Agriculture is the backbone of life. However, with the average age of a farmer in the United States being 56 years old, it’s becoming crucial that younger generations to chip in. But how does someone start? Here are a few things to remember before you dive into becoming a first-time farmer.
1. Get a loan
If you don’t have the available assets to start a farm, it’s best to inquire about a loan. The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans available. Grants can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, Community Food Coop Farm Fund, Northwest Farm Credit Services and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), to name a few. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has a list of loans available along with the rates and terms, maximum loan amount and purpose.
Read more: Farming for Profit: Loans
2. Infrastructure and Location
It’s important to pick the right location and ask yourself a few questions: What crop will you be growing? What type of temperature do the crops grow best in? Once you’ve decided, the next step is creating a business plan that best describes your operation goals. But before planting your first seed, comb through your plan in detail to decide if it’s the right choice of crops that would arrive at your desired yields and profit.
3. Check water and soil levels
When choosing location, conduct water and soil level tests, as well as consulting with local government offices to gain more information the farm land. The most important quality of a farming operation is the quality of the land. If there is water on the land you purchased, you may need permission from the local government to use it, according to the WA State Department of Ecology. Every plot of land varies, so it’s best to do research before renting or purchasing the land. Check soil levels to make sure there is an adequate amount to grow your crops.
4. It’s not about the money
If you’re thinking about starting a farm to rake in the cash, you’re in the wrong field. According to the USDA, in 2014, only 40 percent of residence farms had positive income from farming activities and the positive farm income contributed only 7 percent of their total household income. In 2012, an intermediate-size farm obtained “only 10 percent of their household income from the farm and 90 percent from an off-farm source, according to What nobody told me about small farming article.
5. Educate yourself
Gaining more education is always a good thing. Whether it’s to freshen up your knowledge about farming or if you need to learn the basics, attending classes at your local Cooperative Extension can help in the long run. Proper training can prepare you for the worst, especially risk management. Classes can also educate you on being prepared to take control of any situation that you may face like natural disasters or financial problems, to name a couple. The USDA, along with many local and regional organizations, can offer classes or training for beginner farmers.
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