Lessons in farming from this Award-Winning Small Farm in Ontario . . .
Want to learn how to farm? Start with these 5 steps
You may own a small farm, or be thinking about moving to the country. If you want to learn how to farm successfully, and make money on your small farm, follow these 5 steps.
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How to raise chickens, pigs on pasture, and an organic market garden - on JUST ONE ACRE!
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Start Farming Success Steps
Step One: set goals for your farm.
Decide what you expect from your farm both financially and as a lifestyle:
Step Two: Decide your principles of operation.
- Is your goal for your small farm to create a part-time second income, or do you expect the farm to support you?
- Do you plan to do all farm work yourself, with just your family's help, or do you foresee a need to hire help? Can your farm support you and pay workers?
- How quickly does the farm need to produce income? Do you need a cash turnaround right away, i.e. within the same season your start, or do you have the resources to wait a couple years for a payback?
- Do you expect to sell your farm someday for a profit, to help your retire?
Principles of operation are the basic guidelines
as to how you will operate your farm. Here are some questions to help you decide how you will operate. Answering these questions will help you narrow down your choices for operating your farm, and therefore determine the farming topics you need to learn.
Step Three: Assess your capabilities and resources.
- Will you be growing a commodity like grain, which is generally sold to processors, or will you be growing something to sell directly to your end customer, for example vegetables from a market garden?
- Will you operate a conventional farm, or will you grow organically, using sustainable farming techniques?
- Do you plan on a 'mono-culture' i.e. growing predominately one crop, or a poly-culture, growing a variety of crops?
You need to take stock of your skills, your capacity and your resources to operate a small farm. Understand that many farming operations require a lot of skill or a lot of money (or both) to get started.
Ruling out some things will tell you what you don't need to learn how to farm
. Here are some realities for you to consider:
- Grain farming takes hundreds or even thousands of acres of land, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to do successfully.
- Conventional dairy farming requires an investment in barns, milking equipment, bulk tanks, and of course your milking herd. It's estimated that the start-up cost for a new dairy operation is about $1.8 million.
- Stocker cattle or cow-calf operations require large grazing areas, unless you use feed lots. Then you require an expensive investment in manure handling equipment and a manure lagoon to hold the waste.
Each of these operations is also knowledge-intensive, requiring several years experience to learn how to farm them proficiently. So make a realistic assessment of your capabilities and experience before deciding on your farming model.
Step Four: Determine which farming model fits with your goals, your principles, and your resources.
Given all the above, you may be wondering if there is anything you can learn how to farm with limited resources.
Here are a few suggestions:
Start a market garden: This does not require a lot of money, or equipment, or land. As little as 1/8 of an acre (5,000 square feet) can produce a lot of vegetables.
Equipment can be borrowed or rented, so the start-up cost can be very low. And you get paid the same season you start. You should have, or plan to acquire, some experience as a gardener.
If you would like to know more about what it takes to start a successful market garden, you can
get your Free Market Garden Start-Up Guide here.
My books and other resources I recommend
3 Businesses in One - Premium Start Farming Pack w/AUDIO Money Grows in your Garden Profit from Pastured Poultry Growing and Selling Premium Pork Get help from a Farm Coach Free Gardener's Secret Handbook Grow a REAL work-from-home business
Raise chickens for meat.
If you raise meat chickens in the warm months only, on pasture, the start-up cost and the equipment requirements are very low. You can make a profit in 10-12 weeks if you control your bird losses.
We've been raising meat chickens successfully (i.e. profitably
) for about 8 years. You can
Learn more about Raising Chickens here
Raise freezer pork.
Raising a few pigs on pasture is very different from the large 'hog barns' you may have seen. Pigs on pasture are healthier and cleaner than barn-raised animals.
As with meat chickens, if you raise them in the warm months only, the start-up requirements are very low. You can
Learn more about raising pigs here
Step Five: Get started now!
Whichever enterprise you start with, the best way to learn how to farm is by actually doing it. Get some basic information, buy a couple books, talk to some other farmers already doing what you want to do.
Then get started, perhaps just by growing food for your family and a few friends. Growing a small farm is the best job I ever had; don't wait to learn how to farm on your own small property.
More fun farm factoids: Small farms can be profitable, but success starts before you plant a thing. Learn about
Farm Planning here
Buying a Small Farm
The 5,000 square foot Market Garden
Get your free Organic Market Gardening Guide
Why my small farm needed a website (hint: I needed more income, and a way to retire.) How we created an income-generating e-commerce website
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