Exactly how profitable is small farming for profit?
If you have a small farm, or are contemplating small farming for profit, you probably want to know how much profit is possible. In a recent letter I wrote about the
High Income Market Garden
Here's some data from my experience to give you an idea if small farming for profit is the business for you.
Our first year operating a
Community Supported Agriculture
(CSA) market garden, we sold the equivalent of 10 full shares.
The gross income from that was $8,900. We also sold about $4,500 of meats and eggs, for a total gross income of $13,400. After paying for a small greenhouse and a plant-starting room and some other stuff, we netted about $1,000. You can see the whole
Year One Cashflow Here
My books and other resources I recommend
3 Businesses in One - Premium Start Farming Pack w/AUDIO Money Grows in your Garden Profit from Pastured Poultry Growing and Selling Premium Pork Get help from a Farm Coach Free Gardener's Secret Handbook Grow a REAL work-from-home business
Note that we could easily have done this whole garden ourselves and saved the cost of the part-time helper, but I was working off-farm quite a lot and we wanted to be sure we could harvest and deliver on schedule.
The other thing to note is, if we amortized
the cost of the greenhouse and plant starting room over 5 years (a reasonable life expectancy), then our actual profit
would have been about $4,000.This is an important distinction
when small farming for profit by the way, the difference between cash flow
As I wrote in
Farm Risk Management
financial risks result from inadequate cash flow
to meet obligations. Small farming for profit means keeping a close eye on the spending.
Now let's have a look at the year we operated our largest garden, 2008. Gross sales
of CSA shares came to about $49,000 (93 families
). We sold another $6,000 worth of meats and eggs, for a total of $55,000 gross sales.
Equipment and supplies cost us about $7,000; we also had about $14,000 in salary costs for 3 part-time farm helpers and delivery drivers. So total costs came to about $21,000; gross profit therefore was about $34,000.
And of course, we got just about all our own food, too. This was on a market garden of about 1 acre, plus another acre or so to raise pigs and meat chickens.
Again, we could have worked longer hours in the garden ourselves and reduced the money we paid out in salaries. Suzie and I each put in about a 40 to 50 hour week in the garden, working pretty much 7 days a week. However, we were both pushing 50, and having more help seemed the prudent course.
And, knowing what I know now about small farming for profit, I could probably cut the salary cost in half, and use more efficient methods.
In fact I think a farm couple with proper equipment and approach could look after a one-acre market garden by themselves. This is a trade-off, of course, since this would require more of an investment in equipment. See my
5 Acre Farm Plan
for am idea of the equipment I consider necessary.So, what conclusions can we draw from this?
First, a full-time income
from a CSA market garden becomes possible around 100 customers. With sales of other farm products (see
How to Raise Meat Chickens
Pigs on Pasture
) you can probably net $40,000 or even more from your small farm.
Second, this is probably also the minimum size
to justify an investment in equipment to mechanize your operation. Tractors and other 'heavy metal' are expensive to own; you need to use them a lot to justify the expense.
Third, if you are small farming for profit on a full-time basis, it would be possible to 'layer on' even more businesses to make additional income. You could add everything from bedding plants to bees,
limited only by your ability to manage. These additional sources of income make it feasible for a couple to live and work solely on their small farm, and make a right living.See also:
Raised Bed Garden Plan
Return to Home page from Small Farming for Profit