Thursday, January 1, 2015

Small Farms And 2015

Having just set up Beepasture Farms LLC, I do want 2015 to be the year of small agriculture. I've now a personal stake in it, as we move toward retirement from academic work and toward a "sideline income" from producing food without inputs of pesticides, herbicides, or petrochemical-based fertilizers.

Today is a watershed moment, as California's Proposition 2 bans some of the worst practices involved in the intensive rearing of caged animals. Americans have long been distanced from their food, and animal-welfare issues are only the visible aspect for an industrialized method of producing what we eat. I am as concerned with the invisible and slow effects of GMO crops; we do not know the long-term effects of trace amounts of herbicides that build up in our bodies from eating mass-market food. I suspect that in my remaining years, we'll find out and the results will not be pretty.

Writer Bill McKibben has urged America to become a nation of small-scale food producers again. We began that way. With our LLC I'm the only member, and it shields a producer from liability against his personal property. Only the assets of the LLC could be seized in court. It gives a member the flexibility to write off expenses, as long as the firm shows a profit at least every third year. A hobby, on the other hand, can only cancel income with expenses. It cannot show a loss. But mine is no hobby; it's a future small business and part of a much larger future for how we produce and eat food.

An LLC also provides a method to license with the state; some Libertarian friends disliked my doing that (it's not any of their darned business how I conduct my affairs, which should be a Libertarian principle, but I try to be cordial on Facebook). My incentive is licensing with the State Corporation Commission is to establish the firm for the long term. If I pay a few taxes now, it makes it easier to scale up to a larger operation when I begin to lease or buy more land for production nearby.

For now our horizon is small: 400 pounds of hot peppers for one restaurant in 2015 and a small annual profit after the loss shown for starting up in 2014. We ordered seeds, bought a post-hole digger for the tractor, and had several other incidental expenses related to fencing. It's a very hopeful start to the new year.

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