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How to earn extra money in the country.

These are possibilities, not necessarily suggestions. Prices, addresses and web sites were as of the reference date and may not be current.

Alterations and custom clothing production

If you are handy with needle and thread or a sewing machine, a clothing alteration or custom/period clothing making service could be run out of the home, garage or in a small area of a commercial store. Examples are making alterations to wedding dresses or making Halloween costumes, square dance outfits and period dress for historic reenactments.

A family-owned convenience store in an area where I once lived had a small alteration shop in one corner and always seemed to be busy. Locally, the owner of a small dress shop did alternations until she closed the shop on retirement and always seemed to be busy.

I was once at a combination flea/ farmers market where a woman had a sewing machine set-up in a van. While she did some on-the-site sewing, most was accepting work to be returned the next week.

Selling your own designs is another possibility. The December 26, 1996 issue of The Tennessean reported one woman who does this and sells her silk-screening designs at a flea market. Sales in her first two years averaged $5,000.

The February 9, 1997 issue of The Tennessean included an article on a couple who make ice-skating outfits for their daughter. They then expanded to make outfits for friends of hers and now have a good side-business doing consulting, design and outfit production for many of the competitors on the U.S. figure skating circuit.

I am told a hot market on eBay is maternity clothing. Here you could use only a couple of patterns, but different fabric material and patterns.

Assembly subcontractor

Check with department and other retail stores in your area to determine if they are interested in subcontracting assembly of such items as bikes and barbecue grills. Some stores are going this route, rather than paying an employee to do it, since they do not also have to pay for many health and other benefits.

Baby-sitter referral service

While most common in metropolitan areas, baby sitting and nanny referral services provide a needed service. The draw of these businesses is their convenience. Parents get access to a pool of prescreened sitters with a single phone call.

Generally the service charges a fee for a referral with the sitter paid separately. In the Nashville, Tennessee area, which has a very tight labor market, the referral fee runs from $8.50 to $10 and sitters are paid $7 to $9 an hour. Each sitter has been prescreened with a criminal and reference check, must be at least 21 years of age and have previous child-care experience. Many employ educators or others looking for extra work on nights and weekends and some are able to work almost full-time by registering with several agencies.

Some services also provide overnight, extended period, sick-child, elderly or disabled adult and pet sitting.

Bale pine or wheat straw

If you have a planted pine lot, baling pine needles for sale to landscapers or garden centers would be an option. Up to 150 bales of pine straw can be harvested per acre with a retail price of $4-$8 per bale. If the trees were planted far enough apart it would allow regular-size windrows and baling equipment to operate.

One Almyra, Arkansas farmer bales the straw residue after wheat harvesting and sells it for $3.25 per bale to the racehorse trade for bedding. A crop yielding 60 bushels of wheat per acre will yield about 60 bales of straw for an additional gross income of some $195 per acre. Additional sales opportunities are landscape and garden stores and the local or state highway department for mulch and for erosion control on critical areas. You do not necessarily have to be a wheat farmer to take advantage of this. Perhaps one will let you bale and haul off the straw for a nominal charge per bale.

Boarding kennel or pet sitting/ petsitting service

Many pet owners turn to boarding kennels or professional pet sitters when there isn't a neighbor or relative available to care for their precious companion.

Rates for kennels often range from $14 to $24 for dogs and $9 to $13 for cats per day, depending on the level of service provided. Pet owners also can pay for additional services such as grooming, brushing, baths, walks, training and playtime. Some kennels also let owners bring in their own pet's beds and food.

Buying poultry for resale

One guy in North-central Florida puts a classified advertisement in the local paper to the effect, "WANTED: Large roosters, will pay up to $2.00 each. Also buying hens, ducks, rabbits, cages and supplies. Call XXX-XXX-XXX." He noted fairly often people will just give him equipment and excess roosters just to get rid of them. What he accumulates goes to a weekly livestock auction. He tries not to pick up what he finds until the day before the auction so he only has to care for them for one day. Sometimes he might go to the auction with 15-20 birds, other times he might have 100 or more.

The November/December 2005 issue of COUNTRYSIDE included a letter from a reader who does something similar. After the local county fair she places a classified ad to the effect, "Will give home to unwanted livestock. Poultry, rabbits, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, cattle, etc. No dogs or cats please--we have enough. Call XXX-XXXX." When someone calls she makes it very clear she is not an animal sanctuary and the donated livestock will likely end up eaten, bartered or sold. Some do find a place on her homestead though. She said she ends up with many 4-H projects when the raiser no longer wants the animal.

Cake baking and decorating

A distant relative of mine bakes and decorates several wedding cakes a month. A former coworker's wife bakes and decorates cakes for such occasions as birthdays, anniversaries and retirements. Cake decoration is often taught at adult night schools and similar places. However, check local health regulations since you may need a separate, dedicated kitchen to make products for direct retail sale.

Deck maintenance

Wood decks are now a very popular addition to houses. However, they require periodic maintenance, which has lead to small businesses in various areas of the country specializing in this service. Generally the deck is pressure washed with a chemical compound to clean it and then coated with a sealer. Prices currently run around 75 cents per square foot to clean and seal.

Ethnic slaughter plant

Volume 33, No. 2 of Farm Show includes an item on an individual in Clayton, Indiana who provides a slaughter shed for various ethnic groups. It caters to a growing number of people who, for personal and/or religious reasons, want "kill-it-yourself meat."

He obtains the goats/kids and sheep/lambs from area farmers and resells them. They do the killing and the skinning and then his part-time employees can help them cut up the meat.

Check with your local county agricultural agent on what state rules and regulations may be required.

Garage sale leftovers

I have now heard several firsthand reports of people having simple business cards made up to hand out at all of the garage sales they can locate on a weekend. The cards read something along the lines of "Your Garage/Yard Sale Leftovers Hauled Away Free. XXX-XXXX." What is collected is sorted and items with a resale potential kept, while the rest is appropriately discarded or recycled. This can be very lucrative if done in the high-end neighborhoods of a large community. One person said someone gave them a couch which originally cost several thousand dollars simply because it didn't sell and it was keeping their car out of their garage.

Handyman service

One Dayton, Ohio area small home repair business is called Rent-A-Husband (part of a national chain), another is called The Man About the House and a third, the Handyman Network. They specialize in small or odd jobs which regular construction companies are not interested in. Most of their customers have the ability to do the jobs themselves, but lack the time or motivation to do so.

The Handyman Network offers a written three-year guarantee on workmanship, guaranteed written price, materials at cost and $25 if the handyman they provide is late for an appointment.


Homestead, home or farm sitting

In western Ohio several people have started homestead and farm sitting services for times when the owners need (or want) to be out of the area. The average age of farmers is increasing, meaning many no longer have children available to help out, and they may not even have any farming neighbors. For a homestead with one milk cow or a couple of goats and other livestock, arranging for their care during vacations or other times can be difficult.

Those providing these services meet with the owners beforehand, make an itemized list of work to be done (including milking, feeding livestock, moving livestock between pastures and other chores) and then guarantee performance. This service could also include living on the farm during the owner's absence.

If you live in an area with a large population of "snowbirds" (people who go a warmer climate for the winter) becoming a caretaker for their unoccupied house in your area may be a possibility. Services provided might be checking several times a week to ensure it has not been broken into, watering plants periodically, picking up and forwarding mail, etc.

House and/or pet sitting seems to be an excellent opportunity for retirees to supplement their income.

Farm-fresh eggs

If you live on a busy road leading into an urban area, check out the feasibility of selling naturally-produced, farm-fresh eggs from hens allowed to forage for much of their own food. If you have never tasted eggs from free-ranging chickens, I can only describe their difference from cage-confined ones as similar to the difference between sun-ripened tomatoes fresh from the garden and those you get from supermarkets (which are normally picked green and artificially ripened).

One of my sisters and her husband lived for a while on the farm of his parents in Missouri. She said their eggs tasted funny to her at first. I asked if it was because they had a taste to them, compared to the supermarket ones. She acknowledged they did.

Options include selling out of a porch refrigerator on an honor system basis, home delivery, wholesaling to local small groceries and sales to restaurants. These eggs normally sell at a slight premium compared to the regular supermarket price due to their organic-like nature and significantly better taste. If selling to a local small store, furnish them with a metal egg basket and suggest they sell eggs, customer choice, out of the basket rather than by a prepackaged dozen. I suspect they will sell far more. (Please note: Eggs sales are regulated by each state's Department of Agriculture. Rules and regulations vary greatly from state to state so learn what is allowed in your particular state.)

For information on marketing eggs produced from hens which free-range in pastures see Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin, available from the Countryside Bookstore.

Although Joel started out selling eggs directly to consumers for normal supermarket prices, at one time he sold them to several restaurants and health food stores at more than double normal wholesale costs from an egg factory. The restaurants recoup their higher cost by a table card which advises breakfast patrons for an additional25 cents per egg they will provide farm-fresh eggs (resulting in about $2.50 per dozen over the egg price already built into the menu). I have seen farm-fresh eggs priced up to $6 per dozen at health food stores.

(If someone in the family works in a city with several health food stores, perhaps they can act as a farm-fresh egg broker, obtaining them locally and then delivering them as needed during the week.)

I think the table card concept, with you providing it, is a terrific idea! On one trip, I stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House restaurant, which included two medium-size, tasteless eggs. I would have gladly paid 50 cents extra, only about 10% of the total bill, for two large- to jumbo-size, farm-fresh eggs.

I suspect there may also be a market for farm-fresh eggs at upscale restaurants, which are used to paying premium prices for quality. Bring by say two dozen eggs and ask the chef to prepare a simple omelet two ways, one with your eggs and one with eggs from his normal supplier. If they can taste a significant difference you may have found a sales outlet providing your supply is consistent.

An option may be to pickle boiled eggs and sell them to taverns. Across the bar they are usually 99 cents each, or about $12 per dozen. Even selling at 50 cents each, that is $6 per dozen and the pickling ingredients don't cost much. You may be able to obtain large jars at restaurants or local schools. In my local supermarket a 16 ounce jar of pickled eggs (about a dozen medium eggs) is $5.20.

As a novelty consideration, natural eggs come in colors other than white and brown. The Araucana breed lays eggs in several pastel colors, although most will be olive-drab.

If someone in the family works in an office building, don't overlook the market for farm-fresh eggs among coworkers. Perhaps sponsor an office Easter egg hunt and games at your place.

Also in Pastured Poultry ProfitS Joel Salatin tells of taking 60 dozen eggs to a local AARP meeting. One-half were given away as door prizes and the rest sold. This resulted in several new customers for them.

Egg sales need not be restricted to poultry. On one of the tv cooking shows one chef used hard-boiled quail eggs in a salad.


Some sources of egg cartons are Iowa Packaging, PO Box 99, Mason City, IA 50401-0099; Tenneco Packaging, 7670 Airport Dr., Macon, GA 31297; the Stromberg's catalog (800-720-1134), the Nasco catalog (800-558-9595) and www.eggcartons. com. Minimum order for the first three is 250 cartons. Get a price quote from all of them. Also try your local farm supply store to see if they can be special ordered. You can also do a Internet search using the key words "egg cartons."

Being able to certify your eggs as organic may be a sales plus.

While the American Pastured Poultry Producers' Association is primarily focused on the production and sale of pasture-raised broilers, they also cover the sale of farm-fresh eggs. Mentioned in their Fall/Winter 1997 newsletter is the possibility of using the spent hens (after their second year of laying) as a complimentary enterprise to pasture-raised broilers with these sold as stewing hens. Also included in this issue is sample advertisiment from one place which uses an "adopt a chicken" concept to sell both farm-fresh eggs and composted chicken manure for $70 for 40 dozen eggs plus 10 gallons of composted manure, $38 for 20 dozen and five gallons or $25 for 13 dozen and one gallon.

Night restocking/security guard

If you have businesses in your area which are not open at night, such as supermarkets, approach them about a job as a combination night stocking clerk and security guard. In this manner, their shelves get restocked while someone is in the building to deter break-ins. Mention having someone on the premises at night may decrease their insurance rates to offset a portion of your salary.

On-call motel maid

Motels have difficulties in maid staffing in that their room occupancy rate is seldom consistent. For many, weekends may have them full, but they are almost empty during much of the week. Consider dropping off maid applications to be on call, not only for peak occupancy, but also for fill in for other maids. Charge may be by the hour or by the room.

In the New Johnsonville, Tennessee area several motels are booked solid up to a year in advance for fishing tournaments on Kentucky Lake. One offers a lower room rental price with no maid service during the tournament. Guests must come to the office to exchange towels and pick up additional toilet paper and other bathroom supplies. Since the motel is virtually empty after the tournament, rooms can be cleaned somewhat at leisure.

Paint gun battlefield

When the paint gun craze started some years ago I thought it was a fad which would quickly pass. However, it has endured and grown to where there are now organized teams which compete on weekends. Some enterprising individuals have set up paint gun battlefields on which two teams play the equivalent of capture the flag or last man standing with a set time period, normally one hour. These battlefields can include bunkers, ditches, car bodies, culverts and other similar emplacements.

I'm told fees are about $25 per person if they bring all of their own equipment, up to $75 per person if everything is provided. Almost all courses sell paint gun equipment and supplies, and teams can run through several hundred paint balls in an hour. Thus, if two 10-man teams compete at the minimum charge, it might generate at least $500 in revenue for the hour. Thus, revenue for a weekend could run into several thousand dollars. Other revenue sources might be a snack stand, overnight lodging or a laundry facility to remove paint "wounds" between battles.

If interested, I recommend participating in the sport and going to as many different facilities as possible to get an idea of their set-up and operation.

Pet cemetery

People can become so attached to their pets they want the equivalent of a human burial for them, complete with casket and marker. Some even visit the gravesite on a regular basis. Burial and perpetual care typically costs $850 to $1,550 including plot, hard plastic casket and marker. A cement vault would increase the cost. For those pet cemeteries which provide the service, pick-up, cremation and return of the ashes runs about $350.

If you are near a sizable city, have a good site for a pet cemetery and are willing to put a permanent land use restriction on your deed, this could be an attractive sideline, including making your own ground-level markers (to make mowing easier). This service could also include picking up, washing and grooming dead pets which the owners are too grief-stricken to handle themselves. Due to abuses at some pet cemeteries, the owners should be encouraged to attend and participate in the burial service, such as putting a favorite toy in the casket before burial.

There are less than 400 pet cemeteries in the U.S. Only a couple of states have pet cemetery statutes to ensure they are permanent and operated properly.

Portable bait and tackle shop

If you live near a heavily used public boat landing and there are no convenient bait and tackle shops nearby, a possibility may exist to provide a portable one on weekends out of a mobile concession-type trailer, converted recreational vehicle or small house trailer. Snack foods could also be offered.

Licensed care provider

With the increase of the elderly choosing to stay home, and not live in nursing homes, there is a steady increase in need for licensed care providers. This can require driving them to appointments, shopping for/with them, preparing meals, companionship and can naturally graduate into higher level care.

You can likely check with your local community health care/social office for state qualification/licensing requirements.


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Title Annotation:Homestead finances
Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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