You may own a small farm property, or be thinking about moving to the country. If you want to learn how to farm successfully, and make money on your small farm, New Terra Farm suggests you follow these 5 steps.
This might be the most important task you will face when learning how to farm (or ANY other business for that matter).
Stephen Covey in the 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' said 'begin with the end in mind'; To put it another way, 'if you don't know where you are going, any road will take your there'.
This is NOT 'woo-woo' stuff, by the way. In my consulting gigs I've observed many 'mission and vision' statements as part of organizational business plans. Many of them were done poorly, in main because of the confusion between mission and vision.
Here's the difference: 'Mission' is what you do e.g. 'sell organic vegetables to local markets'. 'Vision' is what you want to become; it is literally a picture of your future. A Vision is both an inspiration and a guideline to your desired future.
I do an exercise for my farm coaching clients called Your Ideal Scene. In this exercise, I ask them to imagine five years have
passed since you completed this exercise. You were so fired-up
you went ahead and created your ideal life (because I was JUST THAT GOOD ;-)
You are doing exactly what you want to do; you have exactly the people in your life you wanted to attract; you have all the things you really wanted to have, and you have become the person you always wanted to be.
In short, your life is just about perfect. Let your imagination go wild, don't hold back, believe ANYTHING is possible for you to do and be and have. Spend a few minutes thinking about and picturing that. Got it?
Now, describe a scene from that ideal life. Make it as vivid and as detailed as you can. Who would you see, what would you be doing? What's going on around you? What decisions are you making in this ideal scene? What things or possessions do you see? Who comes to visit? Where are you physically located? What projects are you planning?
Remember, you can have it all, so dream up the most interesting, exciting, satisfying scene you can.
I do this exercise regularly for myself, and I can honestly tell you it motivates me and guides me to set goals and make choices that bring me closer to my Ideal Scene.
Have I achieved it all yet? Nope, but i know which way I'm headed!
Decide what you expect from your farm both financially and as a lifestyle:
Note how your goals are influenced by your Vision i.e. Your Ideal Scene.
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.
You are probably seeing by now that developing a Vision, goals and principles of operation is an iterative exercise. It's normal to work back and forth a number of times to get a product you are happy with.
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:
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.
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 based on lowest start-up cost and quickest payback.
Start a market garden based on CSA principles: 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.
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.
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.
And once your customers taste your premium organic pasture-raised pork, they will keep coming back for more.
As with meat chickens and turkeys, if you raise them in the warm months only, the start-up requirements are very low.
Bonus Step: 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!
New for 2020: Get my FREE One-Acre Farm Plan and learn how to pigs, chickens and more, integrated with an organic market garden, to make more money from your small property.
Imagine building a profitable and sustainable mini-farm even on a small piece of land.
Enter your email address and your free report will be sent to you right away.
Bootstrap Market Gardening, my first Bootstrap Book, shows you step-by-step how to start-up, market and manage an organic market garden based on CSA principles.
New edition includes my Garden Planner spreadsheet. Get Bootstrap Market Gardening only from New Terra Farm.
Or get Bootstrap Market Gardening as part of my Complete Start Farming Pack and SAVE 60%!
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Like some guidance getting your new farm started? Get the advice you need from the New Terra Farm small farm coach