Small Farm Living Tips

Here's a few more small farm living tips and hints from da farm. We've been here for more than a decade, so you get the benefit of our vast (or at least half-vast) experience. Read 'em, share 'em, trade 'em with your friends.

1. Be humane. I'm a big believer in PETA – People Eating Tasty Animals. But you are responsible for your animals' health and well-being. There is no excuse not to treat them as well as you can while you have them. If you can't commit the time and resources to do it right, don't acquire them.

2. Save your septic system. Learn what should NOT go into your septic: the short list includes tampons, paper towels, and fat and grease of any kind.

3. Backup heat, power, and water. You're in the country, the power WILL go out. When it comes to contingency planning, the saying goes that 'one is none and two is one'. In other words, if you only have one source of heat, water and power, you have NO backup capacity. Get a wood-stove, buy a generator, install some solar panels, and have an alternate way to get water for yourself, your crops and your livestock.

4. Love your sump pump. Look after it, and ALWAYS have a spare, preferably one that can run off a car battery or other alternate source of power. When you really need your sump pump, you won't have time to run out to the store to get one.

5. Cooperate don't compete. Work cooperatively with your small farm neighbours. Don't compete for a piece of the pie, seek to make a bigger pie for everyone by selling to under-served markets or adding unusual products.

6. Plant some flowers. I like flowers. Period.

7. Get a greenhouse. I don't think there is a better investment for the small operator than a poly tunnel greenhouse. You can use one to extend your season, work out of the weather, grow bedding plants, shelter chickens or pigs, host a nude canasta party, etc.

8. Strive for year round income. It's a challenge making a living on a small farm. Seek to spread out your income over the year. Add new crops and products that don't compete for your attention at the same time. If you want to grow fruit, does it make more sense to have 1000 apple trees that all mature in the fall, or have an assortment of Strawberries (mid June), Raspberries (mid July), Blueberries (early August), Plums (mid August), Euro pears (mid/late August), Grapes (Early September), Asian pears (late August-mid September), Heartnut (end of September/October). This spreads out the work, too.

9. Learn to cook. If you really want to get the most from your farm, learn how to prepare food. That way you can teach your customers.

10 Teach your kids to cook, too.

11. Leave time to work ON your business as well as IN your business. This is the most important small farm living tip in the list. Marketing and management must be a top priority for the small farmer. So is communicating with your customers. Put time in your schedule for these activities.

That's a wrap for this edition of small farm living tips. See below for more.

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