Becoming a Farmer (Part 6 of 7): “When” Do You Make the Dream Come True?

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”Abraham Lincoln

a girl in dark clothes stares at an oversized alarm clock, with her hand on her face. [credit:, un-perfekt]
Time. Ticks. So. Slowly. [CREDIT:, un-perfekt]
As a kid, we sometimes couldn’t wait for Christmas and we tore into the presents early. Finally, when the big day arrived, we were glum when there weren’t any more presents for us to open. We may have regretted giving in to our childish urges. Adults are big kids. We want what we want it when we want it…

Many who want to farm want to do it now!

Patience is hard… especially when it requires waiting. Sounds like a Yogi Berra saying. In today’s instant-gratification society, it might be even harder to find patience.

Want a new book? Order on Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow. Not fast enough? Download the e-book this minute. Just want to pretend that you’ve read it and not really read it? Scan the reviews on Amazon or a dozen other places and pontificate till your heart’s content at tonight’s book club meeting. But, be prepared for the question about the scene in chapter three which you didn’t read and no one reviewed for you. Gulp! Shortcuts can be the quickest way to serious failure. This particularly can apply to starting a farm.

Walk Before You Run

Also from our childhood: Do your homework!





I’ve started several businesses. I’ve failed at several businesses. I’ve also succeeded, but in more-nuanced ways: patents, grants, relationships, license deals, lifetime memories, etc. One of the biggest lessons stressed by experts on business startups is: Start small, fail early, learn, pivot.

Can’t wait? OK. Buy some chicks, set up your brooder in your garage, and build a coop in your backyard. See if you like the daily work. Track your expenses. See if people who say they want locally sourced products actually put their money where their mouth is. See if they buy MORE than once or twice. The real test of the market is the repurchase.

When you have your little data set, analyze whether scaling up and investing real money—the stuff you’ve been saving for junior’s college education or your retirement (proverbial nest egg)—is better spent on a literal egg business. If customers don’t repurchase or new customers don’t replace old customers at a rate to sustain the business, then change or stop. Try something different.

Learn From Your Mistakes

a small, white, single-propeller plane taxis on an airport runway. [credit:, brendan sapp]
First, learn to fly a smaller plane. [CREDIT:, Brendan Sapp]
My brother is a rural appraiser in Iowa and has critically evaluated thousands of farm businesses for sellers and buyers. He says that the difference between farm businesses that succeeded and those that failed is that the successful ones stopped doing what wasn’t working. Learn from your mistakes and do it before it costs you the farm, literally.

Timing is everything, because:

  • Mistakes can be costly or terminal.
  • You have a limited amount of time and money.
  • Markets change.
  • There’s a lag time to start up anything.
  • The pioneer isn’t always the winner. Learn from other’s mistakes.
  • Better to be early rather than late…..but not too early.
  • You only get one chance to make a first impression.

While we can learn from aphorisms and old sayings, we can’t check our brain at the door. Marketing 101 states: “It is better to be first rather than better.” But, it might not always be that way.

Who was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean? Charles Lindberg, of course. Most of us know that. But, who was the second? Bert Hinkler, hardly a household name (Hinkler was an Australian pilot who flew across the southern Atlantic). Third was Amelia Earhart, and we all know her because she was the first woman. If you plan to be second (or third or fourth or… well, you get the point), you’ll need to be different. Different in memorable ways. Lots to think about.

Turning (farming) romance into reality, since 2015.

When You Are Planned Out

Plan in place and ready to roll? The next step is to start small and learn. Our UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension Small Farm Start-up School is meant to give you need-to-know information while sprinkling in farm tours, business planning, farmer panels and presentations from practitioners and experts.

Our Small Farmer Incubator program, launched in 2023, aims to give the dreamer a low-cost, low-risk way to learn a ton before investing their 401k in a farm. We provide land, facilities, equipment and access to markets. To learn more come to our incubator open house, set for 5 p.m. Feb. 13. Doing an apprenticeship can help you avoid beginner mistakes by shadowing successful farmers.

Get more information about the program in our trifold brochure.

So, ask yourself: Is your axe sufficiently sharpened? Are you really ready to start?


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Posted: January 8, 2024

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Farm Management
Tags: Ag, Agriculture, BecomingAFarmer, Business, Farm, Farm School, Grower, Pgm_Ag, Ranch, Small Farm, Small Farming

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