One of the major reasons people start homesteading is because they want to produce high quality food without spending a fortune. However, if you are not careful, you can simply replace your grocery store bill for a feed store bill. In today’s episode, Leah and I discuss what it looks like to create a homestead that not only pays for itself but also puts money back in your pocket. Maybe you have a dream of starting a homestead but are unsure about the investment— this episode is full of ideas and tips for building a homestead you love without breaking the bank. If you are already living your dream of homesteading but are feeling broke and burnt out, Leah’s advice could help you get back on the right track. Wherever you are in your homesteading journey, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss!
In this episode, we cover:
- The top three reasons homesteaders spend more than they save and how to avoid doing so
- Why tracking homestead expenses is important and how to do it simply
- Accounting for the many variables in the cost of raising animals
- How to plan for a future homestead when you don’t yet have your own expenses to track
- Setting homestead goals and being realistic about the time and resources you have to work with
- Questions to ask yourself when you are considering adding another element to your homestead
- Strategies for making money from what you produce on your homestead
- How Leah generates thousands of dollars per year from her rabbitry operation
- How you can create additional income from your homestead by specializing in a specific breed
- Weighing whether or not a specific animal is worth your investment
- The first steps you should take in ensuring your homestead is profitable before you even start
- Finding peace in creating a homestead that fits your current life season
- Where to start making changes if you are already in over your head with a costly homestead
Thank you to our sponsors!
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School of Traditional Skills is your shortcut to self-sufficiency, the simple way. Glean homesteading wisdom from a variety of instructors without ever leaving your home. Use my link bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills to take advantage of this amazing learning opportunity. Make sure you check out my class on lacto-fermenting vegetables!
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Leah Lynch is a stay-at-home wife, content creator, and small farmer who loves a good paper planner and is a massive introvert.
She started her rabbitry at 17 and used the profits to pay for her schooling and graduated debt free.
Today she makes multiple four figures a year with her small rabbitry alone and is on a mission to help other people create a country lifestyle they love that doesn’t leave them broke and burnt out.
Check out some of Leah’s resources that were mentioned in the episode:
Do You Have Time for That New Project? Google Calendar Tutorial
Eight Battle Tested Steps to Make Your Farm to Pay for Itself
Leah Lynch | Website | Instagram | YouTube | Facebook
Lisa Bass of Farmhouse on Boone | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | TikTok | Facebook | Pinterest
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m in my kitchen, but I’m going to be heading out to the cottage to talk with Leah Lynch. We are going to talk about treating your homestead with a business mindset and making it make sense monetarily. We have this idea that homesteading— well, actually you may come from one or two camps. One, you might be like, “Well, of course it’s going to pay off, me doing all this hard work.” And then some people know that homesteading can actually be really expensive with all of the infrastructure and the feed costs. Sometimes you end up spending more money than you earn back. And so we’re going to talk about setting goals, tracking expenses, doing certain things that are really wise in order to make it pay for itself. She’s also going to go into a little niche that she’s carved out that has allowed her to earn quite a bit of money from her homestead only on one acre. So if that is something that’s interesting to you, let’s dive into this conversation with Leah Lynch.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass Well, hey, Leah. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast and talk about having a profitable homestead, or at least one that doesn’t cost you more money than what you’re even getting in return. I think this is a really needed topic idea. Let’s start with intros. So tell us about you, your blog, and your mission.
Leah Lynch Yeah. So thank you for just having me on here, and hopefully I can bring some value to your audience as well. So the short of it is just wanting to help other people cultivate a country lifestyle that they want, but it doesn’t also leave them broke and burnt out. And so it kind of stemmed from seeing so many people that get into all of this stuff, and in a year or two, they’re just so tired and they’ve kind of lost their love of it. And so my hope is to be able to keep their love of it alive, but also helping them intricate their other aspects of life so they don’t lose that love of it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes sense. So on your website, I saw a quote that I thought was really— it made a lot of sense. I think it could resonate with a lot of people. “Being broke and burnt out isn’t required to live a country lifestyle.” I don’t know why we— I guess because when you first start living a country lifestyle, a lot of everything is new to you. And so the learning curve, I think, does at first make you burnt out just from a mental aspect. But also sometimes the homesteads don’t actually pay off monetarily. And I know for me personally, I’ve had this bias myself. In some ways, I think just when you’re a newbie, you do certain things wrong that end up costing you money. And for me, with having a blog and a YouTube channel, I can justify some of the expenses because with my brand and with showing the lifestyle being part of my income, obviously things can shake out a little bit easier. For someone who you need the homestead itself—without documenting it, without inviting people in—to pay off on its own. So I think a lot of times homesteaders are making mistakes that contribute to it not being monetarily viable. What do you think are the top three reasons people spend more on their homesteads than they actually make?
Leah Lynch Yeah, so I’m going to go out and list them off, and then I’ll kind of dial back around and kind of explain them a little bit more. And they’re probably self-explanatory when you hear them. But the first one is heart-led decisions. And then the next one is legitimacy. Or in other words, feeling legit like we are equal to the people that we see on social or wherever. And then the other one is fear of the numbers. And so dialing back to the heart-led decision one is just that sometimes the cuteness, it gets us sucked in. Or with growing things with the legitimacy we feel like we have to have a half an acre or an acre sized garden when that’s what we see on social or that’s what we see other people doing. And we feel like we have to do that to be legitimate, too. And then with fear of the numbers is, one, either tracking how much it’s costing you or also not being afraid to look at it and go, “This is what I can afford. And so this is where I need to stick within.” In other words, in creating a budget to go like, “This is what I have to spend each month. And if I can’t align with that, then we might have to say no to some things.”
Lisa Bass Okay, so we’ll get more into it. But I think I always had the assumption that the reason that homesteads are more expensive and sometimes not profitable—at least for all the work that you put in—is that food is produced differently nowadays than it was so many years ago. It’s on a mass scale. We’re used to grocery store prices, which can be unreasonable and can’t really compare to someone doing it on a small scale and of course you’re not taking quality into account. But I mean, we’ll probably get more into this. So what are the top mistakes that you see people making when it comes to homesteading that leave them burnt out and broke?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So a lot of that comes from unrealistic expectations as far as, one, the time that we have, but also our brains kind of—when we see something good that we want to do—it doesn’t calculate the time that it’s going to take to do that. And so we kind of just assume, oh, well, we can do all of these things, but we don’t account for we’ve got to work and the government will take vegetables as payment for taxes, you know, that kind of thing. And then the next one is just we’re not willing to say no to the things sometimes. We want to try and do all of it.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. And especially in the beginning, trying to figure out each thing is a learning curve, and it becomes really easy. And so in some ways you have to first figure one thing out before you can move on to the next. I know that on your website and on your Instagram, you’re really into tracking and you’re a huge proponent of tracking farm expenses, profits, outputs. Can you explain why this is important and how to practically do it? Because for us, this is our biggest issue. People ask me like how much money did it cost for you to get a gallon of milk versus how much do you pay in feed and hay? And I can’t really give a straight answer because I’m not a big tracker. So nothing that I track is actually probably like— there just seems like there’s so many little things to calculate in. So yeah, can you talk about tracking just a bit?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So the first thing to remember is that once you kind of figure it out, unless there’s a big change, it’s not like you have to continue to do it week to week. So I’ll kind of use my rabbitry as an example because it’s great for that. And then we can kind of flip it to— like you had asked me something about along lines of the dairy and things like that, and so we can kind of just flip it for that. So when we kind of know the expenses at least—so we kind of start with the number that we know—we know that it’s going to cost us so much a day to feed the animal. Maybe we alternate or— like for chickens, sometimes people like feed food from the refrigerator or whatever and things like that, but we can’t assume that we will always have that discount on the feed, right? So we have to use the math of assuming we were going to buy all the feed from the store or whatever in that case. So we have to take the math and start with that. So like for the rabbits, at least, I know that one of my French lops will go through a 50 pound bag every ten weeks, so I can kind of multiply that times a full year and get the full amount. So I know starting them out at least what the cost is. So then when you flip it, now we’re going to talk about the hard number, right? So I can’t promise how many kids I’m going to have in a litter, right? So a good litter is around eight. And not so great, but it happens often enough, is around three to five survive. So I take around that middle number because you can’t assume the best because that means you’re going to get the max amount of money, right? But we don’t want to work off of the numbers that are the lowest when that happens. So I kind of pick for myself around that six number for kind of just running the math, right? So I obviously make money from rabbits, but if we’re trying to cover the expenses, then we have the total that it costs us, right? So let’s say that maybe we’re going to keep some to eat, but we can let go of however many. So then we’re going to take— this is going to sound hard for some people, but let’s say we can sell a rabbit for $50 or $100. Right? And our yearly cost is $1,000. Well, we know that we have to make or sell them at $100 if we sell ten of them. So we know that we either have to, one, make that amount and sell them for that, or we have to let go of some to sell. So it kind of just using that math and picking the middle ground at least. But once you kind of figure it out for your chickens or your dairy or whatever the case is with that, you kind of know it. So you don’t really have to readjust unless something changes drastically. So I know that was a lot, and hopefully that made a little bit of sense to some people.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it did. And I think thinking through what you’re talking about with your rabbits— if something happens or if you only get three from a litter— I don’t know, I feel like sometimes we keep adding more and more animals without adding that into the budget and their output and not actually thinking about it. You just kind of like, “Well, we have this homestead. Let’s add this and that.” And not really thinking about the monetary consequence behind that.
Leah Lynch Yeah. And I think some people think that, oh well they have to make enough that it’s a business or that it’s above and beyond the expenses, but honestly, all you would have to do is just get the expenses covered. You don’t have to make this exorbitant amount either.
Lisa Bass Yeah. With our dairy, it gets muddy with calculating out the amount that it costs versus how much you get because there’s a lot of variables. So like, for example, if the dairy cow has a calf and if the calf is— say she was bred by a Jersey bull and it’s a female, and then we’re going to raise that until it’s a year old or until it’s bred, and then sell her as a bred cow, that’s a big difference between selling a bull calf who is bottle fed who is half Angus. And so all of these factors really make it a little bit muddy, and sometimes I just wanna throw in the towel with how you would actually make the cost breakdown work. Because, well, we had a Jersey bull here at our farm, and he didn’t get the job done, and so then we AI’d with Angus, and all of these factors are really changing the end result. And so I guess, on your blog, do you include how do you break this all down for animals like this where things are just— there’s so much that can be variable?
Leah Lynch Yeah. And so if we’re looking for suggestions to handle that one at least, so let’s say she has a calf that you know you were going to turn into meat. So that’s another variable that you’re not going to sell him or you’re not going to get dairy from him. So let’s say you end up eating some of the animals or whatever. You would look at, well, it’s not fully Angus, so let’s say he got 400 pounds of meat, roughly, or whatever. So we’re going to look at like, well, if we had to buy that amount, then what would that cost us? Then that’s how we’re going to figure out, well, that’s his value to us. So always kind of turn it around in the sense of, well, if—for us at least—$4.99 is a decent price for ground beef. So obviously certain cuts were more or whatever, so you can break it down if you want to. But then let’s say 400 times the $4.99, he ended up saving about $2,000 in beef. So you can kind of just add that in there. It sounds scary at first, but it’s honestly just taking it one variable at a time and going as deep as honestly you want to. But if your expense is already covered by selling the dairy milk or something like that, then you can figure it out if you want to. But then just if your ultimate goal is just to make sure the expenses are covered, just start with your income part. Just only worry about that.
Lisa Bass I guess another question I have, is there a way to do it proactively? Cause a lot of people are like, “Okay, I want to get into this, but I’m not sure, without starting, how to work—” it’s easy to maybe track the numbers for a year or two because everything’s on this long time frame. I’m just going back to cows because that’s just what we have. But the cow being bred, and in your case, the rabbit’s being bred. And then it’s almost like a year over year thing versus just like a month to month thing because of how long scale everything is. So is there a way that you have found to efficiently track it? Like, for example, on your blog you have a breakdown of a cost of feeding a chicken for a year so people can know that going in instead of being like, “Okay, let’s track this whole thing for a year and then see if it was a good idea,” or how do we like come up with that beforehand?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So the thing that does the best math that— you know, spreadsheets are— and people kind of throw it out there. And Google Sheets, on the other hand, though, it works well because you can track it on the go. So maybe you’re trying to track eggs or you’re trying to track how much dairy you got for a year or something along those lines. You can pull it up on your phone in the app and just put— run down the list and have the dates next to it down one column and how much you got from her the next if you’re trying to do that and it can do the math for you without you ever having to do it in your own mind. So keeping it more simple, more than complicated ultimately ends up being the more practical way to also make you stick to it. Because so many times we think that it’s more complicated or it should be more complicated than it really is. So I find, at the very least, just— I mean, I’ve been into rabbits for 13, 14 years this way. But when you’re trying to get started and figure out the information, then you’re definitely just going to have to go ask someone that you know has raised whatever it is. Because that was part of your question, I think, was someone getting started. So I didn’t know if you meant getting started in the sense of the tracking part or getting started for like not even knowing the information. To speak to both sides of that is just keep it simple, but track as much as you can. But then if you don’t have any of the information to work with beforehand, find someone who’s willing to email you that information.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I get a lot of those emails and my answer is always very disappointing. I’m very bad at tracking all of this. And like you said, taking a middle of the road approach is helpful because you always—with everything—you have the best case scenario and then you have the cow got bloated and mastitis and died scenario. And so it’s like I can give you my best estimate, but at some point there is going to be some variables, like the kid is walking in with the basket of eggs and cracks every one of them, which happens pretty regularly if you have kids working on the farm.
Leah Lynch Yeah. So something along those lines, which is a little bit easier to give more of a straight answer is that with the egg part, if stuff breaks or you find a batch of rotten ones—you know, when we find them laying somewhere—count the ones that end up on the counter in the egg cartons. That’s what you work from. You don’t necessarily worry about the in-between moments because obviously stuff is going to happen. So that way it kind of—for the egg situation—that is your in-between, middle-of-the-ground section because we’re allowing for the oopses to happen, but we’re also not obsessing over how many are going to come directly out of the chicken, because we’re all human. We all forget for a week to pick them up, that kind of thing.
Lisa Bass Yeah, definitely.
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Lisa Bass Okay. Let’s talk about farm goal-setting because this is something you go into on your blog. And also, I want you to mention here, I think you have a tracker, right? You have an actual farm expense tracker?
Leah Lynch A budget tracker. Yup. Mm hmm.
Lisa Bass Okay. Yeah. Cool. So with the goal-setting, starting a farm, it can be very overwhelming in the beginning. You think you want to do all of these things, but then you need to probably implement them slowly so that way you have the education as you’re going and certain things don’t die like our bees did. So how do you recommend mapping all of this out and setting goals so that it actually happens but without a lot of stress?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So first and foremost is that so many people don’t start with what time they have to work with. And so it can feel a little restricting sometimes or some people don’t like it and you don’t have to stick to this all the time, but to at least see what you have to work with is either time batching, some people call it time blocking, whatever. But I have a video that I go through and I show you how to use Google Calendar or a planner that has the hours marked in it. I want you to go in first and put in the big blocks or the big rocks, essentially, are the ones that you don’t have a choice. This thing is not going away. You know, for me, I allow myself a certain amount of hours to work on the blog and the business, but a listener, it might be a 9 to 5 job. Or for us, it’s church three times a week, those kinds of things. So those things aren’t moving. We can’t affect the time or anything like that. So we put all of those in so we can see, get our brains to see what time we have to work with. And then within that, we also have to allow for things like dinner, and maybe you can do decent enough and keep it down to an hour and a half or two. But again, it kind of goes back to our brains kind of forget about all those things. So get a clear picture of what you have to work with first. But then the next part is it’s okay to dream. Get a piece of paper, write everything down that seems like a great idea. Or that thing that someday— even though for me, like having horses is a someday, but we only have an acre. So that’s not completely possible. Or it could be, but you know, that’s debatable. But the whole thing is like those are a dream for me, however, that’s okay to put that over here. And so get a piece of paper, write down all the things, both practical and impractical, and just allow yourself to have that. Then when you go back through, pull out three to five things that you are looking at going, “Okay, this is a little more realistic for the property we have,” the time that you have, just the variable factors that you have in life. And I realize you don’t know all of the time factors involved yet for those things, but we’ll get there. But then when you have those three to five things, I want you to go in and ask why? So why do I really want to do this? Maybe for me, I’m a little bit more of a practical gardener, so if I thought that I wanted to do a half an acre garden and I asked myself, “Why do I want to do that?” Well, it could be because I feel a little bit more guilty—or not guilty, but again, illegitimate—if I don’t. So go in and ask yourself why? Why do I want to do these things? Make sure that it, one, makes you happy. That’s one reason you want to do it. Or the other option would be either it’s practical, whether you’re trying to get more healthy food or something along those lines. Or it is an income generator. I know we’ll get to that in a little bit. But those are really the three things. You know, it either makes you happy, you’ve got a health reason, or just a preference to do it, or it has the potential of bringing an income for that. So make sure that your reasons for doing those things are legitimate and just they’re for you. They’re not for people on the outside. And then maybe you have two or three left after that. I have a freebie that is on my blog that people can walk through this a little bit more detailed with, but once you have those, then you’re like, yes, these things are still winning as far as what I can do and all of that, I want you to look at it and go, okay, on a scale of one to ten, one is not good at all, and the ten is obviously awesome and good. We’re looking for a high score. We’re going to evaluate the learning curve that it’s going to take you to learn. So for me, I know rabbits. Getting another read wouldn’t be a problem for me, so that would be a ten. But if I was getting goats, well, I don’t know as much about them, so they would be more along the lines of a three kind of thing. So evaluate the learning curve, the time investment that it would cost you to get into them, and then also the monetary investment that it would cost you to get into them. So an example for the monetary part would be maybe for chickens, we already have a coop built, but we only have to get the feeding supplies and buy the chicks kind of thing. Well, that’s a pretty decent— that’s not that bad. But if you didn’t have a coop, then you’ve got a much higher expense rate on that, if that makes sense. And then the last part that I would say with that is just that— let’s say you kept all four or five to three of those things, start with one big project a year and one small one. In a small one is like it’s pretty easy for you to do. And then only add on one a year after that. So I know that was kind of long and detailed.
Lisa Bass No, I mean, I think it’s kind of like any goal. You take something really big, you dream, and then you actually break it down into what’s practical and then you see what you can accomplish each week or month or year or whatever, however you wanna break it down, so that way you can end up somewhere in five years without each year being that overwhelming. Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So you talk a lot about—on your blog and Instagram—about making money from the farm. So starting a farm to earn money, not just make it pay for itself, so that way you can have fresh milk, fresh eggs, but also then monetizing that to bring in an income. Let’s talk a little bit about that. So I’m assuming what you’re talking about is a little bit different than the way that I earn money from my farm through social media, but more on the actual— like what you’re offering versus the content associated with it.
Leah Lynch Yeah. So my rabbitry— the rabbits alone, it makes multiple four figures and I’ve only got 12 to 15 rabbits at a time. So I don’t say that to brag, but more just to give people a realistic spectrum of that. So if we’re going physical and tactical, we know that people have to come to you to get that product. So it’s not like someone— and even though I’ve had inquiries across the pond, it’s not realistic. So one of the things that you need to look at— let’s say that we’re going to— we’ll just use eggs as an example to give me something to work with. But let’s just say you have chickens and you’re like, okay, I want them to pay for themselves. At the very least, cover their expenses and kind of go above and beyond that. So first off, think about where you are. And by that I mean literally like your location, what type of people are around you. So on the Kroger app, if you go in—this is not paid to drop them—but they have a type of egg dozen that is $8. And if you look at it, it’s really only heritage breed eggs, it’s not free-range, it’s not organic, nothing. Well, it’s not in our Kroger where everyone and their brother has chickens. It is in those inner city— you know, those eggs are for sale in those inner city— like people don’t know any better that those eggs are— there’s nothing special about them. And so think about it to where, like me, people are only going to be willing to pay $2.50 to $3 a dozen. So really think about first off, where are you and the people that are going to come to buy your stuff and think, are they willing to pay that? And so also use that example and think about the breed that you’re going to buy. So maybe you are looking at goats. Well, you’re going to be better off choosing a purebred, preferably one that has papers versus a mixed breed, because you’re gonna be able to get more for that, but it’s still going to cost you the same amount of time—the five month mark—to get a goat to have a kid, right? So really think about who’s going to be buying it and then what can you do to make choices that will up your value, essentially.
Lisa Bass Where are you located?
Leah Lynch So I’m in southern Ohio.
Lisa Bass Okay. Okay. You’re not too far from me. In our area, I feel like we could pay, like, $5 a dozen.
Leah Lynch I’m in southern Ohio, so we’re about an hour south of Columbus, so we’re just in a smaller area that is about— well, I’m outside of the town. So about 14,000 people is where my address is, but I grew up in a town that’s just 1,900. Pretty close to that. So it’s a very, you know, like cropped farm community.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So with like with eggs, I think it’s worth experimenting with certain breeds. For example, I feel like if you go to the farmer’s market and somebody has an open container of eggs and maybe they even have a cute little stamp on them and they’re in a plain paper carton or cardboard or whatever it is, and they’re all different colors, that at least in my area, you could probably get $5 or $6 for that easily even though leghorns lay way more per year than a lot of those breeds. I think if you had a container of white eggs sitting there, that wouldn’t really appeal to the buyers at the local farmers markets where I live.
Leah Lynch Yeah, it’s always looking at what can you do to increase the value in the eyes of the buyer. So it may not make sense to you. And it is also thinking about I wouldn’t take those eggs to our local farmers market. Those would go to the inner city Dayton. That’s our closest biggest town. That’s an inner city kind of thing. And so those people who are they’re willing to pay it, but they can’t. Most of them, they don’t realize that they could have eggs in their backyard, that kind of thing. So really thinking about the person who’s going to buy it.
Lisa Bass I think the reason that is is whenever you’re from a farm, you know— not you know, everybody knows that eggs can be all different colors. Everybody knows that. But I think whenever you go to a farmer’s market or you’re not really— you don’t live on a farm, but you go to a farmer’s market. I think you perceive the colorful eggs as being farm fresh because you don’t see them in the grocery store. So they’re special. You know, I think that’s probably why that difference is made. Whereas in your community or in my direct community—so I’m talking about going like 15 miles away maybe—in my direct community, I don’t think going to get any more for the colorful eggs. I think just white eggs but they’re from a farm would be like good enough.
Lisa Bass If you are listening to this podcast, you likely are interested in self-sufficiency and old fashioned skills for a country lifestyle like we’re talking about here. If that is the case, I want to introduce you to the School of Traditional Skills. This is something that I had the opportunity to be a part of. Last April, a camera crew came here to our farmhouse and shot an entire class on fermenting vegetables. That same camera crew led by the Homesteading Family—so Josh and Carolyn from the Homesteading Family—went on to film with Joel Salatin to talk about reclaiming pasture, talked about meat chickens with Justin Rhodes, gardening, pork curing, keeping milk goats, all different types of topics when it comes to gardening, from raised beds to extending the season. You can find all of this over at the School of Traditional Skills by using my link bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills. This is a membership based school where you can access all of these classes, and they’re going to continue adding classes. I forget how many they have planned per year, but they’re going to continue to add experts and new skills that you will have access to. So everything you need to know, they are deep dives. So when they came over, we went deep into fermenting vegetables, into troubleshooting, the benefits, the tools, the problems you may have, everything. And all of the rest of the classes have that same level of deep dive and then also very high production level. I’ve never had this many cameras and lights in my kitchen. So they’re very beautifully done classes that are packed full of information. Again, you can go over to the School of Traditional Skills by visiting bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills and check out the very impressive list of classes, everything from Sally Fallon Morrell who founded the Weston A. Price Foundation, who wrote Nourishing Traditions to Joel Salatin, Melissa Norris, Anne from Anne of All Trades. There are so many experts that are already over there that you can learn from in these very high quality classes. I will love to see you over there.
Lisa Bass Let’s talk about your rabbitry. Do you sell through social media? Do you sell at farmers markets? How have you been able to turn such a profit on that?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So like I said, I’m 30 and I started when I was 17. So Facebook was starting to be just a thing. But I’ve had rabbits since I was 10, so the Internet wasn’t a thing as much back then. I tried my best when I was young. I started at 10; it was hilarious. But it slowly grew and I had to think about it. I’m like, “Where are people?” And so, you know, people are on this all of the time. I don’t know how much your listeners would know what SEO is or getting found in search, essentially. So that’s a big thing for me now, but it wasn’t in the beginning. But it’s having a website and looking as much as professional as possible. And then I do have one social outlet that I use to help bring people in. But honestly, people still find me mostly through just typing it in in Google in search now. But ultimately it’s honestly looking at where people are spending their time because these trade things—especially after the last few years—people don’t go to those things anymore.
Lisa Bass Mhm. Yeah. So if you type in—I don’t know what breed of rabbits you do—but if you type in a certain breed, do you rank for like near Columbus, Ohio? Or what is it that’s driving most of that traffic for you to get the sales?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So the breed is French lops. And so I narrowed it down a little bit more to French lops for sale. But also I’m starting to rank now for Ohio in the state and things like that. And then I started in the last about two years or so creating blog posts around the breed itself as well. So I can start upping the ranks for French lops, too. And so search has really been the catalyst to that. But honestly, it takes years. I want to be completely blunt with that because so many people think, you know, “Oh, well, I’ll put up a website tomorrow and I might start to hear people requesting for me.” No. So that’s why it’s still very helpful to have that as a second arm.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s the low hanging fruit.
Leah Lynch Yeah. And the other part that I think has helped me stand out is, one, I have an email list where people— I don’t email them that much, but it’s another way—if they don’t like social—to be able to stay in contact with me or where I will send out essentially the same thing that I would post on Facebook, but to them as well. And so that has also just made me look different compared to the other French lop raisers as well. And I’m also looking into starting a text notification kind of thing. So it won’t be as detailed necessarily, but I’ll be able to say, “Hey, these are going to be available soon,” or “I just posted them on the website. Here’s a link. Go look at it,” kind of thing.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that you’ve carved out this niche of this specific bunny breed that now if people search that, they find you. Do you know any other people or do you have any more examples of like— sorry, this is totally just a random question that I didn’t prepare you for, but can you think of any other random niches, like any other kinds of animals that you’ve seen people had success with, from earning money from their homestead with something— what you just told me is something I’ve never thought about doing. So are there any other ones that I should think about?
Leah Lynch Yeah. So one of my students in— I have a— it’s called The Profitable Rabbitry Playbook. So I’m not trying to drop it or anything. But one of the students that bought that is in California. And so she raises Holland lops, and so that’s an extremely popular breed and it’s difficult. But she gets, well, she gets double what I get for mine— because I don’t want to throw out too much information of hers out there. So it is possible. But the thing that tends to surface amongst all of the the things that I do notice, people that do get more is, one, very much position yourself as an authority. And by that, I mean be willing to say when you don’t know, but give as much information as possible. But sticking to the purebreds. The mixed breeds, just there’s something about it that people just don’t seem to be drawn to as much because— and I always— mine are show rabbits, but even the people who are pet buyers, they still are drawn to— there’s something about a well put together animal that kind of just draws your eye to it, that kind of thing. And so I think sticking to the better quality animal— there are reasons we’ll mix things, like I know a lot of people mix the dairy and things like that. But if you were trying to think about it as a business standpoint, you want to get yourself into a bunch of different buckets. And so when you kind of mix them, people don’t know how to look for you that way, but people do know how to look for a purebred of some kind.
Lisa Bass Well, yeah, because people probably— if you Google search “rabbits for sale”, there’s no way you’re going to come up for that because that’s just too broad. So having this niche— I’m assuming not. If so, you better start breeding more rabbits. But having that niche where you have like this very specific thing that people are looking and then you have—all throughout your blog—you have all this information on rabbits. So yeah, you’ve established yourself as an authority which tells Google, okay, send people this way when they’re looking for this certain kind of rabbit because this person clearly knows what they’re talking about. I feel like you could extrapolate that exact strategy that you’ve done out to so many different things, like certain types of goats or horses or dogs or cows, like maybe miniature— I don’t even know what kind of cows. But that is a really smart way to be profitable.
Leah Lynch And the one last thing that I’ll drop with that is also let’s say that you do want to do some kind of purebred cattle of some kind. How many buckets can you get yourself into in order to be able to appeal to all the different niches? So I can still sell to show people. I sell to pet people, but then I also can sell to 4-H’ers or things in the middle as well. So that’s kind of the reasoning behind also being very linear and just staying focused on being choosy about the breed that you do pick as well.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So you have tons of information on your blog about using social media for a farming business because we really just scratched the surface with using social media. I’m obviously fascinated by the SEO part of it, but I do feel that SEO is a lower hanging fruit because you don’t necessarily have to have all this time to build up your authority. You can just put yourself out there on social media. And so she has lots of tips on her blog with that. What are some of the— this is a different question entirely, but I’m just curious to hear your answer because I have my own opinions, too. But what are some animals that people keep on the homestead that actually cause them to waste more money than they contribute? Not to say that these can’t be profitable, but what are the most common ones that you see that people kind of waste their time with? Let’s just put it that way.
Leah Lynch So I kind of had two different ways to get around this one. First off, I would more or less say that it’s not so much the animal itself, but it goes back to allowing yourself to be sucked in by cuteness or not being logical about the one that you do pick. But if we had to pick an animal that was more difficult to make it pay for itself, it’s more along the lines of the ones that either don’t reproduce quickly. Honestly, I think any animal can be made profitable—as far as the species goes—if you’re willing to do the work and cut it out there. But honestly, I think it goes back to the heart-led decisions and not allowing yourself to keep 20 roosters that are cute because you like the breed kind of thing.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That’s actually a really good answer because as I was saying the question, I was thinking, now I feel like I’m saying that these certain animals that I’m sort of thinking about in my head can’t be profitable, and they definitely can be.
Leah Lynch What ones were you thinking, if you’re willing to say?
Lisa Bass Well, okay, so the first thing that pops in my brain is goats. I mean, every homesteader I know starts with goats. And then at some point they think, “Why do I have these stupid goats?” And I know there’s goat people out there who are like, “What are you talking about?” And you’re right, there are ways that you can do goats and do them well. But I just feel like that is just the first— it’s not that they can’t be profitable, it’s that people get—like you said—attached and they find them cute.
Leah Lynch It’s a heart-led decision.
Lisa Bass Yes. And it’s okay. It’s okay to have pets. We have pets that don’t contribute at all. But I guess being honest about, okay, why is this so expensive? Okay, it’s because I have certain animals that aren’t actually doing anything for us monetarily. And like you said, having these heart-led decisions where you can’t just let them go because you’re attached.
Leah Lynch Yeah. So I will say that something that’s helped me a lot with that— obviously I’ve had a lot of years to get used to it, but the parents are my pets, so I know that they’re going to stay around. Right? So when babies are born, the wall goes up. I’m not allowed to get super cute and cuddly with them or anything like that because I know myself. Right? But then also kind of learning to kind of hold yourself back unless— you know, like for me, I’ve got three litters and I’m, fingers crossed that I’m hoping are going to happen that I want to keep one from each litter. So I’m going to allow myself the ability to look at that litter a little bit differently. The one last thing that I would say with that is also just allowing yourself—if you are the pet lover and you know that this animal is going to be a complete drain, allow yourself one to two and then that’s it. But then the other animals that you have— like if I want to keep a rabbit that’s old and retired or something like that, the other animals have to be able to make up for it. So kind of looking at it that way. It’s okay to allow yourself to have the pets, but then the other ones have to either make up for it and then we only allow ourselves just a couple, not 50 or 100 kind of thing.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. Especially just being honest with what is going on. It doesn’t mean any animal is bad. It just means being honest about that it’s not the homestead’s fault that certain animals aren’t paying for themselves. It’s just sometimes the management. So like when we had goats, we didn’t get them bred back in time. And so then their milk supply dipped to where we were going out every day and getting a little like a pint of milk. And of course, that wasn’t paying off for the cost that they were in hay and then also in getting out and eating our plants. And there’s ways to do that all properly, especially because I think goat milk can be marketed. They can be a lot more expensive than cow milk, and so you actually can turn quite a profit. But managing it, either managing it well or being honest with yourself that it’s just a pet is I think what we’ve come to the conclusion here.
Leah Lynch Yeah, exactly.
Lisa Bass I want to take a quick break from this awesome conversation to tell you about today’s podcast sponsor, Azure Standard. So if you’ve been following along for a while or if you’re in the real food niche, homesteading lifestyle interests, you’ve probably heard of Azure Standard. Azure Standard is a co-op style way to get your groceries. So basically you find a drop that’s in your area; ours is about 30 minutes away. We actually have a couple that we could go to. And you order with a lot of other people in your community. That way you can get the bulk price. So you’re essentially all going in together for a big truck delivery to get these products—organic, natural, staple type products—into your home for a cheaper price. They have eggs, meat, seasonal produce, bulk grains, and spices. Last time I ordered from Azure Standard, I picked up a lot of dairy products, which is one of my favorite things to get from there, mostly because it’s so hard to source organic. Now, of course, we get our own raw milk here from our cow, but I am not in the habit yet of making cheeses and sour cream and all of these dairy products that we use so frequently here in our home. So last time I ordered a huge package of organic probiotic cream cheese and organic probiotic sour cream. I got a whole drawer in my refrigerator full of raw cheese. Another thing that’s hard to find is organic raw cheese here. When we do find it, it is like $8 for a little block. I was able to source it way less expensive on Azure Standard. I also picked up some seasonal root vegetables. I have a huge box of sweet potatoes in my pantry. I got all purpose flour, cocoa powder, frozen foods, so many products that I can’t buy in bulk around here and we use in bulk here in our home. Azure Standard is offering Simple Farmhouse Life listeners 10% off your first order over $100 that is delivered to your local drop by using the code FARMHOUSE10. So go over to the Azure Standard website, AzureStandard.com. Find where your local drop is. Sign up for that and then place your first order using the code FARMHOUSE10 to get 10% off. So if you’ve been on the fence about trying Azure Standard, I really encourage you to one evening this week grab yourself, maybe a bowl of granola or a hot chocolate, sit down at your laptop and just pore over the website, find those deals, whether it be something seasonal that is a really good deal. Or maybe you’ve been purchasing gluten free oats from your local grocery store. They might be a lot less expensive on Azure Standard. I encourage you to take that leap, put some things in your cart, use the code FARMHOUSE10 and try it out.
Lisa Bass Okay. So on your blog you have post called Eight Battle Tested Steps to Make Your Small Farm to Pay for Itself. Can we talk about a few of those steps and how someone can get started on the right foot from the very beginning?
Leah Lynch Yeah, so we’re going to start with assuming that you don’t have anything going already, but honestly, the first one is being willing to start slow and start small. And this one’s tough. It’s hard because you come into it with so much excitement and vigor and all of that. But honestly, if you control yourself, you will love it so much more in the long run. And going into it with— I don’t know, let’s go with the goats anyways. In saying instead of buying five of them, then we’re going to buy two does and then we’re going to have them bred by someone else’s buck for the first year. So we know this is going to happen. And so we’re planning it. We may not even have bought them yet, but we’re going to start that account and we’re going to start telling people what’s coming. So we’re starting way ahead of time in essentially working to get customers or people excited about what is to come. So we’re using the things that we’re doing and the learning that we’re doing as the content or as the draw to get people to come to you. And so we take them on the journey of going to buy the animals. We take them on that. So it might seem like we’ve jumped already to something that you should be way down the line. But ultimately that marketing is what you’re doing. You’re starting way earlier than you think. And so that would be the first little walking steps of that. And then the next thing would just be to understand that ugly does the job. You know, we want all these pretty things and maybe the pretty chicken coop or the raised garden bed. But we can do—for the first little while—with less. I know the first rabbit hutch that I got, it was actually a display case for trophies, but it was a frame of it and it was pretty wide and deep, so I flipped it and just ran wire down the bottom and built doors across the other side. And so it was the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. But it worked. So as long as your animals are safe and they’re healthy. That’s all that matters, right?
Lisa Bass No, that’s great.
Leah Lynch So just kind of honestly starting very, very small and getting people to come early. They’re going to be excited for you as you go to buy them and things like that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like your idea of having this plan beforehand because you talked about how you have these two does and in five, six months you’re going to have kids and you’re going to need not only a plan for where they’re going to go, but then also are you selling them? Are you breeding them back? Are you going to be milking seven goats? What’s the plan for this? And how can you also create a market for whatever your plan may be, whether it’s milk or breeding stock or whatever? Having that plan in place beforehand. And also I feel like my husband and I always joke about this that I always sabotage my future self because I agree to a lot of things, because in the future I have all the time in the world. In the future I have time to research, I have time to market, I have time to milk. I have all the time in the world in the future. And so being realistic, like you talked about earlier in this episode, talking about like what obligations do you have. How much time do I really have? And being realistic with all of it, like how much time I have, what I’m going to do with everything and coming up with this plan beforehand, it’s really valuable.
Leah Lynch Mm hmm. Yeah. That’s the ultimate thing is that we as people, we ultimately just want happiness and security. And so as much as it might seem like a good idea to do all of these things, keeping it smaller and to what you are capable of doing will keep you so much more at peace.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Well, like right now, for example, on our homestead, I had so many plans of all the things that I wanted to do. I mean, and I still have dreams of that. But right now we have chickens and we have a dairy cow and we get tons of milk and we get tons of eggs. And I source all my meat from quality sources. I have my pork. I actually just called the butcher today. I have my chicken source. I have my beef source. And all we do is we milk a cow and we collect eggs and obviously all the maintenance that goes with that. We had bees. They died. But I realize that right now where I’m at, this is what our homestead is. It’s not providing every last bit of our food. We had a garden. We ate the tomatoes the entire summer as they came. I never even had enough to put any away, but that is just what is realistic for us right now, and I’m happy with it. And maybe someday we’ll have mental space, mental room for a pig, or maybe raising our own meat. Right now, we don’t even do that much. And this is just— this is our homestead.
Leah Lynch Exactly. And I think that’s valuable for other people to hear because we see other people and we think that they do all of these things. But in reality, they probably don’t do as much as our brains are telling us that they do. But I only focus on I have the rabbits that pay for themselves. We have chickens. And then again, like back with the garden thing— the only reason I want to grow something is that if it tastes better to me or it’s actually saving money. And so this year all I did was the tomatoes, and I love the taste of those things. And they’re a little more expensive, but wasting— I don’t wanna say wasting because that seems a little harsh. But it’s something like carrots are a dollar and a half a bag for a pound, that’s not logical.
Lisa Bass Exactly. I cannot get behind carrots. Yes.
Leah Lynch No. Yeah. I’m like, I cannot. It doesn’t matter how much I might think that, oh, that makes me seem more like a farmer or whatever. But if the logic isn’t behind it, I can’t do it. Like my body just stops, you know? And so, like, being okay with—
Lisa Bass Yeah, I’m 100% there.
Leah Lynch It’s like being okay with if having three five gallon buckets on your back porch and three hens to lay your eggs, if that’s all you can do, that’s enough.
Lisa Bass And yeah, sometimes— I mean, I don’t love gardening like I wish I did. It’s great. There are some parts of it that I really like, but for the most part, if my daily work involves gardening or milking a cow, milking the cow is definitely my preference. And so I’m with you on that. I actually told my daughter, next year we should just do all tomatoes, like every last bit of this garden in tomatoes. We’ll can tomatoes, we’ll use tomatoes, and that’s it. Just tomatoes that’s what I like most.
Leah Lynch Yes, animals are my happy place, too.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Okay. So one last question before we jump off here. If somebody already has a farm, but they feel like they’ve done it all wrong, how would you recommend shifting so that they can make it more profitable and worth their time going forward?
Leah Lynch Okay, so go back and do the blocks that I described before to understand how much time you have to work with. So the things like a job or other things that you can’t do without or you can’t get off your calendar, put those in and then we’re going to work down and see what time we have to work with first. So if you are going into it with a lot of things on your plate, in your brain, you ultimately have something on your mind that you’re like, “This just doesn’t even seem like there’s a point to it,” right? So there’s probably that one nagging thing that either doesn’t make you happy or it’s a total drain that you could just go ahead and let go of. And so being okay with that and finding the things that you’re willing to let go of would be the second part that I would run with with that. Essentially I call it finding the leaky buckets. And so the things that are sucking your time and money. And so the next one that I would look at—and let’s assume that you want to make money, at the very least having your expenses covered—what is the thing in your gut that you think could possibly turn a profit or at least start making you money quickly without having to buy anything else? We’re not looking at adding more time. We’re not looking at adding more costs or anything like that. So finding the thing that would be the least amount of time and money investment to turn a profit with that. And then the last part that I would just try and challenge you to do is get down to the one to two things that you really love and get those working like a well-oiled machine before you add on to them. And so this might cause you to have to make some tough choices and be like, “What do we let go of?” But being okay with letting those things go because you’re going, “This is for my mental health. This is for me to be able to rest when we just want to have a movie night or not feeling like, oh, I always got to do this work,” that kind of thing because it will start to rob you of the ultimate enjoyment that we do have in life. So yeah, just finding the leaks and then being willing to let go of the things that you ultimately know in your brain. There’s something that— you don’t have to question that it’s the big drain on you.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yep. I think editing down the homestead is very important. It can be the difference between you wanting to, like, quit everything entirely or just doing the things that are manageable for you. And so I think that’s some really sound wisdom advice. Okay, so the blog is Leah-Lynch.com, and on here you have so much information on basically just living the country lifestyle that doesn’t leave you broke and burnt out. So you have trackers, you have your social media tips for farm business, you have goal ideas and trackers and things like that. So head there. And again, thank you so much for joining me and sharing all of your wisdom on living a country lifestyle that doesn’t leave you broke and burnt out.
Leah Lynch Awesome. Thank you.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you for listening to this episode. I hope that we’ve encouraged you to think through some of your goals and objectives when it comes to starting a homestead and hopefully encourage you as well that even if you have a small space, you can do something to earn money to contribute to the food costs in your family and be smart about that up front. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.