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Seeking Advice - Becoming a Farmer
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Matt    Posted 10-30-2002 at 08:17:57       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hello All,

My wife and I have made a decision that we are going to move out of the city and onto a farm. We have been doing a lot of reading and research about sustainable farming, and what to grow, not grow, how to market things, etc. We feel very confident that we can be sucessful at it. There is only one problem that we havent been able to tackle. How to get started.

As I said, we are currently living in a city. There are no farmers around us at all. You should see the looks I get when I drive my 2 tractors around the block. We do grow a pretty good garden on our 1/4 acre lot every summer. I myself grew up small scale farming, so I have a pretty good idea what farming is about. We currently have no debt except for our mortgage. My wife is a stay at home mom with our 7 month old son. We have been looking to move to North Eastern Wisconsin or North Western Michigan. We have family in both places. We currently live in Racine Wisconsin.

So for you people who have gotten back into farming, what was the best transition path for you? We are thining about trying to find an farm that we can rent for a couple of years. This way we would be in the farming area we want so we can learn from the surronding farmers. And if we find out the area isnt as good as we thought, it would be easy to move. This would also allow us to save money until we could afford more of a downpayment on a farmstead. Did a lot of you have to work a full time job off the farm at first, or did you find more part time work? If you worked a full time job, and the farm, how did you find time to spend with your family?

I really do enjoy this board. I am a regular lurker, and dont post very often. I hope to change this in the future.

Thanks for all the advice.

Chuck    Posted 11-02-2002 at 07:48:46       [Reply]  [Send Email]
you have many of the right ideas. this weekend in Mo there was a SMALL FARM TRADE SHOW. there will be another next year. lots of ideas on how to make it on the small farm. First, keepyour day job. rent if you can, it's generally much cheaper than owning, no small business owns it's building. find niche markets, subscribe to several magazines, SMALL FARM TODAY, STOCKMAN-GRASS FARMER, maybe ACRES USA, to name only a few. many states have a sustainable farm service thru the university, check there, find others who have like dreams. Mix up your production, its very easy to find 10 enterprise to produce 3 -5 thousand. hang in there it is possible. and you are young enough to work 18 hours a day. it won't happen overnight. GOOD LUCK

Coaltrain    Posted 10-31-2002 at 16:41:09       [Reply]  [No Email]
Matt doin't let any one discourage you! If you want to bad enough you will figure out a way. Just get after it, learn from your mistakes, doin't use someone elses money, only your own. Keep an open mind and be willing to adjust. I say this from experience. Coaltrain

MikeC    Posted 10-31-2002 at 11:17:58       [Reply]  [Send Email]
It's time to think outside the box a little. You need to grow something that has a decent potential for profit. Corn and beans ain't it on a small farm.

I have a friend that had been a city dweller all of his life. He bought 40 acres 5 years ago and decided to put in grapes. Huh? Grapes? Yep.

Turns out there are a lot of small wineries around the area that are crying for all of the grapes they can get their hands on. He has 10 acres in grapes and grosses about 10K per year per acre. Do the math.

He plans to build his own small winery in a few years. He estimates at that time he can gross about 30K per acre. He is adding another acre or so each year of production grapes.

All of the neighbors in the area thought that he was nuts when he put in something other than corn or beans. He still laughs all the way to the bank. He also still has a full time day job.

The bottom line? He lives on a farm and is living a dream. He could never do that if he would have listened to everyone that told him it couldn't be done or he would have to grow corn or beans to be a farmer. It can be done. You just gotta want to do it bad enough and think outside the box to make it work for you.

Good Luck!

Tom A    Posted 10-31-2002 at 05:32:59       [Reply]  [Send Email]

My better half and I spent most of our youth and all of my Army career dreaming about buying a little farm and settling on it. We read, studied and planned for years. Finally bought 18+ acres with a 100 year old bank barn and the original farmhouse and buildings.

Discovered that, despite growing up fairly rural and years of study we didn't even know enough to ask good questions! While there were some good days, there were very many more bad ones. Got discouraged, put the place up for sale after just a year...and we're not normally quitters.

Today I thank God that he never sent us a buyer with any money. Somewhere around the 2 year mark things sort of fell into place...not that it is easy, but we began to realize that it won't/can't all get done, so we plug at, do what we can and don't sweat the rest. We have great neighbors who've given us lots of advice, help and care; my friends on this site (past and present) have helped me out immeasurably, too, with advice.

Guess I'm saying that it can be done and it is worth it, but it won't be easy no matter how prepared you may think you are. I don't think I'd rent a farm first, 'cuz it'll be too easy to quit when it gets tough. Maybe rent a house/apartment for awhile while you're checking out a new area, but not the farm.

Also: strongly recommend you jointly write a plan for what you want to do. We did, and it helped a lot--you'd be surprised about how much you and your wife probably have differing views about a farm, and writing down what you are looking for forces you both to realize that and decide what you reall want. I can email you a copy of our old plan, if you care, to see what I'm talking about. I still update it every year as we accomplish some stuff and our priorities change on other stuff.

Keep reading. Lynn Miller has a very good book "Buying and Setting up your Small Farm" which might help; he focuses on horse farming, but the principles apply to any small farm. There's a couple of other good ones, but the titles escape me right now; again, if you're interested I'll take a look at my bookshelf and tell you which ones helped us most.

well, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!
Good luck,

LH    Posted 10-30-2002 at 21:03:44       [Reply]  [No Email]
Well I'm a dreamer and I believe that everyone should follow their dreams. If farming is yours then go for it. There are many alternative types of farming other than just a certain crop, or livestock. Do some research, plan your budget so you have enough money set aside to live on for 1 year before you plan on getting any return on your investment. One option I think is real promising is to buy the ground you want, then rent anything that's tillable out to help make your payments, it will also allow you to learn from the farmer and maybe give you time to decide what's right for you. If you decide you don't like farming you can always sell your property since farm ground rarely goes down in value.

MC    Posted 10-30-2002 at 17:21:14       [Reply]  [No Email]
You might check with the local bank in the farming areas you would like to relocate. They may have some paths for you to consider. They may even know of agencies that are willing to work with people like yourself. Hang in there, I admire your determination. Don't give up on your dreams!! This world needs more people like you.

kraig WY go for it Matt    Posted 10-30-2002 at 16:19:57       [Reply]  [No Email]
"Better to ride, even if you get thrown, then spending a life time wishing you had."

A dream is just that enless you go for it. I spent twenty years at a job I hated. Got a retirement out of it but I sure wouldn't do it again.

Hogman    Posted 10-30-2002 at 15:11:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
Matt I admire Your willingness to dream a little,without Them life can be pretty dull at times. But, with a wife and a child one must face reality and much as I'd like to say the other posters are just a bunch of kill joys Stick around for a while, get to know Us and go back to Their words, You'll see'em in a better light. They speak wisdom!!!
I left the farm,went West "DUST BOWL MIGRATION",got a little grubstake, went back to the farm,farmed(?) till it was gone,hired out "dark to dark" to get enough money to go West again. A long winding trail led to a 30 Year job that gave enough retirement to once again become a farmer,beef cows that is.

Profit?A living? My pensions Military,Civil Service and S.S. are enough so We can keep the farm going and buy grocerys. And, We are debt free............

Mudcat49    Posted 10-30-2002 at 11:01:27       [Reply]  [No Email]
My advise to you if you want to be a farmer is DON'T! BUT, if you have plenty of money in the bank that you feel like you need to just throw away then go to Vegas, The odds are a lot better!

Ron/PA    Posted 10-30-2002 at 10:15:45       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Matt, No way I could tell you how to make a go of it, else I'd do it myself. I have watched alot of Mennonite, and Amish farmers in our area and don't think I could handle that work ethic.
The one thing that I would consider if I were you is the idea of renting a farm. Many times a farm for rent has been idle for quite some time. That usually means a rather large investment bringing the buildings and mostly the ground up to snuff for productive and hopefully profitable farming. I have seen several cases of tennants dropping a whole bundle into a farm only to have the owner back out on them and they are left holding the bag. (their empty money bag).
Just my thoughts, hope you can make it work, arm yourself with a fierce determination, and an endless sense of humor, a health plan helps too.
Good luck and keep us posted,

Ana - around here    Posted 10-30-2002 at 10:07:55       [Reply]  [No Email]
The successful farmers here all inherited large, bottom-land, good soil from parents. If they had had to buy it, they couldn't afford it. The other farmers have a wife that works full-time, and then they just get by. I admire your young ambition and energy though. Who can say what the future holds? Hearing about your plans and dreams is heart-warming. Please keep us imformed. And by all means, go to a small town, find their feed store and get to know every farmer that comes in. They are a friendly bunch! Right, guys? And it's a great way to raise kids!

DeadCarp    Posted 10-30-2002 at 09:50:16       [Reply]  [No Email]
Matt, the best advice i can offer is to make sure you keep a solid day job cuz that will keep the lights on. Nowdays farming can be a real money-pit for the first ten years or so. Look around you til you find somebody you admire and ask them how they do it. There's a darn good reason for so few full-time farmers - we all have expenses!

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