10 Agricultural Side Businesses That Don’t Involve Farming
You love the agricultural industry and would like to someday own your own business.
However, quitting your job to figure out how to accomplish this goal doesn’t seem like the right move (it’s not — in case you were wondering).
I love talking about agricultural entrepreneurship on my podcast and in my writing.
So how does the aspiring entrepreneur or just someone who wants to make a few bucks start a side business in agriculture?
For this piece, I have chosen to leave farming out of it. If you’d like to know my thoughts of how to get started in farming you can find them in this post I did last week: “How To Become a 1st Generation Farmer”.
Below is a list of 10 side business (“side hustle”) ideas that could be started in agriculture even with a day job and a family.
You’re probably thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Sure, the reality is that if you’re going to have a full time job and a successful side business, you are going to be extremely busy.
For that reason, start small! The benefit to having a stable income is that you can ease into the side business at a pace that fits your needs.
As with any successful business, your side business will need a target market and a clearly defined problem to solve. Hopefully these ideas will get you thinking about how you might be able to solve an agriculturally-related problem in your area.
You likely already know that there is a gap in communication from producer to consumer. Many consumers want to learn more about where their food comes from, but don’t really know where to go. So, they end up getting a lot of their information from internet sources that may or may not be credible. Conversely, many producers would like to tell their story but are so busy running their business that they have limited time and resources to do so. Enter YOU! What if you could partner with local agricultural companies to provide experiences to consumers to learn more about their food? You could charge for tours, take a commission of farm products sold, hold on-farm classes, and more!
Farm Estate Sale Arbitrage.
Estate sales are a regular occurrence in both rural and urban communities. However, in rural areas you have a totally different set of items being sold. In one estate sale you may see tractors, equipment, RVs, tools, household items, and antiques up for sale. It can be more difficult to get the number of buyers to the sale if the location quite remote (especially in bad weather). This provides an opportunity for a business to specialize in one aspect of those items being sold. You can recognize undervalued items and purchase them at the sale, then resell them on your own. This is what the word “arbitrage” means: to buy an item in one market (estate sale) and sell them in another market (ex. Craigslist) to try to capture a profit. Maybe you invest in becoming an expert in tractors or equipment or tools or antiques. You can head to these estate sales and leverage your expertise in these areas to find arbitrage opportunities.
Keeping with the theme from #2, you could become the auctioneer at those estate sales and other auctions around your area. This will require some extra training, but there are plenty of auctioneering schools to choose from. I think auctions are exciting, so I think this would be a fun side business. Once you’ve obtained the necessary skill set, your services could be used not only in estate sales, but livestock auctions, car auctions, real estate auctions, charity auctions, and more! Maybe it’s just me, but most of the auctioneers I see out there have to be nearing retirement age (to put it nicely). This could also be a fun hobby, with auctioneering competitions around the country. Check out the AgGrad blog for an upcoming career profile of an Auctioneer!
Locally Grown Marketer.
In my opinion, the interest in buying locally-grown food will continue to grow, especially in urban and suburban areas. However, many of these locally-grown producers are small operators with limited time for marketing. They have a lot of demands on their time just to grow the products and manage their operation. This creates a business opportunity to offer your marketing services. This could be along the lines of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, representing them at farmers markets, or becoming a locally-grown distributor. One idea I have always thought would be neat is to offer special packages for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothers/Fathers Day, and Easter. For each holiday, combine products from several local producers to create a gift package of locally-grown items. You could get a lot of local purveyors involved and make you all some money!
Pest Control Specialist.
I’m not talking about competing with Terminix here. The idea came from my podcast interview with Matt Brechwald of “Off Farm Income”. Matt purchased a piece of equipment to eliminate gophers and moles from the fields of farmers and ranchers. Due to the cost of the equipment, Matt’s clients are better off paying him to take care of their problem as opposed to purchasing the equipment themselves. Matt has created a profitable business doing this. Perhaps you have a specialized pest problem in your area that you can help solve for local landowners.
Writing is a skill that has become even more important in the information age. While video and audio get a lot of attention these days, the fact is that good writing is enormously valuable for a host of reasons. CAVEAT: it takes a LONG time to make any money whatsoever from a blog. However, an agribusiness that wants to get their message out there must hire a writer who understands the agricultural community. If you can prove yourself as a talented writer in the agriculture industry, there are opportunities to make money from reporting, documenting and copywriting. In case you’re not familiar, copywriting is using the written word with the intention of selling a good, service or idea. So think “Mad Men” but strictly using words. Get started in this area by writing consistently on platforms such as Medium, Quora, Social Media, and/or your own blog.
“Drop Ship” Internet Business.
Ever think “if I just had enough money to buy a feed store or similar Ag retail company — then I’d be set!” Guess what? You can! Well, sort of. Any item that can be purchased online and shipped to the buyer could fit into this category. “Drop ship” means that you develop the online business of selling items in your niche, and someone else warehouses and ships these items to your customer for you. For example if you want to start a business selling vintage agricultural signs, you find a partner who is maybe doing this already (perhaps in a brick and mortar store) and you partner with them to market their items online for part of the revenue. In many drop ship businesses the partnership is with the manufacturer. They then fill your orders once you’ve made the sale. There is even a feature on Amazon called “Fulfillment By Amazon”. In this case you purchase the inventory and ship it to Amazon. They keep it in their warehouse and ship it out as it sells (on Amazon) for a percentage. For a business like this, all you need is a laptop, internet connection, and your own creativity! Any agricultural item, livestock show equipment, toy tractors, etc. etc. etc. can be sold in this way. This business might work well with idea #2 above!
Similar to Auctioneer, this one will take some training and expertise. There are individuals and businesses interested in securing agricultural land either to farm it or as an investment. You can help these people find and secure the type of land they need for a cut of the transaction price (just like any other realtor). However, you do not have to do this full time. A “Wholesaler” is someone who actually goes and gets the property under contract themselves and then sells it for a profit right away (ideally). With all of these businesses, especially this one, make sure you know what you’re doing and are consulting with an attorney familiar with local laws. I’ve even encountered some people that are just “scouts” for companies wanting to buy farmland. They receive some sort of finders fee if/when the property is purchased. This would be a very low cost model with big rewards if you are successful.
Nothing new or shiny about this one. Just good, old-fashioned hard work. I have met two different people from different parts of the country, that started off mowing lawns, and grew into a six figure business. Very few people like to do landscaping (I definitely do not). If you get good at it with the right equipment, you can solve this problem for a lot of people while minimizing your expenses. Also, as a recruiter I have noticed a shortage of people who really know irrigation, so if you’re look for a place to specialize there might be potential there. This is another one where you can start very small and with some hard work and creative marketing scale into a real business!
Agricultural Market Advisory Service.
This is an example of a potential informational product. The interesting thing about informational products is that they require very little startup capital. If you can invest the time and effort into becoming an expert in a very defined niche, people will pay you for your expertise. The keys here are to find a very narrow and underserved niche and to make sure people are willing to pay for the type of expertise that you provide. Various agricultural markets will fit this criteria because 1) there are big dollars on the line in terms of potential revenue or losses, and 2) there are a wide array of markets to specialize in if you consider they can be all broken down by commodity, geography, growing practice, and consumer type. Think about where you can truly add value with informational products. Then start creating content about your thoughts on the subject. This could mean writing blogs, making videos, engaging on social media, sending emails, or starting a podcast. Keep in mind that you must truly BE an expert before selling your expertise, but you’ll never be an expert if you don’t start learning and sharing today!
I fully realize that these are just ideas and the challenge is truly in the execution. I encourage you to find a side business that speaks to both your strengths and your interests.
Ask yourself “what is the cheapest and easiest way I can determine if this is the right business for me?”.
Find one customer with one specific problem that they’re willing to pay for a solution to. If you’re convinced you can solve it, go find out if there are others in the same demographic with the same problem.
Follow this process until you have a real side business. And who knows, maybe soon you’ll be able to drop the “side” part of the name. Good luck!
What other agricultural side business ideas do you have?