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Why Italian graduates are choosing life on the farm

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Watch the video first:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B29EuKANqmE


Italy's youth is breathing new life into the country's rural areas. In the past two years, the number of young graduates - often from urban centres - starting up their businesses in the countryside has increased by 35%. Many are driven by a deep appreciation of Italy's rich local produce and have a good understanding of environmentally-friendly practices. These new forms of agriculture are now playing a significant role in youth employment and Italy's economic recovery.

One couple portrayed in the video makes more than 4000 euros a month farming silk and selling silk products, which, according to the video, is equivalent to the salary of two managers. The other guy who started a farm hired 7 people within a year and runs his company more like an online startup than your standard farm.

In the video, they mention that most of the young farmers are overqualified for the life on the farm. Which I think is actually a good thing, as the sector isn't particularly sexy for young people and probably needs some disruption.

Obviously, not every small agricultural business has the potential to scale, but I think that this interesting trend provides a lot of opportunities for the right-minded. I myself feel drawn to this sector even though I've spent my entire business life doing stuff online.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities in this industry now?

Some ideas to kick off a discussion:
  • an organic spin on animal products - I recently visited an organic goat farm. They primarily make a living from organic goat cheese they produce themselves. It's different than the stuff you can buy in a supermarket because it doesn't come from over-exploited goats, plus a lot of people want to support real people working on a real farm, not a faceless industrial farm. They also have some rooms for tourists (primarily families from big cities) who want to "get closer to nature" and interact with the goats.
  • an organic spin on vegetables - this is already big, but I believe that it will get even bigger. According to The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming, the most profitable crops are: 1. Greenhouse tomato, 2. Mesclun mix, 3. Lettuce, 4. Greenhouse cucumber, 5. Garlic, 6. Carrots (bunch), 7. Onion, 8. Pepper, 9. Broccoli, 10. Snow/snap peas. You can sell microgreens to restaurants or maybe sell ready-made boxes you deliver directly on a weekly basis to your customers.
  • an organic spin on fruits - including superfruits which can be sold for higher prices and target primarily a more affluent, health-oriented buyer. Maybe work with a yoga instructor and organize fitness getaways there. You could serve superfruit smoothies, acai bowls, and offer people a unique (to them) experience of working in the orchard.
  • handmade/custom, etc. stuff made from natural materials you grow yourself - ideal for Etsy and similar platforms. A lot of people are interested in "natural" products and the trend is unlikely to stop.
  • a modern take on rural tourism - so many opportunities for rural tourism, like the goat farm I mentioned or countryside fitness getaways. Maybe you could have a small, organic farm mostly to feed yourself and your family and organize workshops to teach others how to do it or just as an educative experience for the kids who parents want them to learn that food doesn't grow in a supermarket.
Probably not all of these ideas have the potential to become a million-dollar business, but it might still be a pretty interesting way to build a lucrative business given that a lot of people in the "old" industries aren't as entrepreneurial minded as people in the crowded online space.
 

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Michael Burgess

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I think at a small scale, farming can be just as challenging as any other small business - maybe even more so - but there is definitely lots of opportunity in the industry. There's a growing segment of the population that has disdain for the conventional food system (massive animal factories, pesticides, GMO's, etc), and are seeking alternatives. That's creating demand for different forms of production and distribution.

The potential market for any agricultural products is massive - in a perfect world, 7+ billion people are hopefully eating something like 3 meals a day, every day, for the rest of their lives. The challenge for anybody in the business lies in finding a profitable niche for their particular circumstances, and repeatedly executing well.

I hardly expect it to become profitable quickly, but I just bought a 7 acre farm property 30 minutes from Toronto. It's got great fertile soil, I'm immediately next to a river, and plan to produce top quality organic fruits and vegetables for restaurants and retail outlets in the city. It's also going to serve as a place to run my landscaping business from, and camp on whenever I want to "get away". Should be a fun challenge to get a meaningful business there up and running!
 
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I think at a small scale, farming can be just as challenging as any other small business - maybe even more so - but there is definitely lots of opportunity in the industry.
100%. And with the higher barrier of entry, the potential consequences of a failure are even worse.

The challenge for anybody in the business lies in finding a profitable niche for their particular circumstances, and repeatedly executing well.
Definitely. Doing what everybody else is doing will not work in such an industry.

I hardly expect it to become profitable quickly, but I just bought a 7 acre farm property 30 minutes from Toronto. It's got great fertile soil, I'm immediately next to a river, and plan to produce top quality organic fruits and vegetables for restaurants and retail outlets in the city. It's also going to serve as a place to run my landscaping business from, and camp on whenever I want to "get away". Should be a fun challenge to get a meaningful business there up and running!
Sounds awesome! I love that there are so many potential uses of the same plot of land. Do you need to hire full-time workers right away or can you rely on temporary workers?
 

Michael Burgess

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100%. And with the higher barrier of entry, the potential consequences of a failure are even worse.

Definitely. Doing what everybody else is doing will not work in such an industry.

Sounds awesome! I love that there are so many potential uses of the same plot of land. Do you need to hire full-time workers right away or can you rely on temporary workers?
Initially, I'm going to be doing all of the labour myself... hahaha

I actually love the joy of getting my hands in the soil, building things, and being outside in nature. This business is just as much me enjoying a hobby, as it is something I plan to make profitable. It's not truly "fastlane" to make a business out of something you love, but I don't care. It's going to bring me happiness :)

The spring weather is just starting to dry up the fields around here, and I haven't decided yet whether or not I will try to run this farm commercially this year or not. I'm already swamped with my landscaping business, and just bought my first 4-unit apartment building in a totally different community, so I'm not sure if I can make the time to actually run it well. Entertaining the idea of producing microgreens, salad greens, and fast-producing veggies this year, while generally improving the farm (planting wind breaks, cover crops, building a road & parking, etc..)
 

Michael Burgess

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Few photos for an idea of what I'm working with... it's the two fields on the right of the satellite image, with a drainage ditch in the middle of them (really wet area). Just got a 30' long free camper the other day, and definitely got stuck in the field dropping it off at the farm... it took two tow trucks to get me out, but now I have somewhere to sleep when I'm out there! haha
 

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Thanks for sharing the pictures, @Michael Burgess. That's a lot of land to work with for one guy!

Entertaining the idea of producing microgreens, salad greens, and fast-producing veggies this year, while generally improving the farm (planting wind breaks, cover crops, building a road & parking, etc..)
Sounds like turning it into a commercial operation in one season would be very difficult for one guy busy with other projects, so taking it step by step is probably your best bet.

Do you have experience with it?

It's not truly "fastlane" to make a business out of something you love, but I don't care. It's going to bring me happiness :)
That's what I like about this business. It might not generate the same profits as a more "proper" Fastlane business, but in the end we pursue the Fastlane so we can construct an ideal lifestyle—and running such a business might be actually an end in itself.
 

struka

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I love this idea and I think over time we will go back to our roots of having food that is made by local farmers where we get to enjoy it seasonally.
The thing that makes me wonder is how does it relate to the USA within big corp overtaking small farmers (pushing them out) and all the added laws that make it hard on farmers (I don't know all the details but it is something I have heard so someone may chip in).
 

Michael Burgess

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@MTF Yeah, I do have experience growing food commercially - I had a business like this before on rented land, and it worked pretty well. Grew enough food to sell to a dozen local restaurants, a few farmers markets, and a food co-op I was a part of. I decided to scale up the business in my second year doing it, and moved to a bigger rented property, but had a horrible experience - crap yields, super aggressive weeds, little water, etc. Decided not to grow again until I could own the land...

@struka I'm not sure if it's laws so much that are really stopping most farmers? Seems to me that it's just economic pressures and demographic trends (average farmer is pretty old) that's really making it an unpopular business
 

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I think at a small scale, farming can be just as challenging as any other small business - maybe even more so - but there is definitely lots of opportunity in the industry. There's a growing segment of the population that has disdain for the conventional food system (massive animal factories, pesticides, GMO's, etc), and are seeking alternatives. That's creating demand for different forms of production and distribution.

The potential market for any agricultural products is massive - in a perfect world, 7+ billion people are hopefully eating something like 3 meals a day, every day, for the rest of their lives. The challenge for anybody in the business lies in finding a profitable niche for their particular circumstances, and repeatedly executing well.

I hardly expect it to become profitable quickly, but I just bought a 7 acre farm property 30 minutes from Toronto. It's got great fertile soil, I'm immediately next to a river, and plan to produce top quality organic fruits and vegetables for restaurants and retail outlets in the city. It's also going to serve as a place to run my landscaping business from, and camp on whenever I want to "get away". Should be a fun challenge to get a meaningful business there up and running!
Interesting approach to Fastlane @Michael Burgess. Do you have a progress thread about it?
 

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Kid

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Yes, i would :), and maybe others would find it interesting too!
 
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advantagecp

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I grew up on a small farm and I do not romanticize it in the least. Do you enjoy being tied to a location 365 days out of the year? No? Then forget livestock. As for tilling the soil and getting your hands dirty - get back to me after a few years and let me know how much you still enjoy it.

Look at any farming community in the US and you will see that over the last 100 years the overwhelming trend is that the best and the brightest have moved on to different geographic areas and different types of work.

And since we are on this forum, look at the price per acre of good farmland and then explain your Fastlane strategy for farming.
 

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I've been doing ag for the government and others for the last 10 years; finally working on getting my own land later this year. The great thing about this industry is that it will never be saturated and everyone NEEDs it (everyone eats).

Almost every primary product comes from an agricultural field, so the diversification potential for more elaborate products is almost limitless. Of course, it is very tough and volatile; hence the a lot of people don't like it too much.

As a starting small producer, my approach would be to offer great-quality staple products to local restaurants, markets and retailers on a consistent or contract basis and combine it with an online presence in the local area for further scaling.

The best part of all of this is that you can finance almost all of your operation, land and assets from the get-go with no credit.
 

raden1

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I grew up on a small farm and I do not romanticize it in the least. Do you enjoy being tied to a location 365 days out of the year? No? Then forget livestock. As for tilling the soil and getting your hands dirty - get back to me after a few years and let me know how much you still enjoy it.

Look at any farming community in the US and you will see that over the last 100 years the overwhelming trend is that the best and the brightest have moved on to different geographic areas and different types of work.

And since we are on this forum, look at the price per acre of good farmland and then explain your Fastlane strategy for farming.
Can't you put a negative spin on any field of work with this mindset?

Want to be a business owner? Come back to me after 5 years of working 12 hours a day just to meet payroll and barely bring any take home salary.

Want to be a musician? Come back to me after 7 years of practicing 3 hours a day 7 days a week on top of group rehearsals, concerts and travel and see if you don't vomit at the sight of sheet music.

Want to be an MMA fighter? Enjoy getting kicked in the face, brain damage, always feeling sore and repeat for 15 years.

Want to work as a carpenter? Enjoy inhaling sawdust, getting cut, wasting hours going back and forth to Lowes and always standing out in the hot sun. Do that for a few years and then come back and tell me how much you like it.

Burn out happens in all sorts of fields, not just farming. But some people have found a way to make it Fastlane, or at least make it enjoyable so they look forward to doing it most days.
 

advantagecp

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Can't you put a negative spin on any field of work with this mindset?

Want to be a business owner? Come back to me after 5 years of working 12 hours a day just to meet payroll and barely bring any take home salary.

But some people have found a way to make it Fastlane, or at least make it enjoyable so they look forward to doing it most days.
Here's the thing about your posting in the farming arena: You don't know what you don't know. You are orders of magnitude away from knowing what you are talking about. No amount of positive thinking or positive mindset can make up for that.

Tell me about your farming experience. Are you putting your theories up against my experience? My grandparents on both sides were dairy farmers. I have hauled hay, fixed and built fences, cleared brush, fed cattle, rounded up cattle, shoveled manure, bush hogged, planted gardens, weeded them, harvested gardens, I have had tinnitus since a young age from tractors and chain saws...that's just the tip of the iceberg. I don't miss a bit of it. Now tell me about your experience.

I have owned businesses for the last 30 years so I am pretty well-versed in how they work. I don't recommend "5 years of working 12 hours a day just to meet payroll and barely bring any take home salary". In fact I have spent some time (never 5 years, though) in the long hours / short income zone but I don't glorify it or brag about it.

Since you brought it up, tell me all about your Fastlane model for agriculture. I mean the one that you have some experience with. I have known hundreds of farmers over many years. Even the successful ones are busting their asses, and their operations are nowhere near Fastlane.

Go through the CENTS with your explanation.
 
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raden1

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Here's the thing about your posting in the farming arena: You don't know what you don't know. You are orders of magnitude away from knowing what you are talking about. No amount of positive thinking or positive mindset can make up for that.

Tell me about your farming experience. Are you putting your theories up against my experience? My grandparents on both sides were dairy farmers. I have hauled hay, fixed and built fences, cleared brush, fed cattle, rounded up cattle, shoveled manure, bush hogged, planted gardens, weeded them, harvested gardens...that's just the tip of the iceberg. I don't miss a bit of it. Now tell me about your experience.

I have owned businesses for the last 30 years so I am pretty well-versed in how they work. I don't recommend "5 years of working 12 hours a day just to meet payroll and barely bring any take home salary". In fact I have spent some time (never 5 years, though) in the long hours / short income zone but I don't glorify it or brag about it.

Since you brought it up, tell me all about your Fastlane model for agriculture. I mean the one that you have some experience with. I have known hundreds of farmers over many years. Even the successful ones are busting their asses, and their operations are nowhere near Fastlane.

Go through the CENTS with your explanation.
Let me try and be more clear.

1. I do not know anything about farming. Never owned a business. And it's my mistake if I implied so. I asked purely out of curiosity.

2. The reason I asked you this question is this:

Every single field of interest I've been in, there has always been someone offline or online telling me (or someone else) not to do it. They've been in it for xyz years and it's a miserable existence. The idea won't work and it's not what people think.

This includes welding, aviation, copywriting, astronomy, plumbing and now farming!

I asked a friend in high school if he wanted to own a business, he said no. His parents were vets, they owned their own biz and all they did was work.

When he thought biz owner, he didn't think of a fulfilling lifestyle, but simply nonstop work. As you know the fastlane has a different view of successful biz owners. I didn't know where your view of farming came from.

You're right, I don't know what I don't know, which is why I asked if it was a mindset thing in the first place. My point was not to challenge your years of experience farming, shoot theories or make a new farming Fastlane business model.

It was only to show it's possible to spin anything and make it sound like the worst thing on Earth.

3. There do seem to be some examples online of successful farms using low acreage, high-intensity farming methods to produce a reasonable profit. And some owners take 3 months or so off in the growing season too.

These could be the creme de creme, Nike level farms. Or this income could be attainable for the average entrepreneur. I don't know.

I'll try and link directly to the most pertinent timestamps.

$80k on a 1/4 Acre

View: https://youtu.be/R1Cys0OKBsg?t=1149


$500k on 15 Acres ~20% profit margin & $350k On 1.5 Acres

View: https://youtu.be/u5IE6lYKXRw?t=64


Are you profitable? (Yes but it's difficult and most farmers don't make all their money from the farm.)

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfA_j1XFeI


Are these Fastlane? No. Not if you're the one stuck on the farm all day. But they look at least a little fulfilling.

Are you saying there is no way to make a CENTS agriculture biz? Or you can't do it only farming?
 

advantagecp

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Let me try and be more clear.

1. I do not know anything about farming. Never owned a business. And it's my mistake if I implied so. I asked purely out of curiosity.

2. The reason I asked you this question is this:

Every single field of interest I've been in, there has always been someone offline or online telling me (or someone else) not to do it. They've been in it for xyz years and it's a miserable existence. The idea won't work and it's not what people think.

This includes welding, aviation, copywriting, astronomy, plumbing and now farming!

I asked a friend in high school if he wanted to own a business, he said no. His parents were vets, they owned their own biz and all they did was work.

When he thought biz owner, he didn't think of a fulfilling lifestyle, but simply nonstop work. As you know the fastlane has a different view of successful biz owners. I didn't know where your view of farming came from.

You're right, I don't know what I don't know, which is why I asked if it was a mindset thing in the first place. My point was not to challenge your years of experience farming, shoot theories or make a new farming Fastlane business model.

It was only to show it's possible to spin anything and make it sound like the worst thing on Earth.

3. There do seem to be some examples online of successful farms using low acreage, high-intensity farming methods to produce a reasonable profit. And some owners take 3 months or so off in the growing season too.

These could be the creme de creme, Nike level farms. Or this income could be attainable for the average entrepreneur. I don't know.

I'll try and link directly to the most pertinent timestamps.

$80k on a 1/4 Acre

View: https://youtu.be/R1Cys0OKBsg?t=1149


$500k on 15 Acres ~20% profit margin & $350k On 1.5 Acres

View: https://youtu.be/u5IE6lYKXRw?t=64


Are you profitable? (Yes but it's difficult and most farmers don't make all their money from the farm.)

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfA_j1XFeI


Are these Fastlane? No. Not if you're the one stuck on the farm all day. But they look at least a little fulfilling.

Are you saying there is no way to make a CENTS agriculture biz? Or you can't do it only farming?

Fair enough.

No, I'm not saying that there is no way to make a CENTS agriculture business. There are plenty of ways to make an agriculture related business that qualifies. I am saying that I don't have the idea, enthusiasm and resources to do so. I'm not saying that you can't make a CENTS farming business, just that I don't have the resources, idea or interest in doing so.

And I am saying that farming is a tough way to go unless you happen to have inherited a few thousand acres of productive farmland, along with the equipment and buildings that go with it. Just for grins I looked up the price on an almost new John Deere 8400 tractor, a big tractor used to pull big implements --- How does $484,000 sound? That should give you an idea of the money involved in big boy farming.

Most of the going back to the land type 'success stories' are niche things and are very slow lane. I mean two wheels on the shoulder slow lane. You want to know how to make $50,000 per year farming? First you draw up your plan on how you're going to make $500,000...

I know people in a couple of these niche ag businesses too. One is working his a$$ off selling his ethically raised and slaughtered hogs at farmer's markets every weekend. Another raises flowers and among other things sells flowers to a place that would make you say "Holy shit! No way!" if I told you. She also sells at farmer's markets just about every weekend. Both of those people are getting by, working their asses off in the slow lane. Wouldn't it be wonderful to make your living by growing flowers? Want to hate your hobby? Turn it into a business and wait 10 years.

As for my philosophy of business, it's pretty simple. I don't want a level playing field. In fact, I won't play that way. I want to be running downhill. Does my business peg out each element of CENTS? No, it is strong in some and weaker in others. But it makes me plenty of money to live my lifestyle and IMO that's what it is all about.
 

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I was thinking anything thay involved terroir but in an unexpected place.

So wine / tobacco / tea etc , anything where growing conditions , local soil etc makes a tangible difference in the end product. Then just dlip it on its head.

For instance did you know that white burley was an accident? Burley seeds got over to some crappy soil and the plants that grew and thrived in the new condition had lighter leaves and an easier taste. Its one of the most common filler tobaccos now in most pipe or cigarette blends.

So were all familiar with chinese or indian tea , what if we grow some tea on an island? Will the saltwater effect things? The volcanic soil? Could we blame those things for any awesome taste that comes through in our marketing? Yes , yes we could.

Or maybe youve heard of jaimaican blue mountain coffee , which is awesome for the reasons mentioned above , what if I take those beans , put them in sonoran desert soil (probably need a greenhouse for humidity purposes) and sell that "santa rita sunset limited addition"

Bubbly wine from the champaign region of france?...

And so on. So you just mashup the growing region and rebrand the resulting product then sell it at a premium.

Seems like more of a push then pull sort of idea though , the markets not dying for slightly different tasting xyz (so youre having to eduxate the market a bit here) but its not a bad idea , it could catch on.
 

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Fassina

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One couple portrayed in the video makes more than 4000 euros a month farming silk and selling silk products, which, according to the video, is equivalent to the salary of two managers.
Is that revenue or net? Seems average either way for 2 graduates, even if it's 4k each..

Organics are actually worse for the environment, and there's little to no evidence of it being healthier than normal production methods. If you care about the planet you'd actually avoid organic products.

We have to either educate people on this or government regulation is going to be necessary..
We can't continue cutting forests so we can put less land efficient organic farms just so uninformed people can tell themselves they are being healthier and saving the environment while doing the opposite.
 
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Is that revenue or net? Seems average either way for 2 graduates, even if it's 4k each..
I'd say it's net, but I'm not sure. It's still 4k made by themselves, not working 9 to 5 in a dark office. And you have to start somewhere, nobody said it's their maximum potential.

We can't continue cutting forests so we can put less land efficient organic farms just so uninformed people can tell themselves they are being healthier and saving the environment while doing the opposite.
Actually organic can be more efficient than conventional agriculture. I mentioned in my original post The Market Gardener and it's one example of how organic can be more efficient and better for the environment. It's not really that much about organic vs conventional as it is about new ways of thinking (and sometimes these new ways of thinking are actually going back to what people used to do hundreds of years ago and sometimes it's about aquaponics, vertical farming, etc.).
 

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Actually organic can be more efficient than conventional agriculture. I mentioned in my original post The Market Gardener and it's one example of how organic can be more efficient and better for the environment. It's not really that much about organic vs conventional as it is about new ways of thinking (and sometimes these new ways of thinking are actually going back to what people used to do hundreds of years ago and sometimes it's about aquaponics, vertical farming, etc.).
In general it isn't. I don't even know why you'd argue that organic can be more efficient or better for the environment.. It's like saying it's possible that the big foot exists, yeah technically, but believing it is still kind of silly.

Google naturalistic fallacy. Organics is a bad fad, destroying the environment unnecessarily and taking advantage of uninformed and ignorant people.
 

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I can't see why you couldn't succeed with this with the right strategy.

It's easier than ever to sell as a farmer direct to the end-user which should give you healty margins.

Lets say you research the trend for super foods and you find a super food that can grow ideally in your location and has a decent demand. You can grow it and than you can sell it as a hole food or you could create a supplement out if it and sell it online nationalwide.

Also if you buy the ground you raise your plants on you are in the "real estate game". We only have one planet and the amount of people worldwide is growing every day.

So now you own the entire value creation process and even the land you create the value on. If you also like the lifestyle of a farmer this sound like a nice choice actually and I haven't thought about something like this at all.
 

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Ive been watching small scale microgreen farms on youtube lately. Some people are seeing 6 figure incomes part time working out of their basement. I really don't see how that model couldn't be utilized on a large scale.
 

advantagecp

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Ive been watching small scale microgreen farms on youtube lately. Some people are seeing 6 figure incomes part time working out of their basement. I really don't see how that model couldn't be utilized on a large scale.
Sure. Scale it to 1000 acres full time and you will be making trillions of dollars. Lease 10,000 acres and you will soon be one of the richest men in the world. Easy.
 

ryanbleau

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Take what you tubers claim with a grain a salt. At $25 a pound for some microgreens for high end restaurants you could make a killing in a place like phoenix/scottsdale. Not saying their numbers in time or income are accurate. Just saying the possibilities are there.
 

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Mar 27, 2019
122
173
150
Germany
and if you dont sell it - you could eat it yourself ;)

(small) agriculture and high quality organic food is very very interesting and will be more and more in demand in some groups of society.
 

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