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A farm store can work for you: (and other ways to make money on your homestead!).

It started almost by accident a few years ago.

Terry, one of my neighbors (well, he lives about a mile away but that's a neighbor in the country!) said he was tired of having to wait until I was home to ring the doorbell to buy my "fresh eggs from happy chickens."

He had an old refrigerator in an out building that he wasn't using so he brought it over and we hooked it up on my carport.

I installed a handy glass fruit jar and a sign telling people to "help yourself" to the eggs and leave your money in the jar and it began. Everybody joked about the "cold hard cash" in the jar inside the fridge--but it worked!

That money really helped out on my feed bill so I started thinking, if I had a little table nearby I could display some of my goat milk soap and maybe sell a little bit of that.

My husband always says you can almost see the wheels turning in my brain when I start thinking about a project.

Before I put the table out I decided to clean out the 10 x 10 room I was then using as a pantry and turn it into a small farm store. The room opens directly onto my carport so the location has many benefits.

I had already checked with our state's Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Health and determined I could legally sell my eggs directly from the farm to other individuals; I just couldn't sell them for resale and not to restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

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In our county and state, you can go to the extension service at the beginning of each year and get a free "grower's permit." That permit allows you to legally sell whatever you have listed at any farmers market within our state.

I obtained a permit (and now get one every year) and listed my homemade goat milk soap, various jellies, dried herbs, vegetables I hoped to grow, items made from my Angora rabbit fur (that spinning and learning is still in progress!), and anything else I could think of that I produced on the farm. (You will need to check with your local and state authorities on what rules and regulations would govern your area.)

At the top of my permit is a copy of the state law that notes that farm selling is legal. A couple of years after I began the little farm store, one of our county's inspectors said he'd been aiming to come by and see me because I hadn't bought a county license.

I pulled out the permit and read him the quote from the state law showing a license wasn't required and he was amazed. He said he'd known certain things were exempt but wasn't sure what!

At first I basically just had some of my soap and some homemade jellies there. Listening to our local free radio Swap Shop one day, I heard a woman offer to give away several large boxes of craft supplies and fabric. She said she had to move in a hurry and would give the boxes to anyone with a truck who would pick them up that day.

Of course husband said they couldn't be worth anything if they were free, but I phoned the woman and made a straight line to her home. My small pickup's bed was soon filled.

When I got the boxes home I found panel after panel of beautiful fabric to make baby quilts, lap quilts, and more.

Of course my brain's little wheels began whirring. I started making baby quilts as fast as I could sew. I was never sitting down for any length of time without a quilt in my lap.

Many are whole-cloth quilts (meaning the front is made basically from one panel). But I use a yardstick to draw lines making either one-inch or two-inch squares and I quilt those. The first year I sold more than $2,000 worth of those little quilts!

Now I make sure I attend as many estate sales as possible and have bought all sorts of fabric and sewing supplies for next to nothing.

My husband's little family electrical business was doing some work at a store which was moving most of their goods. He called to let me know they had a table of fabric for $1 a yard. I didn't have much money but of course went to look.

The store was already closed and the owner said I could have everything on the table for $35! There were bolts and bolts and bolts of fabric! He was running out of time and just needed it out of the way.

It took me all afternoon to unload my truck that time. There were several one-to-10 yard remnants and about 35 complete bolts of beautiful fabric. I have since visited the man's other store location and found identical pieces of cloth on sale there for up to $9 per yard! So the quilting continues.

I found a good buy on flour sack dishtowels and I began embroidering and painting animals and other designs on them, and they sell as well.

Instead of leaving the flour sack towels open, as I've seen others do, I fold them over and sew them together after I finish the designs which makes a neat appearance and a slightly thicker towel.

I also found a simple apron design, but putting the binding around the edges was time-consuming and nerve shattering to me. So I altered the design. I sew the ties for around the neck and the sides toward the inside. Put right sides together (usually a print for the front and a solid color fabric for the back) and sew the sides and top together. I then turn them right-side out, meaning the ties are now on the right side, and I turn the hems inside and hem the bottom. They feature a pocket on the front (sewn on before the sides are sewn together) and sell like hotcakes, especially at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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Likewise knitted scarves and hats sell well at Christmas and baby items sell well all year.

I bought several rubber-type molds to make special Valentine and Christmas goat milk soaps to have on hand in addition to my regular bars.

My herbs grow well every year. I grow them in pots and containers. I used to dry them on cookie sheets in my gas oven with only the pilot light on. (They'll also dry on a screen hung over your woodburning stove or heater.) But I advertised on the free Swap Shop again, asking for a dehydrator and got a fantastic used one for only $30 from the retired man who used to be my pediatric dentist.

Sage is always my best seller so each year I try to grow a little more of that. But there's also some oregano, catnip, mint, parsley, and sometimes some basil in tiny bags in my store as well.

Because of several factors, my vegetable garden the past couple of years leaves a lot to be desired, but that is about to change. I'm building a small greenhouse on the side of one of my farm buildings and will hopefully be selling started tomato and pepper plants by this spring. (And I am the one building it--just 4' x 4' posts and 2 x 4's covered in plastic. It won't be square, but it will serve the purpose, and the plants won't care.)

Anything I have extra in my garden is always put out to sell and it always sells almost immediately.

I even have some of my photography on sale, in frames I pick up at estate sales or at discount stores. Folks love photos of old farm buildings and our county's covered bridges. I sell quite a few greeting cards too, made simply on my computer using my original photography.

Does this all sound like a hodgepodge of items? You bet.

But wise people always say "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

My little Old Field Farm is located on a state highway but not a particularly busy one. I have signs in my yard noting my "fresh eggs from happy chickens" and other items, and folks stop. In the spring when I have an unusual amount of eggs, I put a little $10 ad in our weekly newspaper and that brings in extra folks, who usually then become regular customers.

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I'm here most of the time and the little store is open "daylight hours, seven days a week." When I'm not available, there's a fruit jar on the shelf in front of the window in the little store (just like the jar in the fridge) and folks leave their money there.

I've been doing this for close to seven years now and haven't lost any money yet. (I check the jars often.)

I have virtually no overhead because the little room was just sitting there anyway. But if you don't have such a room, a corner of your carport, a canopy-type tent closer to the road, or even the back of a pickup truck could even work.

People crave homegrown food and the quality of homemade items. (And if you're too remote, a farmers market or swap meet might work as well. Just check to see what you're allowed to sell.)

I listen to what my customers suggest. They wanted unusual jellies; so while I continue to make blackberry, grape, and apple from fruits grown on my farm, this year Rose Petal Jelly and Honeysuckle Jelly have sold out as fast as I make it!

I've also made and sold out of tomato jelly and mint jelly. (Getting both those recipes from back issues of COUNTRYSIDE.)

The majority of my customers bring back their jelly jars and their egg cartons, and that saves me even more money.

So start thinking! Get your wheels to turning. There is money to be made on your homestead.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Blount County, Alabama

www.suzysfarm.com
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Author:Geno, Suzy Lowry
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:1687
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