“I’m interested in farming, but I don’t know where to start.”
This is a common question, and the typical answer is… plan it out first. When you plant a seed, you don’t just toss it in the soil. You determine what it needs to thrive, gather supplies, determine the correct planting time, and follow a plan for a successful harvest. Starting a farm is a similar process. There are many benefits and challenges to farming. As excited as you may be to start growing produce for the market or to bring those goats to the farm, the key to a successful farm business is to plan.
Planning Considerations for Starting a Farm
- Generate Your Idea
- Assess Your Resources & Commitments
- Business Planning
Step 1: Generate Your Idea
Whether you have had an idea generating for years or it’s a new interest, taking time to carefully craft your idea and think through possible situations can aid in the success of the farm business.
- What type of farm business do you want to start? Why do you want to farm? Where will you source start-up money? What is your goal as an entrepreneur? What kind of lifestyle do you want? Will you enjoy this idea?
- Marketing: What would you be producing? Is there a need for this product? Who would be your customer? Why would someone buy your product over the competition?
Step 2: Assess Your Resources & Commitments
Understand the resources involved and the demands of the commitment you are envisioning. These are just a few factors that should be considered:
Time and Energy/Effort
Farming can be a time-consuming venture. Be realistic in considering what other commitments will you be splitting time with (off farm job, family time, children’s activities, etc.).
Will you require a loan for purchasing land/equipment, operating costs, improvements? Have you identified funding sources?
Farmers do much of their work on their own. This requires a diverse skill set and ability to learn new skills. Additionally, problem-solving, decision-making, management, and organizational skills are often used in running the farm.
What experience or skills do you have that will aid in developing and running your farm business? What competencies do you need to strengthen to help you build this business?
Accessing land is among the top challenges for young and beginning farmers. The high purchase prices and scarcity of available lease land contribute to this barrier.
Do you own land or will you lease? How will you find property? Did you confirm the property zoning allowances? Is the land/soil suitable for your farm goals (type, pH, topography)? Does the product you hope to produce match the climate? Restricted areas? Proximity to neighbors or markets?
Infrastructure and Equipment
Do you have access to proper equipment? Is the infrastructure present on the land or will you need to add it?
Step 3: Business Planning
Do you have a business plan? Have you assessed your goals? Have you researched the market? Does your enterprise suit your farm, market, and goals?
A business plan should clearly describe the purpose of the business and how it will make money. A business plan can help determine if your idea is viable, serve as a guide as your operation grows, and is a common requirement for grants or loans. It is important to analyze your business plan from all angles. The plan should support your business in all the functions, such as operations, marketing, and finance.
While business plans vary depending on farm characteristics, it should describe your…
- Farm operation
- Organization and staff roles
- Marketing plan
Business Plan Resources:
Building a Sustainable Business – A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses. SARE: https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Building-a-Sustainable-Business.pdf
UF IFAS Business Plan Publications: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/entity/topic/business_plans
While these are just a few of the steps to take and factors to consider when planning to start a farm, it should help you determine whether to proceed or go back and revise your idea. A good farm plan can serve as a guide to developing a successful farm business.