In this new world of eco-consciousness, concern of global warming, home business and entrepreneurship, a gourmet treasury of backyard mini-farm opportunities are being born. They range from substantial extra streams of income to full-time income, and from rooftops, even apartments (!) to farms on small acreage. Out of the ashes of the farming disaster in the 1980s came a new form of organic small acreage or backyard farm, the “micro eco-farm.” The Center for the Micro Eco-Farming Movement, there are reports of angora rabbits being raised in apartments, organic herb gardens in backyards selling herbal crafts over the internet, miniature sheep, miniature dairy cows, organic flower farms on small acreage, heirloom vegetable farms on small acreage, garlic farms on small acreage, flower seed farms from backyards, and the list goes on.
Often, they are matched with a home cottage industry, such as spinning wool products from the angora rabbits’ wool or teaching cooking classes on the heirloom vegetable farm.
While most of these home businesses are farms from backyards to small acreages, some of these very small farms are within bigger farms. One operates a full time business from two acres, but lives on a 130 acre farm. Another’s husband farms huge acreage owned by a corporate farm, but their own seven acres hosts her full time business of growing beautiful herb and flower gardens, growing unusual bedding plants and making gifts from her garden crops for sale in her on-farm gift shop, and hosting weddings and other special events on the farm.
Here’s how it works.
In the 80s, as just one example, hundreds of smaller dairy farmers had to go out of business. Cows were injected with hormones to produce massive amounts of milk, and wholesale prices got so cheap, smaller dairy farms just couldn’t earn enough from sales anymore. It was get big or get out. Each cow cost more to keep than what was returned. Plus, many of those who used to see milk as nature’s most wholesome food began to question its health, and sales dropped even further.
So, how would a micro eco-dairy farm today make money with five cows on a little more than five acres? They raise the cows organically or certified naturally grown on green pasture (the health benefits of this to humans are well-documented, and astounding). With that milk, they handcraft artisan cheese, and sell this premium product often retail to upscale markets for eager buyers seeking healthy, humanely raised, grass-fed artisan cheese… cheese in which customers can even name the cows it came from! The cost to keep each cow is returned many times over. Times have changed. Today, hand-tending, handcrafting and allowing customers to reconnect with animals and nature don’t work for large-scale agribusinesses, but they work for smaller parcels and have an eager market waiting.
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