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Book Review: Farms with a Future + 10 Tips For New Farmers (And MBAs)

Dreaming of ditching city life for your own farm share? Before you sign over the cash for those rolling hills, we highly recommend you read Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business by Rebecca Thistlewaite, a former vegetarian turned farmer and livestock rancher (she dubs herself a "meat farmer") who is behind the blog Honest Meat and also does consulting work for small farms. We hope she sleeps well.

In the book, Thistlewaite hits more than a dozen small farms across the country and shares some pretty great, no-nonsense advice from farmers who have learned the hard way -- you know, from experience. Among our favorite nuggets: "If you don't like people, don't do a CSA." Hard to argue with that one.

Get ten more start-up tips from Farms with a Future, and our annotations (How could we resist?), after the jump. No desire to become a farmer? No matter. Most are pretty handy for the old life in general.

10. "Farming requires capital and cash flow." [Read: If you are considering moving back in with your parents to save money to buy a farm, we suggest a mortgage reality chat with Christine Maguire of Rinconada Dairy.]

9. "Don't plant too much or start with too many animals before you have the cash flow to support them... start small." [Note: But should you end up with a few too many Berkshire pigs, we'd be happy to take that excess bacon of your hands.]

Barbara Spencer of Windrose Farms Picking Herbs
Barbara Spencer of Windrose Farms Picking Herbs
jenn garbee

8. For good, inexpensive farm labor, consider "unemployed MBAs, especially for everything marketing and sales related, as well as financial management." [Though we love the idea of MBAs in manure-covered overalls, it might be wise to skip over any former corporate execs referenced in Salt Sugar Fat.]

7. "Don't produce what everybody else is producing; Don't grow without an identified market or committed buyer." [Read: You can expect stiff competition if you want to get into the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market.]

6. "If you don't have the work ethic or time to see things through harvest, then don't waste your resources on it. I can't tell you how many new farmers I have seen till under poorly performing crops or liquidate flocks/herds of animals because they are growing poorly or are unhealthy due to neglect." [Read: If you spend an excessive amount of time texting, Tweeting or posting Instagram photos, any job that involves long hours and focused discipline -- farming, working as a chef -- probably isn't a brilliant career path.]

5. "Just because you are hidden in a hollow or valley or on a middle-of-nowhere farm does not mean that regulators won't notice what you are doing." [Pretty solid advice for moonshiners, pot farmers, et al.]

Barbara Spencer Tilling The Soil In Her Greenhouse
Barbara Spencer Tilling The Soil In Her Greenhouse
jenn garbee

4. "Don't enter farming with either a romantic or sexy image in your mind, because farming is neither." [Read: Those scripted Outstanding in the Field productions are just that -- productions.]

3. "Feel free to experiment, but don't grow the wrong things for your soil, climate, and land base." [Read: Despite what your mother told you -- You can do anything you set your mind to! -- Mother Nature is still in charge.]

2. "Anticipate lots of insects and rodents wanting to eat your crop, and prepare accordingly." [Read: Don't let those gorgeous Whole Foods apples fool you. The world is full of cockroaches.]

And our favorite...

1. "Don't assume you know everything. You have a lot to learn." [Preferably not via Wikipedia.]


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