Are you’re thinking about starting a farm? This guide is here to help you take initial steps.
We provide an overview of the topic of starting a farm and point you in the direction of free information and resources to help you get started.
This guide is primarily oriented toward small farm operations.
It’s Complicated!: Starting a farm is complicated because it encompasses so much. In no particular order, farmers must consider business planning, finding land, securing financing, marketing, production knowledge, securing equipment, developing or securing infrastructure, and their vision for their farm, a product of their values, knowledge and experience.
What to Consider?
- Vision and Values: A farm is both an extension of the vision and values of the individual(s) who start(s) it, and it has to be carefully planned to make sure that it fits within that vision as well as within the particular confines of the place where it is established.
- Place Matters: Direct market farms typically aren’t well suited for the rural heartland, and rice farming is not going to be successful on the arid plains of Eastern Washington. These are extreme examples, but there are important subtleties to every market and every plot of land.
- Planning: New farms need to have a well designed business plan that takes into consideration individual infrastructure and financial needs, the viability of marketing strategies, and the farmer’s production capacity and knowledge.
- Education and Experience: Preparation, knowledge, and training are essential. But so is being able adapt quickly to the unexpected, to persevere when factors beyond one’s control conspire against you, and knowing how/when/what/where to expend time, energy, and resources.
- Managing risk: It is helpful to plan careful to manage risk through diversification, financial management, and the ability to withstand a couple of bad years.
- Start small: For most beginning farmers, we advise starting small to allow time for details to be worked out, for additional learning to occur, and to mitigate the size and scope of problems that will inevitably arise.
The above is offered here not to discourage, but to encourage careful, thoughtful planning.