Home Business Entrepreneurs: Carving Vegetable Markers, Guest Ranch and Wheatgrass Juice Business

The Bootstrap Businesses column showcases home business entrepreneurs: carving vegetable markers to sell at a local bazaar, turning a homestead into a guest ranch and running a wheatgrass juice business.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
November/December 1982
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Now, people who want to ride the lovely trails and dirt roads of the Green Mountains can stay here for a week or more.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF


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Home business entrepreneurs enter into new businesses, including carving vegetable markers, running a guest ranch and creating a wheatgrass juice business. 

If you now operate, or have ever operated, a successful home business that was inspired by an article you read in MOTHER, tell us about it in around 500 words (write to THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS Hendersonville, North Carolina): Be sure to mention when and where you started your venture and with how much "seed money"; what you make (net), and anything else that might be of assistance to other entrepreneurs. If your story is used in this column, you'll receive [1] the satisfaction of knowing that you may help someone else start a business and [2] a free two-year new or renewal subscription to THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS®. 

Last Christmas I was short of cash . . . and, while in a quandary as to just how to earn some extra money, a friend and I rented a table at a local bazaar without having first decided what to sell! Somehow, though, our "cart before the horse" method actually turned out for the best: You see, while skimming THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ® (issue NO. 69, page 30), I came across Julie Driscoll's article about making garden row markers. I knew right away that I liked the idea and figured that if a youngster could do it, so (probably) could I!

After receiving a gift of wood scraps from a carpenter friend, I set to work carving vegetable markers and made ten sets of five vegetables each . . . all painted with bright colors and happy faces. I found the activity delightful, and was all the more pleased because I was turning out (I believed) a definitely salable product.

Sure enough, I took five sets of markers to the bazaar on each of the event's two days, and sold them all. Each bunch went for $20, and the rented table and the paint cost me $50, so I came out $150 ahead!

Now carving vegetable markers to sell at a bazaar may seem like a small step toward entrepreneurship to most, but to me it was remarkable: My first attempt at making something to sell provided me with fun, profit, and a sense of pride. I'm in the process of producing more garden ornaments to market in the spring (when people are thinking hard about growing their summer food, and some of them are wondering just how to label those neat rows of green shoots more clearly and attractively).

It feels great to be able to earn my own pocket money . . . to express more creativity than I'd ever thought I had . . . and to give pleasure to the gardeners who buy my wares.

— Joyce A. Gardella
North Pole, Alaska

George and I started homesteading here in Vermont in the first half of the 70's—with a lot of help from John and Sally Seymour's book Farming for Self-Sufficiency, which was serialized in MOTHER NOs. 25-41 and 43—and we soon saw we could make it with just a little financial boost.

Well, I'd been feeling really guilty when ever I took time out to go riding . . . and I figured I could ease my conscience and solve our money problems if I could make my pleasure time pay! After exploring a few alternatives, we decided to turn our place into a guest ranch.

Our initial investment included the cost of building a new stable ($2,000), buying used tack ($550), and purchasing horses ($3,500). We were also given six horses . . . an almost unbelievable piece of good fortune! And, of course, we spent a lot of time and energy sprucing up the homestead.

Now, people who want to ride the lovely trails and dirt roads of the Green Mountains can stay here for a week or more. We saddle up right after breakfast and ride until it's time to stop for a late lunch. After that we groom the horses . . . train and play with the most recent crop of colts . . . garden, canoe, swim, hike, and so forth. I don't have to feel guilty (after all, I'm working), and I'm bringing in dollars. We charge our guests $195 a week, including room, board, and all activities. And occasionally a visitor will fall in love with one of our beautiful. registered Morgans and buy the animal.

All in all, we gross about $3,500 a year from guests and about $4,000 on sales of young stock. And when that is added to our other farm income, we do all right! If you'd like to come ride with us, drop us a line.

— George & Ruth Strickholm
Lincoln Mountain Farm
Dept. TMEN
Lincoln, VT

Being a home- and garden-oriented, child-loving MOTHER-type, I spent a long time searching for one of those rare enterprises that would [1] allow me to work my own hours, [2] let me stay at home with my children, [3] pay reasonably well, and [4] be thoroughly enjoyable. Well, though that sounded like an impossible job description to fill, my wheatgrass juice business has met every one of those dream criteria.

Lack of garden space prevented me from raising flowers and vegetables for local markets . . . which would have been my first oc cupational choice. So I busied myself looking for an alternative. I found my answer in evysmith and Jane S. Gray's "Sprouts Fill Our Pockets With Cash" (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 54, page 64). Growing sprouts wouldn't require more than a corner of my valuable yard space, and yet it would allow me-in effect-to "garden" for my needed income. The local grocery store, I found upon inquiry, was already well supplied with several kinds of sprouts . . . but it did have a market for a steady supply of wheatgrass juice, a sweet healthful drink made from the tender young shoots of wheat sprouts. I started out slowly, at first simply growing and juicing the wheatgrass for my family and neighbors (it's almost as easy, I soon discovered, to make enough for a crowd as it is to prepare a sample for an individual), but before long I expanded my operation to make enough for the market as well.

I built a small greenhouse (about 5 foot by 5 foot by 5 foot) from scrap lumber, using an old framed window for the roof, large clear plastic bags for the sides, and a discarded bamboo curtain for the front (in other words, the structure didn't cost me anything but time). The curtain and some nearby shrubbery provided the partial shade necessary for the young grass.

Luck stayed with me: I bought a juicer, at a flea market, for $3.00. The other necessary purchases included containers from a restaurant supplier (200 for $5.30), blank labels from the stationery store (500 for $3.00), a rubber stamp with content information on it ($5.25), and ten pounds of wheat berries ($2.80). My total start-up cost was $19.35.

I began by selling a dozen ounces a day (at 55 cents an ounce), seven days a week, and those deliveries quickly disappeared . . . allowing me to increase my sales to 18 ounces a day. (My expenses run about 7 cents per ounce.) It takes me about two hours a day to start the flats of sprouting wheat, prepare the compost it's grown in, juice the grass, and clean up. My work schedule is flexible . . . that is, all the chores except the juicing can be done any time that I'm not busy with my children, though I do have a commitment to take the product to market as the store opens each morning. I deliver by bicycle, so my transportation costs are negligible. Furthermore, the store is only half a mile from home . . . and while I'm there, I make a point to do any necessary shopping.

My income from the wheatgrass juice business now provides food—and occasional extras—for a family of four, and running the enterprise certainly adds variety to my life. Be sure, though, to check your county health codes before setting up a similar enterprise of your own. Some local authorities may treat the activity as "food processing", which generally requires special insurance, permits, etc.

If you'd like to learn more about wheatgrass and its juice—how to produce and use the beverage, what's in it, and what it does toward health and healing—my pamphlet on the subject is available for $1.00 plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

— Pam Prescott
Dept. TMEN
Isla Vista, CA


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