen far more people either fail or are repulsed by the lifestyle. It surely isn't for everyone. Small commercial farms that support families also exist here. The family needs to be dedicated and willing to work long, hard hours. In my own district there are macnut farms, coffee farms, fruit tree farms, and a vegetable farm that provide 100% of the family support. But it isn't easy.

Selling what you produce on the farm is one part of the "making money" aspect. But farms can also produce things that you normally would have to pay for, such as food, firewood, fertilizer, building materials (lumber, bamboo, rocks). So even though this is not monies earned, it isn't monies spent either.

We plan to be able to survive on our homestead because we have lowered our financial demands. We purposely have simplified our needs.
...eat only what we produce or trade for.
...buy used stuff instead of new, such as clothes, house utensils, tools, etc.
...no TV, clothes dryer, sound system, video games, electronic toys, etc.
...no cellphone plan. Simple pay as you go. And don't use the phone unless really needed.
...no electric, water, sewer bills.
...low real taxes by using the farm primarily for pasture.
...no new cars (ours are 10 years old).
...no unnecessary spending. No expensive vacations. No  expensive 'toys".
...no fancy house. No expensive furniture, decorations, etc.
...no landscaping that cost money.
...no debts. Zero. No mortgage, no loans.
..no buying on credit unless it can be paid in full each month without fees or interest.

We also plan to be diversified when it comes to income. Veggies. Fruits. Livestock. Compost. Biochar. Value added products (macnut butter, fruit juices, roasted coffee, crafted bamboo, crafted gourds, etc). Honey. Seeds. Flower and vegetable seedlings. Cut flowers. Potted plants. Fruit and landscape trees. Plus whatever else I develop.

Getting to this point wasn't easy for us. It took some major lifestyle changes. But once we stopped the spending addiction, we found that we had excess money. That money was channeled into a farm. (It took many, many frugal years in order to buy our land.) Spending compulsions were a significant problem for us. Our society encourages spending. Peer pressure prompts spending. Advertising entices us to spend. Businesses and banks urge us to spend and borrow. 

So back to the question, can one make money with a homestead farm? In my situation, the answer is yes. But you have to work at it. You need to be resourceful. Being disciplined really helps. Being a bit of a salesman is required, because you need to market what you produce. Being adaptable is a requirement. Not every plan works out, so you have to be willing to change mid-stream sometimes. Sometimes you have to stop, regroup, and try again. On that line of thought, I have friends that weren't successful until their second, third, and even fourth stab at it! The guy who took four tries is comfortably successful now, and quite satisfied with where he's at. 

Farming isn't what urban people think it is. Farmers don't whistle songs while they pleasantly walk through their fields admiring their crops. They don't have idyllic storybook farms with grand vistas to gaze at all day. Working, family supporting farms are places of hard physical labor, sweat, dirt, sore backs, hurt fingers. They are places where the farmer worries about his crops or livestock surviving. He worries about what can and possibly will go wrong. He hopes that prices will hold or increase, and bites the bullet if they fall....which happens quite often. There are no guarantees. It's always a risk. 

If you are afraid of taking a big risk, if you can't do without, if you already worry too much, if you enjoying spending money...perhaps this life isn't for you. In your case, your farm most likely won't earn you a living, 


  1. Su, you hit the nail squarely: "The family needs to be dedicated and willing to work long, hard hours." I commented on your previous post about chicken feed, but it was in a tone that more people would benefit I they were willing to choose to seek a productive approach to bettering their lives. Yes, it is possible. For some, it brings rewards beyond the "buys more things" if they take the risks of trying. I am pessimistic about the majority who feel somehow content to slide by, taking from others but lacking in the self-reliance and personal responsibility departments. I applaud those who quit playing the blame game, and instead, now embrace the credo, "If it is to be, it starts with me." They will be far better prepared when true hard times occur.

  2. And completely off-topic, but important for y'all in the islands, at some risk for dengue fever ("break bone fever", what was initially thought to be responsible for that world-class Kauai surfer Andy Irons...only, he overdosed himself with a mix of drugs)where was I? Oh, yeah - Aedes aegypti, the nasty mosquito that loves to breed in any amount of standing water, even a flower vase, carries the dengue virus. It has been reported that eugenol, the aromatic compound of cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), can be used as a solution you can make by grinding up 60 cloves in a cup of water, and store it in your refrigerator. It takes just a few drops in the puddle to kill the skeeter larvae, and repeating it every week or two.
    I learn so much stuff every day, but if it doesn't get to where it might be useful, I'll forget it. So - if you don't mind the smell of cloves, give this stuff a whirl.

    1. Hey, I'll give that a try. I happen to have access to some clove trees. Next time I go by I will have to check to see if they are old enough to be blooming yet.

      One of my upcoming posts deals with mosquito control here on he farm. I'll have to try out the clove method before I post the mosquito info.

      Mosquitos are a problem here, but not nearly as bad as what I dealt with back in New Jersey. Mosquitos would eat you alive back there. And there was the ever present concern about West Nile disease and encephalitis. Here in Hawaii we jut have different mosquito borne disease, and just as nasty.