09 January 2009

Tally up for 2008

It is almost impossible to equate the products from our homestead to the purchased "equivalent", especially when it comes to food. Likewise, it is nearly impossible to compare the quality of life and health we experience at home, on our homestead, to the "quality of life" as measured by income and assets. But still, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to calculate the market equivalent of what we produced at home, for our own use. I did not include anything that we produced for income or barter.

The categories are similar to the harvest notes on the right-hand sidebar of this blog. I did my best not to double up, for instance, I priced out the green beans as fresh, and did not count them again in the pantry as canned beans. But for things like wild pin-cherry fruit leather, I priced out the fruit leather, not the fresh fruit. I used organic market prices for 2008, wherever I could find price lists on the net.

I'm pretty impressed with the total, especially with the knowledge that it will be a higher number next year, if all goes well in the garden and fields. Of course, producing this much at home, keeps us close to home, and with such a variety of crops, each requiring time out of the season, it limits our ability to grow "cash crops." But at the same time it decreases the amount of cash we need to earn. For those who are curious, we keep our basic cost of living at around $2000 a year, including utilities, food, transportation, household purchases, and farm purchases: we live simply, but not without comfort. This does not include investments in equipment or one time purchases like the solar panel, etc. This is a sum we are quite capable of producing out of the garden and selling locally, without restricting our ability to produce high-quality products for ourselves. It also makes us pretty invulnerable to changes in the economic and employment climate.

Vegetables Harvested 2008 (Including fresh fruit)
TOTAL $4752.60

Staples 2008 (Dairy, eggs, meat and grains for the kitchen)
TOTAL $7898

In the Pantry 2008 (Including dried or preserved fruit, soap, vinegar etc. But preserved veg and pickles are not counted twice, they are priced as fresh vegetables)
TOTAL $1050.50

Saved Seed 2008 (Including grains and potatoes)
TOTAL $823

Herbs and Teas 2008 (dried only, fresh herbs included in vegetables)
TOTAL $296.65

Animal Feed 2008 (Grains, hay, mangles)
TOTAL $2675

Wood (firewood and chainsawn lumber)
TOTAL $2000

Grand Total


Susy said...

WOW - great job. Keeping track of it is such a reward thing (I need to do a better job next year).

I'm hoping to do more from our yard this coming summer, and each year it will be more and more with the addition of fruit trees and edible plants. We have a really small yard so our ability to grow food is limited. But with the venison my dad gets for us and our homegrown goodies we're not doing too bad. I'm excited to see where we in are 5 years as far as production goes.

hickchick said...

Pretty impressive, were you using local market prices to put a value on your production? Good record keeping is important to track progress and continually improve. In your mind do you treat your homestead like a business? Kris

Anonymous said...

Hello Freija,

I am sending you an email regarding this so you have my email address.

I have an offer.

If you send me data on what you produced in what quantities, I would love to calculate the value here in the Chicago area. Our produce costs actually tend to be lower here than most places (we are in the middle of rail transportation for the US after all), but I think you have WAY undervalued your work. Shockingly undervalued.

I have mentioned this to you on Freedom Gardens before, but now that I know you have data that I should be able to use. I am pretty sure that everything you produce is organic (please confirm that if you accept my offer) and all the animals are hormone free/free range etc (again, if you accept my offer).

I have such a high respect for what you have done I feel it is unnacceptable for you to assign such low numbers.

With Best Regard,

Chicago Mike

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Chicago Mike has just had his coffee and is a little slow. Are the totals on the right final? And are my assumptions about organic/free range accurate?

With Best Regard,

Chicago Mike

redclay said...

"It also makes us pretty invulnerable to changes in the economic and employment climate."

--That's really cool...peace of mind is priceless.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you do about taxes, etc. I'm assuming your land is paid for...even if mine was and I could produce all of my own food, I would still have to come up with enough cash for my property taxes. Perhaps things are different up there in Canada and you can help me understand.

Maya said...

That is a great summary. It is always pretty impressive when you sit down to assign market prices to what we grow ourselves. I just found your blog today and am very much enjoying it. I hope to do the same thing you are one day, when we can afford the land. In the interim we do what we can on our small lot. Whereabouts in CA are you? East or West coast (trying to match up the weather patterns).

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Susy, this year I kept records on everything I could. Money, weather, temperatures, production, planting and harvest dates, etc. I have found it to be incredibly helpful. I would recommend record keeping for any homestead.

5 years is a good span, we try to have a 5 year plan so that we can make progress toward the bigger goals.

hickchick, actually I used an organic delivery price list in a major city, so that the prices included transportation. It depends on what you mean by "business". Our decisions are not motivated by profit, and we are not looking to dominate a market. But we do use common sense principles like efficiency, and we use our profits and savings to reinvest in homesteading tools.

Chicago Mike, thank you for the compliment of valuing the produce of our efforts. But I believe that these totals are pretty accurate on a purely numbers basis. Everything we produce is organic and grass-fed, free-range, naturally raised, etc, but not certified. I did price them out this way. I even used a price list from a delivery service in Montreal, and everything they sell is organic, and local if possible. So it includes transportation. The prices looked pretty high to me, most of the time, double the conventional price. And I did not take bulk pricing into account.

Now, one thing I did not do, is to calculate the final prducts, like bread and cookies and pasta, instead of wheat berries. So that is why it may look low to you.

The vegetable totals in the sidebar are what I used, as well as the staples, dried herbs and the saved seeds. But the fruit and pantry products I had to work out so that I did not double prices. For example, we collected 650 lbs of apples, but we used about 250 in preserves. So I calculated 400 fresh, and the rest as dried apples, applesauce, apple butter and chutney.

In the end, I am somewhat impressed with the $ total, but at the same time, I do believe it is worth a lot more. But those are the things that you can't put numbers to.

I do appreciate your respect for the work we are doing. Thank you!

redclay, yes, peace of mind is priceless. We actually do not own our land, we rent it. But it is an empty block, no power, no phone, no buildings, just an 80 year old hand-drilled shallow well. We moved a 1971 mobile home onto the land, which we bought for $2500. And we pay our rent as food exchange, luckily the land owner values organic high-quality food. But the taxes on this 100 acre lot are about $200 a year, there are few services, the nearest town is 20 miles and is only 1,000 population. No library or shopping for 40 miles. So it is an inexpensive way to go, but we are out here on our own. Each person/family would need to make that decision for themselves.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I agree with Anon/CM your shorting yourself, it is probably worth much more. Just think of the salary you would have to earn to buy the quality of what you are producing. Great post.

Our property taxes and health and farm insurance costs are high. Our property taxes are twice what your yearly living expenses are for a year, and that is with farm/forest deferrals. Our house is old and "unimproved" (thank heavens) so the bulk of the tax is for the land. Makes me envious of your low population. We are taxed for services that we can make no use of. Public transportation, fire, police, and road maintenance, none of which ever makes it to our end of the county.

I have a question for you, what kind of equipment did you use with Pilgrim to bale your hay. When we had our team, we determined how much hay they consumed during the winter, and tried unsuccessfully more than once to make their allotment using only the two horses and a baler with a Wisconsin engine to power it. We just couldn't get it done in our weather window, and get good quality. Just curious, even though we only have one horse now, I don't think I would try that again.

I am woefully behind on my blog reading - great to catch up.

redclay said...

One other thought...if you worked for a paycheck, and then turned around and purchased your food, you would have the added expenses of income taxes and sales taxes that you would have to pay off the top before making your food purchases of the amount you stated in your entry. Also, there would be transportation expenses to get you to and from your work.

Thus, because you're producing the food yourselves, you are doing it "un-taxed" which is clearly in your benefit.

Bishops Homegrown said...

Very nice breakdown of your yearly on farm assets, not a lot of information floating around like that and it is most certainly encouraging to see! It truly is amazing once we break things down what we can really get out of "wants" and "needs" and how many of those "wants" and "needs" that we can produce ourselves. This is at the heart of self sustainability and without having a decent grounding of what the numbers are in the way that you have done here one can not ever truly hope to be self sustainable.

Thank you for the inspiration, I will now be keeping track of this for our farm for the year 2009! Thanks again!

Your Friend,
Alan Reed Bishop
Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Homegrown Goodness Message Board

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Maya, hello, just popped over to your blog too. Glad to meet you. That is a beautiful lid your father made for your stonecrock. We are in the middle of the deep-freeze that is sweeping across the east, waiting for the warm-up that is following behind.

Trapper Creek, yes, we would have to be earning 3 or 4 times that amount to be able to live this well on an income. I would not envy our lack of population, it gets hard on our own, and our largest vulnerability is a lack of community. We often talk about how we would gladly pay for access to libraries and public transportation.

We do not make hay with our Standard Bred horse, we do an exchange with a farmer down the road. He is an older man, on his own, and he puts up small squares for a flock of goats and sheep, so we help him with his hay in exchange for the use of his tractor and haying gear.
Mr. Fritillary was horse-farming when we met, He drove three Belgiums, with a motorized forecart and baler, followed by a hay wagon, and they could bale 500 squares in a day. But the horses need to be fit, and well used to the noise of the baler, so that they can work efficiently. Our 800 lb Standard Bred would not be able to do the mowing and baling. But we are working toward putting up loose hay, and he could pull a buck rake on his own, or fork the hay onto a wagon, and pull it back to the barn with him.
We have short weather windows as well. Usually only 2 1/2 to 3 days, and only maybe 2 or 3 of these windows between mid June and mid July. But we cut our hay short, before it gets stalky, as close to mid June as we can. And if we pick the days well, our hay is cut in the morning of day 1, raked on day 2, and baled in the afternoon of day 3.

redclay, yes it was simply an exercise, it is nearly impossible to equate our homestead living to an outside income. If we were to live in a city, and purchase the same food we are eating now, we would need to earn at least $60,000 gross between us, and even that would be tight.

Bishops Homegrown, I am glad you appreciate the numbers, I found the same lack of real data when I first started. In the late 1800's and early 1900's they used to keep these kinds of records on small farms, and publish them. So I started keeping records myself, and I have found them to be invaluable in deciding where to focus our energy and resources, and for long term planning.

I would recommend keeping close records on everything you can think of for a whole year. Especially your own weather patterns. In our third winter here, I am seeing a pattern in the temperature (a melt in the 2nd week of January, and the coldest week is the 3rd week of January), it helps to plan things like kidding dates, etc.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

We are taxed for the public transportation that we would have to drive 18 miles to use. Anything that we need to buy is is closer than that. Luckily the library is a tad closer. Unfortunately our community consists of people living on subdivided farms for the privacy acreage affords. They drive 20 - 50 miles to work one way, and travel on the weekends. Our community of likeminded farmers are spread out in a radius of the same 20 - 50 miles. Too far away for generalized work parties or harvest help trading.

Interestingly enough during our recent power outages all our neighbors were cold, hungry and without water. They all went to stay elsewhere, while we were comfortable with our wood heat, gravity water, and well stocked pantry.

Chicago Mike said...

Hello Freija,

I have been working on calculating the values for the vegetables and fruits. It has taken some looking and some things are simply unavailable organic.

SO, I took the value of certified organic product and applied weight. No problem. (fennel, green beans) Some things I had to look around for when I got the time for it (like the watermelon, good luck finding one this time of year)and a few things I had to make reasonable comparisons (I treated chokeberries as blueberries). On a few items I took the non-organic value times 1.5 which seems to be the standard markup.

The total I came up with is $6,773, which is higher than the $4,752 you had calculated. These prices are mostly from fresh markets, not chains, which helped keep the cost a little lower.

I found all kind of interesting things. Sometimes a more refined product would actually have a much lower cost per pound (applesauce instead of apples), probably due to shelf life. Sometimes the inverse was strongly the case (as I suspect your artisan bread versus the wheat berries would easily be).

Anyways, thought I would follow up.


Chicago Mike