You Want to Earn Income on a Farm, But How?
Whether you are the proud owner of a large farming estate passed down through the generations or you just bought your first small farm, there’s probably one thing on your mind: what is the best way to make money farming? Knowing how to earn income on a farm isn’t always a simple thing. No matter how hard you plan and work, something could always break down at the wrong time or your crops could fail for one reason or another. In those situations, it’s really nice to have options. What’s one thing that good investment bankers always say? Diversify your investments! So think about it. If you invest all your personal assets into your 1,000 acre corn and soybean farm and hedge your bet that it will provide for your family, you could be in a world of hurt when that doesn’t happen. And if it happens a few times, you could lose everything you built. But if you have several side incomes on your farm, you can use those other income streams to balance the loss of your main farming income and weather the storm.
How to Earn Income on a Farm
Besides the income from row crops, such as corn or soybeans, what else does your farm do for you? If it’s not producing a few income streams, you’re likely missing out. Almost any property has multiple ways of producing money for you – the trick is knowing what works best for you, your farm, and your region. So if you’re wondering how to make money with a farm or land, here are several reliable ways to expand your farm’s income potential.
Leasing Your Farmland
Most properties have at least a few areas that are never utilized, but it seems nobody knows how to earn money from vacant land. Fortunately, there are many benefits of leasing your farmland for hunting, as you’ve probably read about here already. They include a reduction in crop damage, deterrence of trespassers and would-be thieves, and of course, the generation of a nice side income. Farms are natural hot spots for wildlife, which means hunters are usually pretty attracted to them as well. If you don’t hunt on your farm or only hunt a single species, hunting leases are a great way to maximize the return on land that you might otherwise not use. So if you’re curious how to make money from land ownership alone, leasing land for hunting leases is near the top of the list simply because there is almost no other work involved – you simply need to own the land.
Adding Livestock to Your Farm
If you don’t already use livestock to earn income on a farm, you might be missing a critical piece of the puzzle. And it might not be as much work as you think. The two practices are very interconnected – row crops serve as feed and nutrition for livestock, while livestock produce manure that can then fertilize the row crops. It’s been shown that animal manure has benefits over fertilizers, in the form of better soil organic material, microbial activity, and nutrient cycling. Crop residue is easily fed to most livestock, which can help prevent plant diseases from persisting in the soil. If you’re wondering how to make money farming cattle or other animals, livestock products (e.g., meat, dairy products, wool, etc.) help add another income stream to your farm.
Put Your Farm Equipment to Work
If you have a decent-sized farm, chances are pretty good that you own a lot of farm equipment. Most of it probably sits idle through most of the year until that one time it’s needed. That’s simply a waste of its usefulness. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to earn income on a farm, have you considered using it to help other farms out?
For example, some smaller farms may not have the resources yet to buy all the necessary implements. You could sell a service where you come to their land to help out, provided you aren’t already using that same implement on your own farm. Think about all the machinery you have too. For example, maybe you have a backhoe or stump grinder that you used years ago to expand a field – other smaller farms will likely need that service as well. It could all be used to earn more money for your farm.
If you have a row crop farm, you probably think you don’t have much to offer when it comes to attracting visitors. And that might be true if your farm is in a very remote area. However, when it comes to making a profit off land, there are many ways you can earn income on a farm by tweaking your farming practices or adding to your farm.
- Organize a corn maze in your fields during the Halloween season prior to harvest. Corn mazes are always fun activities in the fall, and they don’t have to be spectacularly arranged into a precise pattern either. As long as it takes people a while to get through them, they will have a good time. Similarly, you could plant a small pumpkin patch and sell them by the roadside each fall. When used in combination with the corn maze, you can be sure people will visit.
- Do you have an old family apple orchard on your farm? With some annual maintenance and care, you could open a small orchard for apple pickers. If you don’t have one, could you give up a few acres of a field to plant an orchard? Focus on popular varieties if you want to attract local customers, or pick special varieties if you want to be a niche supplier for cider makers.
- Do you have an old barn with lots of character that you just don’t utilize much? Many farms do. Consider remodeling it a bit and renting it out for events, such as weddings, graduation parties, and other events. Most people are innately attracted to old barns, and this could be a real money-maker for your farm during the summer when not much is happening on your farm besides weed control or irrigation.
- Some row crop farms just have vacant areas they can’t plow due to steep topography or rocks. These can be good areas for planting Christmas trees. Planting a field of spruces, pines, and cedars takes a bit of work initially, but then don’t need much maintenance throughout their lifetime. You could then cut and sell them by the roadside, or customers could cut their own trees. This is a good winter income-generator after the harvest season is done.
Heavily related to the agritourism category, one could also process and sell specialty products to earn income on a farm. While raw materials earn a certain price each year, further refining or processing of them could earn you twice or even five times the income. Here are a few examples.
- As with the Christmas trees, you could harvest boughs from any conifers on your property to make seasonal wreaths that you sell online or at local markets. They are pretty easy to make, and can fetch a good price.
- If you have a lot of maple trees on your property, you could take advantage of the early spring time period to collect maple sap and process maple syrup or products. Local and fresh maple syrup nearly always commands a high price, but it does take a commitment to do well.
- If there are native flowering fields, abundant orchards, or even hayfields on your property or nearby, consider putting in a few beehives. Like the syrup, local honey is very trendy today, and in some cases, people will pay more for less processed, raw honey.
- While you could simply sell firewood or do a timber harvest to earn some more money for your farm, processing it further might increase the income potential. For example, if you have a sawmill (many farms do), you could cut specialty slabs for bars or fireplace mantles, or hew beams for new homes (or to build the new event barn on your property).
Granted, there are differences in knowing how to make money on a small acreage versus a large farm, but these are a few ideas you can use as inspiration. Are you considering leasing farmland for hunting? If so, reach out to us to talk with one of our professionals. There’s no risk in asking, and you’d probably be surprised by the income you could make for very little work involved.
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