Starting a farm, like any other startup, is a major undertaking. Unlike some jobs, farming requires a specific skill set, farming experience and a whole lot of hard work and dedication. Waking up before the dawn and doing physical labor all day while also managing a lucrative business is no easy feat, especially for brand new farmers who didn’t grow up on a family farm. But, if you’re ready to quit your day job and jump head first into starting your farm operation, here are some quick tips to know up front to start your own farm. When you’re ready to look further, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website is a good place to expand on these steps.
Decide what you want to farm
This is probably the first obvious question that comes to mind after deciding that you want start farming. Before you have a successful farm, you have to decide: what do you want to farm? Have you always dreamed of having a small flower farm or do you want to have a full scale commercial farm that produces crops? Do you want to farm livestock, or maybe fruit? Will your farm be an organic farm or free-range farm? These are all important questions to ask before you start your farm.
Decide if you’re farming for a hobby or for business
The second order of business is to decide if your farming operation is going to be a business. There’s no shame in deciding that you’re going to start a small farm that will mostly be a hobby. A hobby farm is great for increasing your sustainability by growing your own food, and you could even have a small farm business and sell some of your product at the local farmer’s market. A small-scale hobby farm may also be a great way for beginning farmers to gain experience before stepping up to the next level.
Learn the market
Let’s say you’ve decided to go big and start large-scale farming business. Like any great business, the first step is to learn your market. This means doing research of your local market and the agricultural business to find out if customers in your area will even be likely to buy your specific product. Once you identify your target market, you can get started on figuring out how to get some cash flow.
Write a business plan
Any good business starts with solid business planning, and it’s no different with farming. Creating a farm business plan means getting down to the nitty gritty and the numbers — all the things that are crucial to maintaining a farm. Make a spreadsheet of your budget and make a marketing plan. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other farmers and the USDA for assistance. Once you make your business plan, you can set up your business (decide type of ownership, obtain permits, etc.), finance your business, and buy land.
Learn important farming skills
This step should probably be running concurrently with the other steps, but if you’re going to run a farm, you’ve gotta know how. This means learning the tools of the trade by visiting your local USDA branch or cooperative extension. Learning these important skills and gaining experience can help you get well on your way to your farm dream.