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Ten Acres Is Enough

Post in 'The Green Room' started by jebatty, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

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    Tim; Point taken. Looks like a pretty much philosophical difference. I don't really have a problem with 15% of State budget going to education on priciple. I do have a problem with kids not being offered quality education, which happens a lot in current system. I respect your decision to home-school & depending on how good/bad the school system is where I live, I might do the same.

    SE Iowa: I like your small-scale slaughter idea & I think it's the kind of thing that needs to happen if small-scale, sustainable farming is to grow or even survive. It sounds to me like there could be opportunity for a co-op set-up with other farms in the region to offset initial outlay & have the equipment working on more than just your own animals. There are some small mobile slaughter units operating in U.S. & Canada (mainly focussing on organic or free-range livestock & poultry). Could be worth searching & contacting those folks for advice. Not sure about your area, but from this consumers point-of-view, free-range pork is less common even in developed markets 'cause people looking for ethical choices don't tend to eat so much pork. Turkey?

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  2. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    SE Iowa - sorry, forgot that you also farmed.

    Onto your idea - it's a great idea. We purchase bulk pastured beef and pork from a local farmer. It's then butchered at another family-operated place, but I'd love to know how to process the animals and would willingly participate - even if there was not much of a price break for doing so - just to learn. I'm sure there are lots more people out there like me that would love to know how to do this stuff. If you are interested, I can email you the pricing information that the farmer we get the meat from just emailed me.
  3. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I think that you have a good idea. With the growing awareness of healthy eating and the possible negatives of "factory farming" you may have success. I live in the suburbs of New York City and I know that there is a demand for natural and/or organic foods. Locally raised would surely be a plus. There is a small local farm in my town that produces meats and vegetables. http://www.hemlockhillfarm.com/ . There are others that are further out of the city that offer same.

    I've been thinking that another way to make small farm living possible if close to an urban area is to make it somewhat of a tourist attraction as a way to increase revenue. But there is the balance between proximity to that urban population and the cost of land. There are a couple apple orchards in my area that seem to survive by making themselves a destination as well as a food source with a few farm animals to pet, hay rides, and apple picking. I believe that there will be an increase in interest in local produce in the coming years.
  4. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I agree with everybody that what we are seeing now in terms of people getting into local, small-scale agriculture is the tip of the iceberg. I love knowing that my money goes to local, family farmers who are trying to raise animals responsibly. Plus, the product is far better than what you get the average grocery store. We conducted side-by-side taste tests with the pastured meats and conventionally-raised meat bought in the grocery. Amazing difference. Further, cost-wise when it's all said and done when buying in bulk the consumer is really not paying all that much more (at least for pork and beef) per pound than you would at the store.
  5. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Image is everything. Nice articles in the local paper or an open house so your customers can come snoop around once a year will go over better than asking them to help process. People are lazy. When word got out we were processing, people came from miles around wanting all kinds of wierd things done and they didn't want to pay much. They were, basically, people who got the small farm dream but didn't really want to do the hard work (too gross, stupid, and dirty). They thought that because they already had $6 into their chicken that it wasn't fair for us to charge $3 more to clean it.
    It is good living near a university because the more intelligent people will be your best customers.
    What worked best for us was the "egg route." It was kinda like the Swan's guys.
    You slowly build customers to your route. We carried eggs, sausage, pork cuts, beef cuts, honey, rabbits and promoted and took orders for the Thanksgiving turkey's.
    I didn't have enough help to keep it going but the customers loved it and it was fun to get out once a week for some talk with smart people. Ask your customers to tell others about you. They will and you will grow. Produce ponzi scheme?
    Be careful using the buzz words. Many smart people see them for the b.s. that they are. (organic, free range, hormone free, all natural, locally grown and produced, etc..) Invite them out to see how you do what you do.
    P.S.- There's no such thing as "low-investment livestock."
    Locally produced in Rochester usually means it came from the wholsale market in Buffalo and vice versa.
    I've even witnessed produce from southern countries make it up here to large packing houses where it is transferred to boxes with local markings.
    It's a mess out there people. Be careful.
  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Doesn't sound like a bad idea, though I don't know about letting the customer help - at least some might tend to not have the stomach for it (and you don't need customers barfing on the equipment :sick: ) not to mention the risk / liability if they put hands where they shouldn't and start butchering their fingers along with the critter... The other obvious question that would need to be looked into is what sort of extra gov't regulations you might be getting into if you start providing any sort of butchering / processing service....

    However the basic idea of raising organic or even just "better than grocery store" critters and selling them does seem like a good approach, especially the "pre-book" idea - though for some larger animals it might make sense to let people pre-book for just part of an animal, or for so many pounds of meat - with the understanding that the animal doesn't get done in till it's all sold, as this gives a more predictable income....

    Given the premium that people seem to be willing to pay for organic, etc. sorts of groceries, it would seem to me like this might be a good way to make up for the limitations of small scale production - smaller numbers of animals, but more per each one...

    We haven't really looked into it in depth, but the idea of pre-booking a cow or pig to fill our freezer does have some appeal to it.

    Gooserider
  7. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    There is a coffee shop in Philly called Mug Shots (its across from the old Eastern State Prison) who serves free-range bacon. Its the best bacon i've ever had. They buy it from a farm in Lancaster Co. The shop is always crowded and they actually have a buyers club and buy the bacon in bulk and sell it to the club members.
  8. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Gooserider - I think that for both the pastured pork and beef that we got last year it averaged a little over $3/pound - that's for a huge mix of stuff - lots of ground in both cases (we get sausage with the pork) of course, many roasts, steaks, ribs, soup bones, and then bacon, hams, etc. Plus, if you buy in bulk the chances are the butcher will package however you want - you get to specify how many pounds of ground meat or sausage per package, how thick the steaks are cut, etc. My wife loves this aspect of it. Plus, it's a great feeling looking into that full freezer.

    BucksCoBernie - I feel the same way about the bacon we get. It's cut thicker, has less fat, and is incredibly tasty. Is that how the bacon is in the coffee shop?

    This is ridiculous - must go cook dinner, thread is making me hungry.
  9. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I had the bacon from the local small farm near me once. It was delicious, and nothing like the any grocery store stuff.
  10. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    Yes Tim, the bacon is exactly how you described it. There's nothing better...well unless the pig was dipped in chocolate haha.
  11. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    It occurred to me last night while hauling in the days tomatoes that the acreage isn't the issue, time is. Given that we are both currently enslaved, 10K sq ft seems to be more than enough for us. The transition to 10 acres is going to require a good plan and big cojones or retirement.
  12. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Yup, you hit the nail on the head. I'd either have to win the lottery and execute "operation endless Saturday" or transition to an entirely new form of employment to make geniune use of more land than we currently have.

    However, that sentiment covers "needs". I'd still like to have more land simply for more space, my own woodlot, space for my kids to roam, etc. But that's a "want".

    On a related note, I brought in perhaps 30 pounds of tomotatoes last night also, much to my wife's dismay. Just two days prior she finished tomato sauce batch #5 (which we freeze). We are now about out of space for more sauce and might have to can this next batch. Last year the tomatoes did very poorly. This year, even with a touch of blight, we are doing very well.
  13. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I just met someone yesterday who has 100 acres. That's his job. Paid for and he cuts about 30 cord/yr with some timber. Retired at 45 and does side jobs as a plumber.
  14. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    I would have to make money with the land or be in a position to retire, 30 cord wouldn't even pay the property taxes here. There is a big jump, in my head anyway, from heating the house with wood and growing the produce we consume anyway to supporting ourselves off the land. Land as a luxury, that's all good, just have to work more to pay for it.

    Tim, the tomatoes have been treating us well this year too. Makes up for getting wiped out last year. We came close to buying tomato products which is heresy here.
  15. Mushroom Man

    Mushroom Man Member

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    We made the jump in January 2008. We are in our third growing season. A wise person once said "Be careful what you wish for...you might just get it" or something like that. A similar warning "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is" was one my Mom recounted.

    The quote that struck a chord with me was "Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff."

    There are advantages and disadvantages to country life and in my mind the country wins...hands down; but farming is a tough profession. It is not for the risk averse and is definitely more work than most city dwellers have been exposed to.

    There is so much to learn, so many obstacles to overcome that there are few hours left for "west and wewaxation".

    We left the big city (Toronto) and now live 20 km from anywhere on a 100 acre farm. It is scenic and quiet and clean with 40 acres of woods and 60 acres of farmland but the farmland was allowed to slide and has a lot of undesirable growth (grass, saplings, red cedars and weeds)

    Before growing any crops we've had to re-clear the land and we're only up to 15 acres cleared for crops in 3 years. There is 14 acres of pasture and there is 5 more in a paddock where horses were kept by the previous owner.

    I've had to work 3 days a week off the farm to sustain us and that is a subsistance living.

    We heat with wood that I cut. We have two wells and septic. We grow about half of our food and have really low taxes relative to our city dwelling.

    We grow mushrooms (inside the barn), sweet potatoes and wheat (to support the mushrooms.) It is a 7 day per week operation.

    I've had one full day off in 3 years. I went sailing for half a day on my sailboat, that finally saw the water again after 3 years. That may have been it for sailing for this year. Harvest approaches.

    I actually am not complaining. I like it. It is just more work than I expected. It can be both gratifying and disappointing depending upon attitude

    Make sure you allow for the longer work days and more of them. We have made ourselves more resilient, more self-reliant but at a cost. Our comfortable way of life is no more.
  16. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Great story shroom and best of luck with the dream. Eastern Ontario is beautiful country although I always enjoy sailing across the lake and parking in the shadow of the CN Tower.
  17. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Ya, Mushroom Man- sometimes the "simple life aint so simple", I guess.

    I work full time in high tech, then come home and make pottery, sell it in galleries and in shows on the weekend. I LOVE it, but I walk through the door, eat, make pots, go to bed, get up and go to my regular job. I hope to build up to an early retirement and have the business humming along for maintenance cash.

    If it was full time pottery (wood fired), then I'd be cutting wood, getting hardcore about my garden, etc.- working harder than I ever did, but probably loving it. Wife works full time for insurance anyhoo.
  18. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    Back to the OP's letter to his kids. I don't know how old they were when he wrote it, but it really got me thinking about my generation (I'm 29).

    Point 1 - Learn some skills...you just may need them someday. Most (not all, but most) of my friends/colleagues can't even change their own oil, mow their own grass, or wire an outlet. They've got a college education but are completely dependent on others for the simplest of tasks.

    Point 2 - Get out of suburbia. Just the opposite. Everyone either buys the big house in the cookie-cutter subdivision or rents an appt. If they have a house, they are in deep on a mortgage in a volatile and declining housing market. An appt does afford them the opportunity to do anything productive with it.

    Point 3 - Investments. What investments? A tiny work-sponsored 401k and a mountain of mortgage and student loans does not an investment make. I am the generation of prolonged negative net worth.

    I am the only one who has a stove...at best they have some gas logs for ambiance. If the power goes out for a week in the winter because of an ice storm, or whatever, they are up the creek.

    I am the only one with a garden. I don't have much land (3 acres), but if it came down to it I could probably get by pretty well with it. I haven't bought a vegtable from the store in 2 months because of our garden. I have apples, blueberries, and strawberries (from my land) in the freezer. I'll put 2-3 deer in the freezer this fall (hunting on my dad's land).

    I can maintain my home and vehicles. Repair man/shop for the smallest issue for others.

    The list goes on.

    I'm not trying to get down on anyone here...or pat my own back. Just trying make a point: I know I'm far from self-sufficient, but I'm Amish compared to most of the people my age. And this is coming from rural Indiana (God's country!).
  19. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Sorry, but this post is getting off track. You can SURVIVE, MAYBE, on 10 acres. But it ain't gonna be pretty. I don't know about the rest of you, but my women would be cutting me up 3 days after I ran out of hot water.
  20. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    For me the essence of this thread is the romanticism of a simpler past (whether or not it existed), which expresses a value of living more in community with nature in a sustainable manner, combined with a genuine desire to achieve greater meaning in life through relationship with others and with the environment upon which all living things depend. Many of us, me included, realize a certain satisfaction from such simple things as using CFL's as opposed to incandescent bulbs; or driving a 35 mpg car vs a 20 mpg vehicle; or having really fresh vegetables and fruit from our back yards vs imports from who knows where laden with who knows what chemicals and hormones; etc.

    A fact that I have learned from experience with such simple things is that life can be far more economical, far less stressful, and far more satisfying that it previously was; which in turn has allowed my wife and I to be far more generous with our children, community, and charity - which includes giving of far more time to these important relationships.

    One bottom line is no more than coming to the realization that a person can never have "enough" until the person realizes that "having things" beyond some minimum amount does not equate with quality of life. While that minimum amount may be far different for a 1st world country resident as opposed to a resident of a 3rd world country, a point is that the minimum amount is far less than what our culture and media tells us we "need."
  21. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    Good point. My philosophy along these lines is this. Here in New Jersey if you have $800K to drop on a piece of property, the culture and the media tells you that you should spend that money on a 5000 square foot house with 12' ceilings on a 1/2 acre lot in an area with blue ribbon schools and an easy commute to Philadelphia or New York so that you can sustain the cost of the many thousands of dollars per month to power, heat, cool, maintain, etc...the McMansion you just bought. On the flipside of this, I could take that $800K and buy a modest ranch home on 10 acres with hardly any mortgage, heat it basically for free, and pay a normal electric bill every month. Not to mention what the land would give me in return in terms of firewood and food.

    My wife and I are pretty simple people-we spend most weekends doing chores around the house or not straying very far. We're blessed with living in an area where state and county parks abound so most leisure time is spent with her and the dog at any number of forests or lakes, all free entertainment. I will admit that a major motivation that I have for having 10 acres or so of land is hunting rights-they're not easy to come by in this state. Public land can get unbelievably crowded to the point where it can even be unsafe. Others literally pay hundreds and even thousands per year to join clubs or lease land, something I would never even consider. Venison should cost no more than a license fee and a shotgun shell. The other problem with public land is the fact that treestands have a habit of walking off, which also cuts into profit margin. It's not uncommon to lose 3 or 4 stands to theft in a matter of years here. If I had enough land between the 6 day firearm season with a bag limit of two bucks, and a permit season that lasts nearly 30 days with no bag limit on does I could easily supply enough venison for my entire family to last the whole year. We eat pretty simply too, so between venison, backyard eggs, backyard chickens and turkeys, and garden veggies we could make a decent dent in the grocery bill as well.
  22. Mushroom Man

    Mushroom Man Member

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    There are many life lessons in the book Ten Acres Enough. The one that struck me as tremendously important was the value of manure. This farmer spent more on manure than anything else.

    I end up buying a lot of crap too, because I live with a wife and two daughters, but no manure.

    His discovery of the value of liquid manure and its relatively higher value was an eye opener. Imagine raising cattle for no other reason than to extract value from their excrement.

    For many people on this thread, the book speaks to them from simpler times and presents a beautiful picture of a happy loving family, working together. It shows a resilient lifestyle unburdened by debts and oppressive government interventions.

    For me its all about liquid manure and the high value therein.

    P.S. There is no manure in the mushroom substrate that we use.
  23. Burn-1

    Burn-1 Feeling the Heat

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    One of my favorite sites on the web has been the Soil and Health Library. It contains many more old books and out of prints in the vein of Ten Acres Enough.

    I've really enjoyed reading Ralph Borsodi's, ( he was a contemporary of Scott and Helen Nearing), Flight from the City recently.
  24. PitPat

    PitPat New Member

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    I agree with this.
    I found it a very enjoyable read and it provided me with a lot of insights. Some of the comments in thread have been a little confusing. To be clear, the author is NOT saying that people could produce everything that they need to survive on 10 acres. He raised a market crop and depended on the cash that those crops brought in to acquire the things that they did not produce themselves. What he is arguing is that in the 1850s it was possible to support a family on the fruits and berries raised on 10 acres of a suburban fruit farm through intensive cultivation and the heavy use of different manures.

    The big lesson that I took away from it was to take advantage of the opportunities available to you in the time and the place in which you live. The author of 10 acres was able to make a decent living by capitalizing on the changes in his area, namely the newly formed connections between towns and communities brought by the expansion of railroads and gravel turnpikes. That particular market is no longer there, now big cities are flooded with fruit flown in from central and south america. I think a fruit farmer in the suburbs outside of new york would have a much tougher time supporting a family in this age. But there are still opportunities out there for people who, like the author of the book, are forward looking and hardworking. There is a pick-your-own blueberry patch near me that isn't much more than 10 acres and is always busy. I don't know how they do money-wise, but whenever I leave there I can't stop thinking "I need to find a way to work from my front porch in my rocking chair while people come over and pick my fields and give me money.
  25. PitPat

    PitPat New Member

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    Oh, and thank you to the original poster for bring this book to my attention, it was a very enjoyable read.
    Its amusing hearing the anecdotes about surviving the great economic uncertainties of the times. Without the dates and the style of writing it would have been difficult to tell that he wasn't talking about the 21st century U.S. economy.

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