7 Tips For New Farmers

November 7, 2017Diana Lengerson

These days, more and more people are turning to farming as a possible way of making a living. Whether you’re looking into a small, organic farm that you intend to keep local or want to dip your toes into the industrial farming market, there are likely going to be a lot of new experiences and uncharted territory for you to traverse in the future. Keep reading to check out some useful tips for new farmers! This information can help you maintain a bustling, successful farm, while avoiding some of the most common pitfalls that new farmers may experience.

Treat It Like A Business

Even a small farm is a business if you intend to sell your wares, and it should be treated like a business accordingly. You need to consider the market supply and demand. You’ll have to look at how the market in your area is doing, and what the customers are looking for. See if you can fill a niche. Determine if you can actually meet the needs of your potential consumers. You’ll also need to figure out the structure of your management system, how your farm is going to operate, what your price points and products will be, and how your finances will be managed. You may even need to deal with marketing at some point. This isn’t “just farming”, after all. It’s your start on a new source of income, and it needs to be treated with as much levity as any other upstart business.

This is also the point where you’ll need to decide just how your business structure will look. Do you want to be a limited liability corporation (LLC)? A sole proprietorship? All of the structural options will have different impacts on your taxes, so you should carefully look them over to decide what benefits your aims and intentions the best.

Be Prepared To Hire Employees

You may be thinking to yourself that a small farming business venture won’t require outside helping hands, but you may also quickly find that running even a small farm is much more work than you expected. Relying on family members or friends alone, especially if they’re unpaid or have no benefits, is a surefire way to put your business into a state of jeopardy. Figure out your managerial system. Figure out how you’ll pay employees, and what benefits you might offer. Understand employer law. Be prepared for any possible legal issues, like disputes with benefits, time off, or hour management.

Know That There Will Be Bad Years

Farming is an industry where a lot of the variables are outside of the farmer’s control. This means that, unfortunately, there will be both good and bad farming years that will impact your finances directly. One year, the weather might be warmer than expected, resulting in a crop of fruit that’s sweeter than usual and thus better selling. Another, you could face a bug infestation, a strain of harmful viruses that target your crops, or problems with local wildlife or even children. If you’re going into farming and expecting that every year will be a bountiful harvest, you might want to rethink things. It’s important to have backup funds and plans in the event that the unexpected happens and you end up having a drier, more sparse, or less healthy crop than usual. Of course, customer demands change over time, as well. You’ll need to monitor their wants often, which leads us to the next point…

Keep Up With Your Customers

It’s true that some crops are always a staple, and that some things will consistently sell well depending on the location of your farm and the type of clients you have. However, farming is an industry in which the demand is always in flux and changing. One year, you might completely sell out of a product that didn’t sell even half as well the year before. The next, one of your popular products may fall shy of its expected level of performance. Make sure that you’re always listening to the feedback of your customers and that you’re paying attention to the food trends in your area. This becomes more true the more specialized your type of farming becomes, as one simple downturn in interest can leave you scrambling to make up for lost profits.

Make Sure You Have The Right Permits

Unfortunately, you can’t just plant a bunch of blackberry bushes on your property one day and then harvest and sell them and call yourself a farmer. To be established as a business, there are actually quite a few permits or licenses that you might need. A business license, product liability insurance, employer identification number, and an officially registered business name are just a few of the most common things that will likely be required from you. The state laws on small businesses differ depending on where you live, but those will almost always be the same regardless of where you decide to set up shop. S

Look Into Loans Or Grants

As mentioned above, getting into farming is virtually the same as getting into any other business. It’s a big, expensive endeavor. Taking out loans with companies like Western AgCredit will allow for you to fund your dreams without having to worry about paying for everything out of pocket, which is often impossible for most upstart businesses anyway. With loans, there is a certain amount of gambling involved, as you’re essentially banking on the fact that your business will be successful enough to pay the loan back. The loaning agencies are taking that same risk on you. This is another reason why treating farming like a business is so important: you’ll be handling big amounts of money, and that always needs to be treated seriously.

Know The Land

This one might seem obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Certain plants grow better in certain areas. For example, you won’t exactly have an easy time growing bountiful and delicious rice if you live in an arid climate. Likewise, being smack in the middle of rural nowhere isn’t going to be great for you if you’re trying to sell your produce at your farm’s location. Know what will work best in your area. If what you want to do and where you are aren’t compatible, then you’re going to have to make some decisions about where you live or what you’re willing to produce.

Farming can be an exhaustive but rewarding industry to become involved with. By keeping these tips in mind as you start, you can help make your transition into the business run much more smoothly.

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