If you are like most of us, you have a day job. For some people that makes gardening and livestock chores just a little more like work than fun. After all, the number of days you have are limited and other demands such as family and friends consume your time, too. Never mind about the unplanned or unexpected events that soak up that last free minute.
For these reasons, and even if you don’t have a job outside the home or farm, the most successful people plan their meat and produce production. While the process is simple it’s also complicated. Canning a year’s supply of tomatoes while you hear the noisy chickens in the backyard that need processed could add a little more stress than you need.
The most important things you need for planning your food supply are a good memory, a pencil with a good eraser and a calendar with large spaces for writing.
Keep your calendars from year to year, making notes on the results and what you do differently each year. Did you run out of your favorite veggies last year? Was the bean yield worth the cost of production? Did you end up giving away more produce than you wanted? Could you have sold them instead of giving them all away? How about chickens? Did you have more or less than you wanted? Could you have given to charity or needy people instead of employed people?
Once you have written down how much of each produce you will need, calculate the anticipated yield for each product and plant accordingly. If you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to stagger your planting, you might need to do it the old fashioned way and share your bounty with trusted friends who are willing to can for you in their kitchens.
While harvesting, keep track of how much you harvest daily. When you grocery shop, check and record the grocery store price of the produce or meat. If the produce is not available locally, look up online ads for big chain grocery stores to help price those things. It might seem like a chore, but do it anyway.
Pricing information is important for a few reasons. First, it allows you to see the fruits of your labor in terms of dollars and cents. That is important because you need to know that your efforts pay off. Second, if you decide to sell your products, you will know how to set your prices. Be sure to set prices higher than grocery stores because your products are a higher quality product. Third, you will know the value of losses should a disaster destroy your crops. This is most important if you register your farm stand business for tax purposes and buy insurance for this purpose.
Is this beginning to sound like a business? Yep. You bet it is. Why? Because if you look at it from a business perspective, even just a few times a year, you will quickly figure out what you need to change to get the most out of your livestock and garden with the least time and money investment. People think you need many acres of land to grow produce to sell on the market. It’s not true. Both chain and independent grocery stores purchase produce from local growers. It’s a win-win for them. They get good will, freshest and highest quality produce and you get money and appreciation for your crops.
In my region, we only have two grocery stores to choose from in a 40 mile radius. One of them, H.E.B., also has a woman-owned business policy to encourage women to become entrepreneurs.
While most of us know we don’t garden or raise livestock for business purposes, we also know we need to be as efficient with our resources as possible. It would be nice to know if we could make a living doing what we love. By running your garden plot and barnyard as a small business, registering it as a D.B.A., and getting a tax number, you can also take advantage of buying some items wholesale which will drive down your costs and increase profit. Everything from seed to livestock feed may become less expensive. Business expenses are deductible too. Sure, there are some extra pieces of paper to file here and there, but the benefits could far outweigh the effort.