Book Review: “Redefining Rich”

In nearly 10 years of farming, I’ve read stacks of business books, listened to podcasts and attended nearly every marketing workshop at farming conferences I could get to. I’ve learned from leaders inside and outside the agriculture sector. And I still feel like there’s always more to learn.

“Redefining Rich: Achieving True Wealth with Small Business, Side Hustles & Smart Living”
By Shannon Hayes
BenBella Books, 2021
224 pages, paperback, $16.95

“Redefining Rich: Achieving True Wealth with Small Business, Side Hustles & Smart Living” by Shannon Hayes, farmer at Sap Bush Hollow Farm in West Fulton, New York, offers a way of doing business that speaks to small farmers in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else.

At the heart of this book is the idea that we can step away from what Hayes calls the “extractive economy” and into the generative “life-serving economy.” Hayes sets the stage with her own story of walking away from the corporate world after receiving her doctorate from Cornell and returning to the family farm with her husband to become business partners with her parents. Their story is deeper than simply joining the family business, though.

“We devoted our lives to living by four main tenets (to the best of our abilities): (1) ecological sustainability, (2) social justice, (3) family, (4) community,” she writes.

Cultivating a sustainable business has led to reinvestment in their family, community and the land, creating more abundance for everyone. Where an extractive economy is built on scarcity, in the life-serving economy, Hayes writes, “there is plenty for everyone: enough food, enough land, enough love. The challenge, then, is to cultivate it in such a way as to enable fair distribution and access.”

This is where “Redefining Rich” takes a turn into new territory. Hayes brings readers into the emotional and intellectual experience of running a farm business that aims to grow a quality of life that goes beyond monetary gain. All of this begins with the Quality of Life Statement (QOLS). Along with identifying what quality of life means for them, Hayes illustrates the good life by sharing her challenges.

“That’s what true wealth is all about: the good stuff that sustains us and the tough stuff that helps us grow, which makes us richer, more fulfilled, wiser, and happier human beings,” she writes. To accept the challenges that come with your own version of the good life sounds simple, but it’s an integral part of the equation left out of common “how to build a successful business” narratives.  

With practical advice ranging from how to pay for health insurance as a business expense, understanding the four basic categories of income, to pricing and marketing your products, readers will walk away with the ability to start a side hustle that can launch them into entrepreneurship.

Through personal experience, research and a good accountant, Hayes proves that having a huge paycheck can actually leave you poorer than if you were to run a fulfilling small business. Unlike business books that promise a roadmap to only economic profit, “Redefining Rich” offers an honest and encouraging picture of what life running a small business can look like, and clears a path toward a life-serving economy for all.

– Katie Spring

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