These suggestions seem far-fetched, but they have worked for some. They take some work up front, but could provide lasting benefits for years.
Internships. Could you use a hand around the farm, without having to hire? You may even know someone unemployed or partly employed in your community, with a good work ethic and useful skills, who you would hire if you could afford to. Contact your nearest university’s agriculture department to discuss options. Register with the JCP program if you’re in Canada, to allow interested workers to apply; then their funding can pay for a farm hand’s wages while you help them gain skills and knowledge. There are many members of society for whom fitting in is difficult or impossible. They may lack skills and education that would allow them to live comfortably within modern society, but still have a good work ethic and willingness to learn. You may even know someone unemployed or underemployed in your community who you would hire if you could afford to. Check with related non-profit programs in your area to see if they can pay for a farm hand’s wages. This gives the community a way to help preserve your valuable resources and its traditional way of life.
Universities may have their own funding, or they may have grant-writing resources. Here is one example of funding for agricultural research:
Homestays in exchange for chores. The following platforms can connect you with volunteers. For these programs, the hosting farm provides food, lodging, and opportunities to learn, in exchange for assistance with farming or gardening activities. Wwoofers have first-hand experience in ecologically sound growing methods and prefer “organic” farming.
Farm tours. It might surprise you that a lot of parents would rather take their kids to visit a farm for a weekend instead of Disneyland. Some farms have started doing tours so city kids can see animals up close. You might even let them help work on a tree house, milk a goat, help with a harvest, or help make cheese. It is important to have visitors sign a liability waiver, even though your property insurance and their health insurance should cover any accidents. Be sure to have someone accompany guests on tours, because what may be safe to you could be dangerous for people unfamiliar with animals and equipment.
Farm overnight stays.Some farms have used 9flats, Airbnb, or GuestReady to make a side income. It might at first seem uncomfortable to have strangers spending the night on your property, but it might be worth a try. Check to see how other farmers are doing it and what they are charging per night. If you have an extra house, trailer, or cabin on the property, this could be more comfortable, but you can also rent out a room in your main house. You might want to have visitors sign a liability waiver, even though your property insurance and their health insurance should cover any accidents. You should write clear instructions about where guests are welcome to go and where they shouldn’t go.
Farm event hosting. Some small farms, if they have some pretty areas on their property, like a creek side or meadow, are making side income from letting others host dinner parties or weddings on their property. You might have a bit of hassle from letting guests use your kitchen or bathroom for the time they’re there, but the event planners should handle everything else. You could even go to town that day or for a visit, to not have to be inconvenienced by the event. Just take some photos and send to some local wedding planners. If you find some interested folks who don’t have a wedding planner, you’ll want to make sure they know what you are and aren’t offering to do or provide. Here’s an article that can give a couple a place to start planning: https://www.elitedaily.com/p/how-much-does-a-farm-wedding-cost-real-planners-say-it-depends-18165776
Grants for emergency preparedness. If the government thinks of your farm as a food resource that can be accessed for the public in times of a national disaster, shouldn’t it be treating you like an emergency preparedness partner? Look into the local laws and talk to related non-profits who might have partnership potential. You offer an important source of food security to your community, so they should be supporting you for this potential. If someone in your family is willing to take a First Responder course, that could increase your value as a disaster planning partner. If you’re in a place with known earthquake or flood risk, you could partner as a place for displaced people to camp out temporarily if their homes are destroyed. It might mean building some outhouses and talking with town planners about zoning laws. You might search online for any type of farm grant in your area and use this idea to apply.
The bug-out farm. Offer contracts to friends and acquaintances who might want to know they have a place they’d be welcome to go in an emergency. Some people spend a surprising amount of money on land and a building for a bug-out shelter, and they don’t even have a way to grow food, just some storage. A farm is a much more workable place to be in a disaster, if you can get along with other people and help with chores. A similar arrangement would be if group of city-dwelling friends individually invested in side-by-side plots, then allowed someone wanting to farm to lease and develop the land with no rent. Both the farmer and city dwellers would be benefitting from the arrangement. Make clear agreements about how decisions would be made in a disaster situation. It also is important to build relationships over time, such as invitation to have a weekend visit once a year.
Additional resources.Here are some general information resources that might give you ideas.