Build a Business in Your Backyard
Starting a Sideline Business on Your Farm or Ranch
by Muriel Barrett
Nebraskaís farm families have a unique advantage when it comes to starting
a sideline business. . . years of hands-on training in entrepreneurship. The
skills needed to be a successful business owner are the same skills that farmers
employ on a daily basis to run their farms. While the thought of adding a
sideline business to a farming operation may seem daunting, it helps to know
that the basic skills are already in place. All that needs to be added is some
One of the main characteristics of successful entrepreneurs is that they are
self-starters. They donít need anybody looking over their shoulders telling
them what needs to be done and when and how to do it. Farmers already posses
this characteristic in abundance. In addition, farmers are used to getting up
early, staying up late and sticking with the task until it is finished, all
invaluable assets to running a successful business.
The possibilities for a sideline business that will compliment an existing
farming or ranching operation are endless. However, when exploring which one
will be right for you and your operation, there are a few specific things to
First, begin by looking at something you already know or are interested in.
For example, the reason that Seifer Farms decided on "Farm Fresh
Chickens" as our sideline business was that Irene Seifer already knew how
to raise chickens, and had been doing so on a small scale for years. We just
expanded what we were already doing for our family into a business.
Remember, there are no crazy ideas, just some that are more appropriate than
others. Ask yourself some questions about your interests and abilities:
Do you have a green thumb? Could you specialize in market vegetables, cut
dried flowers, herbs, specialty mushrooms, sweet corn, watermelons or pumpkins?
Are you already raising livestock? Could you figure out how to sell retail cuts
directly to consumers? Or are there some specialty livestock, like elk or bison
that you might try your hand at? Do you like crafts or woodworking? Are you a
computer whiz? Can you develop a computer-based business? Are you a
"fix-it" genius, or does construction really interest you? Does your
family like to entertain all of your "city" relations? How about a
tourism business like a bed and breakfast? Are you already allowing free hunting
on your land? Why not increase the services you offer to hunters and start
charging for it? Do you have some secret family recipe that could be turned into
a marketable product?
As I said, the possibilities are endless.
After you have decided on a few ideas that interest you, start researching
every possible aspect, including: 1. If it is a product, how is it produced? 2.
Is it appropriate for your location? 3. What equipment, raw materials and costs
are involved? 4. Are any special permits or permission needed, and from what
agencies? 5. Who will your customers be, and how will you reach them? 6. What is
the potential market price? Can it make money? 7. How much time will the
business take, and when is the time needed? 8. Does it compliment your farming
operation, i.e. cash flow, equipment, available land, time, personnel (family),
existing customers, etc...?
By now, you probably have narrowed your ideas down to just one that seems
feasible, and you can start evaluating it. 1. Do you have the time and labor
resources to make it successful? 2. Do you have the financial resources to
invest until the endeavor pays for itself? 3. Can you successfully market this
product or service and develop the necessary customer base? 4. Will you make a
profit? 5. Will adding this enterprise to your farm or ranch enhance your familyís
quality of life?
Finally, begin to educate yourself in the specific areas you have discovered
are necessary to make your venture succeed. For instance, you might need
specific training in marketing or bookkeeping. There are many educational
opportunities available through the Extension Service, local community colleges
and private educators to name a few. Be diligent in seeking the necessary
Adding a sideline business can be a rewarding and profitable experience when
approached in a straightforward and step-by-step manner. Good luck as you begin
Muriel Barrett and her family raise pastured poultry and manage several
enterprises at Seifer Farms near Sutherland.
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