Many of us got interested in homesteading as a way to escape the rat race only to discover—surprise, surprise!—you still need money on a homestead. Although we may want to barter for our bills, not many companies do. This can be discouraging, but it doesn’t need to be. You can create a laundry list of homestead hustles and make money doing what you love to do.
Before you decide which homestead hustle is right for you, it is important to take inventory of your farm, your lifestyle, and your needs. A vegetable CSA does not make sense if you only have an interest in growing a small herb garden. What would make sense is a line of herbal products priced at a premium and sold to customers interested in herbal health. If your lifestyle is filled with off-the-farm obligations, raising livestock is probably not feasible for you. You can take time out to create an online homesteading course teaching any skill you are proficient at and create a passive income stream. The less you need material-wise, the less income you need to generate. Take inventory and plan accordingly.
The easiest way to be successful at product creation and marketing is to stick with a theme. For example, if you have a small goat-farm, sell as many goat-related products as possible and avoid adding random items to your product line. Selling items that are naturally related makes sense to your customer, costs less for you to produce, and lends itself to meaningful marketing and branding.
Once you decide how you are going to make money from your homestead, you need to create a pricing plan. It is so easy to undercharge for your products that I find it best to follow a pricing formula and stick with it. Of course, there are people who will say you charge too much and not buy your products. Understand that is a fact of life—don’t take it personally and make a living wage. No other business is as consistently undervalued and I think it is because we undervalue ourselves.
With the basics out of the way, maybe you are still at a loss at what homestead hustle you should start. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options. The following list is just a jumping-off point. As you read through these ideas, you are sure to come up with more.
All-Natural Chicken: Organic, all-natural meat is in demand and everyone eats chicken. In order to make money from this enterprise, you need a fairly large flock of birds and an incubator. Incubate eggs regularly so you always have birds at butchering age. Once people start expecting chicken from you, you don’t want to disappoint them.
Smaller Birds: Pigeon and quail are smaller, but highly desirable, birds. This means they require less space, reach butchering size in six to eight weeks, and command more money from the market. Simple coops and a flying enclosure is enough to get you started. While your regular customers will occasionally buy quail or squab, restaurants are where you will get the most bang for your buck with these birds.
Water Fowl: Ducks and geese are popular and profitable around the holidays. Free-range foragers command a premium price. Because they are big sellers around holidays, it is more successful to market them months before they are ready and take orders—and deposits.
Heritage Turkeys: Another holiday option. Again, take orders for Thanksgiving turkeys well before the holiday. You can increase profits by smoking the turkey and delivering it ready to eat, or by creating an entire Thanksgiving CSA box around the heritage turkey.
Eggs: If you have birds on your farmstead but are not ready or willing to butcher them, eggs are a viable source of income. Farm-fresh chicken eggs are popular at farmers’ markets while quail eggs are sought after by chefs. Because duck eggs are excellent for baking, market them to local bakeries.
Feathers: Another no-kill option for your farm birds are their feathers. Birds molt and you can make money by turning their most beautiful feathers into earrings and keychains. I was dubious, but earrings made with quail feathers sell extremely well at my local farmers’ and craft markets. Everyone is looking for unique items, and this one fits the bill perfectly.
Rabbit Meat: Starting your own rabbitry is a relatively inexpensive venture any size homestead can support—even urban homesteads. Rabbits are small and quiet. They reproduce quickly which makes them an efficient money maker. Rabbit meat is popular with traditional customers as well as with chefs who are looking for an organic, farm to table meat to feature on their menus. Double your income with rabbits by tanning the skins and selling their pelts. Double that by turning those pelts into gloves or lap blankets. Rabbit poo is a popular product with gardeners.
Goat Meat: Goat meat is becoming more popular in the United States but it hasn’t quite found a place on everyone’s dinner table yet. I’ve found the most profitable way to sell goat meat is to the local ethnic market. The Hispanic and Muslim population celebrate several holidays with goat meat. Make some inquiries, adjust your breeding practices so that the goat kidding season will come at the right time, and be sure to ask the buyers’ requirements for purchase. Many cultures like to butcher their animals themselves, and some do not like the kids to be debudded.
Sheep Meat (Mutton): Sheep meat, or mutton, is a specialty item that can be sold through traditional means in the spring and year-round to restaurants. As with goats, increase your income from meat sheep by tanning and selling their pelts.
Dairy Products: If you want goats or sheep but are operating a no-kill homestead, they can still be a profitable side hustle. Goat milk is delicious and much easier for many people to digest. If you have ever had to purchase any at the grocery store you know it sells for a pretty penny. Goat milk and sheep milk can be made into cheese, and goat milk makes a traditional Mexican caramel called cajeta that is simple to make at home. Milk can also be used to make milk soaps and lotions which are wildly popular at farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and online.
Fiber: Start your homestead with sheep, goats, or rabbits that are specifically bred for fiber production. You can sell the fiber raw, processed, or go the whole nine yards and create a product with it. Just because you don’t know any spinners or fiber artists in your area doesn’t mean you can’t sell your fiber. The internet has made it possible to find people who want to buy what you have to sell.
Gardens, Greenhouses, & Kitchens
Vegetables: It’s hard to think about a small farm without picturing a farmstand at the end of the drive or a booth at the local outdoor market. The reason for this is that homegrown vegetables are very easy to sell. Logical add-ons include plant starts, heirloom seeds, and value-added products such as pickles and relishes.
Fruit: All seasonal fruit sells well but delicate fruits, such as berries, command a premium price. Increase your income and reduce food waste with homemade jams and baked goods. If your farm can physically support visitors, consider a seasonal u-pick. Fruit trees you have propagated from thinning your homestead orchard are another good money maker.
Herbs: A small herb garden can make money in the form of fresh and dried herbs, as well as propagated herb starts. If you find you want to grow more herbs, great! A large herb garden can support a standing order from a local restaurant. Expand your herb product line with teas, medicinal syrups, herbal salts, and herbal crafts.
Baked Goods: If you use specialty products from your farm—milk, eggs, fruit—you will decrease your expenses and increase your unique selling point. Individual-sized baked goods sell quicker and make more money than large cakes and pies.
Cut Flowers: The booth selling cut flowers at my local farmers market sells out within an hour. There are many great resources online and in bookstores that can help you get started. Cut flowers would make a terrific addition to an herb business.
Specialty Plants: There are all types of specialty plants to consider but I have seen the most interest in “holiday” plants. Poinsettias, Easter and Christmas cacti, pineapples, and prayer plants are especially sought after where I live. You can get a substantial amount of potted plants started in a simple hoop tunnel. Hoop tunnels are cheap and simple to construct and can be used for veggie starts as well.
Education & Experiences
Teach What You Know: Undervaluing ourselves doesn’t just come in the form of underpricing our goods. We tend to assume either we have no marketable skills or that no one else wants to learn them. Wrong! Make a list of the homesteading skills you know and pick one. Then teach a class. Once you are comfortable teaching, create an online homesteading course. Once your class is online, you are making passive income every time someone signs up for your class.
Farm-to-Table Dinners: Host dinners at your homestead. Highlight produce and products from your farm, feature a local chef, and advertise in your local paper and on your local radio station. You can also sell tickets on your Facebook page and post pictures of the event to your Instagram account.
Start a CSA: Vegetable CSAs are common but that isn’t the only option. What do you like to do? Sell subscriptions to your specialty CSA—cheese & caramel, baked goods, seasonal jams, fruit pickles… the options for starting a CSA are endless as long as you only sell as many subscriptions as you can fill.
As you can see, there are plenty of homestead hustles to make money from your homestead. Relax and enjoy what you do. Get better at it every day. The money will come.