You might think that small, family owned farms have little relevance in today’s age, but in actuality they service a growing demographic in many countries around the world. The demand for locally grown organic produce is at an all-time high, prompting many to follow their passion.
That said, the road to success will not be an easy one. The current economic climate supports large-scale agricultural endeavours through government subsidies, though numerous farmers markets are cropping up and giving hope to local producers and new family farms.
Important Factors to Consider
In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the more common challenges you’re likely to come across and address the barriers to entry, as well as provide some helpful advice to get you started on the right track.
If you’ve dreamed of setting up your own independent farm for as long as you can remember, here’s what you’ll need to take into account before getting back to basics and living the simple life.
Do Your Research
In agriculture, the one thing you can’t control is the weather, and this will impact the kinds of crops you grow as well as the livestock you raise. It’s for this reason that you’ll want to avoid forcing your dreams onto the land and opt to work with what nature provides.
However, you will be required to cater to the needs of the market and will be subjected to the laws of supply and demand. Ultimately, your research should help you to find your particular niche.
You should also familiarize yourself with a few of the general guidelines that are worth knowing before you start your farm. If you don’t, you run the risk of setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even planted the first seed.
Where property is concerned, enquire about the history of the place; especially if you’re taking ownership over an existing homestead but want to incorporate your own ideas. In general, it’s a safe bet to raise free-range chickens, cattle, sheep and pigs. Ducks, on the other hand, are best suited to naturally occurring wetlands.
Budget Your Time and Money
It goes without saying that farms – even small farms – are high-maintenance and require significant investments of time and money before results can be seen.
Consider which areas will benefit the most from improvements, but avoid getting into debt at all costs. Farming is a seasonal process and there may be periods of low productivity throughout the year, in which case, it pays to be prepared.
Understand Government Regulations
This is something that will affect different farms of different sizes, but in every jurisdiction, industry regulations, laws and restrictions will apply.
Do your best to figure out what is and isn’t restricted by law as it relates to your specific business. Take the time to contact any local governing bodies or leading authorities for information about possible licensing issues or policies that may impact the day-to-day operations of your farm.
If you can’t find the answers you need, you’ll be pointed in the right direction and will have a clear indication of where to go. Once you have your answers, you’re ready to embark on the planning stage.
Have a Plan in Place
As it is with other businesses, having a solid plan or strategy in place will serve you well in the long term. This means you’ll need to set realistic goals that are reasonably achievable given a timeframe.
This isn’t to say that you’ll need to develop a multipage business plan, but thinking about what milestones you’d like to reach and having deadlines in place will ensure that you stay focused and motivated.
Visit your nearest small business centre to discuss your plans and make sure you’ve addressed your mission statement, startup costs, expected outcomes and overall trajectory.
Set Your Plans in Motion
After you’ve determined that your strategies are feasible, you’ll likely want to begin setting up your farm and settling into your new life as soon as possible. Just remember that your financial situation will be strained if you try to do too much too soon.
Approach the implementation of your plans systematically and tackle one thing at a time to ensure you put your best foot forward. Your efforts will take time to bear fruit, but the rewards will be worth it.
Diversify Your Farm’s Produce
The key to success for any small farm is diversity of produce. Avoid putting all your eggs into one basket in case things don’t pan out. By doing this, you’ll be able to recover from both minor setbacks and catastrophic failures much faster than you otherwise would in the event of seasonal droughts, floods or fires.
While raising your herd of breeding stock or waiting for your orchards to reach maturity, you will likely come to rely on other sources of income. Supplementing your efforts with outside endeavours helps to keep your farm productive and the money coming in.
Shop Smart When Sourcing Equipment
For those daily chores where you need uninterrupted access to agricultural equipment, you may need to purchase specialised machinery. For everything else, there are many ways to get what you need.
In fact, you may not even need to purchase new parts or products if you can source used heavy equipment, rent from local businesses that service industrial clients or hire skilled professionals at a cost-efficient rate.
Lastly, don’t make the mistake of assuming that any listed price or quote you receive will be set in stone. In most cases, businesses will be happy to work alongside you and around your particular situation – all you have to do is ask.
Hopefully you’ll have gained some useful insights into what you’ll need to do when preparing to live your dream after reading this article and will be able to take the plunge knowing it’s the right move for you and your family.
About the Author
Alicia is a kombucha tea-sipping writer who focuses on healthy and sustainable living via her family blog Homey Improvements. She enjoys Pilates, essential oils and is a princess for hire for kid’s parties. Follow her on Twitter @DIYfolks.