Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's Time to Think Outside the Box

Yesterday I mentioned in my post, almost in passing, the importance of "thinking outside of the box". Well, it is fitting that I did because this afternoon I was checking out the New Farm front page again and I stumbled across this ARTICLE titled, "On the Plains, there’s room outside the box" by Pete Letheby. It is a short little OP/ED article that gives a short summary of what the Switzer family from Nebraska has done.

When Adam Switzer returned to the family ranch they thought that the conventional cattle ranching of the area wouldn't pay the bills like in the past. Long story short, they looked at their land and tried to think of ways that they could use it to work for them. While they still run a cattle operation on their ranch they have built added an extra source of income ... a source that has become their largest. What started out as a couple of cabins has turned into 70 lodging units that is often full. They realized that they had more than just acres of range for cattle, they also had things that others would come and enjoy. They had prairie chickens (people like to watch them), they had spring-fed streams for canoing, they had wide open spaces for horse riding, and they had hunting opportunities. They thought out of the box ... beyond what their neighbors were doing.

So, what other "outside of the box" opportunities are there out there for farmers to boost their income. Agri-tourism is something that has been thrown out there a lot, but there can only be so many B&B's on the farm ... hunting places are starting to pop up around our area, but they don't always mesh with a livestock operation if you have limited amounts of land ... grassfed beef/pork/poultry is something that is growing and I see that as a great thing ... I think that capitalizing on new ideas is going to be the key of successful small-scale farmers in the time to come. Yes, grassfed and naturally raised is here to stay, and allowing people to come to the farm and experience where their food comes from is great ... but, what else can we do?

That is one thing that I'm thinking about a lot these days. In any future farming venture we do I would like our pastured animals to be the centerpiece, but we are beginning to think of other ideas. Maybe we could add Christmas trees, not open to the public, but as a bonus opportunity for our customers. Possibly an Amish market ... more than just a farmers market, but a place where multiple Amish gather together to sell their goods. How about becoming a respected breeder of purebred cattle (that is one direction I would like to go)?

There are a lot of "outside the box" ideas out there that are being done and that haven't even been tried yet. It is time to be creative and build on those ideas! Do you have any ideas...?


enrique said...

Alright - you hooked me.
Can you keep an evergreen list you can add to once in a while? Here's a few more...

bee hives (honey)
wind farm (save/sell back to grid)
pure bred dog breeder
chickens (eggs)
catfish (pond)
firing range
lease land for goats
quail breeder / hunts
bird dog training center
skeet / trap shooting center
leased storage space
rental efficiency apt above barn

i'll keep thinking of more!

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Hmmm. . .

Baked goods
Fruit trees


Steven said...

grass fed beef!
shrimp! (I've met someone here that raises shrimp in ponds)

Mellifera said...

I think we're going to do a lot of...

Pond fish

because they give good yield with little land and little labor, freeing you up to do more laborious things while still making some cash. Oh, and let's not forget renting your land to Sprint for cell phone towers. Farmers are always out in rural land which is the only place left in the US to expand cell phone coverage anyway. : )

Ethan Book said...

How about farming museum ... as in if you farm with older tools than maybe there is a market in sharing it with people around you.

Steven said...

I see that it was already mentioned... but I just started thinking about mushrooms, thanks to my sister. Anyone already grow them, or know someone who does?


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