Profit On The Homestead And Other Wisdom From The Country Living Workshop

Joel Salatin speaking at CLW
Here’s Joel Salatin speaking at the 2019 Country Living Workshop at Lehman’s.

There were so many good takeaways from the 2019 Country Living Workshop at Lehman’s. We literally took home some nets and crawdads from the Kids’ creek stomping class as well as homemade noodles from their first class.

creek stomping
Creek stomping at the 2019 Country Living Workshop

I took home satisfied, smiling, very tired children and a notebook full of inspiration and ideas, to do lists and strategies for improving my little homestead. I learned the Unwritten Rules of Homesteading from Stacy Lyn Harris and got to ask her what she might do differently with her seven kids on the homestead if she had it all to do over again. I got to hear Joel Salatin teach about the benefits to country living, yes to us homesteaders, but also to the world.

The final session that Joel Salatin offered was one that really struck me when I saw it on the schedule. Profit on the Homestead. Wow. Yes please! Even if I can just offset some of my costs each year, I was ready, pen to paper to learn from the best! Joel, as usual, really delivered with practical, tested, and timely suggestions for profit and success on the homestead.

1. Identify time suckers. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they are things that take a lot of your time and you need to consider carefully how they get used.

  • Driving to town – always combine trips if you can
  • Doctoring sickness – if you have a chronically sick animal, really consider the decision to keep it on the farm. (He did distinguish the difference in letting a child set up a little infirmary to doctor a sick animal or make a little splint for a hobbling chicken. There’s learning in that experience)
  • Chores – obviously we need to do chores every day, but how can we make them efficient. Famously, Joel talks about never carrying just one 5 gallon bucket of water. Always carry two.
  • Building and repairing. Value function over form. After all, “The cows don’t care if the roof isn’t perfectly straight.”
  • Marketing. This is necessary for making a profit, but it’s something that’s always changing and takes a lot of time to keep up with. This would be a good place to hire help to be sure that you have a good return on your investment of time.
  • Looking for things – man, I wish I had a nickel for every time I asked a kid where they put the hammer. Joel is nothing if not efficient and organized. Having a clear place for everything, down to outlining tools on a peg board, ensures that you don’t have to spend time looking for things when you need them.
  • Unproductive time – Joel defined this as too much time to waste but not enough time to get started on a project. For this, he recommends having a Filler List These are any tasks that take less than an hour to do. So if you have 25 mins to do something, you can take something off the filler list!

2. Use debt only to leverage income. Double up on your frugality and work hard to build a nest egg. Only use debt for something that has a good cash flow.

3. Duplication is easier than brand new. You “can’t google experience” so if you are inventing a new way of doing something, you’d be better served learning from someone who’s done it before and modeling after what they did.

4. Leverage what you’re good at and buy the rest. So many people think they should sink all their time into improving their weaknesses. Yes, we should always be growing and learning, but you’re far better served to operate in your areas of strength and staff those weaknesses.

5. Mastery requires repetition. Failure is not the opposite of success. There’s a 3-5 years of learning curve on most homestead endeavors. This one really gives me hope as we have not yet been doing any of this for more than three years. There’s a reason I feel like I haven’t really mastered much yet.

6. Prioritize the cost of leaks. Stacy Lyn Harris talked about this as well. You can’t fix everything at once, so you have to decide which gets your attention and resources first.

7. Capital investments need to be used year round. Really consider the value of buying a new large piece of equipment. Joel said if you aren’t putting 500 hours of use a year on that equipment, you’re likely better off renting or borrowing it.

8. Focus your attention on what gives you the biggest bang for your bucks. After all, being right and noble doesn’t pay the bills.

This list gave me a lot to think of for sure. As was the case last year, I left this year’s Country Living Workshop with so many takeaways and inspirations to make my homestead and family on it better. The most significant takeaway, however, is that I’m not alone in this endeavor. Even though we were only all in the same space for one day, I know that there are so many in this community working hard and who understand that helping each other succeed doesn’t diminish their own success. The speakers at this year’s Country Living Workshop know that when we all work together, it improves everyone.

Want to attend the next big event at Lehman’s? Check out the event calendar here.

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