Your Horse Property Can be a Money Machine!
Turn Those Pastures into $Profits!
Whether you own 5, 50 or 500 acres, it cost money to maintain. If you aren't on top of expenses what you’re paying out may end up being more than what you are bringing in. If this upside down equation isn't what you signed up for maybe there are some creative things you can do with the property and facilities that you have to turn that negative math in your favor! Have you ever thought about unique ways to generate income on parts of your farm or ranch when that piece is not actively in use? I sat down and spent some time jotting down every possibility I could come up with.... what to do and where to begin... for my horse business.
Free Money! for Horse Businesses
One of the first places you can start is saving money by not spending it. You probably already do this by mucking your own stalls and doing all your own... well everything right? But here's something you could look into when you are crashed on the couch after a hard day's work. Check with your local USDA Service Center and Farm Agency along with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). They may offer different programs available to assist you. For example, I have applied for an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) that provides financial and technical assistance. There are quite a few different incentive programs out there if you can get creative and spend a bit of time with applications. How about new "organic certification reimbursement" or establishing a "coservation buffer zone", or starting a "non-profit horse riding therapy program"? Once you find your local organization website you might be surprised at what you already qualify for. Here's an example of three "free money" resources that I located easily.
Lower Your Tax Burden to Save$
You can also file to place your property in a land conservation which can save on taxes (as long as it meets the requirements) Check with your local tax assessor’s office for information and an application. Another wonderful program I found out about was sponsored by the state power company. I have a few acres underneath power lines that the company will compensate per acre for a designated period of time to maintain as a wildlife conservatory.
Check in with the county government
USDA Service Center & Farm Agency
National Resources Conservation Service NRCS
Power company easement maintenance EQIP
People Will Pay $ to Rent
From cheap/easy to more expensive/hard
Can you create a seperate paddock or pen for overnight boarding? Meet some nice people, make a few extra dollars, usually from $30-50 per horse per night.
Add Concessions for your visitors. Purchase a glass front refrigerator and stock it with water and drinks (nothing perishable). This is a great perk for your boarders and horseback riding visitors and you can purchase in bulk and sell for a sizeable profit. People are glad to pay for the convenience of having a nice cold drink when they have worked up a thirst!
Advertise your facility for rental. Rent just a portion of your facility such as your arena, or a pasture or a barn. No services or hassle for you, just give them access and they manage the entire visit. Consider insurance implications, but this can be a great service to your community for small outdoor events like company picnics, bake sales, whatever they may think of.
Kids Parties & Team building - How about a kids rodeo or petting zoo event? Are you up for staffing and managing such an effort? If you own horses yourself this is a fantastic way to introduce non equestrian people to the industry. Ticket sales, concession sales, parking fees, there are a number of usual things that people are willing to pay for to attend this sort of gathering.
Raising other animals on property to sell or sell their byproducts - Alpaca, sheep, chickens, goats. This may take you from strictly horses more toward running a broader spectrum farming operation. But something to consider. Female Alpacas may sell for $5,000-$25,000!
Campsite rentals - take a look at hipcamp.com. Now you can just literally just let someone drive out into an unused pasture for the evening. Provide nothing but the view!
Find a trainer to give lessons and split the fees - There are many trainers out there that do not own a facilities and all sorts of fee splitting arrangements. Whether you just want to rent them space in the arena or get into helping them drum up more business and split fees. This can be a super way to maximize the things you have already spent your money on.
Farmers market on site? - Or any other set system for drawing traffic weekly or monthly. At the very least you can earn fees for parking, but really the money is in the concessions! Set up a drink cooler and let your children sell drinks while people mill about. There's no limit to this once you get the pattern established and the traffic coming to your location. It's also a GREAT way to advertise your location for other business such as horseback riding, weekly riding lessons etc.
Add another monthly boarding stall or two? I know a couple that added an additional 4 stalls to their old barn by adding an inexpensive roof extension (all of this keeping within maximum horses acceptable for the size of their property) they essentially were able to add $2400 per month to their monthly income. The entire project was less than $7500 for them so after 3 months this effort was pure profit! (Of course there was a lot of elbow grease involved in this venture...)
A little bit of imagination to create a long term source of cash flow. Residual services are the best investment. If you can do something that you only have to sell one time, that repeats itself regularly, such as a weekly or monthly service or event, you will be amazed how over time the project will contribute to the earnings of your property. It takes more effort up front, but then usually referrals will help you to keep this practice going.
Not Interested in having people on Your Property!
Ok, so you say you have tried all this or aren't interested in any of these.? So what’s next? You can peruse online for some interesting ideas that may or may not suit you that are farther from our horse people theme but might require some property or someone that is around on a daily basis. How about raising bees or snails? Or jump way outside the norm and ask yourself....
Do You have Star Power?
Why not start your own farm YouTube channel and enable it for monetization? Merchdope gives some staggering statistics:
The total number of people who use YouTube – 1,300,000,000. That's BILLION folks!
300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!
Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.
YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day
The number of channels earning six figures per year on YouTube is up 50% year over year.
The World highest paid YouTube stars earned a combined total of $127 million in 2017
If you haven’t checked out the farm and homesteading channels then look them up. If you think you and your farm have ‘star-power’, then do some research on how to get started on YouTube...pages of information at your fingertips. I know it's a leap, but hey you never know right?
Nothing Like FREE help from friends - Two Real Life Examples
Part of the success in putting together a successful farm project is to have skilled free labor, either yourself and/or a couple of good friends. I have two friends I will use as an example.
#1 lives on a working farm in a rural area. She is a horse masseuse and gives lessons. She decided to put in a 100x200ft covered lit arena close to the road and hopes to offer it as a rental for clinics, shows or lessons when not in use by her. Her ‘in’ is that her husband’s family owns a metal manufacturing plant - so with free labor and materials free or at cost, this was a great gamble and she gets an arena to use for herself as well!
#2 is a young lady who owns a few acres in the city. She has made good use of the property by fencing in an arena and creating some wonderful obstacles. She charges per horse for folks to enjoy some trust and play interaction and she hosts competitions. Her husband is a master builder and helped her create this playground. They save on labor and can continue to add to their growing venue.
Don't Quit Your Day Job
These ideas may or may not pay the yearly feed bill or allow you to stop your day job. If this is truly your goal then you can consider other bigger income earning items, but they usually come with substantial initial investment.
Weddings and large events are very popular at country and farm locations. There are many options you can provide depending on your facility set up. Each event can generate thousands of dollars in income but they are not hassle free. Of course you must start with your city or county government office for permits, zoning and other ordinance rules. You don’t want to learn a tough lesson the hard way.
Locally a family purchased acreage and decided they wanted to put in a petting zoo. They began clearing land after proposing plans to the city. But neighbors and county officials decided rezoning to commercial from rural was going to require more consideration and may not be approved. They are at a standstill on the project and have already spent a considerable amount of money. Best to do all your footwork before starting in on the project and never assume approval until all bases are covered. And seriously, this is not something you want to "ask for forgiveness" on as they may shut you don't permanently if you are running an unpermitted business.
Venue Set Up - For Ideas Who Do You Call?
There are internet companies like WeddingSpot.com that offer a detailed format and will assist you with ideas to get your venue up and running. You can also do quite a lot of research on the internet and use Facebook groups to ask specific questions.
Once again, it is nice to not have to hire the expertise or borrow the money if you need to do upgrades to meet the standards of the wedding party. Considerations are:
Oh, and before you count your dollars, do consider your aptitude for dealing with the public in general. These events are high pressure and people have very high/unrealistic expectations. So proper contracts and planning are required, and great people skills are a must.
Here is an excerpt from a wedding venue owner to the conference director of Wedding MBA (http://www.weddingmba.com/blog/the-dark-side-of-owning-a-wedding-venue/)
I wish someone was talking about the pitfalls of owning a venue when we started. I will say that the objective is not to have our guests, especially the bridal party, aware of the issues that go on.
You are spot on with the idea that we get blamed for everything, and your examples have all happened to us over the years. Vendors, guests and even some of our staff think a wedding happens magically.
We have seen the biggest change in the industry as the millennial generation has evolved.
The expectations are amazing to see. It starts with the initial contact. If we don’t answer an inquiry in the first few minutes ,we lose them as they go on to another venue. It doesn’t seem to matter what our contract says… our brides and grooms have expectations the expectation that all add-ons are free of charge.
We have had groups book for 150 people and 170 show up. It’s our fault that we were not prepared for them and of course the caterer is devastated because he runs out of food.
OK, one more. We had a New York photographer hired by the bride for their wedding. The photographer disappeared after the wedding with the pictures. You can guess who was blamed. We had never met the photographer, but we ultimately tracked him down and shamed them into giving the photos to the couple. Brides wonder why we have a preferred vendor list, this is why.
Harold Christ -The Windmill Winery”
Learn Before You Leap
If you can weigh the good with the not-so-good and come out liking this idea you may want to attend something like the Wedding Merchants Business Academy, Las Vegas Convention Center on 10/14/2019 Wedding MBA.
Really, the options are endless for what your farm and facilities can offer Take some quiet time to reflect the goals for you personally and your farm. Then put on your accountant cap and do a balance sheet on spending vs saving vs income. From there decide if you are better suited for equine or homo-sapien interaction (or a combination of both) on a regular and sometimes intense basis. The rest should be a fun adventure!
Happy Venue Prospecting!
Best Advice - Go Slow - Emotional Decisions are Your Enemy
As in any new venture - it’s best to sit down and write this out. You don’t want to make an emotional decision that doesn’t have dollars and cents behind it. It can be very exciting to think about ways to get your property paying for itself, but as always there’s a financial risk as well as the time factor involved in getting things up and running, and then the ongoing support. Giving the idea time to work itself out and letting the emotions subside is the best way to make a sensible decision. Sometimes you can do baby steps and take minimal risks, that’s a great approach if possible, to keep yourself from creating more work with little or no payoff.
Final Words, Remember the 2 - 2 and 1/2 Rule!
Things cost 2 times as much
They take 2 times as Long
And they pay out about HALF what you expect.....
So when preparing your plan of action, take these factors into account and make sure you have enough energy and cash to get to the finish line!
Check out our blogs on evaluating a horse boarding business.