anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · environment · health

Making money off the land

A swaledale ewe on the rolling fells of the La...
You may be looking at a model of your next lawnmower. Image via Wikipedia

After the last post about dumpster diving, I thought we could focus on something a little more fresh, like growing your own food. Or your own sheep.

From renting out goats and sheep in order to naturally trim lawns and hillsides, to teaching other people how to raise chickens and bees, “urban homesteading” is becoming a way of life that is not only natural and makes people feel good, it’s also profitable.

As an uncertain economy and a stagnant hiring climate continue to freeze people out of the traditional job market, a number of entrepreneurs like Mr. Miller, many of them in their 20s and 30s, are heading back to the land, starting small agricultural businesses. And in the process, they are discovering that modern homesteading offers more rewarding work, and possibly more security, than entering the white-collar fray.

Mr. Miller, who supplements his income by working on a local farm, has resisted raising his prices because he wants his services to be available to all. And while Heritage Lawn Mowing is not yet in the black, he says he has found a better way of life.

“It’s a gateway to that whole rural dream,” he said. “And with the type of recession we’re having, there’s stability in it.”

Other yeoman start-ups are charting a more traditional path to profits.

Carrie Ferrence, 33, and Jacqueline Gjurgevich, 32, were in business school at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Washington State when they noticed that many local neighborhoods were “food deserts,” without easy access to fresh local produce and other grocery staples.

Their answer was StockBox Grocers, a company that repurposes old shipping containers as small grocery stores. The company won $12,500 in a local business plan competition and raised more than $20,000 online in a Kickstarter campaign to finance its first store, which opened in the Delridge neighborhood of Seattle in September.

“It’s a tough job market, and you have really few instances in your life to do something that you really love,” Ms. Ferrence said. “It’s not that this is the alternative. It’s the new plan A.”

Read more: Sheep Lawn Mowers, and Other Go-Getters (New York Times)

What is it that is so appealing to this (my) generation about growing gardens, knitting, and owning a sheep-rental mowing company? Why are we so drawn to this idea of keeping bees, growing our own vegetables, and sewing our own clothes? I have some ideas, but I’d be curious to hear yours in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Making money off the land

  1. Love the idea, but I remember my parents getting geese in the 60’s to “weed” the strawberry patch. Never happened and we had a flock of aggressive geese we had to feed and didn’t have the heart to remove. Life and nature does not always cooperate as we expect!

  2. Thanks Composer. I totally agree, but I just think it’s interesting how this generation of kids that grew up with computers, video games, and forums having always existed, they’re rejecting all that choosing to raise sheep, goats, chickens, bees, and grow their own vegetables and knit. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of cultural rebellion or just because it’s newer and exciting and feels more stable than the industries we’ve all trained to work in. Millenials have lived through two market bubbles and crashes, and have gone from six figure incomes to living back with our parents possibly numerous times. It just seems odd to me that raising unpredictable things like geese and sheep would feel more stable and secure, but apparently it does, and for some people is also profitable. 🙂

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