Our governor signed a cottage industry farm bill last week! No longer are small food vendors required to be licensed and have commercial kitchens installed in order to produce and sell their home-baked wares: anything that can sit on a counter, basically, like pies, breads, granola, jam, jellies, pickles, etc. can now be legally made in Michigan. I foresee an explosion of home-baked goodness available then for those who can’t or don’t home-bake. The restrictions are simple. Label what’s in it, label where it came from (your home’s name and address), and sell less than $15,000 a year in goods.
Things like dried herbs, teas, and tinctures are likewise covered in this bill. A second bill regarding honey and maple syrup are soon to be passed and signed.
These bills (and now law) make me happy. Granted, I always have been skirting a bit shy of the law in that what baked goods I have sold I sold before this law took effect. Likewise, I illegally sell my milk products to friends. I have made it quite clear to my friends that we’re running afoul of the law, but… the sheer quantity and (frankly) tastiness of the cheeses and kefir and yogurt have been their own kind of advertisement. You have it at my house, you want it, end of story. With hope, Michigan will come around and write a law stating that raw milk products can be sold (outside a herd share agreement, that is).
I have been quite paranoid too about this influx of cash. Pin money, egg money, funny money… Yes it sits in a jar. Yes my accountant knows about it. I withdraw cash for things like new animals or delivery of hay or straw…and I leave a tally of what is taken out. In general the goat has paid for herself and (at this point) 75% of her care. Give me another two months and she’s a free animal. The cheese/cultured milk products have paid for the capital outlay of the cheese making equipment and the cultures. And the products of purchasing a pregnant goat: I’ve made a very even trade of three wethers (neutered baby boy goats) for one doeling…our new girl, Cricket.
The egg chickens, by comparison, have never paid for themselves. (The meat birds are not sold; we consume all of them ourselves…this is far cheaper than purchasing meat chickens of similar quality.) I would expect the turkey I am raising for a friend to pay for himself. And like the bunnies, the 14 surviving turkey poults were all sold or traded.
So I am now into farm barter. I got into a heated discussion recently with the whole idea of barter with a friend of mine. Aren’t you cheating the government? he contended. The sale of, say, a goat is not taxed or frankly worried about by the state of Michigan, I replied; it’s the same as if I sold an ATV or a lawn tractor that I had. I suppose it is considered on-farm income, but then, I don’t list “farm” anywhere on my taxes. But goodness if you think about what we’ve sunk into the living-on-a-farm project…we’re in no way being compensated by any government for living the life that we do. I told him it’s a false way of thinking of things. Indeed, I told him, I don’t give my architectural services away for free: if I do volunteer, I actually fill out a form saying so. So farming is not a professional goal of mine. That money has entered into the equation is…not something that makes me entirely comfortable. It helps the bottom line, surely, and helps my husband come along for the ride but…it was not a goal.
It’s odd. I get requests from friends asking, basically, how much more work would it really be for you to bust up another half acre and supply them with vegetables year-round too? It appears the one CSA that supplies our town friends with victuals has come waaaay down in quantity/quality (and I have seen it and agree). They like what we do here and buy my $5/gal. bags of salad. If I look at things THAT way, the greenhouses have paid for themselves many times over.
I am in no way saying we’re a model for a way to earn a living. But in this post I am saying that with some little effort greater than what you already produce, you might be able to produce for other households too. I think that without even the monetary reward you can feel good enough to grow and to make things for others: talk about appreciation! And even if money doesn’t change hands (it often does not with mine), you may be able to be recompensed with services. I traded four turkeys for horseback riding lessons for the girl. That’s so much more enjoyable than money in a quart jar.
Bell and Cricket out doing what they do as the resident Poison Ivy and Bramble Eradication Crew. Cricket was born toward the end of April, and Bell is on the big side for an American Alpine. Bell’s coloring is called sundgau and Cricket’s chamoisee.