Urban Agriculture
University of California
Urban Agriculture

Start Smarter Part 1: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Farming

When I started farming, I thought I was going to be a fantastic farmer due to my business background, personal savings, maturity, family support, and work ethic. I did benefit from those things and am farming successfully now. However, I was woefully unprepared for the expense, time, and challenges to my concept of what farm life would be. Those unexpected challenges caused it to take years to turn a profit.
If I had it all to do over again, what would I do differently?

Practice: To start, I would educate myself by doing – work or intern on a profitable farm for at least one season. I can't tell you how many hours I wasted on inefficient harvesting when an experienced farmer could have trained me to do it a better, faster way.

Education: While I was learning how to do the hands-on work, I would take classes – farm business, farm management, farm marketing, etc. Taking classes taught by people with experience in the field gives a new farmer the opportunity to ask questions and have access to more information and resources. Farming is a unique business with its own language and challenges. Farm business classes can help a new farmer develop a realistic and informed business plan.

Business Perspective: I would not start with a homesteader perspective like the one I did. I had too many enterprises from the get go – chickens, goats, and 40+ vegetables. For a farm to be financially successful, it needs to be treated as a business, not a hobby.

Business Plan: I would focus more on marketing and financial goals. I would include the word “profit” in my mission statement. My original business plan focused too specifically on land use and crop production, environmental impact, and social involvement.

Banking: I did pretty well in this area. The following tips saved me a lot of stress during a financially dry period:
• Start with a separate farm business checking and personal checking account
• Do not take on debt
• Keep track of everything on some version of accounting software.

Market Research: I would do market research on what to grow. I would takes notes on price and what products were in demand at farmers' markets and other outlets where I intended to sell. I would contact produce managers and farmers' market managers and ask them what they wanted. I would watch market customers to see where they shopped. I would note which products sold out by the end of the market. As it was, I started out growing what I liked to eat – and more! If I had done my market research, I could have wasted less time on crops that were not in demand or were too inexpensive for me to be competitive on pricing.

Crop Selection: After learning what was in demand I would select a few (5-10) crops and learn to grow them well. I would practice efficiency in every step of the growing, harvesting, marketing, packaging, washing, processing, pricing, selling, everything to do with those few crops until I could be really efficient and PROFITABLE with each one. I would time every bit of labor that went into every step so I could properly evaluate the crop and choose wisely about what to expand and stop growing. This level of detail may sound tedious but it is worthwhile if it means the difference between making a living and going out of business!

See Starting Smarter Part 2: Lessons I Learned Along the Way next week to read about Land, Equipment, Labor and more.

Check out the New Farmers and Resources tabs on this website information and some useful information:

Foothill Farming: http://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms

 

Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 9:23 AM
  • Author: Aleta Barrett
  • County: UCCE Placer/Nevada

No Comments Posted.

Leave a Reply

You are currently not signed in. If you have an account, then sign in now! Anonymously contributed messages may be delayed.




Security Code:
QNDRVH
:

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: vtborel@ucanr.edu