Off-Farm Income



Entrepreneurship is the only option

If you want to farm, the further away from a major city you can get the more the land prices will reflect on their production capability.  But, there will be fewer jobs available to you, likely with lower salaries.

How will you produce your off-farm income?  92% of farmers in the U.S. rely on it for household income, either created by themselves or their spouse.

If you are going to take a full-time job, what do you do when you need time for farm management activities?

  • calving
  • Irrigation
  • raking hay
  • swathing
  • harvest
  • etc.

If you are making a big transition from a city career to a rural & farming lifestyle you might have skills and/or education that is not applicable in your new hometown.  If that is the case, can you use these skills to create your own business?

  • Turn your previous employer into a client?
  • Work remotely?
  • Teach online?

If you are going to keep a full-time career job in the city, what is a reasonable commute?

  • 20 miles
  • 40 miles
  • 60 miles

Don’t look at entrepreneurship as your lifestyle choice.  Look at farming as your lifestyle choice and figure out a game plan that will allow you to make that happen.  In this model, the production of your off-farm income no longer defines your working life.  It is now the means to allow your working life.

This is why I call agriculture the “ultimate lifestyle business”.  Other than being an actor, artist, or musician this is the only profession where people will work a second job, just so they have a shot at doing the first.

We are choosing this business of agriculture because there is such a strong, intrinsic reward for us that we are willing to make these sacrifices just for the chance to do it for a living.  We are choosing this career for the lifestyle because as a brand new farmer who has to develop their operation we cannot do it for the earnings.

If our career decision was solely earnings-based this would not make any sense.  We could clearly make more money, in less time, with less risk and more benefits at a city job, in a subdivision house with city neighbors.


When you are choosing your business try to look at things with demand in the area and nobody filling it.  Or, look at a business in which you could do a better job?  Or, find a business that somebody wants out of with good potential.

I would refer you to episode #480 about finding a true business opportunity.

Don’t get hung up on the earning capability of your business idea in its first phases.  One thing I can say for sure is that as you start working for yourself you will start to see opportunities and ways to generate more revenue than you were unable to see prior to beginning.

In other words, after you get started you are going to find more money.


How are you going to farm well enough, that you can eventually become that full-time farmer (or most time farmer) that you want to be?

As you are starting out, whether it be with livestock or crops, you need every advantage you can get.

That might mean a 100% calf crop.

Or that might mean a couple of bushel yield bump.

One thing I learned in my two years of riding around with crop advisors was that the best farmers seemed to be the ones that were out there with their herds or crops.  They were able to detect subtle changes or illness early and do something about it before it hurt their bottom line.

How can you do this if you are at work all day?

How do you get the time to react if you discover a problem when you’ve driven home from a long day of work?


All you have to do is go onto social media to find lots of people who will tell you not to try farming.  They will say many things such as:

  • “How do you make $1,000,000 farming?  Start with $3,000,000”
  • Or, “you can’t make any money farming”
  • Or, “the only way to make enough to survive is to become really big because of the small margins”
  • Or, “only the big guys get enough funding from the government to make a difference”
  • Or, “the deck is stacked against you”
  • Or just…..” don’t do it”

These words, unfortunately, come from people who were just like you at one point.  They had a dream of farming, and for one reason or another it did not work out.

There are no guarantees here, and we could all suffer the same fate and have to give up our farm someday, I included.

Farming is a business, and it may not go our way.

But, we don’t want to end up discouraging others.  I think that discouragement comes from years of struggling to work full-time and farm on the side.  When you do that you can burn out, and pretty soon the dream fades away.  The farm becomes just another obligation, and you then look at it only from the mathematical perspective and decide it is not worth it.

I don’t want any of us to lose the passion for this lifestyle because of burnout.

Entrepreneurship solves so much of this for us.  It allows you to manage your farm better, to give you every advantage possible. And, it helps to keep us invigorated and avoid that dangerous burnout.

Will you use entrepreneurship to create your Off-Farm Income?