Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advantages for Landowners

What's In It For Me?

Why might a rural property-owner want to take in homeless workers on his or her land? Right off the top of my head, I'd say, "For the labor they must contribute to earn their keep, which will multiply the productivity of the land."

A lot of factors have to be in proportion to make the Common Wealth Farm concept work.

#1) Your property must be near an underserved market for produce of about 50,000 people.

#2) You must choose those you allow to live and work on the land carefully.

#3) You must carefully balance the desired quantity of production - the ammount of fruit, vegetables, eggs, whatever - that you are confident you can sell with the number of workers and the space available to feed them and grow the saleable produce.

#4) The workers you accept must feel they are getting a good deal in return for their labor, so they are motivated. (More on this later.)

In a real estate market that is experiencing deflation of value, while being whipsawed with a crosscurrent of potential oil-based input price escalation, putting people to work growing vegetables organically appears to be the safest, least-risky option for the property owner to get a return from their land. Remember, your labor to produce these goods is virtually free.

I haven't yet worked out a strict business plan for the Common Wealth Farm concept, but from my "horseback estimate" of its feasibility, it looks good.

There may be tax advantages to taking action privately to help the city/county/state with its growing homeless problem, but I will not factor this in yet.

On the other hand, using farmland to grow nursery stock would appear to be a losing proposition for the next few years, as a major slowdown in homebuilding is worked off.

Growing large acreage crops, using tractors and combines requiring fossil fuels and multiple spray applications, then selling the crops at a small margin of profit likewise doesn't seem to be promising for the next few years, unless you are fully confident that some type of affordable alternative fuels and fertilizer/pesticide input can be found quickly.

My personal inclination is toward producing food crops with only human and animal labor and organic methods, then selling direct to a relatively small audience of CSA customers at competitive prices. This gives the farmer a free workout and keeps input costs down, while providing a high-quality local product for an appreciative audience. Win-Win-Win!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's easy to underestimate how useful and profitable the Common Wealth Farm concept can be, until more hardworking honest folks lose their jobs and their homes. To get a better idea of the benefit I see in the CWF (Common Wealth Farm) concept, just consider that:

1) There is a dollar value to cities in getting the homeless people off the streets and feeding themselves and occupied in productive work. What will cities or counties be willing to pay for this social service? What foundation would be willing to fund an expansion of this demonstration project?

2) An entrepreneur could buy several properties and pay his mortgage, taxes, and insurance by negotiating with a farmer to coordinate employing formerly homeless men and women to grow, harvest, and sell the crops. The "employees" would live on the farm, eat a portion of what they grow, and sell the rest to pay for other needs and earn a share in the profits.

3) Workers would only spend part-time hours cultivating crops; the balance of their workday could be spent in doing roadway maintenance for the county and noxious weed removal for the Forest Service, for example.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Second Jobs a Waste of Time Usually

In my reading of "Mini-Farming for Self Sufficiency", I love the part where Brett Markham shows that it is more profitable for one member of the average American family to stay home and tend a moderate-sized garden than it is for them to spend time commuting to work, paying for gas, lunches, drycleaning, childcare, clothes, and the other expenses that are required to hold a job! (It's on page 20, if you have a copy.)

I have been noticing for many years how the stresses of the workplace take a toll on the health and happiness of those in the workforce. Premature gray hair, growing obesity from sitting at a desk and in endless meetings, and family disharmony are all signs that this is not a natural or an ideal practice. It is made worse when we work for others, often at work we don't enjoy. We are slaves to our need for money - and we know it.

It has occurred to me that the breakdown of the family, with children in open opposition to their parents in many American homes, began when government-caused inflation forced women into the workforce and away from the critical job of raising their own children in the 1970s. Many factors have contributed to the rebellion and loss of parental direction in our kids, but foisting them onto a childcare provider so that Mom could go to work was a major factor.

A closer look at the economics of working outside the home shows that, for most of us, it doesn't make sense. Now, in this time of mounting layoffs and rising food costs, it is timely to consider how we can stop undercutting our Health, our Family, our Peace of Mind, and our Income by correcting this situation.

Mom or Dad can set themselves up to grow 85% of their food, plus earn another $10,000 in income selling their produce - all in a part-time venture that will let one of them stay home to properly raise their kids. Obviously, this is not for everyone, but if you see the value for your family, I encourage you to check it out.

Here is something else that getting Mom or Dad (whichever earns less or is markedly more unhappy with their job) out of the workforce can do: Turning your backyard into a minifarm can cut the ammount of wages that are necessary solely for the purpose of paying TAXES. If you can read the writing on the wall predicting big tax increases coming in the Obama administration, this is another good reason to consider pulling out of the workforce and growing your own food, which is not subject to taxes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CWF is moving along

I am moving forward with my planning for the Common Wealth Farm. Here are some recent thoughts on what I need to make it a reality.

I welcome your donations, comments, and suggestions. I can't do this by myself, but I will find a way, with or without help. If you want to take part in this exciting demonstration project of how a group of people can pool their resources and talents and actually prosper in a Depression, let's talk.

Common Wealth Farm, by the way, is not a place for homeless people who don't want to work. It is for those folks - homeless or not-yet-homeless - who want meaningful work that won't go out of fashion with the next recession. Food never goes out of style, although it may go out of supply when - for whatever reason - the trucks that bring it into our cities don't run for a while.

War abroad interrupting oil supplies, distrust of inflated money, civil insurrection and riots in the USA, weather emergencies: many factors can disrupt food shipments that city-dwellers depend on. The Common Wealth Farm model offers security and even prosperity in troubled times. Think about it.

A lot of folks would prefer to live in a quiet rural setting, if only they had a secure income. I know, I was a rural economic development coordinator for the US Economic Development Administration in the early 1990s. After that, I worked for my small-town chamber of commerce. I talked with a lot of city folks who wanted to move, but they needed a job. At the time, we didn't have any jobs to spare. Common Wealth Farm was conceived to solve this problem - and it works near any community with a population of 50K or perhaps even less.

The community where I intend to introduce Common Wealth Farm is Corvallis, Oregon, a college town in the heart of the fertile Willamette River valley. The town, population 50,000, is a county seat and the home of a regional hospital with a very good reputation. Hewlett Packard has a well-established manufacturing center there which, while it has already felt some job cuts, together with the college and county and city of Corvallis jobs, as well as other successful farmers, will provide a climate of economic stability and a market base for our produce.
Corvallis is a very desirable place to live. It is rated as #x among small towns in the nation for X, Y, and Z. I do not discount the negative effects of a severe recession or even a Depression will have on EVERY community, but I would rather live among highly educated, prosperous people with lots of savvy and political pull, than near any major city with a large population of marginally-employed, possibly thuggish, welfare-dependent people who are hungry and angry at those who are not so miserable as they.

Corvallis is a center of study for alternative energy generation and transportation methods. It is very familiar and friendly to organic farming and Community Supported Agriculture, as well as farmers' markets. These are well-established and proven, even preferred sources of foodstuffs. Both the "Slow Food" and "Local Grown" concepts are enthusiastically welcomed in Corvallis. CWF will be in alignment with these local trends, which should help our acceptance in the community.===============================================================================================================

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Proven Income Opportunity

Sometimes the most sure-fire proven income opportunity is when you take an old, old business model that works and make a small improvement, making a big change in the profitability. That's what we have here.

I've always had the feeling that life shouldn't have to be hard. Of course, I grew up in semi-tropical Miami where food literally grew on trees. Palm trees, avocado trees, orange trees, papaya trees, etc., right in our back yard. All one needed was a bit of land: grow what you need and sell the rest to pay for expenses like property taxes and whatever else you desire that you can't grow or trade for. Okay, I was young and idealistic and my tastes were simple, but there still is a lot to be said for farming as a lifestyle. It's relaxed, if you do it right.

When I first arrived on a real garden-fed homestead in New Hampshire, lo and behold! the model still worked! It was a proven income opportunity that was better than a job - Growing your family's food around your mini-farm or on a suburban lot is better than working a job to pay for your groceries because IT'S TAX FREE! I like tax-free. Adam and Eve didn't pay taxes - Why should we? (Let's not discuss all he compulsory services our governments offer us right now, okay?)

Here's the business opportunity: Sales of organic foods have increased 17-20% per year over the past five years. With increasing costs for fuel, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer due to increased demand, and shortages of key staple foods, due to biofuel subsidies, localizing our food production - and doing it without oil and chemical additives - is going to become more and more in demand.

I found a book that lays out a systematic plan of how the average person or family can grow 85% of their food needs for the year, plus grow an extra $10,060 worth of food to sell on just 6300 square feet of garden patch! "When the cash income is added to the economic benefit of drastically slashing food bills, the minimum net economic benefit of $14,920 exceeds the net economic benefit of average job by nearly $2000 per year."

The author, Brett Markham, goes on to say "Instead of working 2116 hours per year in order to net $13,092 after taxes and commuting like the average wage-earner, the mini-farmer has only worked 360 to 440 hours per year in order to net $14,920!" Do I have your attention now?

Now, I always had the impression from growing a lot of gardens in the various places I've lived, that farming organically on a modest scale would provide a comfortable life - and without all the hassles and expense of driving round in city traffic dressed in a suit and tie - but now, I've found the best manual on how to do it most efficiently and profitably, complete with exciting proven projections of how much you can earn.

I just never sat down and figured out how much I was saving when I had my other gardens. Now, I don't have to - Brett Markham has done it for me!

Like a lot of you reading this, I've lived in the big city, so I know what people have to put up with to earn a living in that context. To some people, it's worth it, perhaps. But to many others, it just doesn't pencil out. Once you find a proven income opportunity like this that can be done at home, with low startup costs, in your or your spouse's spare time, then you have a viable alternative to taking a second job. The wife can stay home to raise your children or even home-school them.

If the economy throws your family a curve ball, you will have a second income that you and the Good Lord control. No worries, mon, as they say in the islands.

The blueprint is in the book "Mini-farming for Self-Sufficiency," by Brett Markham, an electrical engineer and third-generation farmer, which gives me a lot more confidence that here is a guy who's crunched the numbers and come up with a new and improved way to bring in some extra tax-free income.

Aside from the tax benefits of growing your family's food, what really excites me about the "mini-farming" business model is this: 1) You don't need to wrestle with rototillers to do this; 2) There is no need to buy expensive gas-powered tractors, etc.; and 3) You can sell direct to the public, eliminating the profit-destroying middlemen. Once you're established, you can set up a CSA(consumer supported agriculture) in which your customers pay you in advance for a weekly box of your season's crops.

Let me repeat that last point: Once you've proven your competence as a mini-farmer, your customers will pay you up front and share the risk of weather or bug damage to some of your crops! They may even come out to help you weed and pick the crops, depending on how the CSA is set up.

If you want to earn more, then you can plant more and find more customers and hire helpers (or your kids) to do the extra work. This is the ideal home business or second income source! Of course, you are required to pay taxes on your profits from what you sell to others.

Check it out. I have placed the Amazon link to the right. If you decide to buy a copy, I'd appreciate if you buy it through my site. Thanks!

The simple food-production system described in Mini-Farming for Self-Sufficiency will be the basis for my dream venture: Common Wealth Farm. I want to show a lot of hardworking Americans who are unemployed and even homeless that there is a way to create your own proven income opportunity - a home business that will never go out of style - and earn a good living in an enjoyable way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Home and Honest Work for the Homeless

Common Wealth Farm is a working name for a project that popped into my head a couple of years ago. It is an updated version of what used to be a fixture of American life from the late 1800s until the introduction of Social Security made it obsolete, the "county farm" or "Poor farm." If you aren't familiar with the term County Farm, it was a farm on the edge of a large town in each county, where the indigent and aged were allowed to live. The farm largely supported itself through food grown there.

I believe there is, once again, a need for a place for some portion of what we generically call "the Homeless" to live. Rather than have those who are able-bodied and willing to work living on the streets of our cities, why not acquire abandoned farms and arrange for the farms to generate revenue through the sales of organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc., that could be grown.

Residents would need to be carefully screened for attitude, talents, and sociability. They would be offered a place to live, food, and medical care, plus a share in the farm's profit in return for a reasonable ammount of work, contributing to the "common wealth."

I am seeking a mastermind group to help flesh out the concept, so some parts are still fuzzy. One possibility would be to obtain start-up capital (perhaps a foreclosed farmstead?) from the county in return for reducing their cost for servicing this portion of the homeless population. This would seem to be a win-win situation, but it would also draw in a potentially contentious partner in exchange for their money. It might be wisest to find some other way to acquire the land and facilities.

A couple of current trends make this project appealing. One is the growing demand for organically grown produce. Another is a new wave of working Americans who may soon be losing their homes, due to subprime loans' low interest rates being re-set. Yet another is the growing cost and diminishing supply of fossil fuels which make possible our industrial-scale food production - without the expense of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, nor the need to transport and store farm produce, organic farm goods may become much more competitive in price. (A book that explains this rationale is The Long Emergency, by James Kunstler.)

One other trend that would favor this project is the loss of high-paying American bluecollar employment to cheaper labor-centers offshore. A lot of workers with skills applicable to farming are unemployed; they are a cost to society, when there is a growing need for locally grown foods. Common Wealth Farm brings a solution to many changes that are occuring in the modern American economy.

It should be mentioned that many market gardeners are earning handsome incomes for what is essentially a part-time job. While I haven't yet done a business plan for the Common Wealth Farm, anecdotal reports of earnings on existing similar farms are very encouraging as to the positive economics of this venture.

My projected location for the Common Wealth Farm is somewhere in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, ideally near Corvallis, one of my favorite small cities and home of the Oregon State University, with a large Agriculture & Forestry school. I'm planning to move there in the Spring of 2008 and begin researching this concept with the OSU Extension Service and whatever help I can find at the university. SCORE and the Small Business Administration might also be good sources of expertise in planning, organizing, and financing this project.