We could all use some extra cash. And having one or two reliable side hustles can help—especially when you’re able to leverage resources you already have.
Here are some side hustles (and saving tips) for farmers to consider to make a quick buck or two from the farm.
Take the Scenic Route
Got honeybees, a rare sheep breed or fields full of sunflowers? Shooting some eye-popping farm photos could pay off—a little at a time.
Stock photography websites such as iStock.com pay photographers small royalties for their images. Earnings depend on how many photos you’ve uploaded for potential use and how many times customers download them.
Stock photo outlets’ average pay ranges from a few cents to a few dollars per licensed photo. Provided you meet their minimum payment thresholds, most pay out monthly.
Doug Sandquist is a Las Vegas-based dentist with a landscape photography side hustle. Although he’s sold some of his travel photos on stock image websites, he admits it’s not the most lucrative of side hustles.
“They’re a hard way to go.”
When customers order your photo products, you earn a percentage. Again, most sites pay out monthly, as long as you’ve reached minimum payment thresholds. For instance, Redbubble.com’s threshold is $20.
Rent out Small Plots
Many people wish they could garden, but they lack the land to do so. Some are apartment dwellers who aren’t allowed to dig up the grounds. Others are homeowners with too much shade, too many munching deer or both.
But if you have soil to spare, consider staking off some 10-by-10-foot parcels and renting them to gardeners for the duration of the growing season. Renting just one plot from, say, April through October at $20 per month would bring in an extra $140 in all.
Be prepared to provide car or bicycle parking spaces, access to water and a few essential garden tools as needed. Also, make sure your farm’s insurance policy covers this type of arrangement.
(You don’t want to leave yourself unprotected in the event that one of your guest gardeners is injured while working in his or her rental plot.)
Get Your Goats
Plenty of homeowners joke about replacing their lawnmowers with goats. But, as it happens, employing goats to clear brush is a viable—and potentially profitable—endeavor.
“As far as cost that you can make in this business, it varies from state to state and region to region,” says Tammy Dunakin. Dunakin is the owner, operator and franchiser for Rent-A-Ruminant, LLC, in Seattle, Washington.
Dunakin typically charges clients $820 per day for either 60 or 120 goats. “And I have a 1/4-acre minimum and a three-day minimum,” she adds.
If you already have goats, perhaps you’ve been curious about trying this work.
“There are a lot of moving parts to it,” Dunakin says. “What you really don’t want to have, if you are doing a job for somebody, is something that involves harm to the animals or harm to somebody’s property or goats getting hit by cars or causing an accident.”
Tethering your goats and relying on someone else’s fencing are both nonstarters.
“Don’t imagine that you will just drop your goats off and leave,” she says. Instead, you’ll need to set up portable, clearly marked electric fencing to coral your goats. You also need to be able to identify the plants they’ll encounter in advance. Many plants are actually toxic to goats.
It’s also just as important to check your insurance coverage. Some custom farming plans will cover you on and off of your farm.
Finally, you should also plan to do some of the brush removal yourself. “You have to help clear some of that by hand, so that the goats will be able to reach it,” Dunakin says.
Forage Your Forest
Do you own or have access to wooded land? Look for seasonal delicacies such as morel and chanterelle mushrooms, pawpaws, persimmons and other natural treats. Once you know where and how to find these, you can either sell them directly yourself or supply local grocers and restaurants.
If you’re not sure where to begin, check out Start Mushrooming: The Reliable Way to Forage by Stan Tekiela and Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer.
Sell Your Knowledge
Say you’ve grown and canned tomatoes for 30 years. Or maybe you know nearly everything about raising poultry. You might consider putting together some online courses to help others succeed with these kinds of skills.
And you can get paid in the process.
Platforms such as Udemy.com host online courses created by experts like you. When students pay to take your course, you get a percentage of student fees.
To develop a Udemy course, you need to be able to create 30 minutes of video and five lectures. You’d then submit your course for quality review.
The percentage you make from student enrollment can be as high as 97 percent, but 25 percent per student is more typical. (You get more for students you refer versus those finding your course through Udemy’s promotional efforts.)
It takes a couple of months for payments to begin. But you can expect to be paid monthly once they do.
Try the Honor System
If you have extra bedding plants or odd-looking veggies that might not sell at the farmers market, put them in an unattended farm stand.
In part, the need for social distancing during the global pandemic has made such old-school, honor-system farm stands more attractive. And, by and large, they work.
Mike Record, co-owner of New Ground Farm in Bloomington, Indiana, operates the Bethel Lane Farm Stop. The self-service shop is housed in the front of one of his barns. And the shop’s cashbox is built into part of the wall itself.
“It’s inside a part of the barn that gets closed up at night,” Record says. “You should try to come up with a place for people to put their money that is pretty much bombproof.”
If you set up your own unattended shop, price items using whole dollars or simple fractions of dollars. That way, people can more easily offer exact change.
“Our policy is if you don’t have the right change, pay what you can and make it up next time,” he adds. “What tends to happen is people overpay rather than underpay.”
If you are able to, you might also want to accept mobile payments via smartphone applications such as Venmo or the CashApp.
Offer a Farm-cation
Have an extra room? Perhaps, a converted barn or outbuilding to list as a temporary vacation spot?
Plenty of would-be renters are looking for off-the-grid getaways.
According to Airbnb, hosts in the rural U.S. earned more than $200 million in June alone. Despite the threat of COVID-19, that amount was up by 25 percent over June of 2019.
Certainly, it takes work to prepare, photograph and list your space. But more than 170,000 rural hosts in the U.S. took the plunge and earned roughly $1,000 each in just one month from their rental side hustles.
Plant This Fast-Grower
Looking for produce-based side hustles? In a pinch, kale is one of the easiest, most forgiving crops to grow. And it’s a great choice for selling in late fall and even during much of the winter when your other crops are long gone.
Because kale is both drought- and cold-tolerant, it’s well-suited for nearly year-round harvest. (To prolong kale in colder climates, protect it with heavy, clear plastic. Or you can grow it inside a hoop house.)
You can pack a lot of this cut-and-come-again vegetable into a relatively small space. So you should be able to grow enough to supply a few of your area grocers or restaurants, too.
Deliver Aged Manure
As side hustles go, selling aged manure isn’t exactly speedy. But if you happen to have a lot of extra manure on hand—particularly manure that’s had the chance to age for about a year or so—gardeners will pay top dollar it.
(Fresh manure isn’t nearly as valuable, because its high nitrogen content can burn plants.)
And if you’re willing and able to deliver that aged manure? That’s even better. Depending on your location and the amount of competition in your area, you may be able to charge upwards of $40 to $50 or more per cubic yard that you deliver.
Take a spin around Etsy.com and similar online markets and you’ll see the usual handmade art prints and quilted purses. But you’ll also discover sellers with unusual side hustles, too.
A jar filled with cicada shells? Check!
Boxes of real fall leaves? Yep.
And bits of petrified wood, newly shed deer antlers, owl pellets and other “natural curiosities.” Turns out city slickers and macabre crafters alike will snap up these surprisingly high-priced items.
So, whether you want to sell the dried gourds you grew or some interesting fossils you found in your corn field, listing such items on Etsy will cost you .20 each.
Expect to spend some time photographing, describing and categorizing anything you hope to sell. Payments can be set up to arrive daily, weekly or monthly.
Sidebar: Stretch Your Dollars
What do you do when your new side hustles start bringing in the bucks? Stretch them as far as they’ll go, of course.
Form a Tool Share
Before buying that new weed wrench or pallet buster, consider how often you’ll actually use them and whether your neighbors could also benefit.
Certified organic inspector Gary Ogle works on variety selection and catalog production for Veseys in Canada’s Atlantic region. “A lot of our growers use plastic mulch when planting vine crops,” Ogle says. “But not everybody can afford the equipment that lays down that plastic mulch—equipment they’re only going to use once a year.
“Having a piece of equipment that a community can share is a great way to save money.”
You can split the cost of seldom-used tools with fellow farmers and store them in an area you can all access. “Join your local growers’ co-op or talk to other farmers in your area,” Ogle says.
“Get to know each other. That way, you can share equipment, find out what other people are growing and not get into their market if it’s already [too] competitive.”
Make It Rain
Install a rain barrel or cistern to save on your water bill. A single 55-gallon drum can collect hundreds of gallons of (free!) water during the summer months.
And some counties offer free or deeply discounted rain barrel systems.
Eyeball Your Insurance
Examining the insurance you’re carrying for your farm, vehicles, liability and so on isn’t exciting, but it can pay dividends.
Have you added any new product lines or equipment lately? Make sure you still have all of the coverage you need. And take the time to comparison shop along the way.
Solve Recurring Mysteries
“Free” trials are only free for so long. Check your credit card and bank statements to be sure you’re not paying for services or subscriptions you don’t use.
Scattering coins in the truck’s cup holder or in random pockets is no way to save.
Instead, put your change in one place and regularly take it to the bank. You’ll soon notice that even small amounts of money can grow.
Ditch Your PMI
Have you checked your mortgage statement lately? You might be paying private mortgage insurance unnecessarily.
On a conventional 30-year mortgage, if you’ve reached year 15 or your remaining balance equals 80 percent of your home’s value, you might be able to kiss that PMI goodbye.
Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays happen like clockwork. But it’s still easy to be caught off guard.
Rather than panic buying expensive last-minute gifts, plan gift-giving in advance. Record a year’s worth of special occasions on a gift-giving calendar and you’ll have time to give more thoughtful, creative—and frugal—gifts.
Grab Those Freebies
Take advantage of any free energy audits your local utilities or rural electric cooperatives may offer. You just might have some hidden energy “leaks” to plug.
As with buying in bulk, group-purchasing a pallet of product and divvying it up yourself can save you and your neighbors big. Think of it as creating a hyper-local farm co-op.
Do you all buy similar kinds of chicken feed, canning supplies or potting mix? Pool your money for extra-deep discounts.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.