Easy Money For Farmers and Ranchers… ha!

Colter, co-founder Moochdocker
In farm country we are approached with “get rich quick schemes” as much, if not more than our suburban counterparts.

From snake oil-products for your livestock and crops that show up at the winter ag-conventions every year, to the notorious vermiculture ponzi scheme of the late 90s that unfortunately bankrupted several sun-belt producers, we are not immune to “get rich quick schemes” in agriculture.

As a farmer who jumped in early to the cover-crop rage, as well as the high density-short-duration (HDSD) grazing system of forage rotations, I too once succumbed to the excitement and steep costs of new and promising ideas.

We are seeing it again with hemp; from CBD and seed processing, to fiber and hempcrete contractors, startups across the country are trying to find a corner on this new market, all the while asking the producer to bear the risk and do the leg-work.

These ventures are often localized to crop growing and climatic regions; the northernmost great plains of the US were caught up in the Oilseed and biodiesel craze of the late 90’s and early 00’s where marketing and processing entrepreneurs were promising Camelina and Safflower would be the energy and fuel of the future, along with all the health benefits you’ve ever heard of as a consumer…

I have friends in south Texas who have been signed up as vitamin reps for livestock supplement products in a program where the “rep” makes most of their income by signing up other reps to sell this product that has no USDA, University Research, or FDA verified benefits to the livestock to justify the costs of feeding/supplementing it.

Does this sound like an MLM? A “multi-level-marketing” or “pyramid” scheme is not just something that comes to your door in the form of health/wellness and beauty products, they are out there in the form of everything for women’s spandex-pants to livestock mineral supplements.

I bring this up because this is why we are a skeptical group. We want new markets, and there are opportunities out there to pursue, but it is never an easy-money side-gig, and rarely does it pay for the farm.

We have seen it time and time again with ag-products such as Conklin selling everything from adjuvants, seed treat, dog & cat supplements, to human health and wellness products. In agriculture we are double-exposed to MLM and pyramid schemes, because not only are we retail consumers who would buy these cure-all age-defying, death-defying products, but we are business owners thinking about our bottom-line and profit-margins in the crop and livestock production business.

We want more income, we want better opportunities, we want more time, and unfortunately there are startup ventures who can prey or take advantage of our rough market-conditions to convince us to take a gamble by being on the front-end of the next “big thing” such as Hemp and CBD oils…

Jumping back to the time I got burned by cover crops and HDSD grazing programs, I want to clarify that I still believe in the practical, ecological, and economical benefits of both efforts. Where I went wrong is by jumping in head first, not listening to experts who happen to be my neighbors and other older-producers around me. I spent way too much on the inputs and overheads to pursue these new programs, and I was not set up or prepared to implement them effectively. I also believe there will be wildly successful CBD and hempfiber markets, I just don’t care to be the producer who provides the legwork to build those markets.

I would even go so far as to say HDSD grazing and cover-crops definitively work. For most people who slowly, methodically, and diligently pursue cover-crop and HDSD grazing, the program has improved their bottom line seven-fold. The programs didn’t work for me because I was not adequately prepared to make the changes appropriately and never stuck with it.

Today the average farm-wife is approached by Scentsy, Rodan + Fields, doTerra, AdvoCare, and Herbalife reps with all the promises in the world of easy money, freedom of time, and can’t-lose products that you’re already using in your daily life… Why not buy $3,000 worth of inventory that you have to pressure your family and friends into buying?!

These “programs” definitely do not work, regardless of the amount of preparedness and methodology. So here we are a new age, new technologies, yet still a lot of the same old sales gimmicks; travelling salesman for Britannica World Book Encyclopedia, Singer Sewing Machines, and door-to-door Vacuums have just been replaced by Avon and Metabolife.

Newer and newer technologies, end-all-be-all programs will continue to come along and knock on your door, or in today’s age, message your inbox. Some will have legitimacy and viability. At the time, Cenex Harvest States (CHS, the world’s largest Agricultural Coop) was probably considered a risky and newfangled half-baked idea. In reality, it was solving a problem and answering calls for risk-management, cost-reduction, control of supply chain, and time-savings on the farm.

National Farmers Union as an organization got in early on the ground floor and it did work out wonderfully for them. It became economical, even to the point of lucrative, as today CHS is a Fortune 100 company.

The issues of increasing income which should free up time on the farm, and reducing risk by not being dependent on government subsidies, or markets and weather that are 100% out of our control will continue to drive new ventures and alternative sources of income for producers.

Some are going to be real and legitimate, some will not.

I believe the gig-economy is in the real and legitimate category. With today’s shared-economy platforms, or “two-sided marketplaces” as they are in nature and function, the average landowner/ag-operator does not need to invest thousands of dollars in overheads or shares which is required of coops and value-added enterprises.

Initial “installation” is not time consuming as it is simply placing a listing on an easy-to-use platform; most producers have already been using Craigslist for many years which is basically the original two-sided-online-marketplace. Though most producers are not selling on Amazon, they are buying on it so they understand the ease and simplicity of the buyer’s side of the transaction.

The gig-economy is all about taking what you already have, and making the most of it. Of course additional time and skills are needed to manage and administer these platforms and programs; these are not passive-income get-rich-quick schemes. The shared economy as a business or another on-farm revenue-stream is able to optimize the overheads you already have. Not create more.

Do you have dogs, maybe a kennel, and a 16-year old son looking for additional income? Sign him up on Wag or Rover to board and walk dogs for $80/dog/day. He doesn’t really need to invest anything else up-front, but he does need to take the initiative to make it happen, this isn’t free money that will solve all your worldly problems.

Do you have land that sits vacant most of the year, a back-40 cornfield? List it on LandTrust to allow hunters to set up a tree-stand and pay you $120/day/hunter.

The opportunities are endless with the shared-economy. Though I haven’t researched it, I bet there is even an online marketplace for boarding horses or shipping hay!

What I am most excited about is Moochdocker. For the farmer and rancher who has the farmsite or even just vacant land 3 miles up the draw, Moochdocker allows you to host RVers with what you already have.

Starting at $20/site/night with a passively-managed booking and reservation system that easily notifies you via text or email, landowners can start monetizing their location today by having a Moochdocker Ambassador build the listing; no startup or out of pocket costs. Just the time and initiative to make it happen.

For most landowners, just providing a dry-camp site would work for their operation. No water, electricity, or dump. Other’s have the ability to provide water and electricity, thus improving the value and cost of their listing. Other’s yet seek the opportunity to sell travelers eggs, beef, pies, tours, and classes.

Many producers I have spoken with say something to the effect of “nobody would want to stay at my place, it’s just a farm.” Or “I don’t want the liability of some party bus tracking-up my place and spooking the animals.”

Again, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme; it takes work, effort, and understanding but once you build your familiarity and comfort level around this new venture of yours, the sky’s the limit as to what you can make. Rover, LandTrust, Moochdocker, and every other two-sided marketplace has hold-harmless clauses, waivers, and custom liability insurance to cover hosts. Another aspect to reflect on is that these programs have accountability and transparency built in, not only with the payment and booking system, but generally with the “type” of person who is going to be using this.

These are not the Airbnb horror stories of college parties in the cities. These are usually easy going travellers, down to earth, simple, and salt of the earth people like you. You may be surprised why someone chooses your location and setting, you never really know until you put it out there and try.

This is also why Moochdocker is not a get rich quick scheme; you actually have to try.

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