Can you make a living on 60 acres if you have a specialty product? I found a family this week who thinks they can. Their product is unconventional- they milk goats and market goat cheese. You can snicker, and I won't say I didn't roll my eyes when I first got the lead to find these people, but they have a plan to be profitable. In today's world, so different than 20 or 30 years ago where there were good jobs in factories and unions were in control, more people than you might imagine could find a role and living in agriculture- if they think outside the box!
What I found when I visited a goat dairy this past week- I'll save the details for a future issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer- was an innovative way to meet a need. It's a variation on the old theme of build a better mousetrap, or build it and they will come. Find a product people want to buy, figure out how to produce it at a cost that allows you to make a profit, and you can stay in agriculture as long as you want.
This may be a formula students in high school may need to adapt in the future. Reaching outside the box and looking and even trying new opportunities is only folly if there is no future in it, or if you don't give it your best effort. If it's a proposition with a future, it just might be the means to a career.
But there are no shortcuts. You don't put up a shack and milk goats. Instead, you ask for help from people who know about animals, forages and even the Board of Animal Health from the start, not after the fact. You do your homework. And in the end, while you may make some mistakes at first, if you grow slowly but plan for expansion and the future ant the same time, you just might pull it off.
That's what I learned this week. Don't be too quick to judge an idea. I may not be ready to invest in a goat dairy, but I certainly respect the right of someone else to do it. And it's still farming- still agriculture- still caring for the land. In this case, 60 acres that were once a corn and soybean field, subject to soil erosion part of the year, are now literally covered with either trees or forages all year long.
Ideas are where you find them. With the help of friends, I found a good one this week. Good luck on whatever ventures you want to try.