head, I’d spend $125,000 that first year on livestock alonen(not counting feeding the blasted things), just to make myn$11,000. Provided that sale prices remain stable and don’tndrop again, and every cow produces a live calf, and there arenno increases in feed or variable costs, it would only take me anlittle over 11 years to make back my investment. I could thenngo on making a poverty level income indefinitely, provided Inkeep buying new cows as the old ones die off. My neighbor,nwho has a large spread (by Ozark standards) of 600 acres,ncan only produce 100 head yeariy, and it’s hard, full-timenlabor. His wife works in town, too.nHogs are a much better bet. The University of Missourinindicates that if I had a big operation with around 87 sows,nand 1 was raising them from birth to slaughter, I could makena 36.1 percent return on my investrnent . . . providing Inhad a $53,506 capital base. Here’s the interesting part,nthough. The same figures show that I’d make a 21.9 percentnreturn on my labor—which works out to $7.31 per hour.nNow, farmers are not stupid people. They’re independent-minded,nand stubborn sometimes, but not stupid.nFarmers like to watch movies on the VCR, to go out tondinner occasionally, to take a vacation now and then. Younjust can’t do that, and support a family, on $7.31 an hour;nfarmers know this.nAs a result, something very interesting is happening.nFarmers, here and there, are buying “exotic” livestock.nOne man spent $15,000 for a trio of lamas, a male and twonfemales. A year later, he sold the two baby lamas that werenproduced for $10,000. The year after that, he sold two morenfor the same sum. Lamas don’t eat any more than a cow,nand also produce a secondary “crop” of valuable wool. Thisnman is now making money. Real money.nThere are farmers who specialize in buffalo, in elk, innfallow deer, in ostriches, and in wild cats. There are farmersnwho have stopped raising commercial white-fleeced sheepnand switched to a “rare” breed. The exotic Jacob Sheep, fornexample, sports four dramatic horns. Registered animals sellnfor twice what a commercial sheep would, around $250neach.nOther farmers have found a market in “pet stock.” Ansingle purebred female Persian cat, for example, can producenfive kittens, twice a year, that sell for $100 each to petnbrokers. That’s $ 1,000 annual gross to keep a cat (and hernpurebred boyfriend, of course), which costs the farmer aboutn$300 in feed and related costs. He gets a pleasant set ofnhousepets — and a much higher return than on cattle ornhogs.nOf course, these exotics are not subject to governmentn”protection” through subsidies. Across the nation, 82 centsnof every farm dollar comes from government subsidies, andnis it any wonder, with $44 calves, and bovine growthnhormones turning dairy cows into veritable hydrants of milknin a nation that is already drowning in the stuff? Farmersnwho raise exotics keep a low profile and hope that the federalnag people won’t notice what’s going on.nMeantime, the truck-crop producers are not to benoutdone. With the farm wife working away from home, andnthe farm husband busy with his $7.3 l-per-hour hogs, there’snnobody at home to plant or tend a garden. Producing yournown food has been the farmer’s traditional way to cut hisn20/CHRONICLESnnnown costs—but who can afford the time nowadays? Mrs.nFarmer, more often than not, shops at the same supermarketnas her city-bred counterpart, buying lettuce and corn andncarrots grown out-of-state on a huge monocrop estate.nThese former farm wives remember what real food oncentasted like, and they prefer to buy locally produced goods,nfrom friends and neighbors. Once they could go to an”farmer’s market” to trade, but these are no longer the hubnof rural life, if they’re held at all. Like the changes that havenoccurred with livestock, something new has replaced thisnopen-air shopping.nAgripreneurship is the solution to the deathnof the family farm.nAgain, it’s happening in a small way — but catching on innout-of-the-way places. In Maine, one vejgetable-growingnfamily is feeding a hundred families off of six acres,nproducing cabbage, tomatoes, corn, peas, turnips, and a hostnof other traditional garden crops. That this produce is of then”organic” persuasion should be no surprise — the surprise isnthat it will cost each family of consumers about $320 for anfull spring/summer/fall array of vegetables. In the supermarket,ncomparable crops would cost about $550. Hence thenfarm family has an instant market for whatever they grow,nsales are guaranteed, no one is exposed to chemicalnpesticides, they can stay at home, work at their own pace,nhave plenty to eat—and have an “automatic” income ofn$32,000. Expenses would include the cost of seeds andnmaintenance of any garden tools, but that’s it. In depressednrural areas like parts of Maine, the farmer is making anveritable fortune — and the consumers are getting topnquality produce for one-third less than the best supermarketsncan offer.nIt’s small-scale back in Missouri, as well. One farm wifenhere with an entrepreneurial bent went from shop to shop innoiie small town with a list of the crops she’d have available.nPeople signed up for this “subscription vegetable” list, 15nfamilies in all. Every couple of weeks she’ll be deliveringnabout ten to twenty pounds of just-picked vegetables to thenfamilies on her round, and taking home about $15 fromneach stop . . . that’s $450 per month, not including extransales when her customers want to load up their freezers.nShe’s doing this on just two acres, with a hand-hoe. By nextnyear, she’ll have four acres under cultivation, and willnprobably pick up a dozen new subscribers.nRon Macher, the affable publisher oi Missouri Farm,npicked up on this trend early. He was the first to use andescriptive term for these new farmers — he calls themn”agripreneurs.” Agripreneurship, whether in the guise ofnexotic animal production, or the humble act of growingnzucchini, is the solution to the death of the family farm. Nonfederal agency has stepped in and offered free advice or taxnmoney; the agripreneurs are doing the thinking and planningnand customer development on their own. Morenimportant, each of these enterprising souls continues tontailor his product to fit his market … be it in Maine ornMissouri or Podunk. <^n