"Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land's inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery" -Wendell Berry
Getting back to the land, eating fresh veggies out of the garden, keeping chickens, watching beautiful sunrises, and living a sustainable lifestyle outside of the constraints of our modern society. It all sounds so romantic.
I'm here to tell you that all those romantic ideas are true, but there is more to consider than just the parts that excite us. Farming requires an unrivaled amount of dedication, know-how, and faith.
Here are seven things to consider before jumping into the wonderful life of farming.
1) Be Clear About Your Goals
Farming is all-encompassing and is nothing to take lightly or approach without clear plans and goals.
Sit down and ask yourself "Why do I really want to start a farm?" What are your personal goals, environmental goals, economic goals, and your goals to help your community?
Write these things down and really think about them because they will be critical in the beginning stages of starting your farm, and building the framework for your business.
2) What are you Good At?
Are you business savvy?
Are you good at fixing stuff?
Do you work well with animals?
Are you a salesman?
Do you already have a green thumb?
Do you like Manual Labor?
What is your current experience level with Farming?
These are all questions you want to ask yourself and be honest. Honesty is critical in making decisions on a farm, communicating with customers, and your employees.
3) What lifestyle do you desire?
Farming is just as much a lifestyle as it is an occupation. This is something to consider as you decide what enterprises you add to your farm.
Each moving part affects the whole; Especially you.
Adding Animals is a 24/7 and a 365 Day Commitment. If you envision yourself taking vacations or taking time off the farm you are going to need someone to care for your animals while you are away.
Farming Never Stops. It's early mornings watering, feeding animals, and harvesting. Its long hours washing and packing orders, time on the road making deliveries, and time in front of the computer running the back end of your business.
Finding Joy in your work is critical. Otherwise, you will find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the scope of your farm if you are not prepared to function as part of it.
Create efficient farm systems that allow you the time to do other things in your life that are important to you.
4) Farming is a Business
Good farmers spend time in front of the computer. Being Organized is crucial in running a successful Farm. Say it with me... "Spreadsheets are my friend"
Form the business structure that fits your goals, and protects you from Liability. Whether you want to form an LLC, a non-profit organization, or be a Sole Proprietor is something you want to think about.
Keep your banking and your taxes organized with integrations like QuickBooks that make your life easier.
Business is about Relationships. Be honest with your customers. Use the concept of Under promising and Over Delivering. That way when you do better than expected they are excited, and you don't look like a liar by not being able to deliver on a hefty promise.
The 80-20 Rule. This is a business concept that projects that 80% of your farm’s revenue should come from 20% of your farm's enterprises. This allows you to put the majority of your focus into the 20% that makes your farm the most money.
5) You can't control Nature
Farming involves an intimate understanding of natural systems and being in touch with the rhythms of your unique bioregion.
Weather is only partially predictable. Being proactive about weather changes is imperative to success on a farm. Extreme weather fluctuations can destroy your crops in a blink of an eye.
Pests and predators need to eat too. Weather patterns can really affect how wildlife functions on your land. Some years insect pressure is low, in others it is devastating. Some years wildlife has enough wild forage and other years the rains do not come and they are more inclined to jump your fence to eat your crops or your livestock.
Have a systems approach for dealing with the unpredictable. Be prepared for the worst and pray for the best. Farming is a leap of faith.
Keep a garden journal and document as much as possible about each farming season.
Practice Mindfulness of your surroundings and the decisions you make.
6) Attachment is the root of suffering
Life on the farm is a powerful teacher in letting go, and the circular nature of life.
Crops all die eventually, and if you are a savvy farmer you know to save seeds from them to nourish the next generation.
Death is part of the process. We have a bizarre relationship with death as humans that goes against how the rest of the natural systems of the world operate. We hang on to things longer than we need to and this causes us to suffer. With plants, this causes low-quality end results and an uphill battle for us as farmers.
Treat your livestock with love and respect, but never lose sight that you are raising them as a source of sustenance for your family and your community. Be thankful for the beautiful opportunity to participate in where your food comes from. Give thanks to your animals for giving their lives so that your family and your community can be strong and healthy.
7) Be prepared to Ask for Help
A farm is unable to function without community behind it.
Happy customers are your best form of Marketing. Ask them to refer a friend to you.
Offer opportunities for people in your community to come out and volunteer on the farm in exchange for veggies. Have them Bring their Kids.
Be Prepared to Hire employees or Paid interns
Delegate tasks to people who are passionate about them. You don't have to do everything yourself.
Get to know your local Agricultural Extension Agent
Get to know other experienced farmers in the area and ask questions.
Be on good terms with your Neighbors. You never know when you might need their help.
Research often and be a lifelong learner.
I hope you found this helpful on your journey to achieving your dreams of the farm life.
Please don't ever hesitate to reach out for my help or to answer any questions. I offer a variety of services in Regenerative and Organic Agriculture.
Reach out in these links for a Consultation or a Soil Analysis. I would love to do everything I can to help you be a successful and resilient Farmer
Feel free to surf through some of the pages on my website. I have left a ton of Easter Egg links for you to learn from on every page.