I know this because I was you 10 years ago.
Ten years ago, I wanted a farm—and I have one now. But I took the hard path. I didn’t have a good guide for exactly what I needed as my focus. So I’ve put together five critical steps to getting your dream farm that, if taken seriously, will get you the farm you want.
Approach these with caution, though, because at the end of these five steps, you will be a farmer.
If you have never farmed, it’s important for you to gain some physical experience. Maybe this is simply working for a local farmer one weekend per month for a year—perhaps while you save money. Or, more effective still would be a season interning. Can’t afford that? Perhaps you could land a job on a local farm—that would be a great option for education. But farming is a complex and difficult lifestyle, and you need to get your hands dirty to know for sure whether you even like it. The amount of time you can dedicate to getting hands-on experience will greatly increase your chances of success.
2. Decide on a Type of Farming
The type of farming that interests you determines a lot about the next few steps (and if you’re not sure, getting some experience as stated above will help you find what you like in farming). A vegetable farm has much different requirements than a beef operation—infrastructure, capital, water, all of it. So decide on the kind of farm you want, so you can know how much money you will need to start it.
Find Some Capital
Farms are perhaps not as expensive as other businesses to start, but they do cost money. Therefore it is important to locate some amount of capital either through savings, grants or loans, to pay for all the small things that add up to a farm—irrigation, fencing, harvest bins, whatever it might be. Once you know the type of farm, you can get an idea of what it costs—that will determine your up-front capital needs.
3. Find Some Land
Now that you know what you want to farm, and you have some money to do so, you can look for suitable land. Knowing what you want to grow or raise helps determine the types of land you should seek. Some people start with available farmland, in which case you might need to decide whether such land will satisfy the kind of farming you hope to do. Forcing a hilly property into a vegetable operation might be a challenge, and even if it’s free or cheap, that land might not be the best option for you. Leave open the possibility of leasing land. This can be an optimal way to save money, build your brand and learn without the weight of a mortgage on your shoulders.
5. Design the Whole Thing
Before plowing or building, take time to consider what this farm will look like. Where will the gardens be? Where will the barn sit? How much fencing will you need, and what will it cost? Really think it out, even do some market research to understand how in demand the product you hope to raise will be and what competition, if any, you will have. Consider hiring a consultant to help you, or at least ask some farmers you like for their input. No matter what you do, make sure that you treat this journey as a business. That’s not always as fun as simply starting a dream farm and having all of the different projects one can do on a farm, but it is just about the only way to guarantee your dream farm survives.