(Natural News) Self-sustaining lifestyles have gained traction among many Americans who are seeking to grow their own food and reduce their reliance on grocery stores. If you are one of those who are just beginning their farm journey, here are some tips to help you get started. (h/t to RunamukAcres.com)
Start right now
Farming is a lifetime endeavor; there is a lot to learn and you never really stop learning, even if you’re already an experienced farmer. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll achieve your goal. There is something you can be growing right now, wherever you are.
According to the USDA, the average “middle-income” household spends $7,061 on food every year, while the “low-income” household spends about $4,070. With growing your own food, you can save a big chunk of money and eat better as well. So start growing something today and feed your family first.
Do your homework
You don’t need a college degree to take on farming; study and learn all you can about agriculture by getting your hands on as many books as you can and read them all.
You can also watch tutoring videos and documentaries online, visit your local agricultural fairs and tour the exhibition halls to learn more about agriculture in your area.
If your local cooperative extension service offers a Master Gardener course, you can enroll in one, as well as other interesting workshops or events in your area where you might be able to learn new skills.
Start brainstorming what your dream farm might be like: what crops you want to grow; what types of livestock you want to work with; what skills you want to learn along the way; how you can market your products. This is also the perfect time to think of a name for your farm!
You can use the SWOT analysis to plan for your farm: note your personal strengths and weaknesses, and determine the potential opportunities and threats to your goals.
Once you have all of these notes down on paper, it will be easier to see where your interests, strengths and opportunities lie. You can then make a rough plan for your future farm.
Practice your social skills
Farming is an ideal lifestyle for people who like to keep to themselves, i.e. introverts. However, part of running a successful farm is learning how to be friendly and open with the people around you, especially if you plan on selling your produce. Practice your social skills by visiting your local market and striking up conversations with vendors and customers alike.
Volunteering your time and energy is a great way for new farmers to gain experience, build a reputation in the community and network with other people.
Be committed to your cause, work hard and be reliable. This helps you build trust with your community and grow your reputation in a positive way.
The people in your community can also be useful resources that you might be able to turn to when you have a question or need some help.
Treat it like a business
Running a farm is running a business – you must have a well-thought-out business plan. You can ask your local business development center for assistance.
Learn how to use spreadsheets to track your farm’s income and expenses. These records are invaluable tools with potential investors and financial institutions. Always keep your receipts, as well as production records: how many seeds sown and the yield they produced, crop rotations, fertilizing and pest treatments, etc.
Beginning farmers should file a “Schedule F” with their taxes as soon as they start grossing $500 annually from farm sales. This is the IRS form that documents farm income to the government. Once you have a record of this income, you are officially considered to be farming on some level.
This is what financial institutions require when you apply for loans as a farmer, and if you can show an increase in your net income from farming each year, you can prove that your business is growing.
Be prepared to make sacrifices
Since farming is a business, it needs a significant amount of investment. This means you will likely need to make sacrifices somewhere along the way to save money. You may have to give up security and safety or certain luxuries and conveniences.
You may have to choose a second-hand vehicle over a brand-new one; buy your clothes at thrift stores; give up satellite TV or cable services and even smartphones; stop eating out – all this and more to allot more budget for farming tools and equipment, permits, insurance, etc.
In the end, it’s all about priorities and how far you are willing to go for your goals.
Match the land to its suited use
Regardless of the size of the farming land you have, you must match the land to its suited use. Do a SWOT analysis on the following:
- Sun exposure
- Soil conditions
- Weather conditions
- Existing infrastructure
- Plot size
These things will help you determine what you can successfully grow or raise in your chosen area.
Think outside the box
Any business endeavor will have obstacles and challenges. Take this opportunity to get creative and come up with a work-around if you encounter a problem.
You can also research what other people have done in similar situations. Don’t be shy about asking your peers and your community for input.
Watch for opportunities
Volunteering and socializing foster relationships with neighbors and community members, which in turn can lead to many interesting opportunities for your farm: everything from donations of tools and livestock, to access to land for farming.
Farming is a long journey that will require incredible patience. There will be bad days and hard days and most certainly failures. There will be days when you will get sick or sore – or both – which can dampen your spirits and make you question why you even started the endeavor. It’s important to practice patience with yourself and with the journey.
Don’t overwork yourself
Farming will be physically exhausting, so it’s important to put in just the right amount of work for the day and not overdo it and leave your body sore and aching.
The farming journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Take some time for yourself and your family and don’t forget to have some downtime to avoid burn-out.
Never give up
Every farm journey is different, but the common denominator of all successful farming endeavors is never giving up at any point in the journey. If you truly want this kind of lifestyle – to provide for your family and serve your community – don’t quit: You will get there.
Get more tips on starting your own farm at Homesteading.news.