So many people ask me if my small urban farm is my hobby, or do I actually make money? The answer isn’t so cut and dry. I mean in the beginning it was totally for fun. We wanted to raise our own food. We had a garden, some chickens, a few sheep, and our dairy goats. At some point over the years it became a job. It all started when one customer wanted to buy chickens from me. At first he wanted just a few every month. As time went on he needed more and more. Now I consider myself a farmer. All be it on a small scale urban farm.
We now operate a small scale poultry farm. We have pasture raised poultry we sell for meat, and we also hatch pure breed chickens to sell for layers. Currently we offer Black Copper Marans and Lavender Orpingtons locally for all the backyard chicken enthusiasts. Soon our layer flock will also be back up and laying, and we will be able to offer over 50 dozen eggs per month.
Along the way we have learned some valuable lessons. Two of which I feel need to be shared with everyone just starting out with an urban farm. They are the most important things we have learned over the past 5 years. We learned the hard way, but hopefully you wont have the same path.
The first thing you need to do is become educated on your local, state, and federal laws regarding farming. When it comes to poultry on a small scale it is important to learn all the exemptions allowed small producers. If you are selling chicks is there a minimum? Can you sell processed birds? Do eggs need to be labeled with your farm info? All of these things come into play with your bottom line. On a federal level learn the tax codes. Know what tax credits and deductions are allowed. Some localities and states offer credits if you raise certain livestock, or grow certain veggies. All of this info helps add to your profits, and keeps the dream alive
The second thing is even more important. In fact we learned the hard way just how important it is. DO NOT OVER DIVERSIFY!!! Do one thing and do it really well. This will ultimately make you a better farmer, and it will also make you a better business. We started with layers. Then we added sheep. We would raise lambs for meat. Then we added dairy goats, turkeys, and quail. Feed costs skyrocketed, and profits dwindled. We eventually went back to our farming roots (you know our 3 year old roots at the time). We sold the quail, sheep, and most of the goats. We sold off our laying flock as well, and after Christmas that year we had no turkeys left. All we had remaining were some meat birds on pasture. We bought 400 chicks to raise for meat. Now we raise chickens and turkeys for meat. We only raise a few turkeys (less than 30) every year. We are slowly building our layer flock back up to 30 or 40 hens. We will have 2 breeding flocks for the sale of local chicks. Basically we will sell CHICKENS. With the focus on one type of animal we can track our profits and loss much closer. We have found that the farm is flourishing now that we made it simple again.
The bottom line is that you can make money urban farming. Do your homework, and remained focused to be successful. Last but no least…don’t be afraid to ask questions. Usually other small producers in your area will be willing to help!!
Hopefully this blog helps you become a successful urban farmer. Happy Homesteading!!!