October 2011
Howle's Hints

Hard Work, Diligence and Ingenuity Still Best Paths

“Property is the fruit of labor...property is desirable...is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” – Abraham Lincoln

Abe Lincoln stated it well when he stressed the best way to get ahead in America was through hard work and diligence. There are still plenty of people in America who are willing to work hard to save and earn their way toward prosperity without having to take it from others or thinking they are simply "entitled" to it. News programs tell us a sense of entitlement is on the rise in America, but here in Alabama, it is important to remember everything we have is a blessing, and hard work continues to be valued.

Once picked, blueberries can be sold and customers will pay for the convenience of already-picked and packaged food.

 

Making and saving money can be difficult when economic times are hard. The price of fuel, groceries and bills remain high, while many of our incomes have been reduced. Add to this picture the reduced buying power of the dollar, and we can quickly find ourselves with more expenses than income. If you live on a farm or in a rural area, there are still a few ways to make or save extra cash when you need it.

Produce

It requires little acreage to raise plenty of produce you can preserve for your family saving on the food bill, or it can be sold at local farmer’s markets or trade days for profit. Even crops like blueberries can be sold since you are providing the convenience of already picking and packaging the fruit. It is important, however, to make sure the soil is in good shape before investing money in fertilizer and seeds. The best way to do this is with a soil test.

 

Jimmie Howle shows a garden that produces with optimum pH in the soil.

For the cost of a bag or two of fertilizer, soil samples can be analyzed by a lab telling you exactly how much lime and fertilizer will be needed. For a typical one-acre plot, take 10 to 20 subsamples of soil and mix it in a clean bucket before putting the soil in a soil-sample box. This will give a more accurate picture of the soil across the area. Lime reacts slowly with the soil, so apply it well in advance of the planting date. This will allow your garden to produce a surplus so you can have extra to sell.

Hobart Harris shows a few of his handcrafted pieces of furniture. The child’s rocker sells for $40 — that’s a bargain in any economic time.

 

Crafts

I have plenty of neighbors who are experts at making crafts. Some do custom embroidery, quilting and sewing, and some work with wood. One of my neighbors, Hobart Harris, makes beautifully crafted rocking chairs, swings, gliders and niche items he sells at craft shows.

Being handmade and built of sturdy white oak, he sells the furniture at reasonable prices, but the items last multiple lifetimes. If you are interested in purchasing some of Hobart’s handmade furniture, call him at (256) 748-4872.

Livestock

If you are in the livestock business, you may find, when all the cows don’t calve at the same time, you have a few heads born out of season. This may not justify hooking to the trailer and burning lots of fuel for just one or two yearlings. There are plenty of people willing to pay a premium for farm-raised livestock for their freezer. Often the city dwellers aren’t requiring organically-raised meat. They just want to know where the meat came from. Some farmers will take the yearling to a processor and allow the customer to pick up the meat at the processor. Often, two or three families will be willing to buy each animal since storage space in the freezer may be limited for some.

 

Niche foods like crawfish can be sold to local restaurants. Cliff Langley holds one of the crawfish from his pond.

The ethnic market for smaller ruminants like sheep and goats has been increasing steadily over the past few years. There are plenty of small-scale livestock auctions where you will find everything from cattle and goats to sheep and chickens. These small auctions offer an ideal market to sell your additional livestock for extra profit.

Niche Markets

Through my travels in Alabama and Georgia, I’ve seen an increased market where restaraunts are willing to buy directly from farmers who are able to provide a steady supply of food for their menus ranging from farm-raised turkeys and geese to frog legs. One of my friends, Cliff Langley, created a one- acre pond just for raising crawfish to sell to restaurants from Birmingham to Atlanta. He purchased a used, refrigerated truck at a bargain and was able to ship the crawfish fresh and direct to the restaurants. Restaurants are also an ideal marketing destination for your fresh produce as well, if weather and growing conditions allow you to supply a steady stream of home-grown food.

Firewood is a winter staple for sales to customers living in town.

 

Sell Your Skills

There are plenty of individuals and businesses who need their grass cut during the warm months or need landscaping done on an ongoing basis. During colder weather when you are trimming trees out of the edge of pastures, the trees can be cut into firewood lengths and sold to those heating their homes or simply wanting the ambiance of flames in the fireplace.

In addition, if you love barbecue and smoked meat from restaurants, remember these establishments need a steady supply of hickory for smoking. If you can provide a steady supply, you can earn a steady profit all year.

Many rural Alabamians have marketable talents ranging from welding and electrical to writing and singing. Alabamians have always been resourceful, and this talent helps in hard times. But, more importantly, we see Alabamians more willing to share each other’s burdens than share their wealth.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.