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.]
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.]
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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