Getting started in farming: Is Farming the career for you?
Updated: May 5
Do you dream of becoming a farmer? Does working outside, digging in the soil, feeding animals, growing food and selling at the farmers market all sound like your dream job? Many people have this same dream but don't know where to start.
Farming is an honorable profession and full of hard work but anything worth doing is full of those two things.
If you're considering a change in career here are a few things to think about before you start digging in the soil or buying livestock. We've outlined a few points to consider as you explore this very rewarding career.
1.) Find a mentor Talk to lots of farmers but find a farmer you respect and one that farms the way you want to farm. Get a job with them or volunteer around their farm. Learn all you can. Be reliable, show up and give all you can, be loyal to them for helping you and teaching you what they know. There are going to be jobs you don't want to do, but do them anyway. This is starting from the bottom and learning as you go. Learn from both the farmers knowledge on what works and their mistakes.
If you start early in life you get about 30 or so seasons to succeed at farming. That seems like a lot but that is a whole year that I'm talking about. Learn early and maybe even find a better/smarter way. Learning from others failures will give you a head start. There are many YouTube videos of farmers that talk about their challenges and what has worked for them. This is another great way to learn.
2.) Have a plan First of all, you need a plan. What are you going to grow? Where are you going to sell it? And that is just a start You need your road map to understand where you're going. Get very specific on what you want to do and then you reverse engineer your business plan: who you need to talk to, what you need to acquire, what steps you need to take to get there and what you need to achieve you goals. Spend your money wisely. Try to find deals on the things you need. Maybe use Craigslist, maybe your mentor has a friend selling something you need. Try to buy things that are of the highest quality but are on sale. A word of advice: If you can at all swing it, don't start out owing money. This puts you at an extreme disadvantage and you will start out coming from a place of want instead of being smart and steady. Start small and grow from there. 3.) Know the economics of Farming - Turning a new page In the past farmers have used a very capitalistic view of resources. Air, water, and soil have been plentiful. As those resources are becoming more scarce farming will become harder. As new farmers you need to be aware of what has been done in the past and what is no longer working. Maximizing profits and industrializing farming (capitalistic approach) has been detrimental to the farmers way of life. They may have maximized profit but there was a high cost to the land.
We can learn from science and technology and new ways practices to change and be a better farmer and steward of the land. Do this by diversifying your farm. The industrialized farmer has one crop that they sell. Hypothetically, it seems like a good idea to specialize but to use a farming expression, you're putting all your eggs in one basket. It can be detrimental if there is a dip in sale prices, in foreign trade talks, politics, or even the weather.
Smart business people diversify and scale. Find what works, but understand that one way might not be the right way.
3.) The Farmer job description As a farmer you are an artist, plumber, electrician, landscaper, entrepreneur, grower, inventor, salesperson, website designer and whatever else needs to be done. You need to be quick to learn new things.
As a small business you need to treat it is as such. Growing food be your passion but you also need to do those business type things to sell your product. Become proficient at doing the things you don't like to do-do them first actually.
4.) Product This is where you get to be creative and put the "you" into your farm. What are you going to sell? Why? It's important that you know the why behind your product so that you can tell that story to your customers. This is what will keep them coming back and loyal, that and customer service.
Get the word out about your farm and products through all the social sites and web commerce that is available to you. Just because you're a farmer doesn't mean you need to do away with technology. Let technology work for you. Tell your story, get your story out the the world through all the social channels and then you can go on being a farmer. Be the expert on this product. You need to know everything there is about this market. Knowing what you're up against will help you before you have a problem. People will come to you when they need that product.
This is the elephant in the room for many peop