TLP: In This Economy, Sheep Pay When a Sheepskin Doesn't
Forget about trying to make it in Silicon Valley. The new place to launch a start-up may be the Dell, as in Farmer in the Dell.
The NYT checks in from Oberlin, Ohio:
In this verdant lawn-filled college town, most people keep their lawn mowers tuned up by oiling the motor and sharpening the blades. Eddie Miller keeps his in shape with salt licks and shearing scissors.Miller, who graduated from Boston University a year-and-a-half ago and failed to find a job or secure the grants he sought, told the Times the mowing business brings in $1 per day per sheep. And he'll barter, like for karate lessons, maple syrup or the use of a truck. He also part-times at a farm and recently doubled his workforce from two to four.
Mr. Miller, 23, is the founder of Heritage Lawn Mowing, a company that rents out sheep — yes, sheep — as a landscaping aid. For a small fee, Mr. Miller, whose official job title is “shepherd,” brings his ovine squad to the yards of area homeowners, where the sheep spend anywhere from three hours to several days grazing on grass, weeds and dandelions.
The results, he said, are a win-win: the sheep eat free, saving him hundreds of dollars a month in food costs, and his clients get a freshly cut lawn, with none of the carbon emissions of a conventional gas-powered mower. (There are, of course, other emissions, which Mr. Miller said make for “all-natural fertilizer.”)
“They countrify a city,” Mr. Miller said of his four-legged staff. “And they lend a lot of awareness about how people lived in the past.”
As an uncertain economy and a stagnant hiring climate continue to freeze people out of the traditional job market, a number of entrepreneurs like Mr. Miller, many of them in their 20s and 30s, are heading back to the land, starting small agricultural businesses. And in the process, they are discovering that modern homesteading offers more rewarding work, and possibly more security, than entering the white-collar fray.
The Times also found two women in Seattle who started a grocery story in a shipping container they plopped down in a "food desert" neighborhood and hipster chicken farmers in Brooklyn, of course.
Good for them. They seem happy (one of the grocers called this type of venture, "the new Plan A") and no one's bitching about the drum circle or where to get a vegan panini.