Last night, as I was watching TV, I remembered how much fun I used to have poking around on Craigslist looking at the Farm and Garden stuff that’s for sale.  I am at least passingly familiar with the overall small scale farming market here in Tucson through doing that for a long period of time.  So I decided to start poking around in the Spokane market, and see if I could get a good feeling for what’s being sold up there.  As I clicked through, it was like angel’s started singing, and some bright white light shot out of my phone.  To my Tucson farming friends, pack it up, move it out, and get the hell out of here.  We are in the wrong place my friends.

I did see the usual assortment of things for sale that you would see anywhere, goats, chicks, horses, etc.  I did also see a heck of a lot more people selling hay, which has nothing to do with anything, other than it was awesome to see how cheap it was.  The other thing I saw, was a whole bunch of people selling organic chicken eggs.  Which is also good, except I have my own.  I saw about 6 different vendors, just from Sunday, selling eggs between $3 and $5 a dozen.  They all were basically selling the same product.  Some were blue, some were brown.  Some were a buck cheaper.  Why would I buy from one over the other?

This is a trap that many people fall into, but seems to be extra rampant in the homesteading community.  We all desire to do and grow things for ourselves.  We also often have a great desire to unplug from the whole job situation.  I understand all that, believe me, that is a goal of ours as well.  Yet a typical business plan looks a lot like this.

Business Plan:

Step 1.  Grow lots of lettuce

Step 2.  Sell it at the Farmer’s Market

Step 3. Profit

Here is the problem with that.  Look at this picture.


See all that lettuce growing?  It’s easy to grow, it grows almost anywhere, and you can grow a crap ton of it in a small space.  Also, people aren’t afraid of growing it.  There is very little advantage to having you grow it for me, versus growing it myself.  So if this is something I can do myself, or buy cheap in the store, why would I pay you enough to profit from it?

Then we have the chicken business plan.  I want hens.  So I will buy some and sell the eggs to make some extra money.  Not a terrible plan, per se.  I love hens.  They lay eggs basically without you doing anything.  They need food, so why not sell eggs to make money to buy their food?  Because most people who care about that stuff already have hens.  Those who don’t, will be getting the $1.99 eggs from the store, not the $5 eggs from you.

As I talked about a couple weeks ago, you need to sell a want, not a need.

How do you know what people want?  Well, you probably don’t, because you haven’t told them yet.  You need to get out there and make a market.  Find something that people don’t have available to them yet, and tell them why they want it.

How does that work?  Well, lets use the egg thing, and see if I can illustrate it.

Obviously I have chickens, and I love having chickens.  Spoiled things are coming with us to Spokane in style.  Yet, as I mentioned, there are already a bunch of players in the egg market up there.  So what am I to do?  How can I combine my love of poultry animals, with a side business.

ducksHow about some ducks?

Ducks are hardier and more self sufficient than chickens.  They can forage for almost all of their own food, if given sufficient plants and space.  They can be loosed right in your garden, as they don’t scratch, and they make excellent pest control.  They don’t really need a pond, just a small stock tank, which could actually be hooked to an irrigation system and used to send liquid fertilizer to all of your growing plants.

So how about the eggs?  Well, the average Khaki Campbell duck lays 300 eggs a year, which is higher than most breeds of chicken.  Ducks eggs are larger than chicken eggs too, so you get a significant volume increase over the chickens.  On top of that, ducks eggs are not only better for you, they are richer, and thus make excellent baking eggs.

I haven’t seen a single person selling duck eggs in Spokane yet.  I am sure they are there.  Yet, it is mainly an untapped market.  That allows you to set the price, and the terms.  You don’t have to cater to the ordinary.  You can cater to the extraordinary.  High end bakeries.  Health nuts.  Fancy restaurants.  You can approach them with a high end local product not found anywhere else.  You have the perfect scenario.  You have a product that people now WANT, and you are the only one who has it.

That’s much better than standing behind a booth trying to convince someone why your lettuce is better than his lettuce.