This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include: First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purch

This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purchase of Featherman Poultry Processing Equipment, including pluckers, knives and more!

Second Prize: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencovevalued at $140!

Third Prize: A large heirloom pack of assorted seeds from Baker Creek (northern or southern region) plus a copy of Jere and Emilee Gettle's recently published book The Heirloom Life Gardener.Valued at $125!

Fourth Prize: A $55 gift certificate good toward any purchase at Lehman's!

Round 1 ends began January 15 and ends March 15 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!


Start Farming Now!, by C. Menne

The dream and the desire is there: You want your own farm. Some laugh at you, others ridicule, and many stare in puzzlement over your choice, but you don’t care. You want – no—you need you own land, and your own farm. What’s more is that you know that somehow, someday, you will do it.

“But how?” You can’t help but wonder that to yourself. How can I afford the lifestyle switch? How can I get my own land? How can I learn how to successfully run my own business? These were all questions that filled my mind as I got started in the agricultural world. I had no outside job (still don’t), I had less than $300 cash, and I didn’t even have my driver’s license (oh wait… I still don’t!). But the dream was there. A fire burning so hot that it didn’t matter to me that my personal situation seemed impossible. I knew in my heart that this was simply something that would come to pass. I would have my own farm someday.

This article is written in hopes that it will give you some ideas on how you can start getting closer to your farming dream, and hopefully be a springboard in helping you to get started. Time is ticking; you need to start NOW.

Land:

This is a big one. If you don’t have land of your own, then you obviously are looking to acquire some! There are a couple ways you can go about this: The first way (and this can actually be pretty fun) is simple. Take a drive through the country; look around you and see what land seems to be abandoned. Is there a house on a piece of property, but the property itself seems to be lying idle? Take note of that. Are there any vineyards or orchards in the area? Take note of that too. After a while, you should have an idea of what land is empty in the area. Now for the brave part: Walk up to the door of the house (if there is a house on the property), and introduce yourself. Politely tell the owners that you have been looking to rent a piece of property, and theirs caught your attention. Explain what your plans are, and be honest. This doesn’t have to be long-winded; just a simple, “Hi, my name’s Allison (or, my name’s Jim), and I was wondering if I could rent your property.” will suffice. You would be surprised at how often this technique works. I’ve found that elderly people are particularly interested in the possibility, and that’s where I get most of my offers. A lot of times, people will let you use their land for free, or you could always suggest trading your goods (whether it’s meat, milk, eggs, veggies, or all of the above) for free land rent. Folks are always open to suggestions. If you never ask, the answer will always be “No.” if you do ask the answer just might be “yes.” Try it.

Working with a vineyard or orchard can create a nice symbiosis that benefits all parties. A few farmers are beginning to tap into this in my area (which is the Pacific Northwest), and the results are worth looking into. Many people run poultry through the vineyard walkways, via chicken tractors, and others will put sheep in the orchards.

Option #2: There are many different websites that work to being beginning farmers in connection with folks who have land that they want to see put in use. You can peruse these and maybe you’ll find something!  http://www.farmtransition.org/netwpart.html

The organization called “The Greenhorns” has put together a staggeringly detailed download concerning finding land, and renting it. I highly recommend reading through it and seeing what information you can glean! http://www.thegreenhorns.net/resources/GH_landtenureworkshop_minico...

Option #3: Some farmers will allow you to farm a piece of their land in trade for work. This is a good way to learn the ropes of farming, while still being able to put it all into practice on your own piece! You will however, have to be very careful about how you divvy up the agreement. You don’t want to find yourself overworking for a too-small piece of land, but you do want to be working enough that the owner of the land feels that the trade is worthwhile, and so that you are learning as much as possible.

Money:

Yet another biggie. ‘Money makes the world go ‘round’, so they say, and it does seem that it’s rather challenging to start up a farm without some of that stuff…. Time to get the creative juices flowing. If you already have a job, then you’re probably looking for a way to get some more cash without getting a second job. Or, if you’re like me and you just all around lack a job, then you need a way to get some start-up money as you prepare to take the leap.

The first thing that comes to mind is a money grant. The idea of a grant can take some getting used to sometimes; after all, who in the world just gives away money?! I’ve found grants to be a really good way to get a small farming enterprise from struggling along to a spot in which it is more financially stable. Every organization will have its strings attached, so look for those. And when I say strings, I don’t mean that they’re going to force you to do stuff later on, I just mean that most will only apply if you are in their state or county, if you grow what they want, if you grow it in the way they want, or if you are just beginning. It’s staggering just how many grants are available when you start looking for them… The website that has all of these grants in one spot can be found at: https://attra.ncat.org/calendar/funding.php

But what if you can’t find any grants that work for you or for some reason you are unable to apply for one? What then? This is when the creative juices need to start, and you need to put the thinking cap on! Here’s a random compilation of ideas just to get your own thoughts going:

  • Horse boarding. If you have a barn and good pasture, many people can charge $125 to $150 per horse, per month. If you have an arena, or trails, then you can bump that price up to $175 or $200 per horse, per month.
  • Raising Replacement heifers. Commercial dairy farmers often times don’t want to, or can’t, go through the hassle of raising their heifer calves, while still dealing with the lactating cows and the milk. So they pay others to raise the calves for them. I admit I’ve been looking into this possibility myself, but I don’t have all the answers yet. Every dairyman is going to want to have things done differently, so it’s hard to say how much this enterprise would cost, but it’s certainly an idea. I’ve found this link to be helpful in answering my questions: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/dairy/heifer-raising-contracts/ But by far the best thing to do is talk directly with a dairyman!
  • Micro Greens: Currently the latest fad in the restaurant business, micro greens are simply salad mixes that are harvested at 10-21 days. Many restaurants will pay anywhere from $6 to $12 per lb. for these mixes. You can find micro green seed choices at Johnny’s Seeds: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-48-micro-greens.aspx And they have more information on micro greens at: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/assets/pdf/Micromix_Production.pdf
  • Teaching workshops. I must admit that this is my best money maker…  If you’ve come this far into your farming dream, then you obviously know something about the farming lifestyle! Do you know how to carve wood? Fell trees? Knit? Spin wool? Dye? Do you own livestock? Are you good at gardening and/or canning? Everyone has a skill that they’re good at, and people enjoy learning 101 from other folks nearby. This takes a bit of courage to do if it’s your first one, but it’s always a fun day; you are simply sharing what you know with other folks! Only you can decide how long your workshop will go and how much you will charge, but just for an example, my workshops are usually 5-6 hours long, and I charge around $100 per person.
  • Writing/Advertising. I highly recommend starting your own blog. If you have one, then you’re already one step ahead of the game! Find your own unique writing style and shout it out! Write blog posts that teach others how to do things; even if it’s really simple stuff. The sidebar on your blog is also handy, since you can advertise for various companies and earn a bit of cash flow through that. Anyone can advertise using the google AdSense, but the pay is – low. If you’re serious (or maybe desperate?) I would recommend contacting companies of your choice and giving them your sales pitch. Explain how it would benefit them to advertise on your blog, how many visitors you average on your blog each day, etc. and then give your rates. My rates vary, depending on the ad size. Small ads pay $100 quarterly (making $400 per year), medium ads pay $150 quarterly, and large ads pay $200 quarterly.

What are some of your money making ideas?

Education:

Maybe you already have land to work on, or you have the startup capital needed to get the ball moving, but what if you simply wish for more information on how to start? Maybe you are lacking a vision for the land, and aren’t sure what you want to be doing with it? There are so many varying facets to the pool of education that I couldn’t begin to list them all, but I would like to offer some of the top choices I’ve found over the years, and what has helped me.

  • Internships. I know, I know… This is obviously not a possibility for most people, since the majority of us have family, jobs, responsibilities at home, etc. However, if you find yourself in a position where in an internship IS possible, I highly encourage you to pursue the idea! Statistics show that people who have interned/apprenticed at other farms before starting their own have an 80% higher chance of succeeding over those who haven’t. Not to mention this is just an all-around fun thing to do! Many farms offer the option of simply coming out and working on the farm a few times each week, if the intern is unable to stay on the farm full-time, so that’s certainly an idea. The best website, to my knowledge, to search for a farm to intern at is: http://www.wwoofusa.org/ WWOOF stands for WorldWide Organic Opportunities for Farmers, and works to connect farmers with folks to want to learn to farm.  The organization, “ATTRA” is also an excellent place to look for internships (and it’s free; compared to WWOOF!) https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/.
  • Workbooks. So maybe the idea of an internship is completely out the window for you, but you would still like something to help you figure out a game plan. I’m not sure if this falls in this category of education, but one thing that has really helped me figure things out was a free, downloadable workbook from my state university, titled ‘Growing Farms: Successful Whole Management Planning Book’. http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/23645... This planning book forced me to sit down and answer the questions, and wouldn’t you know it? After a couple evenings of concentrating on working through the little book, I found my farm plans and dreams meticulously mapped out for me. That was an eye opener, to say the least, and I can’t believe it took me that long to do it!
  • Small Scale Intensive Farm Publications: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=380 This costs $28 for a CD, but I think the price is well worth it.
  • SARE downloadable books. I guess my tightwad genes go deep… I’m always looking for free stuff! This website, http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Topics/Economic-Marketing, has a lot of useful books that you can download for no cost at all. I’ve enjoyed using the downloaded book titled, “Building A Sustainable Business”, as I have begun honing in my business plan for the farm. http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-a-Sustainable-Bu...
  • ATTRA Sources for Beginning Farmers: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/local_food/startup.html as you can see, I have much regard for ATTRA… I seem to have mentioned their name a few times here!
  • What Can I Do With My Small Farm?” OSU PDF download: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/ec/ec1529.pdf An excellent read.
  • Guidebook for Beginning Farmers” Compliments of ‘The Greenhorns’: http://www.thegreenhorns.net/greenhorns_guide_sept2010_web.pdf The Greenhorns website also has many other helpful downloads that you can read at: http://www.thegreenhorns.net/reading.html

 

By now, you should have somewhere to start. Your brain should be feeling ideas germinating, and who knows what will happen next! You may lack land; you may lack money; you may lack anything! I don’t know your personal situation, but what I DO know is that you need to start TODAY. Even if it’s the simply act of ordering a free seed catalog. Each small action will turn into a ripple effect which will eventually slingshot you into where you want to be someday. That “someday” is coming; why not start preparing for it NOW? That being said, go do something today! Go bake bread! Clean the chicken coop! Apply for a grant! Anything! Just do something, and do it now.

Views: 1226

Tags: SARE, WC1, attra, beginning farmer, new farmer

Comment by Tina on March 3, 2012 at 11:23am

Excellent post! So many resources that my head is spinning!  I am just getting started in my back yard in suburgatory in preparation for a big move in about a year. Everyday I try to learn something new! Thank you so much for sharing~

Comment by Caitlyn M. on March 3, 2012 at 12:03pm

Your welcome! 

Comment by Not Available on March 3, 2012 at 1:12pm

Wow!  I've just bookmarked and downloaded a TON of things to sift through later.  Thanks so much for posting this.  This is most helpful!

Comment by Brian (BubbaTanicals) on March 3, 2012 at 9:13pm

Awesome article.  Well done!

Comment by Nadya on March 4, 2012 at 2:45am

Thank you!! So many great links!

and... I love your skirt (do you normally farm in skirt? - something I would want to do if I ever to live on a farm) and your hair (beautiful!!, just like yourself), and your blog, and all your interests, and your spirit... wow!!

were you homeschooled?

Comment by Caitlyn M. on March 4, 2012 at 12:39pm

^LOL. Yes, Nadya, I do farm in skirts! I have some jeans as well, but on most days I just stick to skirts. And yes, I was homeschooled! 

Thank you everyone for the lovely comments! Glad y'all like my article!! 

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