If you are thinking about running a small farm at your place of residence, now is an exciting time to do so. Homesteading is on the rise in popularity, and making a business out of a homestead is a natural progression for a person desiring to live off their land. In this post, we are going to hopefully make that part of the procedure a little easier, by focusing in particular on a few of the first steps you will need to make if you hope to run your own small farm.
While there might have been better times in the past to get into the farming business, if you approach it in the right manner and put in a lot of hard work, you should find that you can make it work pretty well. It can even be quite lucrative with the right relationship with your customer base.
Of course, as with any venture of this kind, you need to make sure that you plan it out beforehand and that you know what to expect, so it’s always a good idea to research before you start. I’m here to help get you started, and will have a couple of worksheets available at the bottom of this post that can help you with your planning.
Decide On Size & Scale
First up, you will need to start planning out the actual space. If you have ever planned out something as small as a community garden, you will know that even that can take a long time to get right, and can prove to be a bit of a headache. Well, when it comes to planning out a whole farm, however small, you can be sure of running into many of the same difficulties pretty quickly. My “Jump Start to Homestead Planning” worksheet can help with planning. It’s in my resource library, and you can get the password to that at the end of this post.
You need to look honestly at the kind of space you have to work with and decide on what you might be able to grow reasonably. This is where you will decide the likely scale of the farm, and it is vital to do this if you are going to have any success at all.
As well as size, you will need to think about the natural elements – the terrain on your property, what soil type you have, the micro-climate where you would like to do your planting (sun coverage, wind, moisture retention), and so on.
Another thing to consider is where your water sources are, and whether or not it is feasible to move water out to the space you plan to garden, raise livestock, or whatever your plan is, if it depends heavily on water.
Start Sourcing Supplies
It takes a lot of equipment, machinery and other supplies to run a farm, and the sooner that you start sourcing all that you need, the better. You will find that you need to shop around if you hope to save money. Generally, you can go to local auctions for things like diggers and tractors, whereas if you want Wacker Plates you might be better off looking at used equipment websites online.
Think about where you will purchase your seeds from, or even your livestock. Do some research on where to source the volume of seeds you will need each season. Ask other trusted, small farmers where you can acquire healthy animals for meat, milk, or breeding purposes.
The sooner you start getting hold of everything you need, the better, so make sure that you are first absolutely clear on what you need in order to run your farm. You should not need a great deal for a small farm, but even so you need to be aware of what you do need as soon as possible.
Other Considerations for Running a Small Farm
There are a few other things that may or may not be important to you, but are worth mentioning. They have to do with what type of products you want to provide at your farm. Here are some ideas and suggestions for directions to go, and what to consider.
Certified Dairy/Show Animals
Do you want to breed animals that are show quality? They will then need to know where to get those type of animals, and a reputable breeder of show quality animals, in case you need to rent a papered buck.
Pretty much anyone selling dairy animals will say that they are “good milkers”, but the only way to know (if you really care), is to ask for the documentation from papered animals. Some breeders of papered animals will keep track of milking numbers so they can provide that information to anyone asking. If you are seeking to sell “good milkers” you will want to know this information.
On our small hobby farm, we breed only ADGA certified Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, so we have a little harder time finding a buck to breed to the does in our herd. But breeding only these animals affords us a wider customer base, especially because there are a lot of children who belong to 4H in this area. However, we don’t keep numbers for our dairy goats, as we don’t sell them primarily for that reason (though they certainly can be used that way).
Will you provide organic fruits and vegetables? Then you will need to also think about beginning the process of applying for an organic certification, as it takes quite some time and costs money.
You certainly can, even without certification, sell organic produce. All that is needed is knowledge of organic practices. I have talked to farmers who follow these practices even in the midst of obtaining their certification (it takes years to get it). I always appreciate knowing the practices of growers I patronize for my produce, even if they don’t have that USDA certified organic seal.
Here’s something a lot of first-time farmers will forget about until it is too late, but it’s really at the top of the list of important tasks: marketing. Your farm is going to be a business like any other, and you need to make sure that you are doing whatever you can to market and set it up it successfully, otherwise people simply don’t know and you won’t be able to keep it running well. Get out there and spread the word as much as you can.
It can help to create social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) where you can share what happens on your farm, what you have for sale, and generally just connect with your potential customers. Through these social media pages, you can allow your potential customers to get to know you, which goes a long way in establishing trust between you and them.
Get My FREE “Jump Start to Homestead Planning” Worksheets!
Before you take your first steps to running a small farm, you’ll need to plan, plan, plan! My worksheets will make it easy for you to map out, plan, and meet your goals in a way that works for you!