becoming a farmer

71 posts / 0 new
Last post
bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
becoming a farmer

has anyone thought about farming for a living. i mean to make money. i've heard alot of folks saying that farming will be really big in the next decade or so. So i'm wondering if anyone has thought of this as a possible career path? i understand the startup cost to someone getting into the field would be tremendous, but with people like jim rogers talking what he talks about the future of agriculture, it seems like taking on the initial startup and overhead would be a good investment. any thoughts?

Jarhett's picture
Jarhett
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 21 2008
Posts: 132
Re: becoming a farmer

I thought about this but then I went to Deere.com and look at the price of a new combine.  This combined with land, irrigation, other equipment.  You would need at least a million dollars, and I do not see anybody loaning a million dollars to a new farmer anytime soon, but if you can get the money go for it.

mpelchat's picture
mpelchat
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 10 2008
Posts: 214
Re: becoming a farmer

There may not be enough oil to run all that.  Look into a couple of horses, a plow, a wife that wants a lot of kids, and decent land.  May want to look into a greenhouse or greenhouse construction as well.

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 7 2008
Posts: 488
Re: becoming a farmer

I think the only sane way to move forward with your query is with permaculture farming, essentially meaning no fossil fuel inputs (that's right, no mechanization) and no mono-cropping.

As far as making money, I think that phrase might mean quite a different thing even five years from now. So, yes, I think you can make money farming, but your not going to become the new nouveau riche or anything. Not saying you're thinking or saying that, but I do talk to a lot of people who think somewhat along those lines and a couple specifically who reference Rogers and think they're going to become millionaires by starting a farm.

I think the future of farming will be small, ultra-diverse farms that service the needs of their immediate populations. And I think the future is quite bright along those lines.

We've got six acres that we've been slowly developing toward that end. Our hope is to make enough of a living from it that we can scrape by or, perhaps, only have to work part-time doing other things.  

jerrydon10's picture
jerrydon10
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 2 2009
Posts: 442
Re: becoming a farmer
mainecooncat wrote:

I think that phrase might mean quite a different thing even five years from now. So, yes, I think you can make money farming, but your not going to become the new nouveau riche or anything. Not saying you're thinking or saying that, but I do talk to a lot of people who think somewhat along those lines and a couple specifically who reference Rogers and think they're going to become millionaires by starting a farm.

I think the future of farming will be small, ultra-diverse farms that service the needs of their immediate populations. And I think the future is quite bright along those lines.

Hey, the amish about 30 miles down the road seem to be doing just fine and farming without oil is what they do.

My fiance and I have discussed putting in a small berry farm, five or six acres of raised bed grown berries that end up in the form of jams, jellies and ice creams sold from an on-farm retail store and online.

we are also looking at becoming gourmet pickle canners featuring all kinds of cool pickles and relishes.

The poster above is correct. No one is going to loan a new, inexperienced farmer money to start an operation if he trys it the way they have always done it.

I do follow Jim Rogers and he thinks agriculture will be where the money is at for the next 20 years or so.

kevinkr's picture
kevinkr
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 13 2009
Posts: 7
Re: becoming a farmer

I've thought about it and I think you need to scale down your aspirations on farm size. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are an attractive option and there is plenty to read about them on the web. http://www.localharvest.org/ has a few interesting blogs from folks running these farms. In my research, my biggest challenge has been finding the right match of affordability and a location near (a) rail, (b) a population base that is not dirt poor, and (c) near family. 

I am not passed this point, but I think there are real farmers on the site that can share their experiences. 

plantguy90's picture
plantguy90
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 271
Re: becoming a farmer

I wasn't born a farmer, my wife and I decided to try and set up a nursery here as an extension of an existing farm operation.

Best way I can describe it is its like recieving a sentence of 30 years hard labor.  I will be 70 then. 

You can forget the expensive John Deere's with the air-conditioned cabs.  Expect to be out there yourself.  Its like gambling with your life, as mistakes cost $$$.  You'll wish you were a mechanic, welder, construction guy (all materials), electrician, plumber, biologist, all rolled into one, and still have a green thumb.  Finding appropriate and cost-effective labor is a problem.  It is challenging.

dirigo.farm's picture
dirigo.farm
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 6 2009
Posts: 1
Re: becoming a farmer

Read Gene Logsdon's "Contrary Farmer".   He overviews the methodology and significant efficiency of small scale farming to feed your family and a few others, while caring for your land, animals and great old equipment.  Start slowly and don't quit your day job right away -- and you won't need a health club to get a work out.  If your goal is to eat well, respect the land and make a little money, it can work.  Look up your local ag extension office.

Burke's picture
Burke
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 10 2009
Posts: 4
Re: becoming a farmer

A good book on Farming is Joe Salatin's "You Can Farm". He outlines what he believes are the best and worst opportunities in farming. Theres a lot of information in the book and he debunks the myths about modern hi-tech farming such as:

*You need a lot of expensive machinery - he started with a pickup and borrowed neighbours machines, he recycles all sorts of stuff, has a small sawmill, and builds many small temporary structures.

*You need a huge piece of land - he portrays several very successful farmers with modest acreage. He believes landlocation is much more important than size as you need to be close to your customer to be a successful farmer.

*You need to have a huge operation to be profitable - Salatin attacks industrial type farming such as containment hog houses, caged chickens etc, and focuses on grass fed, well taken care of animals that he sells for much higher prices to people in his local community. Instead of a typical farmer collecting 9c on the $ and selling to the conglomerates - he sells locally and keeps a much higher percentage. 

Salatin has been succesful as a farmer who went his own way that challenged all of the stereotypes and practices of large scale modern farming. This success is also manifest in the popular apprenticeship program he has had for many years, which last I read has a 3year waiting list.

I though the book was very good and presents farming as a business and a lifestyle in a pragmatic and entertaining way. 

 

mainedrtfrmr's picture
mainedrtfrmr
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2009
Posts: 15
Re: becoming a farmer

I agree with Burke: read Joel Salatin.  Yes, it is possible, but it's not a career path - it's more like a calling.  If you want a high-paying job, forget farming.  In fact, forget most of the cliches: it's no longer about manly men on John Deeres wearing baseball caps plowing the back 40.  According to the US Census of Agriculture more women than men are getting involved in farming now. (there goes the "wife that wants a lot of kids") The US Dept. of Ag. recognizes that the very definition of "farmer" has changed over the last decade.  Smaller plots, part-time farmers, low- or no-tech tools.  Lots of hard work, flexibility and business smarts, such as setting up a CSA, and probably an off-farm job to pay the taxes and insurance.

Lynn Miller of the Small Farmer's Journal says that there has never been a better time to be a farmer.  He's right.  Farmers Markets have tripled in numbers over the past year alone.  People are hungry (sorry!) to join the Locavore movement.  Consumers have had enough of chemicals in their foods.  They will buy your produce, but they probably want to meet you and talk to you about your vocation.   

Stop worrying about investments and just get out and get your hands dirty.  The sense of satisfaction is well worth everything else.

Cheers, Sue the dirt farmer

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 7 2008
Posts: 488
Re: becoming a farmer

Where ya at, Sue, if you don't mind me askin'?

.'s picture
.
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2008
Posts: 167
Re: becoming a farmer

Hey bbob,

What kind of farming are you considering?

My wife and I are currently in a transition period focusing on moving back to her family's farm. This piece of land has it's own water source and is about 85% forest.  The forest consist of about 85% Doug fir, 10% cedar and 5% Oak.  Out of 2.5 million board feet we can selective cut approx 4% per year for a sustainable yield tree harvest.  There is also a substantial firewood source from blow down and thinning for another "harvest".  There are also ways to cultivate shitake' mushrooms  and truffles.  We are only beginning to explore the other options for "farming" the forest. 

Since we are located by a popular outdoor recreation that has a high traffic count, we are considering berries and fruit orchards for the southern exposure hillsides that we could market as u-pick.  The old barns are set up for livestock, but being raised on a beef cattle farm leaves me a little apprehensive towards a large livestock heard.  Livestock also ties you down.  Feed and water daily.  The water supply is large enough that it also gives us the option of a trout farm by building ponds on valley floor. 

We are considering diversification of crops that will allow us a variety of income streams.  The lack of diversification my parents had (beef the only crop) in the early 70's certainly made it hard when the price dipped.  Currently for us the price of Douglas fir for domestic consumption is low (export is still a decent price), but cedar and oak are up.  Having other crops would certainly help even out income streams. 

Farming is definitely very hard physical work, but can be rewarding.  I love being outdoors (good rain gear is a must) but I wonder how many years I'll be able to do the demanding work. 

 

Gadfly's picture
Gadfly
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 5 2008
Posts: 127
Re: becoming a farmer

I don't think farming is something you just jump into because some financial guru said it was the wave of the future.  Not everybody is cut out for it.  You may want to find a job as a farm hand first to see if it is something you can hack, Cityslicker.

Reuben Bailey's picture
Reuben Bailey
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2008
Posts: 138
Re: becoming a farmer

Mainecoon, mainedrtfrmr, dirigo.farm,

   I am also interested in where you folks are located, if you're willing to share.  I am in the Dover Foxcroft area.  

All the best,

Reuben

mainedrtfrmr's picture
mainedrtfrmr
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2009
Posts: 15
Re: becoming a farmer

near Freeport

Sue

plantguy90's picture
plantguy90
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 271
Re: becoming a farmer

I forgot to add, dont regret it one bit.  Wish I had started earlier, experience is the best teacher.Smile

paranoid's picture
paranoid
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 27 2009
Posts: 140
Re: becoming a farmer

well said! My parents both were raised on farms in Ireland and it was quite a differnet life - eating raw turnips out of the ground was a treat for them! Going to bed hungry, talk about tough living. no wonder they are both still alive after years of American Toxic living! lol

Amazing what you can adapt to when you are born into it!

plantguy90 wrote:

I wasn't born a farmer, my wife and I decided to try and set up a nursery here as an extension of an existing farm operation.

Best way I can describe it is its like recieving a sentence of 30 years hard labor.  I will be 70 then. 

You can forget the expensive John Deere's with the air-conditioned cabs.  Expect to be out there yourself.  Its like gambling with your life, as mistakes cost $$$.  You'll wish you were a mechanic, welder, construction guy (all materials), electrician, plumber, biologist, all rolled into one, and still have a green thumb.  Finding appropriate and cost-effective labor is a problem.  It is challenging.

bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
Re: becoming a farmer

wow, thanks for all the responses! worker bee. i'm in almost the same situation as you. my grandparents own a small farm in the foothills of virginia.  my grandfather farmed a crop of tobacco for 35 years before retiring. it hasn't been farmed in probably 10 years other than the food plots we plant every year for the wild life. the forest to field ratio is simarily to what you're working with. it's been a reaccurring theme for a few years now that i should move back and put the farm to good use again. that's what i get every time i visit. i've always seen myself ending up there and recently, my wife and i had been spending everyother weekend there making preparations. we plan on moving 12 to 18 months from now. fortunately all the equipment is still on the farm and operational. 

as far as what kind of farming we would do? i've recently been thinking about hay farming. coastal bermuda brings about 4.00 to 4.50 per bale. it's a favorite of horse owners. you harvest 3 times a year plus you don't have to reseed every year.

also considered vegetable farming but i have my doupts about that because of the deer and turkeys. last year we planted a 3 acre patch of soybeans and they didn't even let them get to leaf!  i've heard that there's some guys farming tobacco again in the area under contract with manufactuers. they say the price is fair and they're making a little supplemental income.

i should say that i'm a remodeling contractor and i intend on continuing that while i get the farm going. that'll give me a little cushion to experiment with the farming.

i also love the idea of  permaculture and i intend on experimenting with that also. i've watched a ton documentaries about it but have no hands on experience so this will be somewhat of a long term goal.

the woodland on the farm consist of oak and poplar. there's also probably five or six acres in pine that were once field.

 

mainecooncat, i should have said make a living instead of saying making money. yeah i have no illusions of making millions off a small farm.  

paranoid's picture
paranoid
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 27 2009
Posts: 140
Re: becoming a farmer
Gadfly wrote:

I don't think farming is something you just jump into because some financial guru said it was the wave of the future.  Not everybody is cut out for it.  You may want to find a job as a farm hand first to see if it is something you can hack, Cityslicker.

exactly - my ex-wife is quitting her job in a NYC bank and workign as a farm-hand to learn the skills.  its not an easy choice - hard work, long days and little pay! Welcome to the future!

Reuben Bailey's picture
Reuben Bailey
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2008
Posts: 138
Re: becoming a farmer

Mainecoon, mainedrtfrmr, dirigo.farm,

I am also interested in where you folks are located, if you're
willing to share.  I am in the Dover Foxcroft area. Based you your
names i'd guess you are all within 5 hours travel. Laughing

 

Back
on the topic, I grew up on a small family farm of 40 acres.  There is
much to recommend it as a way of life, but don't expect to hit the big
time with it.  I suspect that Rogers et. al. are refering to investing
in large agribusiness firms and agriculteral supply firms, rather than
running out and starting your own farm.  A potential downfall to these
firms that their technology is very energy/fossil-fuel dependent.  

 

All the best,

Reuben

This was going to be an edit to my original post...

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2606
Re: becoming a farmer
bbobwat33 wrote:

....my grandparents own a small farm in the foothills of virginia.....

bbob -

Welcome. 

What part of Virginia?  We are in Va Beach.  There are about 15 of us Old Dominion types floating around the CM site. 

Any chance you can make it to the Lowesville seminar? 

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 7 2008
Posts: 488
Re: becoming a farmer

Reuben,

Dover-Foxcroft, no way! I've got an aunt and uncle there -- Jimmy and Carol Garland.

I'm in North Berwick, more or less way down south.

As for your hitting it big comments, I agree.

bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
Re: becoming a farmer

dogs, 

thanks for the welcome, i moved to fairfax county from va beach about a month ago. i had to leave.  the construction market there drove me out, being a contractor and all. i had no work for two months and i had to go. i would love to go to the lowesville seminar but the funds are a little low. i'm still paying off dept from the winter.  i understand you're a submariner. is that correct? i was a radioman on two boats, the montpelier and the atlanta. i won't ever forget those five years. 

cat233's picture
cat233
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 20 2008
Posts: 575
Re: becoming a farmer
bbobwat33 wrote:

dogs, 

thanks for the welcome, i moved to fairfax county from va beach about a month ago. i had to leave.  the construction market there drove me out, being a contractor and all. i had no work for two months and i had to go. i would love to go to the lowesville seminar but the funds are a little low. i'm still paying off dept from the winter.  i understand you're a submariner. is that correct? i was a radioman on two boats, the montpelier and the atlanta. i won't ever forget those five years. 

SSN-712... When?  You two just might be buddies.

Cat... Mrs. Dogs

bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
Re: becoming a farmer
cat233 wrote:
bbobwat33 wrote:

dogs, 

thanks for the welcome, i moved to fairfax county from va beach about a month ago. i had to leave.  the construction market there drove me out, being a contractor and all. i had no work for two months and i had to go. i would love to go to the lowesville seminar but the funds are a little low. i'm still paying off dept from the winter.  i understand you're a submariner. is that correct? i was a radioman on two boats, the montpelier and the atlanta. i won't ever forget those five years. 

SSN-712... When?  You two just might be buddies.

Cat... Mrs. Dogs

 

cat,

SSN-712.. that's the boat!  i was there from jan 98 until decom at norfolk naval.  then the montpelier SSN-765 until i got out in 02'

cat233's picture
cat233
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 20 2008
Posts: 575
Re: becoming a farmer

do you know capt. moe montana?

sensei's picture
sensei
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 30 2008
Posts: 26
Re: becoming a farmer

Farming sounds romantic but it is dirty, back breaking work.  My wife comes from a ranching family and my family raised pigs and potatos in Idaho for a long time.   There is a reason she is a nurse and I am a dentist.  We have seen that lifestyle first hand and neither of us really want to work that hard. :) Up at sunrise, work until sundown 6 and sometimes 7 days a week.  Work becomes your life.

We definitely want enough land to have a big garden and a small number of animals for personal/family use.  But to actually choose farming as a primary occupation is a choice of last resort for us. 

bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
Re: becoming a farmer
cat233 wrote:

do you know capt. moe montana?

 

i believe he gave me my dolphins... haha infact i still have a picture from the ceremony somewhere. did that med run in 98 if i remember correctly.. man! small world....

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2606
Re: becoming a farmer
bbobwat33 wrote:

cat,

SSN-712.. that's the boat!  i was there from jan 98 until decom at norfolk naval.  then the montpelier SSN-765 until i got out in 02'

bbob -

I was on "Resurgens" from 90-92 as Weps.  Moe is a good friend of ours.  I rode ATLANTA during the Tiger Cruise with my son just before decom.

bbobwat33's picture
bbobwat33
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2009
Posts: 21
Re: becoming a farmer
Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:
bbobwat33 wrote:

cat,

SSN-712.. that's the boat!  i was there from jan 98 until decom at norfolk naval.  then the montpelier SSN-765 until i got out in 02'

bbob -

I was on "Resurgens" from 90-92 as Weps.  Moe is a good friend of ours.  I rode ATLANTA during the Tiger Cruise with my son just before decom.

that's something else.. so at one point in the past we were on the same boat doing angles and dangles together. i was probably scrubbing the floor somewhere or hiding in the torpedo room! has Moe seen the crash course yet?  

umaperegrina's picture
umaperegrina
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 22
Re: becoming a farmer

bbob.

One possible resource could be the Center for Rural Affairs (www.crfa.org).

They are a nonprofit organization that focuses on sustainable agriculture and advocacy for healthy rural communities, affordable health care, etc. etc.  They have a program that helps beginning farmers get started, sometimes pairing a new farmer with an older established farmer that wants to move toward retirement.  They're main offices are in Nebraska, but their programs extend far beyond their locale. There's a fun story behind the organization as well.

 Good luck -

Lori

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments