Have you decided to try your hand at farming? Having trouble deciding on where to start?
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll generate over 256 million references, articles, and videos on the best way to become a farmer.
There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to farming, no pun intended. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place for answers. We’ll give you 5 basic tips, not just on how to farm, but also how to become a profitable farmer in today’s economy.
There are many aspects and logistics for the modern day farmer to consider, but the following pointers are certain to help you along the way.
As with any other unfamiliar subject in life, it’s best to start by reading on the subject matter. Time-tested knowledge lies in written material. Books by publishers like “Storey Publishing”, “Chelsea Green Publishing”, and “Acres USA” will give you great insights on how to get started.
We also recommend that you indulge in the pages of reputable magazines like “Graze.” This is a great read for dairy and livestock farmers. Take a look at the highly sought after, “Growing for Market” as well. It would also be prudent to take a look at the NCAT website (National Center for Appropriate Technology). They tend to share all sorts of information about various farming enterprises, and some ideas that will help you get off the ground on any budget.
This is going to be a crucial step as you set your priorities in the early stages. Do you want a stable business that can be passed down to your children? Do you want to be self-sufficient and produce quality products for loved ones? Do you want to build something that benefits your community?
While developing your land and acquiring the right resources, the priorities you set will place you on a trajectory for success in a specific area, based on those priorities. Further, the resources you acquire in the beginning will determine the profitability of your farm, and the values you’re communicating to your customers.
It’s important to note that farm life is a family affair. You can’t run a farm efficiently, as a one-man show. Farm life provides a unique environment for those with deep family values. It’s a way to keep some of those values alive. Living in this information era makes it harder to connect with the people you love most. We’re all spending so much time on our smartphones and computers, that farm life offers refuge. It can bring us back to nature and create lasting memories, despite the challenges we face.
Even though I grew up in a small town, farm life never gets old.
Farming requires a lot of hard work, and there are much easier jobs out there if you’re in it for financial compensation alone. So while farming is a business, it should also be something you really love deep down inside. Monetary gains aside, a good farmer is a passionate farmer, otherwise, you may jump ship when things get tough. Determining why you want to be a farmer will help to set the pace and trajectory early on.
Consider the climate in your area. When will you be able to harvest? And how challenging are natural disasters for the local farming community? There’s nothing worse than building a farm for years and then getting wiped out by a single drought, fire, or natural disaster because you selected the wrong crop.
Additionally, it’s important to consider whether you want an organic farm, cattle farm, dairy farm, commercial fam, or a mixture? Do you want to specialize in one product, many products, or maybe offer tours to the local community? Do you want to sell products to mass distributors or local farmer’s markets? Do you want a supply chain feel, or intimate, grassroots feel?
It’s best to determine which farming enterprise appeals to you, i.e. poultry, livestock farming, vegetable production, grain production, aquaculture, etc. Usually, more than one enterprise will need to be combined for profitability purposes. For instance, dairy cattle keeping is profitable alone, necessitating the need for grain and hay production. This reduces your expenditure on keeping the animals healthy and affords the chance to sell a secondary product to other local dairy farmers.
Aside from this interdependency, suitable enterprises should be in line with your passions. Your ability to solve the problems in a given area will offer insight about what type of farm you’re best suited for. Here are a few different types of farms to give you an idea of what’s out there:
Books and videos can go a long way when it comes to building your farm with speed & efficiency.
They can also help to hone your farming skills, but nothing compares to the wisdom of an experienced farmer who knows first-hand what works and what doesn’t. This is basically the advice given to any entrepreneur, in any business setting. Find a mentor.
Finding a mentor is the absolute best place to start, as every farmer’s journey is different. Attend as many as possible to get different perspectives from various farmers with regards to the niche you’ve selected, products, profitability, and farming in general. If you don’t know any other farmers, join a farming collective and attend local agricultural events. Farmers’ markets are also an excellent place to meet potential mentors.
If you’re set on becoming a farmer, relocation is something you should be open to. If you live in an urban area, it will be very difficult to start farming. Chances are you barely have enough space to park your car, let alone till a garden or grow a substantial number of crops. You won’t be able to acquire cattle, as cities tend to have regulation that doesn’t support this. So you might need to relocate to a location with more land and resources to offer.
Beyond space, favorable weather conditions should also influence if and where you should move your farm. Once established, it’s nearly impossible to relocate your farm. You should do extensive research on the economics and logistics of the specific type of farm you’re trying to build, and the land you’re acquiring. This may be you’re saving grace in the long run.
At the end of the day, farming is like learning to ride a bike.
The best way to know how to do it is through experience. You can read tons of books and watch youtube videos, but until you try your hand at it – you just won’t know everything you need to know. By trying until you succeed while learning from your mistakes along the way, you’ll grow the farm just like any business. On your trial run, don’t waste a bunch of money on every piece of technology or every crop, instead, start small. Take on more responsibility as you learn and meet other successful farmers. If it’s chicken you’re set on, start with twenty before working your way up to 300 and so on.