Promising indicators for sustainable small farms

For a while there I was wondering if it was a realistic expectation to manage to make a living above the ‘poverty line’ as a small farmer.  Nearly content with the idea of joining the ‘wealthy-poor’ from the sheer satisfaction that can be gained as a farmer, I ran across a few articles that seem to indicate that with enough dedication, planning, and efficiency-minded protocols in place, it might very well be possible to put a kid through college and take a vacation from time to time with the profits from your farm I. E. small farming can be economically sustainable!

This example is truly inspiring (I can’t wait to see the documentary they have in progress):

His advice to ‘Grow Smarter, not Bigger’ really resonates.

The new PCEF weather station at the Hazel Township of Buncombe County

We’ve noticed a somewhat dramatic difference between the weather at the farm and downtown Asheville even though they’re only 5 miles apart.

So to keep better track on the conditions where the plants are, we puchased a weather station and registered it with  Want to know what conditions are like at the Psycho Chicken Eco Farm?  Well, just check our weather station KNCASHEV52 to find out!


So where the heck is the Hazel Township you might ask.  It took me a while to figure out a way to describe the area that the farm is in.  We’re long before Leicester, on the other side of New Leicester Highway from Ben Lippen, but outside the Asheville City limits.  One day I notice don a google map (I think) the mention of the Hazel Township, and sure enough, a search for the township turned up this map from

Buncombe County Townships




Cover crops and soil health.



This youtube video put up by NCATATTRA demonstrates many of the benefits of cover crops on large scale farms:


It’s long and a little technical.  Bottom line, well managed cover crops increase soil health by adding organic matter, retaining water, strengthening soil structure, supporting soil micro organism diversity, providing nutrients for cash crops and attracting a diverse array of wild pollinators and birds.

The more diverse the array of cover crops you use the better, it seems like 7 different species at a minimum are needed to get complementary beneficial interaction between plants in the mix.


I’m looking forward to watching another one of NCATATTRA’s cover crop videos geared toward smaller farms:


Here’s a great PDF the USDA put together with a lot of information on the individual plant species as well.  It’s where the Cover Crop Chart from the top of this post came from:


Taking ‘Agro-tourism’ to the next level–a place that’s “Made it” and making a difference.

Today, an internet search that went astray eventually led me to the “mission” page of, where a well crafted video shares their mission of helping the public re-connect with farming the way it used to be, the way it “should be.”

Here’s a direct link to the video:

Their farm camp program is inspiring.  Something for us to strive toward.



The Salon Article that put things in perspective…

This article in Salon:

What nobody told me about small farming: I can’t make a living

really puts it all together.  It’s well researched, concise and informational.  I hope you’ll take the time to read it and come up with some creative way to turn the market economy on it’s ear so small farms can once again be a profession that doesn’t require a day job to perform.

Yeah, it’s totally depressing.  The fact that the production of food on a small scale can’t be done for a living wage Completely Sucks.  How can this be?  None of us can survive without food.  You’d think growing and selling food would be a ‘sure thing’…

I was ever hopeful for the first two years of our foray into farming that one day we might be able to ‘make a living’ as new farmers.  And while I still hope for that day to come, it seems only possible if we don’t include land or even most capital expenditures in the calculation,  and hope to goodness the tractor doesn’t break down.

So I keep searching for ways to diversify our offerings, streamline our production to maximize efficiency and revenue, while not compromising our commitment to organic, sustainable agriculture.  It seems obvious however, that at least one of us is going to have to remain ‘gainfully employed’ to keep the wheels turning.