26 Farmers Share Their Best Start-up Tips

There’s always something new to learn on the farm. If you’re just starting out, heed the advice of these farming pros.

by Dani Yokhna

You’re in the midst of living a true farm life, whether it’s the dream you’re pursuing after work hours or the entrepreneurial endeavor you have underway for sustaining your family. While we’re glad you rely on us here at HobbyFarms.com to bring you the resources and inspiration you need to keep your farm afloat, it’s time to throw the agricultural ball into your court.

We asked you, our readers, to send us your best farm start-up tips, and of course, you didn’t disappoint. Find some of our favorite beginning-farmer advice below, or head over to our Facebook conversation to read more and offer your own words of wisdom.

Cardinal rule of farming: Do your research.

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“When looking to buy land, make total absolution there aren’t deed restrictions for that property that will prevent you from your goals. The latter is the biggest problem I have now. Whoever heard of 10-acre properties with deed restrictions stating that you can’t have any animal except dogs or cats? I mean, really?” —Betty Wilmott

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“RESEARCH anything that you are considering bringing on your farm. I sorta jumped into the farming again after many years and wanted to get started NOW. I bought on impulse and got overwhelmed really fast, so I’ve backed up, taken a breath and now am more informed about all my animals and what I want our hobby farm to be about. This spring, our animals will be healthier and our garden will be the best it can be because I research now!” —Gloria Harsh Crabtree

Consult the old pros, too.

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“Try to make acquaintance with some of the old-timers, and offer to help them whenever you’re available. Helping and paying attention is learning. You’ll make friends who share commonalities and interests with you.” —Rob Gilmore

“Make friends with the older generation of farmers who have similar interests in livestock. They have bountiful knowledge in their specific fields. They have lived all the ups and downs, illnesses in livestock and how to treat them. They have an understanding of animals likes and dislikes, temperaments, lodging needs, et cetera. And they usually love to share their knowledge with whomever will listen. Ask veterinary advice, read all the related books you can get your hands on, go to swap meets and auction sales. Talk, talk and listen lots.” —Robin Coulter

Invite some friends along for the ride.

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“Get some mason bees to pollinate your fruit trees, flowers and other crops. They’re one of the world’s best pollinators and will help you get great crop production. They are gentle, non-aggressive bees—you don’t need a bee suit or all the other expensive supplies needed to raise Honey bees.” —Kelly Larsen

“Get a good accountant.” —Noel Meade O’Brien

“I get a kick out of walking out of my home and having chickens stalk me for food from all over the place—it’s like a scene from a movie. At first, all you hear is feet crunching on leaves and then you see them coming from everywhere looking at you. Then they stare at you and follow you ’til they get food. That just makes my day!” —Jodi Skoien-Tucker

Give yourself room to grow—both literally and figuratively!

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“Give the plants plenty of space!” —Erik Hager Giselle Hager

“Give yourself a five-year grace period from the very beginning. Understand that it isn’t a constant ‘rosy’ picture. Sometimes it is physically and emotionally difficult to keep going. Whether you’re concentrating on growing crops or tending livestock, you will most likely deal with the full circle of experience in the first five years—birth, illness, injury, death, miracles you can’t explain. If you’re looking to make a profit in any way from your land, it’s still advisable to give yourself five solid years before you expect to see any kind of measurable bottom line.” —Effie Tallent

“Getting started is really exciting, but don’t jump in and start everything at the same time. If you want chickens, become skilled and knowledgeable about them before adding goats. Know each topic well before adding a new one. It will reduce stress, heartache and headache, as well as prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed and overworked.” —Christina Coughlin

“I’ve known a ton of first-time gardeners who lost interest after their first season because they tried every advanced technique they read in gardening magazines, and the bugs and disease ruined their entire harvest. Start simple: seeds, dirt, water. Take what you learn and expand on it next year.” —Charles Coker

But don’t limit yourself too much!

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“When you designate your gardening area, don’t be too afraid to go a little larger than you planned. When you plan a garden, it looks great on paper in a 5-by-5 area, until you start planting and realize that not all of your plants will fit! Even if you do not use the outside of the garden that you worked and tilled, at least you will not have to worry with encroaching grass runners.” —Eric Yeager

Grab your pen and paper, because you’ll need to write it all down.

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“Keep a gardening journal. I chart on graph paper where I plant everything year to year. I put what I planted, when I planted, if I started from seeds or transplants from the garden center, et cetera. Then when the year is over, I make notes while everything is fresh in my mind as to what worked and what did not.” —Denise Burek

“Keep a journal. Record the weather, when you started seeing certain bugs, what/where you planted, what you did to heal certain animals’ ailments, et cetera. Your own record is the best advice in future years! —Lindsay Stephens

“Keep all receipts to see if it is really cheaper to raise your own goods or buy them. Remember quality of homegrown adds value to your goods. Keep a diary of what works and what doesn’t.” —Ma Lance

And follow mom’s advice: Waste not, want not.

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“Compost everything and incorporate it back into your dirt the following year. I started doing this and have the biggest tomato crop I’ve ever seen.” —Carol Woelfel Thames

“Canning your garden is not as difficult as some may think, and a pressure canner is a great investment. If you’re unsure how to do it, ask to help someone you know so they can show you and answer questions as you use it.” —Marlo M Lovoi

“Consider planting an extra row for the hungry. Donate surplus produce to your local food pantry!” —The Gardenworks Project

Above all else, use common sense…

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“Buy high-quality rubber boots and never turn your back on the rooster.”—Gucci to Goats

“Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day.” —Bud Price (per Harry S. Truman)

“It isn’t compost when it’s still steaming.” —Susan Younger

“Never put eggs in your coat pocket! No matter what, you will crush them and have a gooey mess.” —Andrea Bergdoll

“Use some type of sunscreen when out weeding! I didn’t one day last year and paid dearly with a lovely burn even though the temps were not that hot. Oh, and hydrate with plenty of water, not just the plants but you, as well.” —Lori Williamson

… throw in some experiments (even if they don’t work out) …

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“Don’t let male turkeys free-range near tourists. Just trust me on this one.” —Van Alaniz

“If it doesn’t seem to be producing like you want it to, sprinkle some Epsom salt around it. Did it for my tomatoes the first year, and we had more than we could have eaten all year. Sprinkled it around my apple trees, and the bugs weren’t as bad and the apple production was insane, twice as big and 100-percent the amount of fruit.” —Jillann Marszalek

… and don’t forget to have fun!

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“Have fun with it. My first year was very successful because I had fun making different paths and trying different mounds for my tomatoes. This year, the boyfriend got more scientific, and we didn’t have as many tomatoes! Have fun!” —Cleone Skaug


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