Being able to pick vegetables, berries, and fruits whenever you like and eating them is an incredibly rewarding experience. It is highly enriching to grow your own produce and see how it becomes a meal.
Likewise, there are many benefits that come with owning and running a farm. It is surprising how much your life can change when you start your own farm. This includes interacting with neighbors more frequently, getting up early to tend to animals, and more.
There are many chores involved on a daily basis which are important to know about beforehand. Likewise, starting a farm isn’t for everyone. This is due to the physically demanding nature of the job, which may not suit certain people’s lifestyles.
Because of this, this is a complete guide to help you start a farm. Consider the different approaches that you can take as well as how you can make suitable changes that can help you work towards your own farm in the future.
The Farming Business
Firstly, let’s look into the farming business as a whole in order to appreciate the industry. Most countries consider small farms as the backbone of the agricultural world. In the US, around 97% of all farms are owned by families.
Many consumers and businesses prefer family owned farms compared to commercial ones, as the produce is seen as higher quality on the whole.
This is due to numerous factors, such as the scale of the farm and the level of attention that each animal or plant receives. Likewise, small family farms tend to avoid harsh chemicals.
This can mean that their produce is less harmful to the environment and even organic in some cases. So what actually defines a small farm?
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, a farm needs to gross less than $350,000 per year. As a result, there are almost two million small farms currently operating in the United States.
By definition, a hobby farm is when someone runs a small-scale farm or smallholding that is based on a plot of land that is less than ten acres. The idea behind this is that it is easy for one person or a single family to manage.
One of the first things to consider when starting a farm is how much money you need to save up, and whether your current savings are likely to be enough. For many, the initial purchase of land is the first significant expense to be aware of.
Unless you have inherited a plot of land that you can start your farm on, it is important to be aware of the price of land per acre. How much does it cost to start a farm? It depends on where you live, and the scale that you want to stick to.
The price for land differs across the states, and depending on whether you want to purchase land or take out a lease. The average value of an acre of land in Wyoming is $1,558, in comparison to $39,092 in the state of California.
International farm owners can see further fluctuations in the costs of land. An acre of agricultural land costs around $9,700 in the UK.
You can also lease the land instead of immediately owning it, so that you can save a little money when you are setting up your farm. You can expect to pay around 5-10% of the land value per year in this way.
How To Get Started
Now that some of the basics have been covered, it’s important to figure out what type of farm you want to create. Planning ahead is essential during this process, and it is highly recommended that you are considering the following questions and suggestions.
Ensure that you make the right choice for your farm and that you are sticking with your principles.
Hobby Or Business?
Thinking about what type of use you would like to make your farm for can allow you to shift your focus and ensure that you are keeping your goals in mind.
From deciding where you want to plant your crops to the overall scale of your farm, these are important factors to keep in mind ahead of time.
Making your farm for business purposes places more emphasis on efficiency and generating high quality results within a short time frame in some cases.
On the other hand, setting up a farm for hobby purposes allows you to plan slightly less in terms of your farm’s layout and enjoy the growing process for what it is.
Many people who are interested in becoming independent and growing their own produce enjoy hobby farming because it is much less stressful. This means that you will be able to enjoy farming on a smaller scale.
If you are interested in doing this, then it can be fun to start as a hobby farm. You could always aim to increase the scale over time in order to function more as a business.
What Is Your Niche?
Another important variable which should be considered carefully is the niche which makes your farm stand out from the competition.
There are many factors which can achieve this, and it can be worth choosing a specific crop, food, or target market in order to make yourself stand out.
This can be done by carefully researching and testing out certain products so that you are producing the best possible quality product for your customers.
The success of your farm will depend on how appealing your produce is to the public. Whichever route you choose to go down, it is important to find your farm’s niche.
Establish Your Budget
As well as determining the costs of land, you will need to figure out how much it will cost to keep your farm running. You will also need to think about how much you can realistically afford on a regular basis.
Make sure you are not falling into debt when you are starting your farm. Monthly budgets should include anything that is needed to keep your farm running. This includes things like animal feed, seeds or tree saplings, and equipment.
Likewise, unexpected fees are common when you are running a farm. These include things like urgent vet bills, and making ends meet during a quiet month.
If you are planning to take up a farm as your full-time job, it is critical that you are finding some source of income.
Even if you don’t think you need it, you will in the long run. Managing your own time and figuring out a realistic way of earning money can be highly challenging.
Because of this, it is recommended that you are speaking with other experienced farmers or farm workers within your local community. You could also find it useful to ask them about the different accountants that helped them get started with running their farm.
Managing finances on the whole is highly challenging and complex. A reliable and friendly accountant can help you fill in the necessary paperwork as well as access funding where it is available.
Another essential part of setting up a farm is research. You should take the time to check smaller details, including the produce you want to sell or specialize in, as well as your farm’s running costs. Your research can be done online by checking blogs, or in person.
Create valuable connections with people who have experience within the field. This can be done by working for a local farm or interacting with other farm owners. You should also carry out market research as much as possible during this period.
This can allow you to figure out if there is a target audience for your service or niche. In some cases, there are examples of products which are less highly demanded on a regular basis.
These farms are therefore less likely to be profitable in the long run, because it is harder to break even and keep the farm running.
You should check that there is a demand for your farm and the products or services that it provides. Consideration should also be given to the types of target audience within your local area. This should be used to determine the route that you go down for your farm.
Find Your Land
Additionally, you should try to find the place in which you want to base your farm. Everybody is in a slightly different situation, but it is important to consider how reliable the source of water is.
This can affect how efficiently you can nourish your crops and ensure that you are not taking long trips each day. Similarly, you will need to consider how close you are to local markets, quality of soil, and other facilities which are close by.
Likewise, it is worth looking into the infrastructure available close to your farm and how approachable the neighbors are.
Creating positive relationships with the owners of neighboring land is essential, because these can help you get your farm started and even allow you to carry out trades with them.
If you want to build a home as well as a farm on your land, then it is worth acknowledging how close you are to neighbors to figure out how much privacy you are likely to have.
For many, it can be challenging to finance a farm. This is especially true if you have not inherited the land, or if you are less familiar with the process in general. Because of this, it is worth researching the right type of financing options for you.
There are many resources that could be offered to new farmers who are looking to set up their land, and it could be worth comparing the options.
Make sure you are checking the types of financing plans and resources in your area so that you can benefit the most from these plans.
Setting up an appropriate financing plan for your farm allows you to determine whether your chosen area is the right fit. This is because many states and regions that are in need of more farms can offer better financing options to new farmers.
Create A Business Plan
If you want to use your farm for business purposes, and generate a living in this way, then it is worth creating a business plan.
This should be done around the same time you begin looking for financing options, because of the different funding that is available based on your estimated growth as well as predicted timeframes.
If you are less sure about how to go about this process, then it is worth looking into existing business plans for farms that are a similar size or scale to yours.
Connect With Other Local Farmers/Community
In addition to connecting with neighbors surrounding the land, it is worth interacting with local farmers and the community.
This can allow you to obtain tips and suggestions based on the land available, so that you are able to make the most profitable and rewarding decisions for your farm in the long run.
Use other people’s experiences in order to avoid making certain mistakes. You can also create positive relationships with other farmers in the community so that you can trade products that you have in abundance.
Find Your Customers
Some of this can be done during the research stage of the planning and preparation process, however it is worth designating time specifically for reaching out to your target audience.
This includes making use of local farmer’s markets, reaching out to restaurants and vendors, or even going door to door.
Consider the type of method that will be the most effective for your farm and for your target market. This could be through creating a social media page, educational videos, a blog, or making posters to tell people what will be ready soon.
Some farms use regional newspapers and have a regular slot to update members of the community.
Implement A Sales And Marketing Plan
If you want to boost sales for your farm and take it seriously as a business, you will need to find and implement an appropriate marketing plan.
This includes figuring out which method of selling your products is the most effective and changing your approach according to the demand.
For example, you could set up a small stand on the edge of your farm to sell your crops if there is enough traffic in the area. However, some people struggle to make a profit in this way.
Because the success of your business depends on the area in which you operate your farm, it is worth considering the type of place you live in.
Some people who start a farm find it easy to use their business plan as a checklist when the time comes to actually start setting things up. However, it isn’t always that easy. Make sure you are using your business plan as rough guidelines at least.
This can allow you to work closely with your personal goals, and ensure that you are adjusting your plan as time goes on or even as the market changes.
Once you have a suitable location and plan for your farm or farm business, it is time to get practicing with your planting skills. Consider the following tips in order to hit the ground running and so that you can stay motivated.
Get As Much Experience As You Can
Many farmers who are working in the industry and that rely on farming for their livelihood would urge somebody who is just starting out on their farming journey to get as much experience as possible.
This can allow you to avoid certain mistakes which are common for beginners, and ensure that you are getting the best start to your farm. You could work with local farms temporarily and make sure you have experience doing each task.
This means taking care of larger animals as well as selling produce and everything in between. Some farms are purely for chickens and pigs, while others create interesting products to sell.
Make sure you are well-educated on certain procedures, including pickling vegetables and the impact that advertising can have on your farm.
By building up muscle memory, getting experience with certain daily farm tasks can make it much easier to do when you are starting your own farm.
Familiarize Yourself With The Climate
This is crucial when it comes to starting a farm because there is no point planting something that won’t grow unless it is in a very warm climate if you live in a colder climate, or vice versa.
Similarly, it could be worth looking into which plant species, vegetables, and crops are the easiest to maintain.
If you are looking to maximize profits then it is recommended that you carefully research the climate that your plot of land is in. This should impact what kind of crops you can plant during certain seasons, and times of year.
Naturally, there will be a different level of care required for each species that is planted, but it is your responsibility to grow as much or as little as you like.
It is also worth speaking with more experienced gardeners and farmers about the types of soil that are the best for certain crops.
Because certain varieties of fruits and vegetables can be more sensitive to harsher weather, it is worth checking which would be more suited for indoor growing compared to the outdoors.
You may need to think about building a greenhouse for certain types of crops. This can allow them to grow and even thrive within their optimum conditions.
Learn As You Go
Even those with the most experience in running a farm can make mistakes occasionally. Because of this, it’s worth adjusting your perfectionist mindset and allowing yourself to learn as you go.
The great thing about farming is that you will learn over time, and that each process takes time. If you make a mistake once, it is unlikely that you will do it again.
This is due to the outcome of these mistakes, and your understanding of how it can impact the profits of your farm overall. Not only that, but you will want to keep your animals in good condition and allow your crops to thrive.
Make sure you are being kind to yourself, and that you are not jumping straight into the deep end when it comes to starting a farm.
Remember that you need to learn and create the muscle memory in order to work your way up towards more complex processes on the farm.
Know Your Risks
There are many different risks to be aware of when you are farming, so it is important to keep these in mind. Consider how well you know your own limits, and whether your health is posing a risk at any time.
Farming is a pretty intensive job for those who are not used to it. This can place a physical strain on your body, especially if you are trying to complete certain tasks alone.
Similarly, it is essential that you are aware of other risks within the industry. These vary depending on the type of products you are selling, but you will need to protect your animals from common illness and disease.
You will also need to be aware of the role that contamination plays, as well as any changes in the market. Like other occupations, starting a farm poses a risk if you are relying on it for your income.
This is because demand can change over time, and people can easily lose interest in your produce. Make sure you are keeping a close eye on this in order to reduce any possible risks.
Put In The Work
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Farming isn’t for the faint of heart, because of the long hours which are needed, and the dirt in general.
Whether you are planting vegetables, cleaning up after animals, or helping an injured one, you will need to put in the work when it comes to setting up your own farm.
It can take a while to see any profit for your farm once you get everything set up, and it is important that you are not losing your determination and drive if this happens. Make sure to keep your eyes on the prize, and that you are willing to put in the work.
You may find it challenging to hire additional help when you get the chance to expand your farm in the future. Because of this, you will need to show someone new exactly how you would like a certain task carried out, and how you would do it.
Manage Your Time Effectively
Because farming is the type of job that will feel as if a day’s work is never complete, it is highly recommended that you are effectively managing your time. This can be done by creating a schedule with an estimate on how long each item can be expected to last.
By doing this, you can make each task seem more manageable and realistic. Ensure that you are adjusting lists or schedules according to your plans or if you invest in anything that can make a particular task take up less time every day.
Avoid feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work which is needed every single day when you are running a farm. This can make you feel lost, especially if you want to start a farm on your own with little help from others.
Remember that everybody has their own limits, and that it is perfectly fine to ask someone for help so that you can have a day off.
Farming is a physically challenging occupation which requires you to work long hours and maintain a great deal of discipline. However, it can be highly rewarding in the long run. This is because of the produce that you can grow and share with the local community.
Make sure you find what type of farm you want to set up, and the available plot of land that you can base your farm on. Ensure that you are focusing on the climate and doing careful research into the types of crops you should plant.
Likewise, it is important that you are speaking to local farmers for their opinion as well as building connections with members of the community. This can allow you to carry out trades, and to contact someone with more experience in an emergency.
By setting up your own farm, you can get a great look into where certain foods come from. Not only that, but you can enjoy being more adventurous with different vegetables and fruits. For example, master the art of pickling in time for the winter.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to setting up your own farm, so it is certainly worth planning ahead if you can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Type Of Farm Is The Most Profitable?
There are so many things that can impact a farm’s overall profits, that it is difficult to draw conclusions on this. Every farm has potential to become profitable, but it is how they meet the demands of the market and how efficiently they run that impacts the profits made.
Some of the more successful farms raise high quality beef cattle. These typically have a higher price range, and these farms can work with local restaurants and food chains to work towards a higher profit.
However, any crop or produce that has been thoroughly researched and that you are able to sell a very high quality end product for, is likely to make you a profit.
Consider setting up a specialist farm that focuses on less produce that is a very high quality, or that offers the same type of food or ingredient in a unique range. This could be rare species of herbs, high-end mushrooms, or exotic peppers.
What Is The Best Animal For A Small Farm?
Small farms typically span over one acre or less. Because of this, it is normally recommended that you aim to expand your land if possible. However, individuals who want to keep animals and begin farming their land can enjoy the company of smaller farm animals.
Cattle and horses need a lot of space to roam around and graze. Because of this, they are not recommended for small farms under one acre in size. However, you can keep chickens, goats, and even some small farm hogs within this space.
Make sure you are leaving plenty of room for goats to graze in peace if possible. Similarly, you will need to carefully plan your farm in terms of where the animals can go without bothering each other.
Certain animals tend to accept others, while some can be slightly picky about who they are sharing a living space with.
Avoid distressed animals in your farm by sketching out some plans and checking with an online forum for farmers, or with someone in your community for their opinion.
What Type Of Farm Is The Easiest To Start?
When it is done efficiently, and if you have plenty of time to spare, then a tree nursery can become a highly profitable option for a farm. This is because there is minimal maintenance needed, and there are many tree species in high demand.
Other farms that are ideal for someone who is new to farming include fish farming, herb gardening, bee farming, and microgreens farming. Of course, it is highly recommended that you gain some experience within these fields beforehand.
Likewise, you should also speak with someone who has successfully set up their own farm within your chosen specialty. This can allow you to ask any questions and get valuable advice.
In short, the type of farm you find the easiest to start depends on which areas you have more experience within. For example, you may have grown up surrounded by fruit trees which you are confident maintaining and picking when each fruit is ripe.
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