Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Have you been playing Farmville and other farm simulation games for big chunks of your life? We know they can be quite addictive! And, sometimes they can even uncover something you probably didn’t even know you had in you: the desire to do
that in reality! If this is the case for you, then now it’s time you put that knowledge you got from virtual games and put it into practice.
Read below for tips on how to start your own real farm!
1. Identify your products!
You’re not growing crops just to have fresh vegetables for your table, right? You need to sell! So, let’s assume you want to raise chicken, grow apples, or grow cattle and sell wool to local knitters. Now, let’s assume I like chicken tenders, apple pie and knit caps as much as the next guy. But how are you going to find customers like me? Do I live in your neighborhood, or five hundred miles away? How much of your stuff will I buy? How will you find others like me? What will you do if I buy ALL of your stuff, and you’re sold out? What will you do if I buy NONE of your stuff, and you’ve got a barn full of it?
These are all the questions you need to ask yourself before you plant that first seed or shear your first ewe. Take the time (lots and lots of time) to figure out where you’re going to sell your products, who is going to buy them, and how you’re going to do it. Once you’ve done this, create a backup plan. Then, come up with another backup plan. Chances are you’re going to need them!
2. Find a land and match your resources to your expectations!
New Farm Start-Up is a guide to starting and growing a small or medium sized farm business in British Columbia, produced by The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture. They give some great tips on starting your farm, and according to them, an essential element to a farming operation is access to farmland. There are a variety of ways to access land and they do not all require a large investment. If you already own a home, the incremental costs of buying a similar home in the farming area may not be that much. The incremental cost of farmland over the value of the residential component, on a specific property, tends to reflect the agriculture value of that land. If you do not own a home or farmland then there are a variety of ways to access farmland through leases, crop shares and other arrangements. The challenge is that there is no simple way of finding these arrangements. They often evolve through working in the farming area or other relationships built up in the area.
Moreover, you should keep in mind that you can try to force your ideas into nature, or you can choose to work with what nature gives you. We believe that the second choice will give you the most productive outcomes!
Imagine if you have a farm in a land where wild turkeys, deer, cottontail rabbits, and raccoons naturally flourish. It wouldn’t be a coincidence that you would be able to raise free-range chickens, sheep, cattle, and pigs. But, if you try to raise free-range ducks in the same land, they will turn acres of pasture into muddy ponds. This is because they would evince their waterfowl instincts.
In short, you have to know what kind of products and cattle your land is suitable for. Otherwise, your efforts on growing them will go to waste.
To assess your land’s capabilities, keep in mind the following points:
Identify what soil type or types exist.
Determine the climatic characteristics of your area.
Identify any drainage or irrigation (water) needs.
Determine topographical limitations (hills or flat?).
Identify any regulatory limitations.
3. Plant and grow your passion!
Everyone knows that farming is hard work. So, do yourself a favor: grow something that you love. Like blueberries? Then, grow blueberries! If you grow what you’re passionate about, it will help mitigate those difficult days when the sledding gets rough and things don’t go your way. It may seem like common sense, but we often find our decisions driven more by finances, tradition, or inertia than by something we truly love. Go out on a limb, and grow heirloom apples if you want. Consider it your first reward. There will be more!
4. Set reasonable goals for yourself!
Don’t beat yourself up trying to work every moment of your wake hours! Farming can be a burnout activity, not just physically, but also emotionally. Just remind yourself you’ll be fine even if you don’t make an “X” amount of money every month. Try to make enough to pay your bills, and the additional winnings will come with time and experience. So, find your pace and take care of yourself. Make a long-term plan with reasonable goals and check with yourself frequently. And by all means, if you raise flowers for a living, be sure to “stop and smell the petunias” from time to time. This doesn’t apply if you’re raising pigs though!
5. Try to have a competitive advantage!
Generally, there are only two ways to compete in the market – being different or having the lowest price. Only one supplier can have the lowest price, and it is usually the one that is biggest and has the least expensive source of supply.
Most small and medium sized farms. must compete by providing a product that is different in a way that the consumer values and, as a consequence, will pay a higher price. This difference (product differentiation) can be very small. The simple fact of knowing where a product is grown or knowing the farmer may be of 11 great values to some customers. Different varieties, different production techniques, location, ambiance, etc. can differentiate your product from others. This difference creates a competitive advantage for which you can charge a premium over the price of your closest competitor. If you plan to direct market some or all of your product, the next section on identifying a marketing opportunity and determining if the marketing opportunity is a business opportunity will be helpful.
Your land is likely capable of growing a wide variety of products; however, if you cannot sell these products at a profitable price, the farm enterprise will not be as successful.
6. Hire people to help!
Obviously, you cannot grow and take care of a farm on your own. You will need help, but nothing comes free. Yet, you can still hire smartly to reduce your costs. For example:
Summer full time or winter part time students remain an excellent source of hired help. Many students also like weekend jobs during the school year to provide extra spending money. Six to eight hours every weekend can be very helpful on a small or medium sized farm.
Recruiting unskilled or semi-skilled staff can be a challenge; however, web tools such as craigslist (http://geo.craigslist.org/) enable you to communicate your needs to a large audience at no cost to you. If you have very specific needs in terms of hours worked or days to work make certain you specify them in your advertisement. You could also consider posting your job opportunity on various farm-related list serves.
When hiring professional staff make certain they are familiar with your type of operation. All accountants are not familiar with farm accounting issues and all lawyers are not familiar with farm issues. Sometimes the professional with the higher hourly rate will cost you less in the long term!
7. Develop a good marketing plan!
Advertising and promotion can be costly and time consuming, so you need to make certain it is directed at your key customers!
The customers most likely to buy your product are your target market. These are the people that value your competitive advantage the most. For example, if you could produce a very uniform, fresh product, delivered daily, the restaurant trade may value your product more than the supermarkets.
It is important to ensure you have identified the specific target market and not a more general market.
Below you have a list of tools you can use for marketing your products!
Local Farm Marketing Associations:
Road side signs
Farm Days / Farm Events:
Special events – Halloween, harvest day
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
You-Tube and other video posting websites
If you finished carefully reading all the above tips, you have at least an idea on how to proceed on your first steps on starting a farm. Yet, there is always more and more you could learn. Especially in this field, there is endless information you have to keep in mind. So, research and make sure you have everything figured out before you actually start planting seeds. You are always welcome to come to our website for more information as well! Also check out more facts and information that you might not know about farming.