Three Book Giveaway: Build The Life You Really Want

An advertising agency in Chicago used to pay Lisa Kivirist one big paycheck. Now, hundreds of people pay her lots of very small ones. All these little paychecks – over a thousand last year – allow Lisa, her husband John and their son to live the life they want: rural, sustainable and meaningful.

People write Lisa little checks for a few farmstand vegetables, or for a copy of one of the books she’s co-authored with her husband, or for a weekend away at the rural, award-winning “carbon negative” Wisconsin inn her family operates.

At the end of the year, her utility company writes her a check for all the solar and wind energy she’s generated on-site and fed back to the grid.

It’s a frugal life – Lisa says her family income is below federal poverty level – but it’s a rich life. It’s rich in time with those closest to her, and in community. Much of the food she eats and serves to her Inn Serendipity guests is grown on her own five acre organic farm – and it’s the kind of food you only get to eat when you grow it and preserve it yourself.

Lisa combines the proud heritage of practical Midwestern frugality with a deep passion for environmental and entrepreneurial stewardship. She is active in promoting female farmers and what she calls “ecopreneurialism” – finding creative ways to make a living while honoring her “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit.

I was so inspired by the two workshops Lisa led at the Mother Earth News Fair I recently attended that I stalked her at the handwashing sinks of the ladies restroom (true story-and yeah, maybe a little weird but I had to meet this woman!) to ask her how she became an Ecopreneur, and how other people looking to build a more sustainable life for themselves on their own terms could make it happen.

Lisa presenting at the Mother Earth News Fair discusses ways to reduce food costs.

Here’s what I learned.

Rethink Your Life Equation: Where Do You Really Want To Be?

In her early 20s, Lisa and John found themselves living in the city, paying city-rent prices, putting in hours at the office to pay for long-weekend “get-aways” in rural Wisconsin. These weekends in the country became so frequent that they asked themselves if they could swap their definition of “away.”

Could they live in the rural communities that spoke to them and think of a periodic weekend in the city, eating ethnic food and taking in fast-paced urban amenities, as the vacation instead of the daily life?

Lisa and John rolled the dice, and decided to build their life in the country. They were willing to give up short term comforts to make that happen, and continue to be willing to prioritize the essentials daily.

To make their dream of rural acreage a reality, Lisa and her husband focused on reducing expenses, paying off debt and saving to buy the land that would become their 5 acre farm.

1,000 Little Paychecks: Stitching Together An Income Quilt

Lisa’s long-term goal was to generate income on farm but not necessarily solely from farming. This concept, of making your living in your place without becoming a full-time, full-scale farmer, is something that appeals deeply to me, and to many other people I suspect. To do this, they built multiple income streams, selling goods and services and education in small bites to hundreds of people.

Slowly they built a sustaining, diversified income of what Lisa calls her “thousand little paychecks.” Now, sixteen years later, the dozens of ventures and projects – bed and breakfast, speaking, books, farmstand produce and more – have patching into a financial quilt that provides Lisa and her family with as much as they need while allowing them to live a life they feel proud of.

Lisa and her husband John build a sustainable income and lifestyle, together.

Recapturing Money, Recapturing Energy

In order to ensure their income quilt cover their expenses, Lisa continues to focus on getting the details right when it comes to expenses.

She is thoughtful about the details of frugality. In one of Lisa’s Mother Earth News Fair presentations, she laid out two scenarios for cooking a meal with some frozen, blanched spinach taken from the freezer.

In both scenarios, money and energy have been expended to grow or buy the spinach, package it, freeze it and keep it frozen.

In the first scenario, the meal (say, Spinach and Feta Spanakopita) is planned in advance and the spinach is pulled from the freezer and thawed slowly in the refrigerator, over several days. In this way, the cold contained within the frozen item is released into the refrigerator, helping to cool other things in the fridge. The spinach thaws, and everything else stays cool with less work from the refrigerator. The money and energy used to freeze the spinach is partially recaptured with only a small amount of planning.

In the second scenario, the spinach is pulled from the freezer 15 minutes or so before dinner. Because it is frozen solid, the dinner-maker pops it in the microwave to defrost it.  Now, not only has the potential cooling savings of the frozen spinach been lost, but yet more energy and money have to be poured into thawing it.

It’s The Little Things…

As simple and obvious as the spinach-thawing example is, it was a total light-bulb moment for me. No big changes are required to pull this off: no switching to an all-plant diet or only buying packaged food on double coupon days. All that’s required is paying a giving a bit more attention and a bit more care to the ways you do what you already do. I love that. That’s how we all make changes that last anyway.

Heeding to the details of conservation and frugality (frugality is nothing more than conservation of money, after all) allow Lisa and her family to live the life they want. Thawing spinach slowly in the fridge is just one small way she recaptures money and energy. Investing in on-site, grid-tied solar and wind energy solutions that pay her back is another, slightly larger example of the same concept.

By not scorning those little slips of income, and by paying attention to little details of frugality, Lisa and her family have pieced together a sustainable economic quilt that makes a lower-impact, lower-income lifestyle possible, pleasant and inspirational.

Yes But How Do I Do It? The Build The Life You Really Want Three Book Giveaway

Lisa and John have written several books dedicated to helping people make the same transition they made in moving to a more thoughtful, sustainable lifestyle. I am thrilled to offer a giveaway here of their three most recent, sponsored by New Society Publishers, the publishing house for all three.

The winner of this giveaway will receive one copy of each of the following:

    

Farmstead Chef - This is a homegrown, handmade cookbook for people who eat and cook like they mean it. The food isn’t flashy, but it is impressive. Seasonal and solution-oriented (zucchini glut anyone?), these recipes are made for those with a garden or a farmers market addiction. Interwoven amongst the food is the philosophy of thoughtful eating and mindful consumption, but without a lick of preachiness.

Rural Renaissance - The more detailed story of how Lisa and John traded cubical jockying for farm freedom, Rural Renaissance is part philosophical blueprint for a lighter lifestyle and part how to manual to lower your impact and your bills.

Ecopreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits - Details the how’s and why’s of running a sustainable business. Lisa and John talk about honoring the three “Ps”- people, planet and profit, and make the case that you can live your values while still making a living.

To enter to win all three books leave a comment below telling me what your dream “on farm” job would be. If just generating income weren’t an issue, what work would you find fulfilling that would allow you to work from a low-impact home base?

Contest closes 8 pm Friday August 10 (You have two weeks guys, spread the word!) and is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada. Winner will be contacted by email by Monday August 13th. Only one entry per person will be counted. Good luck!

Update: Contest now closed. Winner will be notified by email. Thank you for entering.

How To Turn A Mason Jar Into A Fermenting Crock
Lacto-fermented Cherry Salsa

Comments

  1. My dream on farm job is pretty similar to my current situation :) We currently live in a small city where I teach yoga part-time at various studios, but someday I’d love to have a bit more land with a huge garden, fruit orchard, chickens, goats and bees, and an old farmhouse with space for my own studio where I can teach yoga classes in a more pastoral, restorative setting.

    I love the message of determining to live wholly and truthfully–not buying in to the consumerism that traps most adults in dreary 9-to-5′s. I’m looking forward to perusing some of the books you linked to. Thanks!

  2. My dream is to have a place where people can come to heal their souls. I want to have enough room to have a meadow where people can plant something in honor of a broken dream or heartache to help it mend and heal. Good food, kindness, gentleness, breathing, being cared for, rest. A place where you can feel the wind move through your lungs. A place where you can dig in dirt and clean the rough places inside that threaten your dreams. A place where you can be silent or scream to your heart’s content. A place where you can set stone on stone in honor of all you have been through. A place where second, third, fourth and so on chances are born in the soul and in the body. A place you leave renewed but also longing to stay. A place of healing and hope.

  3. Sus Austill says:

    I am close to licensure as a social worker in Florida and live on 12 acress of old florida style woods with a large garden space. I would like to share my insights of healthy living that includes making peace with self, our generational path and Giai.

  4. My dream “on farm” job would be to provide a complete year round diet for my family and teach others how to do the same. I live in town right now and the dream of a farm of my own seems far reaching. However, I know it is the life for me and I am doing what I can now, where I am, with what I have. It’s all anyone can do.

  5. Wrote way too much for a comment section so turned it into a blog post instead but here’s the summary:
    When my hubby and I were engaged, we’d spend hours sitting in his pickup in the grocery store parking lot with a carton of milk and a chocolate bar to eat and a clipboard of paper to write out our dreams. We used to dream of someday moving to a rural area of the state, living in a big old Victorian farmhouse, and living as self-sufficiently as possible. We drew up complicated diagrams with arrows all over them showing how everything worked together. Think Joel Salatin supporting just his own family with everything they needed. We’d never heard of him, but his methods embody our old ideal. We planned on me working very part time and being the farm wife, preserving the harvest, managing the home. We planned on him managing the garden, crops, livestock, and building and maintaining the grounds (our plans also included flower gardens, a children’s play area and an outdoor brick oven among other things). The ultimate goal, besides sustainable living, would be to have our whole family work together and spend time together, to have time to raise our children mindfully, and to be able to see each other a larger percentage of the time than we see co-workers or neighbors…after all, we were getting married because we wanted to be together!
    Due to some recent discussion, hubby made a proposal: why not go back to our original dream, but with a twist. Sure we’re living in the city on a seventh of an acre, but isn’t it still our goal to live as sustainably as possible. Isn’t that why we do what we do already. Isn’t our yard already resembling a tiny urban homestead? Why not take that and run with it? Why not try being a farm wife and a farmer?
    So that’s what we’re in the midst of trying to figure out now. He stays home with the kids so his goal is to supplement my income with enough produce to provide for as much of our needs as possible and sell the excess (a little money wouldn’t hurt!) so that I can cut down on my hours. Books with more information on how others have done this would be so helpful. At this point our go-to for this is Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on a Quarter Acre but more perspectives would be great!

    • That’s really beautiful, Robin! I think, reading all of the posts, that we all have this dream that is something other than what we have … and rather than be continually upset by what we don’t have, turn what we have into something beautiful. Make it work where you are with what you have. And your son wearing fairy wings is just awesome! Keep up the good work

  6. I would expand on what I am doing now in my little back yard in a little town. I have had my own business for a while now, making home decor and gifty things but my focus over the years has changed to upcycled or eco-solutions to otherwise wasteful items (like throw-away party decorations or plastic produce bags). I want to have a property that is as self-sufficient as possible. Any extra produce, canning, flowers etc I would use to barter for services for things I cannot accomplish myself.

  7. I would develop recipes and write cookbooks and do crafts and grow veg in between.

  8. My dream on farm job is slowly (true emphasis on slowly) becoming a reality. My husband and I just bought 40 acres in North West PA. Here we hope to build a mostly self-sustaining homestead, while home-schooling our three children. We also hope to develop the land enough to accommodate ten or so like minded families who seek to create more than they consume. Together we want a sustainable community complete with organic produce and small live-stock. We hope to serve our local communities and raise our children with an awareness of what they can receive from the earth and contribute to society. We have taken the first step. My dream is coming true. We’ll just have to keep putting one foot in front if the other until my dream is no longer a dream, but my reality.

  9. Kristy MN says:

    My dream job would be to make cheese. Goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s milk, all make yummy cheese. I would also hope to share homesteading skills with others (online or at the farm)!

  10. Rick and I have talked very much about tapping into the agro-tourisim biz. I’d love it. Before kids we were already scouting B&B potentials, but I’d love to make it a farm vacation instead. <3

  11. Cynthia in Denver says:

    2 acres max in the Denver metro area. Half an acre of that used for an orchard. A quarter acre for grape trellising. Another quarter acre for grains. An acre for veggies. A small house with basement that has been converted to a storage cellar. A side office used to give my mom employment by selling chicken supplies and other clean air organic items to the urban homesteader (oops, did I just infringe on the Dervrais copyrights for “original” idea? Sorry). Everything running on solar and wind power.

    Sell stuffed grape leaves from my vines and veggie garden. Set up a stand at area markets to sell quinoa, veggies and fruit, ciders.

  12. Ouida Lampert says:

    My dream would be to have a space where I could grow herbs and other plants that could be used for natural dyeing of fibers and fabrics – and to raise the sheep to provide the wool for such – so that I could start a sort of artisans retreat/colony/rustic school. I have an interest in almost all of the things that others have noted, and all these pursuits are creative, so they feed something in me that the city just does not.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

  13. I currently live on a few acres, try to have a somewhat productive garden and raise chickens. Attempted to sell at a farmers market but that only paid for my gas to get there and back and my tables and canopy. I would love to expand on what I have to become self sustaining growing and canning 90% of my own food to last throughout the year. I would love to incorporate vermi composting perhaps on a community level with the possibility of selling the “tea” and/or compost. I find it very difficult to attain these things when a full time outside the home job is where I spend a good part of my time. Maybe in my retirement years????!!

  14. This is my dream: To live on several acres and have a huge kitchen garden and fruit trees. The house would have a big kitchen and dining room as well as a deep cool basement for winter storage. The power would be all generated by wind, solar and water. I would like a guest house with a couple of suites and a couple tent houses or yurts for my guests. I would be able to open my home to people that want to learn about a sustainable way to live and also get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. I would also like to sponsor inner-city kids and their parents for weekends in the county that include a dose of good old-fashioned farm work and farm to table home cooking. Cooking and preserving food classes would be offered. I would inspire others in my community to be involved and ask them to teach things like beekeeping and backyard chicken tending, knitting, even candle and soap making. With my skills and the skills of others there would be so much we could offer to others to help them live their dream life as well.

  15. My dream on farm job would be teacher. I want to learn and then pass it on. Or pay it forward if you prefer. I would write ebooks, hold workshops, maybe do a farm experience weekend. I will also be selling my produce and making value added products but I hope to make the balance of my living from teaching others to follow their dreams. It’s my passion. :D

  16. Melissa Harrison says:

    OH MAN, this lifestyle totally rocks. Amazing and beautiful food, frugality, sustainability, education, and minimalism…some of my favorite things! I would absolutely love to live on a small plot of land, not *too* far from the city (gotta have some modern conveniences!), but far enough to still feel secluded. I’d have beautiful flower gardens as well as veggie/herb gardens, blended to create the perfect combination of form and function. I’d spend my time preparing food and gardening, tending to my egg-laying chickens, blogging/educating via the internet, and hosting classes on my property about living closer to the land. THIS (and including many of the similar ideas posted by the other commenters!) would spell happiness to me.

  17. Well, in short, this is my dream. Live on the land, make ends meet somehow, work hard, love on my family, learn the land deeper and deeper with each season. It’s nice to hear others feel that same way too.

    Yes, I think there is hope for humanity after all. :)

  18. I would spend my days tending a gorgeous garden and cooking/canning the wonderful foods I was able to harvest.

  19. It would be great if I coud make a living crafting.

  20. I would teach urban and suburban teenagers to grow and cook their own food.

  21. I would love (keeps-me-up-at-night love) to be a sheep-to-skein yarn producer. I love canning, growing my own food makes me very happy, but raising sheep and turning fleece into yarn is my ultimate dream job.

  22. Homebrew Husband says:

    Ok, so obviously I’m ineligible to win. But the idea of putting my dream-farm-job out there seems lucky, so here goes.
    If I had my druthers, I’d really like to follow the “thousand paychecks” model…perhaps not a THOUSAND (sounds like a lot of work) but a few dozen. I’d like to spin up some of my writing efforts into something income generating, get a few novels published and freelance for magazines. Perhaps figure out a way to turn my work in business intelligence into some sort of part-time consulting or speaking gig.
    Spend half my days working on the farm, offsetting costs and producing our own, and half my days writing.
    Of course, since this whole vision is predicated on a career as a novelist, I’m not putting the day job out to pasture anytime soon…

  23. Chelsea Wipf says:

    My dream on farm job would be homesteading/raising pastured pork and beef/horse training! All of my passions in one! This giveaway sounds wonderful, thanks for doing it!

  24. I would open a self-sustaining restaurant and live above it. :)

  25. My dream job, would be doing kind of what we are doing now…but a little “more” I’d like to get goats,more chickens and be able to grow some of our own feed

  26. I would invent a website that would unite all these dreamers so we could network and support each other :) Anyone from Minnesota reading this?

  27. Aside from growing enough fruit & veg for myself, I’d mainly raise sheep & rabbits in a sustainable way so I could harvest their fur & spin it into yarn. Alpacas are also a consideration.

  28. I’d become a Master Canner and Master Gardener and use my plot of land as a teaching lab. Ooh, and start an aquaponic system. Then I’d write books on gardening and storing food in the climate zones of Greater LA.

  29. Jill Walden says:

    I am slowing learning all the skills one needs to have to be self-sufficient. My biggest eye-opening experience has been doing a work-share at a local farm. Some days, especially those 99 degree days after planting 100′s of squash plants, I wonder if if would just be easier to buy the dang vegetables. But, deep down, I am so motivated to learn about farming, gardening, raising chickens, and generally knowing how to make most of the food I feed to my family.

  30. I would grow fruits and vegetables and make a living cooking for people. Id also like to teach kids about food and cooking.

  31. Take this cubicle and shove it! (Or shovel it full of manure!) I’d spend my day with my animals. The chickens could actually be on pasture, not urban back yard. Being a mentor to young people who don’t yet know they are destined to be farmers. Canning, sewing, planting. Hubby does the heavy work. Grow my own turkey dinner. Thanks for the moment to day dream.

  32. I think it would be fun to spend time working with kids and trying to teach them about real foods and spending time in the great outdoors!

  33. I would like to build several houses out of shipping containers (with solar!)….2 to rent out and one to live in, allowing me to have a steady income while I garden, raise chickens (and now I really want rabbits too), sell my produce at the farmers market, and work on my graphic design company that I haven’t had time to really get up and running-becuase I work M-F…my company would make Eco-friendly invitations for weddings and parties – there is so much waste in all the fancy envelopes, rsvp’s, programs etc…etc…etc… There has to be a better way of getting the information in a stylish and still beautiful, tactile way without all the paper waste. This would also allow me to get my child out of daycare where I don’t like the food menu – it’s all processed and unhealthy (seriously – poptarts and frito pie for a 3 year old – it’s disgusting).

  34. My dream is to have a mini farm that we can grown enough for our family and sell the left overs at a stand or market. Additional income would come from the “petting zoo” aka bringing the kids in to love on the animals we already depend on for food. I want a dairy cow and layer chickens. I want a horse for riding lessons and a mini pony to be bossy and the farm prankster. I want to grow pumpkins to sell in October and do autum farm activities like corn maze and hay rides. I want to grow Christmas trees too and take folks out in our horse drawn sleigh to chop their family Christmas tree. We could invite whole class field trips to learn about sustainable living and the circle of life. I want to have a garden and preserve our foods with love. And to raise eating cattle, some to keep and some to sell. I want to supplement our income by selling crafts and quilts at the market. And follow it all in my blog!

  35. Being able to write and commit time to that would be a dream. To be financially free so I could leave a hyper-stressful middle school teaching job. I would love to have my own laying hens and sell eggs. Many little dreams.

  36. brenda from ar says:

    Long read – getting through all these folks dreams – so interesting. I’d like to have some acres in the boonies near the deer woods with a small somewhat rustic lodge where hunters could stay in their season, and maybe host quilter’s retreats at other times. It wouldn’t be a full-time affair – there would be lots of quiet time too. Time to walk, play in the dirt, sew, do energy saving experiments, cooking experiments, etc.

  37. oooh, permission to dream it up? I would make delicious sauces and jellies and my favorite chai, have a market every week, with creations by myself and my friends. We would hang out and exchange passions and ideas for sustainable and simple living, and my amazing man would play piano. Oh, and his friends would come too and play other instruments. We have had the idea of a weekly breakfast – made from our garden veggies and eggs from the chickens. Music, community, creativity, delicious food….. People would come to my home for healing energy work and sit in the garden with tea that I have made from my impressive herb garden…. I can almost taste it… It’s not far away!

  38. Growing a big garden and making candles.

  39. I would spread the word and help educate others to live self sustained lives.

  40. A B&B featuring as much farm to table food as possible. With a little shop for excess produce/jams/pickles. A small on farm bakery/cafe featuring wood-fired breads and pizza and sandwiches. That’s all I ask for. ;)

  41. Barb Lieberman says:

    What wouldn’t I do want to do is a better question? I would love to grow all manner of fruits and veg, create fresh meals, can and preserve and share our bounty with those in need of good food (food banks, etc.). I would raise chickens, for fresh eggs, and cows, for raw milk and cheese. I would like to create accessible gardens and use our farm to teach others who live with differing abilities how to enjoy gardening and growing their own food. Bring local schools into the mix, by supporting local school gardens… I would love to barter with others to create a local economy based in bounty, rather than in want and money.

  42. Oh my goodness, my “grand plan” is so, well, grand – that I have scaled it back a bit to be more reasonable to begin with: I would like to start by simply growing (organically) a significant percentage of my family’s food and herbs for cooking and medicine. I want my children to have an appreciation for “real” food and where it comes from and I would love them to feel a connection to the earth and to nature. Part of the plan would also be to grow enough to share with others in our community, as I also want my children to grow up to be compassionate, giving individuals.

  43. It would be to learn absolutely everything about farming and spread the same knowledge with our future generations. Children and adults working on the farm together, it will foster amazing things!! We MUST teach the children how to do this. Their life and the lives of their offspring depend on it. And teaching those kids to look 7 generations past and 7 generations forward instead of just right now so our legacy can live on…….and then……………..those kids can take those skills into their communities and change the world..

  44. I have been working to build the infrastructure needed so that I can ‘retire’ from the day job and work from home. (I’m hoping not more than one more year) I am an artist and would love to do an artists retreat/workshop/B&B. I’m already expanding my poultry operation and expect that next year in addition to selling eggs, I’ll also be selling Muscovy ducks, Buff Orpington and Welsummer chicks. (no certified processor locally so I won’t go in for meat sales, tho I would sell birds live to customers, then teach them how to butcher them). I may expand my rabbit herd to include one of the Angora breeds for wool and yarn sales. I have 20 acres of desert scrub; I’m in the slow process of doing erosion control and fencing so I can buy some Karakul sheep, they give meat, milk, hides and wool. I’m looking into breeding Guinea Hogs, half or less the size of regular hogs they are an endangered breed, with fewer than 200 in the US. Sales of feeder pigs and breeding stock would be good. I’d love to have Nubian dairy goats again and am looking at the mini-nubians, since I think smaller size farm stock is going to be the wave of the future. I”m already selling small amounts of produce at our local farmer’s market and plan to bump up the garden and have a large booth next year. I’m also thinking of starting a lot of extra veggie & herb plants in the spring and having a spring plant sale; that might lead to an actual organic nursery enterprise….. I already write a lot of gardening articles online (http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/hysongdesigns) and would love to write more as well as paint more.

  45. I recently rather accidentally discovered a passion for soil biology, something that I think could be easily-studied on a real, working farm! I have always been passionate about sharing what I’ve learned about nutrition, food allergies, gardening, wild foods, microflora, and the way all of our choices have rippling effects. I would love to write articles and host classes teaching these things. Ideally, I want to not charge for the classes… money can be a barrier to so many. Maybe I could even travel to different local schools and bring a bit of green to the kids stuck in classrooms all day.
    As cliche as it sounds, I would love to run a B&B (limited times available, I don’t think I would like the constant grind.) Mine would even be allergen-friendly. :-)

  46. My dream farm job would be to just live off my land(if I had it) I want to raise my children on our farm. To be able to feed them off it. Teach them from it. Learn to live like my grandparents did. I think we would all be happier and healthier if we did.

  47. Elizabeth says:

    My dream “on farm” job would be holding workshops and summer camps meant for families, to pass on the gift of nature and rural skills. I was horrified when I read an urban gardening article that stated some kids were confused about why the vegetables had dirt on them. The idea is having a place where kids and parents can learn together to garden, feed animals, enjoy nature, identify trees and plants, learn crafts or to swim. Teaching is a passion of mine and being able to pass on the skills to be self sufficient is a skill that we need now and will need even more in the future.

  48. Since we were little, my sister and I have always wanted to have land for an animal rescue. we could not only save and rehabilitate these animals, but also offer children therapy and education programs. We love food, hard work, and the quiet beauty of a great open sky.

  49. I’d just like to be able to get as far off the beaten path as possible-grow what I can, heat what I can, etc. I’m greedy- I want to swim in cucumbers, I want to hoard energy-I want the space and time to do that. baby steps. :)

  50. Peg Osborn says:

    My dream “on the farm job” would be learning to raise free range chickens for their eggs. I just love seeing chickens roaming free. Also promoting drying clothes outside. Nothing smells fresher than sheets dried on a clotheline outside.

  51. My partner and I kick around ideas for farm living all the time. The two we keep coming back to are raising honey bees to make and sell mead (and honey and beeswax) and farming worms to sell vermicompost (and compost much of our waste). In addition, we would raise animals and maintain a garden to provide for ourselves. Ideally we would add some sort of guesthouse/b&b aspect to share our farm with others (and provide some additional income).

  52. My ideal on-farm job would depend upon the season. In the winter, I would make handmade soap, which I would sell primarily through Etsy. I’d also do some local wholesale selling and sell at farmer’s markets and craft fairs. In spring and summer, I would concentrate on gardening and growing pursuits. A lot of the growing would be for mine and my family’s use, but a good deal of it would be herb, such as lavender and rosemary, that would be used in my soaps. Fall would be spent doing a lot of canning and preserving, and gearing up for the winter. Of course there’d be a lot of overlap in all of this. There’d be other little odd things I’d like to do as well, like beekeeping, making my own body and cleaning products, etc., but I’m only one person. But, I’d love to be able to walk away from my cubicle and attempt to make a lifestyle like this work…

  53. Annie Rae Huston says:

    I would love to give informal, fun classes in my garden and my kitchen, about canning and preserving, to lots of people, but especially youth. I would love to see them get excited about the possibilities of food security/ sovereignty.

  54. Teresa Farrow says:

    My dream job / life would to have a semi self sufficient homestead. I would offer a home to developmentally adults interested in living and learning to work on the land. It would be a family / co operative situation in which everyone life would be valued for the uniqueness and skills they bring to the endeavor.

  55. I like to do many different things, so, like the authors, I’d like my job to be a “quilt” of sorts – doing a little of many different things. I already do that, to a degree – I garden, I can, I keep bees, I have an orchard, a hayfield and keep some egg-laying hens, I trim horse feet, I do home and farm repair and construction, etc., but would love to expand, and think their books sound like must-reads for me!

  56. William Molloy says:

    My ideal farm job would to figure out how to set up and maintain a 2000 sq ft year round green house that would maintain an average temp of 65-70 degrees so I could grow all the same veggies I would grow in the summer time. It would be quite a task, I would need a little wind, a little solar, and a fair amount of geothermal, and of coarse water. Once the basic were down and working then figure out how to build it for a whole lot less, then show and tell everyone how to do it… I picked doing it all in a green house because of the threat to the food system by cross contamination of GM poplin.. You can control many thing in a green house..

  57. I’d use my farm for tours (and to feed my family), and I’d plan other people’s growing spaces for them. Yay, permaculture!

  58. Lori Cochran says:

    I too would have a B&B style homestead, garden, chickens, goats, milk cow, horses. Cook and teach gourmet home grown food ways of ole.

  59. My Dream farm also doubles as a day program for adults with disabilities, the elderly and anyone who needs social interaction. There is a large community building for coffee, receptions and anyone who want to play some music. There is a large kitchen for processing of fruits and veggies into marketable items. The garden area is out the back and is handicapped accessable. Beside
    the garden area there are grass fed cattle from which milk, butter and meat is sold. And a bonus is a stand of maple trees to make syrup from. The focus is on inclusion, communty, self sustainablility, and permaculture. I also know who I’m hiring for what jobs!

  60. My dream is to run a fully self sustaining aquaponics system in my tiny back yard and eventually be able to use our knowledge of growing food to help our two year old son gain knowledge that will help him secure a better future for himself and his children. We would also like for this to become what provides our income. We would also like to install solar and wind to our home so that we can live with the pride of knowing we are doing our very best to contribute to the betterment of everyone. Thank you for sharing freely your knowledge and experience on these subjects as well as many others.

  61. A year after my husband and I started full scale gardening, we started a blog and wrote about how much we didn’t know and what we learned. We only blogged for one summer and then gave a presentation at church — mainly about what we now know doesn’t work, and what we learned did work. My dream would include lecturing to people about how to start a foodstyle change. You don’t have to know everything, or anything, and can jump right in. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, but it’s all a learning process and you have to start somewhere, right? Oh yeah, and I’d like to blog again about what we’ve learned along the way.

  62. My dream on-farm job would be to have a tiny little shop on my property where I would sell all things I’ve made myself or that came from my property: canned items, soap, yarn, wool, cheeses, knit/crocheted items, seedlings, eggs, pottery, baked goods….I would also love to teach classes on how to do those things and teach others about self-reliance. I would love to write as well. I’m flittering off into sweet daydreams now. Oh the possibilities. One day…..

  63. LJ Nidiffer says:

    Our dream is to build an off-grid yurt on a some secluded property that has been in family for 60 years. My grandparents raised me there , on their farm, and instilled so many skills that I lean on today. They were truly self-sufficient people who knew how to live happily on very little aside from a great deal of hard work. I truly enjoy teaching people who are passionate about gardening, canning, raising animals, and other self-sufficient things. Ideally I would make my living holding onsite educational opportunities teaching these skills at my homestead.

  64. I’ve given this one some thought over the years and thought it would be fun to combine my small-farming goals with a home day care center. Promote the day care as an in-touch-with-nature center where children can garden, work with animals, and learn to respect the land. Foods would be local and sustainable. All this in addition to the regular things like free time, reading, art, and so forth.

    I would have loved such a thing as a kid.

  65. I’ve come up with several idea’s over the years, but lately I’ve been thinking more and more of farming medicinal herbs, as well as making and selling my own herbal medicines.

  66. We would love to do this. Since we have 2 small businesses, we can’t readily leave the area, as our client base is here. Always looking for ideas to help us get onto a bigger property and still have time to enjoy it.

  67. I live in the county on 3 acres, and would like to have my own chickens for fresh eggs, bee hives for honey, finish putting in raised garden beds for vegetables, and have my own compost.

  68. If money were not an issue, I would probably still be working with youth development organizations. I would build furninture, raise chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats (and children too). I would have a small orchard and bees, and room for growing enough food for my little family.

  69. I can picture myself on the farm planning, planting, growing and cooking. Then starting all over again.

  70. I would work on a documentary series, a bit like The Perennial Plate, where I go around to different farms and establishments in the food industry, to learn about the different processes and stories of the people behind it. It would be incredible to learn about such a wide array of possibilities within the food industry and then to broadcast that to the public in an accessible way.

  71. To have a peaceful refuge for abused women, children, and animals. A garden, farm animals with a barn, lots of land to run and play and explore and learn; a place to heal while creating and connecting through the fruits of the earth. There is so much violence in our world and no where to escape.

  72. Oh, perchance to even dream momentarily about me on a “real” farm! Stuck in suburbia for now, with an underwater mortgage and the typical lion’s share of credit-card debt looming over us, I spend every waking moment (and most of my unconscious dreaming as well) wistfully imagining that little acreage with the modest house, back in the valley closer to the rest of the family. While I bide my time here in suburgatory, with my 7 raised garden beds, chicken coop with 4 laying hens, and my most recent purchase of a water-bath canning set, I look forward each spring to the dawning of the latest escape from winter doldrums here in the mountains and the onset of the gardening season; nice for now, but some day… some day, I will have the acreage–just a little one; I don’t need that much–and I will grow a larger garden. I will have both laying hens and raise and process meat birds each year. I will plant a small orchard, and I will keep honey bees, just as my grandfather did many decades ago. Everything will be organic, sustainable, permaculture… and my home will be as “off-grid” as I can reasonably make it. I’ll be a happy member of the local farmers market, taking my own wares to market each week and proudly displaying them to all who visit; selling eggs and vegetables and seeds… perhaps my own baked goods, and even some of my craft items. And I will visit with happy market-goers, who will be relaxed and pleasant as they shop with local folks supplying “real” food instead of the nasty industrial stuff the chain stores sell.

    Our little farm will be closer to our family. And perhaps I’ll have a grandbaby or three. And perhaps I will inspire them to live a similar lifestyle; a lifestyle I have only just recently discovered is truly what I want to live “when I grow up” now, in my early 50s. I’m off to a good start in that both our sons (now in their 20s) have indicated their passion for a similar lifestyle. Odd that while it’s also how my own parents grew up, we did not. We suffered the early-60s hype of all the “new modern conveniences,” and my own mother clamored for the wonder of the fancy home appliances that did so much of her work for her, and the delightful convenience of visiting a supermarket and buying all of those already-processed foods, approved by our oh, so trustworthy government, that were offered instead of “having to” cook our meals herself. But what goes around comes around. Although we never even had a vegetable garden when I was a kid, now (finally!) my mother is filled with advice whenever I speak to her on the phone about my latest work with growing raspberries, mucking out the chicken coop, or canning pickles. Hopefully, one day soon, mother will sit nearby, offering her advice and the joys of her own memories in person while I and my own offspring pull weeds, gather eggs, harvest cucumbers and squash, and attend to the beehives. It’s the dream I live with these days– pretty much every night and every day.

  73. I would loooove to grow my own produce, but ultimately… make my own cheese!! Would love to do that on a farm. :)

  74. I NEEEEED this set of books!!!

  75. I would open a small mostly outdoor daycare modeled on the Swedish ones that are totallyin nature. I would immerse children in the work of the farm making it play and life rather than work. The rest of the time I would can can and can some more!

  76. My dream “on farm” job would be raising small animals and running a (grant funded) program where city kids could come have access to what being around farm type animals is really like. Perhaps giving them the chance to “raise their own” animals, etc.

  77. Becca Riley says:

    My dream on farm job would be that of the farm wife. I’d cook , bake, can, sew, knit and homeschool our son. I’d take care of the house and the chickens, maybe a small herb garden if I could get one to grow. These books would be amazing to have.

  78. I would love to be able to raise vegetables, fruits, chickens and I would even go so far as to say a cow, even though that will never happen. I love the idea of living off the land and making my bit of yard into a more ecological habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial bugs.

  79. If I could do any farm job, I’d probably make farmstead cheese. Raise the animals (sheep, goats and/or cows), then turn their lovely (raw organic grass-fed) milk into cheese (aging it the legally required period). I’d, of course, have a vegetable garden on the side, along with some fruit trees and berries. And a few chickens/ducks/geese for meat and eggs. Then if I had any time left (perhaps in the winter?), I might learn to spin and knit to use the sheep’s wool.

    Just discovered your blog–your Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater is just toooo cute!

  80. My dream dream would be to raise pastured broiler chickens and to grow a market garden. Throw in a calf and maybe a couple goats to make a complete paradise :)

  81. Poppy Jen says:

    Hmmm, I would raise chickens and sell the eggs, goats and make soap with the milk. Teach fermenting. Offer up retreats full of art & craft supplies, gardening, silence. Learn more and share more about wild edibles. Grow a healing garden. Write.

  82. My dream farm job is to cut back to part-time so I can be at home more to have a garden for our family’s food, homeschool our children and help my husband realize his dream of home brewing. I just want to be the best wife and mom I can, I dream and aspire to that daily.

  83. Elizabeth Diane says:

    Rescue a 20 acre family farm in Ypsi that no one in the family wants. Experiment with year round growing techniques and aquaponics. Design and build off-the-grid residence, barn, stable, hen houses, hoop houses & garage…with tornado shelter, natch. Eggs, flowers, & veggies to Eastern Market weekly. Make farm available for filming of movies. Set up llama trek. Arrange installation of solar, wind, & geothermal energy demonstration projects. Informal animal rescue. Film time-lapse farm videos, and weekly exercise outdoors videos. Build a music studio and dance/theatre rehearsal hall. Try Agri-Tourism options. Set up outdoor kiln, hummingbird garden and a rain garden. Long-range design of land and spaces representing all the continents of the Earth; starting with plants, trees, and animals native to Michigan.

  84. I would like to have a small farm near a big city – so I could offer land for a MASSIVE community garden for city-dwellers that want to grow their own food, but don’t have the room. Anyone who would want to trade a garden plot for art, music/cooking lessons would be encouraged!

  85. Having grown up with a huge family garden, a block long and half a block wide, I was able to sell some of my “leftover” (we froze or canned most) vegetables and flowers. It was a peaceful time and a state of mind I am forever dreaming of revisiting/reliving. Given the chance, I would raise my garden and join the local farmers market. Sustaining local communities is important to me. These books might help me realize my future.

  86. Kaye Lyssy says:

    I would be on a small farm that doubles as an event space. Large long tables for farm to table dinners, small stage for music or spoken word, a few outlying buildings for guests, dream dream dream!!!!

  87. Jeannine says:

    I do enjoy doing a little bit of everything, I could happily split my farm job time between cooking and baking with whole fresh ingredients and sewing. I would love to quilt for a living, to make and teach. I really enjoy getting together with a group of women (and men!) sewing together learning from each other. I have been lucky enough to have learned from some pretty amazing women, women from all different backgrounds. It would be wonderful to pass some of that on to others.

  88. I’d make jam and sell it over the internet.

  89. I love the idea of making a living ‘on farm’ and not necessarily ‘from the farm’. Such a neat way to think of things!

    I’ve tried it before, and never been successful, but I’d love to craft at home. Well, I do love to craft at home, but I’d also like to contribute to our finances with it too! I just love to make beautiful things from scratch, and it’s all so varied, but it’s so difficult to make a profit sometimes! People want handmade, but a lot of them aren’t willing to pay a proper price for it. I’d love a chance to win the books so I can learn how to realize this dream of mine once and for all. And then it could branch off into growing my own food and slowly preparing our home for little ones (eventually!). I’d love to pretty much be who you are: a stay-at-home mom who provides for her family in non-financial ways but still contributes a lot!

  90. I would pickle…a lot.

  91. Jane Cook says:

    So happy to have found this blog/post. The comments from aeverybody on their “dream farm” are so inspiring!

    My husband and I moved to the country and built our home on 1.3 acres, given to us by his parents. We are trained musicians, and we planned to create, teach and play music on our property, inviting friends, fa,mily and the community to take part. But we are constantly changing and now I envision so much more. Gardens, sacred spaces for meditation, yoga. Offering wellness services to the community in the form of life and nutrition counselling, mediation and yoga classes…..the possibilities are endless.

    So grateful to you and your commenters for getting me thinking!
    Jane

  92. A couple of acres of land intended to support a McMansion with a paved circular driveway instead becomes home to a half dozen small houses. At the bottom of the road there is a big iron gate made from scraps and a shared parking lot where the residents leave their vehicles. We built a mini rail system next to the path for heavy loads that need to go from the gardens to the road. It works both ways but we consume light and not much has to come up the path these days. It’s possible to drive to the houses, in an emergency, but none of us want to look at our old cars the battered old truck we use share so we leave them at the bottom. It’s an easy walk up the path, even in the rain. Walking through the berry bushes and fruit trees is near-meditation. The chicken coop greats us at the end of the main path. We made the little greenhouse out of old windows in a weekend. The “barn” took most of the summer and though small, makes a fine safe home for our goats and tools. The common house next to the barn is a working commerical kitchen shared by all the residents. It is by far the largest structure on the property. Fresh flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables grown on the farm are sold at the farmers markets and to a few local restaurants. Our canned goods, candles, honey and specialty jar foods do well online. All created and made ready for sale in the common house. We open the farm twice a year. Once in October for Halloween and once in March for those interested in the small home, homesteading movement. Our homes are as diverse as we are. We have a straw bail house, a traditional wood framed house, a house built from old shipping containers, a hobbit house built into the hillside, an a-frame cabin and recycled house saved from destruction and moved here. The largest home on the property is just over 500 square feet. Next year we plan to build three rental homes and a koi pond on the farm. The houses will be small. Renters will need to compost and be willing to walk up the garden path.
    That my farm dream.

    • Mary Carman says:

      Jane’s dream is wonderful. Perhaps the same as mine or almost. Have dreamed this for years. Finding the right combination of people is the tough part. All have to be willing to share the workload. It’s the way life should be though, all helping for the good of all.

  93. Erin Zimmerman says:

    Every time I see a ripe piece of fruit or vegetable from the garden or the market my mind immediately goes to: what can I bake with this?? So making baked sweets and breads would be my dream :) Amazing site btw, I’m so happy I found it!

  94. My dream on-farm job is actually farming itself….I love gardening, I love being outdoors and I work for an environmental non profit in a huge city. I have fantasies about m0ving to the country and waking up at 5am every day to work all day with the small satisfaction of “producing” something.
    Or even just sustaining myself!

  95. so interesting and inspiring. i’ve often thought about how i could generate “real” income from the various things i like to do at home and in the garden. could i have a cut flower farm on our tiny tenth of an acre? in how many years will our fruit trees be productive enough to preserve their goods for a small market? how can i utilize the stash of fabric and yarn patiently waiting in the closet and create something from them that others will find real value in? how many gardening lectures will i have to “give” from the kindness of my heart before the audience realizes the inherent value in my knowledge and experience? i will definitely refer to lisa and john’s books for further insight!

  96. increase the the productivity of my small veggie and herb garden so that all i need is in my backyard and that mothers can come learn how to do the same…

  97. My dream set up is really a pretty basic one – the standard homesteading fare complete with growing and preserving my food, tackling home crafts one by one, etc. I think the thing that sets it apart in my mind is the integrity that lifestyle commands. A hand-made life demands a slower pace, and that slower pace, in turn, breeds community. Then that lends itself to skill sharing and suddenly things start to feel right and whole again.

    Until I can swing that (you know, because of the exact money situation we’re talking about here), I’m trying to start a self-reliance and sustainability skills education center while living in the city. It’s true, someday I want out of the urban environment, but I hope to leave in my stead a place people can go learn some of the skills they’ll need to become less dependent on broken systems and more interdependent with one another. (Plus, it’s kind of like Homesteading University, so that’s pretty badass to get to enjoy.)

    Woooweee – got kinda heavy there. Sorry, just super inspired by people who manage to make this dream a reality without their home looking like a Rainbow Gathering just blew through (no offense, Rainbow-ers).

  98. My dream ‘on farm’ job would allow me to focus on the thing I hold dearest: education. I would provide tutoring to kids of all ages, especially in reading, writing, and foreign languages. I’m a big advocate of public schools but feel like they too have been swept up in the fast pace of our brave new world. Providing a quiet, safe place for kids to supplement their learning, watching the joy of discovery–that’s so incredibly rewarding!

    I spent summers on my grandparents’ farm and learned so much about making do with what you have, and creating what you want. I love to make things myself whenever I can–sewing, knitting, cooking.

  99. Kristen Culliney says:

    If money were not an issue I would work from home, turning my backyard into an urban, neighborhood farm, complete with chickens, milking goats, honey bees, fruit and veggie gardens, compost bins (and worm bins). I would sell my goods at a local market but I would also offer up my space as a learning yard for nearby schools and neighbors. In my time outside of the backyard I would work or volunteer for the community food bank helping to address food security issues and school lunch reform.

  100. Wow… what a set of books! If there was no worry regarding income, I would be working the land on a large garden scale, and turn a barn into a studio to paint. Would likely have a small menagerie of animals… chickens for eggs, a goat for milk, cats and dogs for hugging. Spend my days tending to all that, plus kids if everything turns out the way we hope. Would love to carve the time out to open my home to others looking to learn. This post was a true inspiration!

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