Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pursuing A Family Economy

The Lewis Family learning to butcher chickens last summer

Farmer John and I went on a lunch date earlier this week and I told him I was serious about earning money from our land this year.  Nothing grand- just keeping on top of the garden so I have excess to sell, adding another dozen laying chickens and trying our hand at some broilers for ourselves and a few to sell to friends.

Then, to my surprise, my husband said he really desires to leave his corporate job and come home to make a living on the land. This is the first time he said it as a definite goal not just a pipe dream.  We both shared our desire for a lifestyle of "needing" less and in the process freeing ourselves from modern consumerism and economics.

I laugh because we are both admittedly middle aged (44) and for our mid-life crisis we don't want to go buy hot rods or take early retirement to a tropical island.  We want to need less and provide healthy food and knowledge to our community.  It is a dream different from most.

Now, I don't think it will be easy.  We will probably have to work harder then we ever have. But I do think (if it is within God's will) that it is obtainable.  If we build our customer base slow without incurring debt and let God open doors then I do believe John could come home in three years or less and we'd be working for ourselves not somebody else.

Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian has been doing a series on Family Economies and his last post really captures our desires.  You can read it here.

We will be writing a proper business plan soon but our plans include: selling eggs, broilers, veges, herbs, flowers, bread, jams, and crafts this year.  Michigan has a great cottage food law that allows us to sell up to $25,000 worth of product from a home kitchen without needing any sort of license and because we don't want to be the next "Tyson" and want to keep things on a micro level we also weed out a lot of other government regulation. 

In the future we want to add animal fiber and goods, goat milk caramels and soaps, bramble fruits, and an orchard.  We aren't sure if we want to CSA or Herbal CSA but we will want to add educational classes and a green house for annual flowers and potted veges/herbs.  (The latter will require at least a $40 yearly micro grower state license.)  We want this to be a venture that our kids can add to with their own ideas and talents and I've always wanted to do a magazine and write agrarian non-fiction. (As well as the fiction I have in the works.)  But we aren't doing any of this with a get rich mentality or desire.  Our desire is to be closer as a family, closer to God, closer to the land and the rich, healthy heritage of agrarianism and be blessed with an opportunity to share it with others.

I'd love to hear the stories of others doing the same!


Marie at The Homesteader School said...

Cynthia, I love this post and your new plans! My husband and I are also not "typical"--as retirees, instead of traveling and golfing we love to putter around on our property and grow food for our family and community. Our kids and grandkids have joined us in this adventure, trying various ways of providing our own food and developing income-producing products. Kudos to you and your family!! I look forward to reading more about it :)

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

Thanks Marie! We are excited!

Anonymous said...

We lived off the income of our small farm for about 15 years, maybe you can find something useful from our experience. I used what I thought that an average family would use every week as a guide to what we would produce....a couple of loaves of bread, a dozen eggs, a chicken, a pound of sausages, etc. We lived in a small community, so the option of expanding by having more customers wasn't really there. But we focussed on having people give us more of their grocery budget rather than go to the stores.

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...


Yes, we are looking to provide an alternate option to the grocery store. We desire to create a local economy and produce healthy food for ourselves and others. I would desire for customers to come to us at the farm but I'm not opposed to going to a farm market. We are blessed to live just outside Grand Rapids so while we are country, we also have a sizeable market available. Our goals are more lifestyle orientated than $$, though.

odiie said...

Yes, yes, yes! while we're able to grow enough for our family, I haven't been able to have enough to sell regularly. This year I hope to make better use of our space.
A business plan...great idea. Think I'll try something like that. My new business venture??Heritage turkeys.
Keep us posted on your progress.
From Glory Farm