The number of traditional farms is dropping fast. Land is expensive and can be hard to find. But what if you dream of making a living off of your land? Micro-farms are becoming popular sources of income. Here’s how to make money farming 5 acres of land or less.
A Way to Make Money on Small Acreage
Curtis Stone, also known as the Urban Farmer, believes you absolutely can make money farming 5 acres or less.
On his website, he offers advice, classes, and video tutorials on how to do just that. He says you don’t even need to own the land you farm, you can lease or rent a little plot of land to start your very own micro-farm.
There are a few important things you’ll need for making money on your farm, in addition to the actual land itself.
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- A Way to Make Money on Small Acreage
- The Most Profitable Crops
- How Much Do Farmers Make – Real Life Examples
- More Small Farm Income Ideas
- What Is the Most Profitable Crop per Acre?
- How Will You Make Money Farming 5 Acres?
1. You Need a Great Crop to Grow and Sell
If you’re going to farm for profit, you need a high-value crop to sell. For Curtis Stone, this is usually microgreens.
Microgreens take up very little space, have a high value, and a quick turnover since they grow quickly. But there are plenty of other choices, from salad greens to mushrooms, worm castings, meat chickens, and even snails.
Of course, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the specialty crops you are going to sell. If you already have something you are great at growing, you’re off to a good start.
But you need to think like a business and grow what you can sell.
If no one in your area wants to eat rutabaga, then growing 5 acres of it isn’t going to pay your bills, nor provide you with a full-time income. It will just make you really tired of eating all that unsold rutabaga!
By the way, rutabaga is great animal fodder, so if you can’t eat it, your animals will!
You may want to ask around your community and do a little solid research before you get started so you can find out what people might need you to grow.
Don’t miss this series about people who are giving up their day jobs to become first-time farmers, we can learn a lot from this:
My Dream Farm follows first-time farmers as they give up their ordinary, urban lives to live off the land. Writer, broadcaster, and farmer, Monty Don, mentors the new farmers as they face steep learning curves.
2. You Need Steady Customers to Buy Your Product
There are many different ways to find steady customers. As a grower, you might sell to gourmet restaurants, create or join a CSA, market to or employ friends and family, sell at farmers’ markets, or even start a roadside vegetable stand.
Customers are key to growing your small farms business because, without them, you won’t earn any money. It helps if you are a warm, friendly person who is active in your community because you need to talk to everyone around you about your small farm.
3. Other Things to Think About
- You may need packaging for your product, such as egg cartons.
- Or perhaps you need a place to store your product, such as coolers.
- You may need a vehicle to deliver your crops to your customers unless your customers are coming to you.
- If you are raising animals or livestock, you’ll need to find ways to feed them, house them, and manage their manure.
You may also want to sit down and make a formal business plan so you have something to follow and track your progress.
Business plans can be very useful for growers. It’ll give you a clear idea of your income stream, and helps you think about things like marketing, equipment, and the long-term plan.
4. Start Small
It might be tempting to quit your day job but unless you are independently wealthy, you’ll probably need to keep working while you get your small farm going.
So, just start small.
Start a market garden in your existing garden first. Start selling the fruits of your existing trees before planting 5 acres. It’s easier to make a living when you use what you have!
Once you are making a small living, you can add more. Grow more food, add another market garden, add another kind of crop. Give it time, and don’t be intimidated by what others have done or are doing around you.
You’ll have more success if you start small and build until your farm is making money, rather than if you throw caution to the wind and go whole hog, so to speak.
The Most Profitable Crops
Microgreens are a great crop to grow on a small farm because they take up little space, have a quick turnaround, and a high cash value.
As far as produce farming goes, microgreens are very easy to grow and market. They look great displayed at farmers’ markets too!
Microgreens have the potential to be the next world health craze, and you can take advantage while they’re still relatively unknown – no matter where in the world you live.
Not only that, you’ll be able to cash in on the craze, using the business start-up advice and top tips from Donny Greens, the founder of an $8,000 per month Microgreen business in New York.
Salad greens are easy to grow and have a fast turnover. Pound for pound, they are a high-value crop. Many people love salad greens and eat them regularly. They’re one of the easier vegetable crops to market.
One of the easiest, most profitable crops to grow is garlic, especially gourmet garlic.
If you plant just 50 pounds of garlic bulbs, you should be able to harvest between 400 and 500 pounds, according to Profitable Plants Digest. A great opportunity for a homestead income.
The first garlic book written specifically for organic gardeners and small-scale farmers!
Growing Great Garlic is the definitive grower's guide written by a small-scale farmer who makes his living growing over 200 strains of garlic. Commercial growers will want to consult this book regularly.
Worm Castings and Tea
Worm castings are basically worm manure. This is a high quality, all-natural fertilizer that gardeners love. You are, in effect, a worm grower!
You can easily start a worm farm in your basement or spare room with a few bins. A good worm farm is never smelly and worms don’t make any noise.
You can feed them all your leftover food scraps and garden produce, so they’re excellent for recycling, too. Worm castings are a great way to make a living.
Black Soldier Fly Larvae
One of my friends recently showed me his aquaponics greenhouse and, incidentally, we wondered past an interesting setup that looked a bit like a worm farm bin.
When I asked him about it, he explained that he is farming Black Soldier Fly larvae to feed his chickens.
Our family’s aim has always been complete self-sufficiency. One problem we keep coming across is how to be fully self-sufficient in the way of feeding animals. A Black Soldier Fly larvae farm could well be the answer to feeding many of your meat-eating animals like chickens and pigs!
And not just that, it’s also surprisingly profitable!
- Some interesting facts about Black Soldier Fly production,
- information on how insect-based chicken food can benefit farmers and the environment,
- a SARE report on raising Black Soldier Fly larvae as chicken feed in a tropical region,
- a report on the profitability potential of Black Soldier Fly larvae raised on pig manure at farm level,
- and a useful video to see how easy it is to get started!
Become a Market Gardener
A market gardener is someone who grows crops on a farm, usually on a small scale. A market gardener can grow a variety of different fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. They then market them to the public or to commercial places like restaurants.
This type of garden is great for homesteading because you only need a tiny area. Market gardening is a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. Sales can be impressive from even the smallest garden.
Gardeners working on 2.5 acres or less will find this book especially useful, as it offers proof that small-scale market growers and serious home gardeners can live good lives close to the land and make a profit at the same time.
The New Organic Grower is ideal for young farmers just getting started, or gardeners seeking to expand into a more productive enterprise.
Mushroom farming is a bit more complicated than other crops, but it can be done in a small space.
Mushrooms fetch great prices and you can grow them on a quarter acre or less, even in a barn! One of the best homesteading plants to grow. You don’t even need a garden! The truth is that you can even grow mushrooms without dirt, inside your home.
In recent years, demand for gourmet mushrooms has skyrocketed, creating opportunities for new growers. The most profitable culinary mushrooms are shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
Using the “grow bag” method, experienced growers can grow 12,000 pounds of gourmet mushrooms in a 500 square foot space every year. At current prices of $6/pound wholesale and $10/pound retail - well, I’ll let you do the math.
It might be tough to find a plant to grow in the woods, but if your 5 acres are wooded, you might try ginseng.
Ginseng loves growing under hardwood trees. Not many people grow Ginseng plants, but it’s one of the more profitable specialty crops. Find more information at Mother Earth News and the wonderful book below.
In this fully revised and updated edition, the authors show how more than a dozen sought-after native species can generate a greater profit on a rugged, otherwise idle woodlot than just about any other legal crop on an equal area of cleared land.
With little capital investment but plenty of sweat equity, patience, and common sense, small landowners can preserve and enhance their treed space while simultaneously earning supplemental income.
Bamboo is growing in popularity, and if you live in a warmer climate, you can turn $60,000 a year in bamboo profits on just a quarter acre.
Bamboo doesn’t produce fruit as such, but you can sell bamboo shoots as food, and bamboo wood fetches a good price. Find out more about raising bamboo trees for a homesteading income.
Quail can make a great income on a five-acre homestead. They take up very little space, have a great feed to egg conversion ratio, reproduce and grow quickly, and are not nearly as regulated as chickens. You can raise them for both meat and eggs.
Read more in our Homesteader’s Guide to Farming Quail.
Organic or pasture-raised broiler chickens can also turn a tidy profit on a homestead.
With a chicken tractor, you can move them around each day to offer them fresh grass. You can move them around the garden while they grow, to help you with weeding and keeping bugs down.
Broiler chickens grow quickly, so you’ll be able to raise, butcher, and sell them fast.
The most comprehensive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry for the small-scale farmer, homesteader, and professional grower. The Small-Scale Poultry Flock offers a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl, based entirely on natural systems.
How Much Do Farmers Make – Real Life Examples
It’s hard to say how much a newbie farmer can make from a 5 acre farm production.
However, there are plenty of success stories to give you an idea of what is possible. Here are just a few.
1. The Urban Farmer
Curtis Stone says you can make $100,000 a year farming just ¼ of an acre of land. You don’t even have to live in the country – you can be a market gardener from your home, in your backyard, or from an empty lot.
The Urban Farmer is a comprehensive, hands-on, practical manual to help you learn the techniques and business strategies you need to make a good living growing high-yield, high-value crops right in your own backyard (or someone else's).
2. ESI Money
ESI Money talks about making a side hustle from your hobby farm as a market gardener.
3. The Rockstar Gardener
J.M. Fortier, the “Rockstar gardener” is known for his highly profitable plant micro-farm in Quebec, Canada.
He aims for $100,000 per acre with his market gardener small farm business. This is his website and his book is listed below.
Making a living wage farming without big capital outlay or acreages may be closer than you think. Growing on just 1.5 acres, Jean-Martin and Maude-Helene feed more than 200 families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands.
The secret of their success is the low-tech, high-yield production methods they've developed by focusing on growing better rather than growing bigger, making their operation more lucrative and viable in the process.
4. New Terra Farm
The owners of this little market gardener farm, known as New Terra Farm, brings in a cool $50,000 per acre. If you want to know how they did it, check this out.
5. Joel Salatin
PolyFace farms, created by Joel Salatin, is a firm believer in pastured poultry. They are known to bring in $25,000 on 20 acres in 6 months.
PolyFace farms uses many techniques to make the most of your small property. Find their stories here: https://www.polyfacefarms.com.
6. Lush Plants Nursery
This is our former business and I couldn’t help but include it here because it would be a great little business for many of you.
We propagated ornamental plants and fruit trees and sold them via our website to customers country-wide. Propagating your own plants is incredibly cost-effective.
We particularly loved propagating plants you can divide (plants with rhizomes or dividable root systems), such as Canna, Gingers, Heliconias, several herb varieties, and many groundcovers, for example.
Our plant nursery took up about 5 acres, but this included a big dam and plenty of space between the greenhouses. You could have a very successful nursery on less than 1/2 acre!
Our turn over was around $80,000 a year.
More Small Farm Income Ideas
Value-added products are products that can add some value to your bottom line. These are extras that you can make and market from the products you raise.
These are items that make great impulse buys for your regular customers. They’ll help you make even more money from your five acre farm and keep your customers coming back for more.
There are all kinds of crafts you can make from stuff you grow. Consider making wreaths from old grapevines, fresh flowers, or pinecones.
Perhaps you sew and could make reusable shopping bags for your customers to take home their fresh produce each week.
3. Jams and Jellies
If you are good at canning, you might try turning extra cucumbers into pickles and extra fruit into jams and jellies.
Getting the family involved is one of many ways to scale your production up and make an even better living.
4. Homemade Baked Goods
Homemade baked goods are easy to make and easy to sell. You might already have the equipment you need, or you won’t need to invest much to work this idea from home.
5. Perennials, Herbs, and Starts
Another great way to get sales is to share your extra vegetable seedlings (like tomatoes) in the spring, split off your perennials in the fall, and sell extra herbs when your herb garden gets too full.
These types of plants are often easy to market – many people love buying seedlings to grow their own food.
Whether you raise chickens, quail, or turkeys, you can sell extra hatchlings for profit, especially in the spring. You can also sell fertilized hatching eggs which can be shipped to most areas of the United States.
Hatchlings don’t take up a big area of your land and they don’t need much food – it is one of the best ways to add livestock to your 5 acre land.
7. More Ideas
Find some additional ideas on how to create extra farm income in our article, “43 Lucrative Side Hustles for Homesteaders“.
What Is the Most Profitable Crop per Acre?
To make a good living, it really helps to grow the most profitable crop per acre. Here are some of the most profitable crops per acre.
- Saffron. Modern Farmer states that Saffron is worth $5000 to $10000 per pound.
- Ginseng. See above. $300-$700 per pound.
- Truffles. Black truffles yield $95 per ounce and white truffles $168 per ounce.
- Bamboo. $60000 a year from a quarter acre.
How Will You Make Money Farming 5 Acres?
Five acres may not sound like a lot of land, but many farmers have been successful at making a living on 1 acre and 2 acres, and even less land than that. It takes careful planning, creativity, and hard work, but it can be done.
Which methods would you choose to make a living?