As a long-time content creator in the homesteading space, Justin Rhodes has become something of an expert in building an online business that can support your homestead dreams. In this episode, Justin shares the journey from where he started to where he is now. We even chat about ideas for the future and how to plan for tomorrow in a constantly changing online business environment. Whether you are dreaming of starting your own business or hoping to take yours to the next level, may this conversation with Justin Rhodes inspire you to take the next step!
Join us as we discuss:
- How Justin got started creating homesteading content
- Navigating the online world and adapting to the fast-paced changes
- Learning from mentors and teaching as you learn
- Finding the right business idea for you
- The challenges and benefits of learning from the internet
- Planning for the future of your business in an ever-changing online landscape
Thank you to our sponsor!
Premier 1 Supplies is your one-stop shop for all things homesteading! Visit Premier1Supplies.com to browse their catalog.
About Justin Rhodes
Justin Rhodes is a permaculturalist homesteader who has inspired (and taught) thousands of people to grow their own food. After 10+ years of farming experience and countless hours of training, he creates daily “edutainment” on his wildly popular YouTube Channel, Justin Rhodes. Justin Rhodes is also the owner and creator of Abundance Plus, a network providing all original shows for homesteaders. It includes a streaming platform, A+ social media site, and marketplace to buy and sell.
Where Are Your Shoes, Mr. Brown?
Justin Rhodes | Website | Instagram | YouTube
Homesteaders of America | Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest
Join us at the Homesteaders of America Conference in October 2023!
From Homesteader to Extraordinaire Transcript
Amy Fewell Welcome to the Homesteaders of America Podcast, where we encourage simple living, hard work, natural healthcare, real food, and building an agrarian society. If you’re pioneering your way through modern noise and conveniences, and you’re an advocate for living a more sustainable and quiet life, this podcast is for you. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m your host, Amy Fewell, and I’m the founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and annual events. If you’re not familiar with us, we are a resource for homesteading education and online support. And we even host a couple of in-person events each year with our biggest annual event happening right outside the nation’s capital here in Virginia every October. Check us out online at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. Follow us on all of our social media platforms and subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be the first to know about all things HOA (that’s short for Homesteaders of America). Don’t forget that we have an online membership that gives you access to thousands—yes, literally thousands—of hours worth of information and videos. It also gets you discount codes, an HOA decal sticker when you sign up, and access to event tickets before anyone else. All right. Let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Amy Fewell Hey, guys. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Homesteaders of America podcast. This week I have the notorious Justin Rhodes with me. Welcome, Justin.
Justin Rhodes Yes, thank you.
Amy Fewell So I don’t know, for those of you watching on YouTube, you might be able to see his name at the bottom says The Bird Man, which is awesome. Justin, there might be people who don’t know who you are on our podcast. So why don’t you give us the rundown real quick?
Justin Rhodes Well, I’ve taught and inspired tens of thousands of people at this point to grow their own food. We’re in western North Carolina. My children are a fourth generation on this farm—75 acres, we’re probably using about 12. The rest of it is pretty steep. And we got into homesteading just to…a healthy lifestyle, be connected to our food, grow the most healthiest food possible. And then we enjoyed it so much, it’s like, we want to share that with the world and we want to go pro with that. It’s like that’s been a thing I’ve done all my life is I’ve found a passion and then just wanted to make a career out of it. And that’s what we’ve been able to do by simply just sharing what we’re doing, teaching what we’ve learned. And it’s worked so far.
Amy Fewell Yeah. So those of you who have been to an HOA event, you’ve seen Justin at almost every single one of them. And then for those of you who are coming for the first time this year, we have a lot of new people this year that jumped on tickets before anybody else, so you’ll get to actually see Justin for the first time if you haven’t seen him at another event. So make sure you stop by his booth, which is super cool and interactive, and meet him and everyone. So funny story. I knew of Justin Rhodes before Justin Rhodes was cool. So I was in the blogging world and I remember someone saying, Hey, this guy is putting together a documentary about chickens and, you know. So I knew about you starting with..was it Permaculture Chickens? Was that the first documentary you did? Yeah. And so the documentary thing was new. That was, what, over a decade ago, right? That was pretty…or almost.
Justin Rhodes That was 2006.
Amy Fewell It was a while.
Justin Rhodes Yeah, we’re getting pretty close. 2006 or 2007. No, that would’ve been 2016 not 2006.
Amy Fewell So your Permaculture Chickens kind of set you into this career, right? So that was your first your first thing or were you on YouTube first?
Justin Rhodes No, the Permaculture Chickens was the first thing and that was our venture into this. That was a Kickstarter to, you know, we had we had seven people on our email list going into that. And it’s funny, you know, you speak of somebody talking to you about it and hearing about it, it’s interesting. I guess, what permaculture chickens did, you know, we just…one really good thing that we did was did a really good, polished video. You know, at that time I wasn’t even videoing myself, so I had to hire that out and take the chance and take the risk. And Kickstarter enabled that because we had zero money. We had minus money. And you know, the concept of Kickstarter is hey I’ll create this if everybody gets behind it and backs this and basically preorders. You preorder and it gets successful and I’ll go and make it. But you know, it must have just been, you know, looking back on it, it was, yeah, I would have never known this. I never could have guessed it. You know, chickens, it was just right. Getting Joel involved. So Joel Salatin at that time, he was well known. So getting somebody that was well known since I wasn’t yet, and then working on that Kickstarter a month before it launched and working with other people who had audiences. So I always say, if you don’t have an audience, borrow someone else’s. And I mean borrow like you’re indebted to them. Like you don’t just ask, you find a way to serve this influencer and get people on board and excited about this. And I think they just got excited just because it was a really good video and a really good project and just something that was needed at the time. And for whatever reason, and you can’t always explain it, Amy, there was buzz. And that would have been your friend telling you about it. So that was interesting.
Amy Fewell Yeah, but I think you kind of hit it at the right moment, too, because there there’s kind of this foundational group, I feel like, of homesteaders who, you know, they’re the old school homesteaders who started kind of pushing homesteading in a more prevalent way to get it out into media and get it out into the open and make this lifestyle…people more aware of it. And so when I think of those foundational homesteaders, you are one of them that I think of because of the Permaculture Chickens documentary. And so let’s kind of talk about you and what you do businesswise, because there’s a lot of homesteaders who want to do exactly what you’re doing, not necessarily with YouTube. You know, we see you on YouTube, but you have a much more expansive business set up with your farm and just what you do so I wonder if you can talk to us a little bit about that.
Justin Rhodes Yeah, there’s so many things. And I will say that there’s never been a more ripe opportunity to make a living on a homestead through content creation. I mean, Joel’s the OG. He’s writing books. That’s content creation. Beth and Sean Dougherty. How’d you find out about them, Amy? Probably through their book. And then you got him into the…and even if they come as speakers and have a speaking career there, well, that’s content. So it doesn’t have to be just YouTube. YouTube is extremely hot. It’s as hot as it ever has been and is more ripe than it ever has been with YouTube shorts and things like that. YouTube’s killing it there and there’s so much opportunity there. I mean, it gives me chill bumps to talk about the land of opportunity that is YouTube. But there’s also…what are we doing here? We’re podcasting. You’re going to capture a video, you’re going to capture audio. You can take those and turn those into short 15 second, one minute clips that goes on reels, shorts, TikToks, whatever. But there’s podcasting, there’s video creation, there’s book writing, there’s blogging. Think about the opportunities there in blogging. People say it’s dead, but perhaps it’s going to be on the rise. There’s things going on with artificial intelligence. Who knows what that will do for blogging and how blogs can be better identified for what really is in the content. You know, search engines getting smarter because of AI and stuff like that. So I think there’s opportunity there. Somebody who just likes to take pictures or short videos, there’s Instagram and even on such a platform is YouTube it’s even more out of the box than it ever was. Because when I came on the platform, well, first it was mostly instructional style videos. And then we came on and we introduced the vlog to homesteading, which is more of a just lifestyle shots, like a long-form Instagram story type or an Instagram story type of video that’s on YouTube, just little updates throughout the day. So that’s a vlog style, but you could do skits, you could do straight up teaching and lecturing, short, long, put a documentary up there, whatever. But now there’s even more opportunities because of the shorts, you know, the vertical video post that is on on Instagram reels, YouTube shorts. I’m a little leery of TikTok, so I’m not mentioning that much I’ve gotten…I deleted it from my phone.
Amy Fewell I deleted mine too.
Justin Rhodes It’s not minding it’s own businesses, is it?
Amy Fewell No. So here’s a funny story. I told this to Joel on a podcast a few podcasts back. We actually got a TikTok for HOA because every homesteader in the world was like, Get TikTok for HOA. And I’m like, I don’t even like this stuff. Like, don’t even understand it, but I got it. And within three days we were kicked off TikTok. And everybody’s like, Well, yeah, They’re like, Well, how do you get kicked off? Nobody gets kicked off TikTok. I’m like, I don’t know, let me try again. So I mean, I couldn’t even contact anybody because there’s nobody to contact. It’s like nothing. So I started a new one for HOA, and three days later we got kicked off again. And I’m like, Well, this is not meant to be. We’re getting off.
Justin Rhodes They’re very strict about sensitive content. I mean, you can’t even show a gun, let alone using it to kill an animal.
Amy Fewell We didn’t even do that. We posted a video about a dairy cow, like how to get started with your dairy cow. And then a video I think was about gardening, and that was very offensive to them. So we are no longer on TikTok.
Justin Rhodes Well, that’s that’s a funny world we’re in now because even YouTube’s getting that way. They’re going that way a little bit. You know, at first it was, okay, you can’t…and it was just monetizing. It wasn’t necessary pulling them down, they just weren’t letting us run ads on them to make money off that. You couldn’t do that with butchering. Now it’s even…we had a peaceful cow birth and that got flagged. I don’t know if somebody flags or whatever, but a human reviewed it and said, yes, this is shocking. And, you know, it wasn’t even any blood involved. It wasn’t even any drama around it. And, you know, some vegan in San Diego decided that was shocking and pulled it. So, you know, I feel like I’ve been back and forth on this. These platforms are here…certainly that was one reason we created our own platform with Abundance+ back in 2017 when they started pulling the butchering and gun videos. I was like, okay, we’re going to have to have some diversity here. And because what if our channel got pulled? Well, we would need some private platform where people can be. And so that’s where that came from. But I look at it as a way, a massive way, an opportunity to reach people. And I’ve been to where I’ve pushed the envelope, where I show the chicken butchering, just everything but what I think they’ll pull from the chicken butchering, really trying to push it and be a rebel. But then I backed off of that and it’s more of a how do you turn a problem into solution? I mean, that’s one thing they’ve taught me in permaculture, right? Turn a problem into solution. The core of the problem is to seed of the solution. Yeah, it is because think of an avocado. The core is the seed for the solution. So it became, you know, just show what we can on YouTube. It’s their platform. If we’re going to be true libertarians, they can do what they want with it and we as freedom people can choose not to conform and be there and go somewhere else or obey the rules. So one thing I’ve decided is, okay, we’ll obey the rules, but we’ll say, “Hey, if you want the uncensored version, it’s on Abundance+.” And so we’ll get some members there. Yeah, so thinking about it along that lines.
Amy Fewell So let’s kind of back up a little bit. So you started with documentaries. Can you kind of take us through quickly how you’ve built this homesteading empire essentially and how you’ve diversified your income? Because, you know, you hear this, Oh, Justin Rhodes is making money and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But you’ve put a lot of work into this, Justin. You’ve really worked to get where you’ve gotten. So why you kind of tell people how this is built on top of each other to get to where you are now and then, you know, talking about YouTube, like what’s next? Are you going to pour more time into different avenues? What are you seen trending in the future?
Justin Rhodes Yeah, so to get to this point and to speak to everyone, I was certainly where they are, or even worse, you know, as I was…we were living on food assistance. We were growing our food to get by. We were renting a spare bedroom. Not a spare house. A spare bedroom on Airbnb. And we having people from all over the world come and stay in our house just so we can make rent. I was hauling the trash for the landlord, who was my dad, who had two other rentals. I would haul the trash for everybody as part of the rent and mow the grass, everything you can think of…I would go to the stores and intercept the food before it went to the grocery store. I’ll come every Wednesday and get what you’re throwing away, and we’d feed that to the animals…well we’d go through it first and then we’d feed it to the animals. Maxed out credit cards. And if there’s one takeaway of how I’ve been successful, it’s by stepping under mentors through books and podcasts. And I would just consume it like crazy. And I think if you want to succeed, well, you’ve got to be good at the thing you want to teach or share or document. So for me, that was homesteading. And you always got to want to continue being good on that. So you’re going to study that, you’re gonna need to know that, you’re going to need to know that, you’re going to need to practice that. But you’ve got to be good at one more thing. Well, two more things. The second one would be the content. So you’ve got to be good at the content creation. You’ve got to become a student of that, too. Don’t just listen to homesteading podcasts all day. Listen, if you’re want to go in on YouTube or you’re not sure where you want to go all in on. Maybe you want to go all in on Twitter. Look up the podcasts and the books that are on that subject. Then you have to be good at the craft and then you need to be good at the the marketing. So I remember early on, I’d be doing dishes and I would be listening to Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn. I’d be listening to Tim Ferriss, his podcast. So consuming those podcast, audiobooks. Guys, in the car…this was before smartphones were out or I could afford one, I used to burn podcasts to CDs and listen to in my car and just absorb it. So if there’s a quick win out there, it’s put yourself under mentors, and they don’t have to be physical. They can very much so be podcasts, audiobooks, and books. Take what you want to do, find somebody, and it’s available in the world today, even if you just go online…you can consume it online, invest in it with your time and money. It’s going to be worth it. And you know, so for Permaculture Chickens, where’d that come from? Well, a mentor knew we were struggling so he gave me this book, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. And at the time, I’m struggling with Lyme disease, we’re struggling financially, I got a bunch of kids. I felt like I only had 4 hours. And so I read this book and basically it’s just about being smart, just thinking through things, taking advantage of modern technology and really challenging the norm. And what came out of that is the concept of creating a book video companion and selling that. And in the book it mentioned something about Kickstarter, so I said, Oh, you know, well, long story short, I explored all different kinds of businesses, Amy. One of the business ideas I explored was I was going to have this endurance race where we had this bull, you put a red tag in it and that’s the race. Everybody chases the bull until finally somebody gets it. Because humans are endurance animals, nothing else. We’re the primal…we’re the best endurance animal there is. So that would be kind of fun. I even called about insurance for that, Amy. I was having a hard time getting insurance.
Amy Fewell I’m sure that was outrageous.
Justin Rhodes That was…okay. I can’t get insurance. I was calling the rodeo companies to see if I couldn’t get insurance for this.
Amy Fewell My goodness.
Justin Rhodes So I guess the point there is, though, have ideas.
Amy Fewell You’re going to have a lot of bad ideas, right?
Justin Rhodes You are. And you won’t know it until you explore it a little bit. So don’t just…because I could have sat on that and said, this is a great idea. Ooh, look at me. It’s a great idea.
Amy Fewell Right.
Justin Rhodes And I could have just went all crazy into it, too. No, I said, I think this is a good idea or a reasonable idea. Okay, I’ll need an insurance. I’ll call. It took less than 10 minutes to figure out this is not a good idea.
Amy Fewell No, no, not at all.
Justin Rhodes We explored looking at… we were going to buy a Y bike business. You know, these little bikes that kids can get on and there’s no pedals. Our kids were doing successful with that. We found the site where you could just buy businesses. How about that one? Buy a business that’s already in place. But finally we figured out from the Four Hour Work Week, let’s create a content business. But then what was it, Amy? We finally landed on chickens, but basically, because I felt like I knew the most about chickens and I wanted to learn more about chickens. And that’s the thing, too. People are hiding behind the excuse of “I’m not an expert,” or, you know, “I’m not as good as Justin”, “I don’t have a pole barn like Justin Rhodes” or machines or whatever. You’re just hiding behind that excuse. And if you’ve learned that you can keep eggs on the counter unwashed for four weeks to six weeks and they’re still good, you’ve learned something. You can then teach that. And be bold in it and okay with it because, Amy, you might say you can keep eggs on the counter for eight weeks. Somebody else might say two weeks. Somebody might say, “Oh, no, you’ve got to wash them and put them in the fridge.” You ain’t going to please everybody. Nobody’s going to agree with you. Right, Amy? And you can follow experts right on Instagram about health, about farming, and have two very smart people disagree.
Amy Fewell Yep. Well one of the best ways, too, is… Like the best way to learn something is to teach it. And I have found I know more and retain more when I teach someone about something. And so I think that’s a really good point that you just made. If you know the basics, you having to teach something causes you to be more accountable, which causes you to learn more. And the more you teach it, the more you retain it and the more experience you have. And so there are a lot of people who they think they’re not good enough or they’re not smart enough to do this. And it’s in everything. It’s not just in the homesteading, but the reality is that we’re actually extremely smart to do these things, especially as we’re learning them. And as we teach them, we learn more. It’s incredible how the human mind works.
Justin Rhodes Well, if you want to talk about mindset, I would encourage folks to get out of this scarcity mindset and get into an abundance mindset. And one of the best ways you can do that is stop saying “can’t”. And instead of saying, “Oh, I can’t do that,” you get two choices. Either own it and say, “No, I won’t.” Because maybe you don’t want to do it and so you can’t. So owning that and you just saying “I won’t” is empowering yourself because what kind of person are you to say “I can’t”? Versus the person that says, “No, I won’t do that.” That’s so much more empowering and positive to your self being then saying “I can’t.” But if it is something you really want or want to do, you need to say, “How can I?” I think I learned this from Daniel Pink in To Sell Is Human. His book To Sell Is Human. You say, “How can I?” And you write down six things of how can I. So maybe you want to buy the property next door and it’s too expensive. It’s unimaginably expensive. Well, either say, “No, I won’t do it.” Just own that or say… You know, don’t give yourself an excuse. “Oh, I’m only working 9 to 5. I only make this much money. Oh, I’ve got five kids. Oh, I’ve got this disability.” Well, no. Stop that. And start saying, “How can I?” And write it out. One of your lists, one of your items might be “rob a bank”. Just write it down. Keep going. Go gambling. Go to Las Vegas. Win the lottery. You might have some really dumb ideas, but you need to give yourself permission to write down dumb ideas. It’s a lot easier to make a mistake on paper than in real life. Write down all these crazy wild ideas because it frees up your mind, and write all these out and then start experimenting on these. I love to fail, but fail small. So it didn’t take too much to call the rodeo company and find out I can’t get insurance. So it was a failure. Okay. But it was failing small. It wasn’t like I went all out and got investors and spent $1,000,000 on this event and then no one showed up. Okay. So I would say going into that, as an example, going into that Kickstarter… Or having the Four Hour Work Week, deciding I needed a video piece and a companion book and deciding on chickens, then going into the Kickstarter, what do I do? I mean, at the time, I wasn’t online. Facebook was hot then, and that was about the only social media there was. I didn’t even have a Facebook. So what do I do? I don’t know anything about Kickstarter. I literally went online. I think I got one or two articles and then I literally went to the library, Amy, Because we could not afford to buy a $14 book. So I went to the library and checked out this book on how to do Kickstarters. And between that book and two articles, came up with a plan for a launch and just followed what I had learned from other people who had gone before me. That’s really all it is. This brings up a lot of thoughts. Thinking about the past, about where we’re going next. So I feel like, you know, after what you said with Permaculture Chickens, I was inspired by the movies Permaculture Orchard. It was just a well put together… It’s not quite a course. It is more like a documentary. I appreciate that you called it Permaculture Chickens documentary. It’s just more cinematic. It was a beautiful film where you can learn something from. And it’s succinct. It gets right to the point. And I was inspired by Permaculture Orchard. So if I feel like… I was kind of… I don’t know if I should say before a time or top of the game or good timing there with that. Permaculture Orchard was really good timing or even before it’s time. And then I got into YouTube and not on purpose, not even being under a mentor or reading it in a book, like “You got to get on…” You know, it was just we’re creating content. At the time, we were writing blogs. And we didn’t even foresee that the blog business was going to be more of a struggle down the road. But we were writing blogs and then at the end of each blog we’d have a little bonus where if people signed up for it, they’d have to give their email and they’d get something free. And then we’re building our email list, right? And then we discover a need and we can pitch, we can create a service or product to service that need and then pitch the audience. So that’s how that business… that’s a model for a content creation business. And then Rebecca saw this couple who the man found out his wife was pregnant. He found out. He snuck up one of those pregnancy tests in the toilet, and she didn’t know it. And he found out, so it went viral because the man was getting to say “we’re pregnant” versus… It’s always the woman doing the pregnancy tests on the man. And that went viral. And she started following them and she realized, “Oh, wait, they’ve been putting up videos every day. What is this?” And she started following them on YouTube, and I can hear her… That was Sam and Nia. If anybody is an old school YouTube fan. And I could hear them talking. I never watched, but I could hear them. And every once in a while I’d glimpse and it just looked like he was walking around with his phone. And I at least thought that was an interesting model. And the business guys that I was following were saying… You remember Twitter’s Periscope? Periscope was the first live app.
Amy Fewell Oh wow, I forgot about that. Yeah.
Justin Rhodes Yes. You know, now we take it for granted. You can go live on any of these platforms. But it was a big deal to be able to go live from just your phone. And they were saying… Just like people are saying Tik Tok is where it’s at, they were saying Periscope is where it’s at. And nobody knows what Periscope is nowadays. Right? It’s totally gone. And maybe Tik Tok will follow. Who knows? But I got in on that. And, you know, I went in hard. But still failing small, Amy, because I didn’t quit blogging. I didn’t quit what was for sure working. But I started experimenting with these Periscopes and did one every day for like 150 days. From butchering a chicken live to milking my cow out there in the morning. And somewhere in there, somebody said, “You know, you ought to put these on YouTube.” And between that and Rebecca finding Sam and Nia, we just gave it a shot. You know, we just got us a… I think we got a G7X by Canon. It’s just a little point and shoot camera because I’m thinking we were pretty sure we were going to enjoy this. And we tried it and it felt so awkward, Amy. It felt just so weird, and it’s just so anti homesteading and country boy lifestyle to film yourself. It’s selfie at a next level. Us 40-year-olds already feel a little weird taking selfies. Like who are we? You know? And now I’m going to put a camera and videotape myself. Who do you think you are? But how do you know? So I tried it, and I made one one video. How do I edit? Guys, guys, how do you edit? What film thing to use? I don’t know. Ask Mr. Google Pants. Ask Mrs. Boob Tube. Do something. And so to edit, how did we do it? Well we kind of knew this guy from the business world. He had this course, do it yourself. DIY Video Guy or something. And we got his course on how to edit. Now you could get a course, you could go on YouTube. There’s all different kinds of platforms now where you can go and get courses. So that’s no excuse. You know, we were walking out of the Apple Store one day. We had to go get our iPad repaired. And we had four kids at the time, and it’s pretty much guaranteed with four kids, “You’ve got your hands full.” You know, everybody’s got to say that. How many kids you got, Amy?
Amy Fewell We have three right now.
Justin Rhodes Okay. So you’re already getting it?
Amy Fewell Oh, yeah. And we have different… Well, here’s the thing. Let’s stop on that for a second. We have lots of age differences, and so it’s like, “Oh, my goodness, they’re not even like a normal age span.” Like, I’m dealing with teenage hormones and I got a ten-month-old and I’m like, “Wait a second. This is not how this is supposed to work.”
Justin Rhodes We’re in that, too. So your hands are literally full because we’re probably walking out of a store and a baby’s in this hand and holding a hand here and you’re trying to carry the iPad. But this well-meaning lady, “You got your hands full. How are you going to pay for them all to go to college?” And I thought about that and I thought, you know, that’s funny. I guess she didn’t see what I was holding in my hand because I’m walking out with the world’s information in a little pad like this called the iPad. And now all the world’s information is in something this small. So we don’t need no college. They got the world’s information right here. So that’s what I’m saying to these people listening is you don’t know how to edit, but you can find out in 10 minutes or less.
Amy Fewell Oh yeah. I did it. It’s true. For free. For free you can do it. So it’s crazy that you don’t even have to buy a course like Justin Rhodes did. You can go on YouTube and you can watch 30 videos on how to edit a video. And you know, I don’t know about you, but are you finding because of this… We’re going to change this topic for just one second. Because of this, I’m finding that people are less likely to look stuff up and they just want you to tell them how to do it. And I’m like, “No. Go on YouTube, figure it out. There’s stuff there.” Do you have that issue? Do a lot of people just come to you and ask you because you’ve already done it?
Justin Rhodes You know, that’s funny. Sometimes, Amy, what’s funny is… because we have member texting through Abundance+ with premium, and a lot of people are reaching out to me with questions. I end up becoming their Google service, Amy, because—
Amy Fewell That’s funny.
Justin Rhodes It’ll be so specific or so niche. I don’t know. I don’t know. So I just Google…
Amy Fewell You just get on Google? Oh my. No, you don’t. Oh, my word. That’s hilarious.
Justin Rhodes Now, listen, there’s a caveat there. At least, and you know this, at least as somebody with experience, you know how to interpret Mr. Google Pants. You know how to take which answer because he’s going to give you like 1.5 million answers. So I could see how maybe the novice even then wouldn’t understand how to search Google Pants. Who do you trust? And that’s what it comes down to, Amy, because… You bring up some interesting. Because of all this information, people really desire an authority.
Amy Fewell Right.
Justin Rhodes Somebody that they can connect to and trust. And they know they’re not perfect. And so like I was telling you earlier, even in the niche-ified things, like I eat mostly meat. I’m in the carnivore world. Even carnivore guys, which is like an extreme sect of the health world. Even carnivore guys can disagree and butt heads. Like do we eat honey? Do we not? Oh, I would never. I would never have a cheat. You should never have a cheat day. It does this and this and this to your body. Oh, you should have cheat days because it challenges your body and it’s a healthy stress. And these are two very brilliant people. You want to pick one. You do. At the end of the day, you have to pick one because there’s too many other things and you have to just say, I’m taking it. I’m going to go for it. I’m going to learn the foundation of what they’ve taught me and shown me, and in the meantime, maybe explore my own ways. And you can end up mixing things. It’s really beautiful. For example, our winter system for our chickens… It’s got Joel in it, it’s got JM Fortier in it and it’s got Paul Gautschi in it, Back to Eden. So Joel puts his chickens in the high tunnel over the winter. So we do what Joel does and does that. Joel puts 18 inches of deep bedding and is done for the winter, and then in the spring removes it all, puts it in a manure spreader, puts it out in the field. We get a little different. On the homestead level, we’re not packing it in with as much chickens, so it’s not going to get as much as much manure. It’s not going to break down as well. Our high tunnel is too big for the amount of chickens we’re going to have. So I put about four inches of woodchips, and that’s plenty to last them the whole winter. It doesn’t break down like Joel’s does. But it’s like Paul Gautschi in the sense of now we have… After the chickens leave, we have four inches of a Back to Eden garden. So we have four inches of a wood mulch garden, so we don’t remove the material. And we plant the crops down into that. When we move the chickens out… So where does JM Fortier come in, which is a master gardener. When we move the chickens out in the spring, we’re not quite ready to plant. So we put down a silage tarp, which is very much JM I feel like was pioneering that idea. And then that keeps the weeds from coming up in through the shallow wood chips and going. So you have to pick somebody and form a foundation before you start making too many changes. But you can learn from all different kinds of people and make something your own. And even now, I would imagine we dare even call it original.
Amy Fewell Right. Right.
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Amy Fewell All right. So you started with the documentary. You’ve moved into all these different marketing and blogging, newsletters. Now you’re on YouTube. Now you have Abundance+ plus. And then you’ve got a lot of courses and stuff on Abundance+, too. So you’ve leveled up on your teaching. But what now? So you brought up at the beginning of the podcast, we were talking a little bit about how YouTube has some censorship now, especially in the homesteading world. So some people are leery, like, why should I get on YouTube if they’re just going to censor? Is this a good business option? What do you kind of see trending in the future? Are you seeing a trend yet for something new? And what does that look like?
Justin Rhodes Yeah, I like this question and what is next? So to calm everybody’s fears with YouTube, I think it’s okay. I think it’s going to be good. It’s going to be hard to beat them. So in a way, you join them and you take the challenge. And I think challenges are the birth of some of the greatest creativity that we’ve ever experienced. So in the face of that challenge… oh, I can’t show butchering. How can you turn that into a solution? Well, I could create a little mini course or an e-book. And I’ve built my audience up on on YouTube because there’s a million and 788,000 other things you can show on YouTube. So we tend as humans to look at the negative and we tend to look at, “Oh no, this is what’s coming,” the bad. Because that’s how we survived for so long. You’re looking out for the bad, but then we have to then train ourselves to say, “Okay, there’s good here, too, and there’s a way to take advantage. There’s a way to twist this bad into something good.” So then I feel like I’m using it. I feel like I’m using YouTube because it’s there. I post a video. And I posted a video the other day and got 100,000 views and that’s a lot for us and that was in like 24 hours. I didn’t promote it at all. YouTube did all that promotion. And so I just filmed today a video that’s going out on YouTube as well. It won’t do as well based on history. Well, it might in the long run. It’s an instructional video on how to raise turkeys. People are used to vlogs on my channel now, so that video will tank at first. But what I’ve noticed over time, those have a longer tail. They do better in the long run because they’re just ripe with information. And YouTube is trying to figure out who’s this for. It’s obviously not for his regular people. And so the YouTube machine is trying to figure out who is for and it’s pushing it to the right people and it goes out. And it’s a good model as far as people can watch my YouTube channel for free and that might be even more important now as people are tightening their belts and cutting budgets and that’s affected Abundace+. That’s brought down membership. Membership is not where it has always been. And I contribute that some people just having to tighten up their belts and save some money.
Amy Fewell Oh, yeah.
Justin Rhodes But they could go to YouTube and watch things for free. They watch an ad, and then the creator gets 60% of that ad, okay. And YouTube pushes out. So I’m going heavy in on YouTube probably more than I ever have. I’m putting more thought and energy into how to please the folks watching my YouTube videos so that then YouTube will send that out to even more people and reach a broader audience. I’m continually blown away. I was scrolling through some videos, and we have the videos in the million plus range. I have a million subscribers, Amy. I would have never guessed we had that much interest in homesteading but we do. And Amy, here’s the encouraging thing: I’ll go to a local plant sale where it’s people picking up veggie starts to plant, like it’s not a homestead conference or something. If I go to HOA, most everybody knows me, it seems. But if I can go to the local plant store or little event, there’ll be hundreds of people there and maybe one person recognizes Rebecca and I. That’s telling me we’ve only tapped the very tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more. There’s so many more people that aren’t online or aren’t on YouTube or whatever. So one thing I’ve noticed… So what am I going to do? So we created our own platform to have some more control. And it turns out the audience doesn’t like the censorship nonsense either. They don’t like to be parented by Facebook or YouTube. They want to make decisions for themselves. I’ll decide if I want to watch a butchering, and I’ll decide if that’s shocking or offensive. You know what I mean? Who are you to tell me? I’ll decide if it’s appropriate for my kids. So with Abundance+, it became a streaming platform with the eve of apps. I wasn’t a big happy app guy, but when I first announced that, I was at HOA and I just casually mentioned it at the end of my talk and people clapped. I was like, what the heck? I had no idea there would be so much excitement around an app. And there just was. And I came to that, actually, Amy, I came to the idea of the app from a membership area because Jason and I were driving home from Polyface. Jason from Sow the Land, we had just done a film shoot at Polyface. And he mentioned the show. Is it The Chosen? It’s about Christ’s life. I think it’s called The Chosen. Have you heard of that? Oh, yeah. And you have to watch it on an app. That’s how you consume it. It’s not on cable. It’s not on YouTube. I mean, maybe an episode or two, maybe clips, and then it’s free. And then I think it’s the total church model: pass the plate, some people put in some money and that funds it, really. Some people they’d call it pay it forward. You can do different levels. And one cool thing about that is you get to a certain level, like you pay a thousand bucks, you can be an extra in the movie or the show.
Amy Fewell Right.
Justin Rhodes So it’s kind of cool. What I was seeing there was a lot of things, first of all, apps. So we talked about went from blogging to YouTube. TV killed the radio star. YouTube killed the TV star. I’m seeing streaming and people having control of their own platforms killing the YouTube star. And, maybe it’s not killing because radio is still around and radio is still doing pretty good. Rebecca just downloaded… She just got the app for Dr. Laura, some therapist show that’s on SiriusXM, it’s an app. So there’s like all these thing… You know, that was once on the radio. Now it’s an app through SiriusXM. So where is it going? Is it going to these streaming platforms and these membership platforms? I don’t know. There’s a lot of them rising up. That was the thing. There weren’t many other vlogging homesteaders when we started. There was some people teaching and stuff. Wrangler Star and Doug and Stacy, I think, were out there and some of those guys. But those were like teaching, and this was more lifestyle. And then it went on. And now, we got into the membership sites very early on. We had membership sites before there was really even great platforms for them. And then apps came along and we said, “We got to move to that,” and we made a good decision. And now what? Because Instagram has memberships and you can join YouTube channels.
Amy Fewell Everything has membership.
Justin Rhodes Everybody and their brother’s doing memberships now. So what I see… And this is inspired me a lot in making… Have you noticed something? Things outside of the homestead world are inspiring me to make these big moves. I’m seeing the trend by people who are maybe closer to what the trends might actually be. Because as homesteaders, we’re down in the dirt really where we should be and where our happy place is. I just like making content. I don’t like doing the marketing stuff now. And so I’ve gotten to a point… You do it at first. Everything. And then you hire it out. And the first thing you hire out is a bookkeeper because you can’t stand that.
Amy Fewell Exactly. 100%.
Justin Rhodes And then you get to where all of a sudden you have an editor and a filmer. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about because you’re growing your business. I told you earlier, I think before off camera, you either either crush your dreams or expand your team. So you either dream small and downsize and bleh. Or you figure out a way to expand your team. So I see a trend of people coming up with physical mainstream products. So a lot of YouTubers like Mr. Beast coming up with his own snack line. He’s one of the biggest… Well, he is the biggest YouTuber. And then Logan Paul. These are not people… Logan Paul, your average homesteader is not going to want to watch that guy. It’s not going to be family friendly. They’re not going to want to listen to Gary Vee with their kids. But that’s going to be some motivational good stuff. You got to find the good stuff in it. So Logan Paul, Prime Energy drinks. The Nelk Boys. Definitely not going to want to listen to that, certainly not with your kids. Coming out with the Beer Happy Dad. Okay? And then these companies being worth… Because I do a podcast too. It’s on Abundance+, and I had Nathan Berry on, a business guy, and he talked about Mark Sisson, who is a health guy. He does Mark’s Daily Apple. He was a blogger. And he got to where he was making $2 million a year. I mean, anybody would say that’s very nice. One guy, maybe handful of part-time and full-time virtual assistants or whatever. Well, he then came up with a physical product. And many of you have heard of this, but you haven’t heard of Mark. And it’s called Primal Kitchen.
Amy Fewell Oh, yeah.
Justin Rhodes You heard of Primal Kitchen? Ranch? They’ll do like a healthy salad dressing similar to ranch. Maybe it’s avocado based and stuff like that. So Primal Kitchen and he’s got this whole line. Well, he ended up selling that for 200 million. Okay?
Amy Fewell Wow.
Justin Rhodes I mean, to put that in perspective, Amy, you could put 5 million into an endowment in the S&P 500 and get 8% a year on that and pay yourself for the rest of ever as long as there’s an America with a functioning economy assuming that that stays in place where you’re going to live on $36,000 a month forever.
Amy Fewell That’s insane.
Justin Rhodes And still have $5 million in that account. You’re just going to live on the interest. So that’s how much 200 million… So I see people going with products. And so I think, well, what’s my product? Is it a… You know, I use this multitool every day. Is it a multitool? Is it a line of pork jerky? There’s not a lot of or I don’t think there’s any organic pork jerky. Is it a line of beef jerky? Is it something, Amy, where I… What if it’s homestead grown, Amy? How can we disrupt the food business? How can we make buying local food even more convenient? You know, the biggest hotelier in the world doesn’t own one single hotel. It’s called Airbnb. The biggest taxi service in the world, not one car. It’s Uber. Okay? So how can we Uber-ize grocery stores? So could a homesteader grow two pigs? And have this whatever brand it is… For lack of a better term, the Justin Rhodes stamp on these two pigs and we’re able to send that off and they can contribute to the source for this pork jerky. Okay? There’s no organic pork rinds around. I don’t know. These are thing… I’m in that stage, Amy, where I was thinking about what was my content product. Now I’m in the stage of what is going to be my physical product. Is it an apron? Is it this hat? You cannot buy this hat anymore. The guy who made this hat, these flat caps is… Like I ordered 10 from him and paid extra because I knew he was done.
Amy Fewell Wow. That might be it.
Justin Rhodes I’m in the stage of exploring some of these dumb ideas. And I need to think about how I need to explore those small. But how did Mark Sisson do that? Well, because he had somewhat of an audience, he had somewhat of a name. Maybe somebody, a Whole Foods buyer, was a fan of Mark and that’s how he got in at a bigger distribution. We taste that a little bit, Amy, when we go to publish our books and we partner with the publisher. I had our mama’s helper sent us a picture this morning. She was at the bookstore and she took a picture because there is my book in the kids section, front and center, Where Are Your Shoes, Mr. Brown? And she’s taking all these pictures to send me.
Amy Fewell That’s awesome.
Justin Rhodes That’s kind of an example of what we’re looking for, but like at a bigger, more mainstream level. And so we’re early on in this. I’m not promising anything to anybody, but I’m even brainstorming with you as a business lady. What is this physical product that goes mainstream? Or what is this product that disrupts an industry because we make it more convenient?
Amy Fewell Yeah, I agree. I think there’s a lot of stuff up in the air right now. I know for me, this has kind of been my year just sitting back because I have a little one, you know, there’s not a whole lot I can do other than kind of just fly on autopilot. And so that’s giving me time to look at trends right now. And so you mentioned blogging earlier, and I think you are right on with that. Blogging, you know, that’s how I started with my homesteading content was blogging because I’m a writer, naturally. And I got to the point where I was making money off of that blog content. And then YouTube took off and reels and shorts. You know, the attention span of people, they would rather scroll through and watch a short video. And so we have seen blogging tank. But here’s what I’m seeing happening, which is really interesting. In the beginning of blogging, we could blog about anything, right? We could just write. We didn’t have to have any special content or keywords. And then in order for the algorithm to pick you up, then you had to throw all your money and time into figuring out the best keywords for Google. You have to write it ten times in your blog post for Google to pick it up. And it took a lot of time to learn those things, but I did it, and the blog started making money. And then it started tanking again once video content really started perking up. But the interesting thing now is, a few years later, now that the YouTube trend is kind of changing a little bit, writing is coming back up, but it’s in the membership level that you just mentioned, which I think is really interesting. So now we’re not necessarily blogging to appease the algorithm. Now we’re getting paid to blog, which is… you know, you have Substack and various different platforms that are doing that. And I was blown away. Just wanted to see what would happen. Last week or two weeks ago I guess now, I started a Substack for my writing and instantly got like ten subscribers the first week, which doesn’t seem like a lot. But when but when it’s people paying you monthly to just read what you’re writing, it’s like, “Wow, okay, that’s interesting.” And so I haven’t put a lot of time into it, but I think you’re right. I think a lot of this stuff is product based. You know, we started an HOA magazine this year which is hilarious because when you and I first started homesteading, everybody wanted everything online because we didn’t want to waste paper. Right? Okay. Now it’s the opposite ten years later. Now nobody wants it online. They want to get away from the Internet, but they want the paper product. And so it’s interesting to watch these trends change. And so for all of you listening and watching, I think if you take one thing away from this, it’s that everything changes. Definitely become an expert in what you love to do. That’s what Justin has done. He’s living his life, his passion, because he made a business out of what he wanted to do. That’s the American dream, right? The American dream isn’t working a 9 to 5 in an office for somebody else and making them all the money. It’s getting paid for what you love to do, but you have to put the work into it to get to that point. And as you can see with the trends that we were talking about, the various different products Justin’s created, even with HOA, like Justin, you helped us. You probably even know this. You had texted me a few years ago when we started our HOA membership, and you’re like, “Amy, you have to do membership tiers. You’re going to make more money with membership tiers.” And I was like, “No, I can’t do that.” Like, I can’t. But he was right. And we did membership tiers and you guys loved it. You guys loved the tiers. And so, you know, it’s just finding mentors, finding friends that are willing to share information with you guys, putting the hard work in there. I’m a mom, I’m a busy wife, and a homesteader. And I stayed up 1:00, 2:00 in the morning sometimes trying to get these businesses off the ground because there’s no other time to do it. And so when you guys are looking at this like I have a 9 to 5, I don’t have time to do this, we all have the same 24 hours in the day to get this stuff done. You just choose how you want to do it. And so I just want to encourage you guys, you know, you hear us doing this, but just know there’s a lot of hard work and hard years that have gone behind it. You don’t have to hire a VA tomorrow to to help you do it unless you have the income. But it is worth doing. If your passion is to be at home on your homestead, on your farm, making money off of what you love doing, then find a way to do it. It’s like Justin said, you either say I’m not going to do it or I am going to do it. I’m going to write down ten things or six things on how I’m going to do it. And you might have to put in a year’s worth or more of work to get it done. But I think it’s totally doable. Justin was right. We’ve not even barely tapped into the peak of this homesteading movement. You mentioned The Chosen. There’s actually another series coming out by the people that work on the chosen related specifically to homesteading. So they’re trying to use that platform. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of homesteaders are going to be created just from a series like that? I hope that this podcast encourages you guys to realize the homesteading peak… We’ve not peaked. We’re still just going up. And you can make a business off of this. And you just have to take the time to to put into it and make your list and go from there. Right?
Justin Rhodes Yeah. For sure.
Amy Fewell All right. Justin, do you have any more words for anybody listening before we get off here?
Justin Rhodes No, I don’t think so. I mean, you nailed it right there at the end. Can’t do any better than that.
Amy Fewell Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us. And thank you for sharing your information and knowledge and for just being a pillar like so many others in the homesteading community and available to teach and talk about things. So we really appreciate having you this week.
Justin Rhodes This was fun. Thanks for having me.
Amy Fewell Awesome. All right, guys, make sure you check all the show notes below and subscribe if you haven’t already if you’re on YouTube and for the podcast. And until next time, happy homesteading.
Amy Fewell Hey, thanks for taking the time to listen to this week’s Homesteaders of America episode. We really enjoyed having you here. We welcome questions and you can find the transcript and all the show notes below or on our Homesteaders of America blog post that we have up for this podcast episode. Don’t forget to join us online with a membership or just to read blog posts and find out more information about our events at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. We also have a YouTube channel and follow us on all of our social media accounts to find out more about homesteading during this time in American history. All right, have a great day and happy homesteading.