One of the most common comments we get is “Homesteading sounds great, but how do you make ends meet?” It’s not as hard as you would think.
Living off-grid is actually a very cheap lifestyle, as the goal is to provide a lot of stuff for yourself, like food, fuel, electricity, water, etc. However, in order to set up all those systems, you will need some initial outlay and time. And then there’s always maintenance and expansion. So, of course, money is important.
Instead of fitting our life around our job, we fit our job around our life. We do the things we enjoy and that we need for ourselves, and expand a little to be able to sell some too. It stands to reason that if you are producing something that you need and like, others will want it too.
The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is particularly true of a home business. When you only have one product that makes all your money for you, you will be in trouble if something goes wrong. Diversity is key to managing unavoidable problems. We aim to have 10 small businesses that each make a little money, so that if one or two fail, you have the other eight to pick up the slack. For example, if it’s a dry year with lots of plagues, you won’t make much on fruit and vegetables, but the fish and furs will still sell.
Know your market before planning to sell something. Find out what people want, where they live in relationship to you, who else sells the same product, etc.
Local businesses are always best. You avoid the need to ship things, so that you can sell everything fresher and better. More and more, people are starting to appreciate local products. We’re all fed up of eating tasteless food, or not knowing who gets abused in the production of an item. Given the choice, most people would rather buy things from a place they can go and inspect for themselves.
In any community, there are needs that are not met. Find out what those needs are and fill the gap. Always be prepared to be flexible and change one of your products if the market for it disappears or becomes saturated. Never do what everyone else is doing. Be unique.
Keep meticulous records of everything you do and try. Record all your outgoing and incoming expenses in detail, so that you can see what is actually making money. Include in your income that which you use yourself. For example, if you have rabbits, mark down every time you eat one. You may not make money on it, but it is money you don’t have to spend on meat.
We have started several ventures only to find out that we are losing money. That knowledge will allow you to either make the necessary changes or to drop that project. Cutting your losses is important to success.
Over the years, we have been consolidating our experiences, both good and bad, into a project we call Food Web. Its basic principal is to integrate various animals, plants and other systems on the homestead (or community) to create a local, sustainable and humane food production business. For more information on this subject, please visit the Food Web page. For here, however, we’ll give you an oversimplified example of a possible food web, all housed within or around one barn and one greenhouse:
A business model such as this will not only provide you and your family with meat, dairy, eggs, honey, fish, fruit and vegetables, but you will also be able to sell the excess. You and your customers will enjoy a much fresher, tastier diet than you can possibly buy in a store.