Is starting a MICRO FARM in your future?

First, what is a 'micro farm'? Well, the 'farm' part implies that micro-farming includes the raising of both livestock animals and plant crops to create a profit.

The 'micro' part suggests this takes place on small plots of land. This might be 5 acres, 2 acres, or a even a fraction of 1 acre.

The good news is, it is possible to micro-farm successfully, on almost any scale. The size of the enterprise may change but the principles remain the same:

  • Sustainable production – follow cultural practices that will maintain or preferably improve your plot of land
  • Integrated production – apply brains before brawn (or money) and figure out the inter-relationships that benefit your garden, your livestock, and of course yourself.
  • Organic production (of course!) - since we presume you will be living and working in close proximity to your micro-farm, it's best to introduce no harmful chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to your environment
  • Feed yourself first - start with learning to feed yourself, where your mistakes will be less critical. I also suggest you don't grow things you don't like or wouldn't eat. That way, if it doesn't sell at least you wont be hungry!

Crops and Livestock for your Micro Farm

On other pages I have talked about the limitations we faced when we started New Terra Farm. We didn't have a lot of start-up capital, to pay for equipment, or new buildings, or livestock.

We needed to make start making money right away, or at least in the same season we started. This meant that an orchard and even small fruit like strawberries were not on the start-up plan.

Since we needed an income pretty quick, we also couldn't afford a steep learning curve. We had to find enterprises that we could 'ramp up' pretty quickly.

It's likely you face some of these challenges yourself. So, what enterprises did we decide to start with?

We started a CSA market garden.We had some experience gardening, and we knew the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model could make the start-up cost very low. In fact, we actually got paid in advance from our market garden customers. This got us a cash flow right away, and let us start market gardening with only $300 out of our own pocket (and I put that on my credit card!)

It also met the other criteria above: we could start small, by feeding ourselves and a few customers (we had 10 full shares the first year.) Then as our skills and confidence grew, we could expand. And we were organic from the start.

Our market garden eventually grew to an acre

We raised meat chickens on pasture. In many ways, chickens are a perfect micro farm livestock animal. They don't require a huge investment in equipment - our portable coop for 100 birds cost us about $150.

They provided a quick turn-around on our investment, an important consideration on a micro farm. Our first batch of birds was finished in about 11 weeks, and we netted about a 67% profit.

Here's something fun to think about: if you do three batches of birds a season like we do, and make 67% each time, that's a 200% return on your money! Is there a Wall Street stock that can match that?

And meat birds were easy to sell, they were a very popular item. Many people have forgotten how good chicken can taste until they roast an organic, pasture-raised bird. We have customers coming back year after year for our chickens.

We raised pastured poultry in portable pens

We raised pastured pork. Raising pigs on pasture is a little trickier than raising chickens, but we eventually evolved a good method to manage the piggies. Now they take no more work than the chickens, perhaps 10 minutes twice a day to feed and water them.

Pastured pork proved to be as popular as the chicken, and we sold 6 piggies that first year, netting about a 50% profit. You can learn more about raising pigs here

Naturally, following Principle #4 above, we also filled our own freezers with great organic pork and chicken. The only drawback is, you will get spoiled by this great food! You won't get as good meat anywhere else as you grow yourself.

Happy pigs on pasture

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