Farm Couple Finds Profitable Sideline Business

"It all began when I suggested to my husband that I look for a job in town to earn some extra money. He didn't approve of my leaving the farm so I decided to look for a sideline job I could perform right here on our farm," recalls Mary Kirkman who, with her husband Norm, makes and sells concrete lawn ornaments to supplement income from their dairy farm near Burlington, Wis.

The couple started slow by investing in several different molds. They made up a few ornaments, then displayed them on their front lawn for passersby to see.

"It was amazing the way motorists stopped by and bought them," says Mary. Before long, the Kirkmans needed more room for their fast-growing sideline so they turned their garage into a workshop. When the business outgrew the garage, they expanded into the basement of their farm home.

Last spring, after operating for three years in the garage and basement, the Kirkmans moved the still-expanding business into a new 26 by 30-ft., two story workshop. It's used exclusively for their booming lawn ornament business.

Their top-selling ornament is a life-size figure of a deer. Other favorites are cows, horses and poultry.

From the months of April to September, concrete ornaments for sale are displayed on the lawn. After Labor Day, they're carried inside for display under cover.

"We spend many happy hours making molds, and painting concrete animals during the winter months. While blizzards rage outside, we're warm and comfortable inside, turning concrete into dollars. It's fun watching these concrete animals come alive under the strokes of a paint brush," says Mary.