Alternative revenue streams that don’t require Congress’ approval

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If Congress can’t get its act together to pass a Farm Bill that includes a fair dairy program, maybe it’s time we considered other income streams. Granted, some of these ideas are a bit far-fetched, but so is the idea that it’s the middle of 2013 and we still don’t have a Farm Bill! Come September, things are going to get downright ugly for our Congressional delegates unless they get it together and do their job (I’m looking at you, House Republicans!). But for now, let’s do more than give ourselves ulcers while we cling to this dairy cliff; let’s brainstorm new and creative ways to bring in some stable income that has absolutely nothing at all to do with Congress. Who’s with me?

I’ll start. First up is what I lovingly call “cowfunding,” or dairy’s version of crowdfunding. Why not use independent fundraising to keep the farm afloat? Sound far-fetched? One Framingham, Mass.-based dairy is doing just that. Eastleigh Farm, the largest provider of raw milk dairy products in Massachusetts, just launched its first fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com in hopes of saving the farm, which owner Doug Stephan says is one of the last expanses of open space in the area. Stephan has a pending request for nonprofit status with the IRS and is seeking donations to keep the land from being lost to development. The campaign has earned more than $7,200 in two weeks’ time, but the real win here is the additional media exposure for its cause. Our readers aren’t likely raw milk providers, but every dairy farm has an interest in promoting some aspect of farming (animal caregiving, environmental conservation, feeding the world). Food for thought.

The next idea is a bit more far-fetched, but definitely applies to some of you (as witnessed during karaoke-peppered Japan trade mission trips): Get a record contract. Hey, if the Peterson Farm Brothers can become a YouTube sensation with their farm-based parodies, perhaps it’s time we brought a bit more farm back into Country music. Or, heck, any kind of music. You can’t sing, you say? OK, then write a song about the dairyman’s life, or lease out your talents to songwriters looking for authenticity checks. (“Don’t say ‘cow’ if you mean ‘cattle.’”)

That brings me to my personal favorite: Prepper camp. There long has been a tiny percentage of people who believe they need to be equipped for Armageddon. There’s even a TV show devoted to them. But this fringe group has recently been overtaken by a more mainstream, literary-driven group. Anyone reading the latest round of apocalyptic literature that’s become so hot lately? We’re talking World War Z, The 5th Wave or the Wool series? Heck, even The Hunger Games Trilogy. These books are being consumed at ravenous levels by everyone from teens to great-grandparents, and they all leave readers with one question: How would I handle such dire conditions? Americans everywhere are realizing that there are downsides to being too attached to their cushy 4G-connected smartphones and the advertising revenue they make while blogging about said phone. What if both things went away tomorrow? What kind of real world experience would they need to survive?

Well, guess what? You are poised to offer lifesaving information on farming. Maybe you get a job consulting with one of the already-existing companies that helps train people for a cataclysmic crisis, or maybe you hold seminars on your farm, teaching the basics of crop production. People paying you for the experience of working for you? Sounds pretty good. Maybe your local Congressional delegates would like to participate.

Any other ideas out there? We’re all ears.



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