7 key tips in starting out in farming for beginners

7 key tips in starting out in farming for beginners

Mkulima today more than ever the youth are getting into agriculture. This is farming for beginners. The old are not left behind either but the challenges still exist. So today we cover seven steps on farming for beginners and how to make it.

Having had the privilege over the years to work on many different farms.  I’ve identified seven crucial things that most successful farmers did that allowed them to farm full time and make a good living at it. And today we discuss the seven tips on farming for beginners and how to start a farm, I’m going to share these top seven tips farming for beginners with you.

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Beginning

Hey, what’s going on guys? This is about all things, market gardening. We cover the production side business and everything in between.

I  hope that you can use this information on farming for beginners and start growing your own food or get started on your farming journey if that is something of interest to you,

So you’ve decided you want to start a farm or you think about starting one.

Maybe because you have enough of the life that you’re currently living, the job you’re currently working.

You’d like to grow the majority of the food you consume, or you look for a more meaningful and fulfilling way of living or just out here to make some millions.

Whatever the reason you have, when it comes to farming, you’ve got to be strategic about it.

Just growing a bunch of stuff and sell any surplus you may have is not going to ensure you will be able to make a living out of it.

1. Farm as a business

Therefore, my tip number one, and a very important tip when you’re just starting out approach your farm as a business, not as a hobby.

Many of us farmers get into farming because we want meaning in our life. We want to grow good food. We want to be beneficial to the local and global environment.

And yes, what if we could make a living from something like growing good food for the local community, and earn from it that’s a win-win situation, right?

But understand that if you want to scale up from your own garden, into generating an income out of it,. There’s a whole bunch of aspects that come into play. You need to make sure that there’s enough demand for locally grown products in your area. That will allow you to make a living out of it.

You need to identify who your customers are going to be, what crops you’re going to grow for these customers and how much of each individual crop you will have to grow.

You need to invest in the right tools and equipment that will allow you to streamline the day to day operations on your farm. You will also need to plan your profits,

Track everything you do on the farm. And you need to have a great attitude and a strong will if you want to make it work, but above all, you need to enjoy this kind of lifestyle farming stuff. I often ee new farmers come into this farming world with all these big dreams and thinking of growing all of their own food and end up making millions.

And sell any surplus, they may have to some friends, family, and neighbors, but at the end of the day, if you want to farm for a living, you’ve got to plan for it.

And I think that if you like the outdoors, you like to get your hands dirty in the soil and you love growing crops farming might be the best way of earning your life out there.

The things you will have to do as a farmer are so diverse that it makes it a really interesting way of earning a living.

2. Plan your profits

So with that said, approach a farm as a business, which brings us to tip number two, plan your farm profits, just growing a bunch of stuff, sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that and we’ll see how much we’re going to make at the end of the season is not a good way to start your farming business.

Instead, plan your profits. First, get clear on what it is you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to do it. When it comes to starting a farm, generally speaking, you’ve got three options.

One, you start your farm as a side business, which means that you keep your full-time job. And every time you’re not working at your nine to five, you work on your farm.

Two you start your farm as a part-time business, you reduce the amount of time that you work at your current job to a part-time job. And you devote more time to working on your farm or three you start your farm as a full-time business.

You save up enough money that will allow you to survive at least a full year without any income. And you devote all your time to farming.

Now, every method is possible and depending on your context and your comfort levels, you will have to decide what is best for you.

By far, the quickest way of learning farming is by doing it full time. This way you can spend all your time on your farm, setting up the infrastructure, growing your crops, and getting to know the ins and outs of farming.

This is also the method that brings the most risk with it. On the other hand, if you farm only in your free time and your weekends, it will take you a long time to get your farm up and running.

And it will take you a lot longer to learn the ropes though. This method is the most risk-free way of doing it.

Since you’re still getting the salary of your nine to five, once again, it really depends on your own situation and you will have to decide for yourself what’s best for you, but no matter what road you’re going to take, you have to make sure that you plan the profits of your farm.

So my tip for you is to get clear on what it is you need to earn in order for you to reach your goals. Once you have this financial objective in mind, you can now start breaking this down into a production system.

The best way to do it is by identifying first what customers you were going to serve and what you would actually grow for these customers that would allow you to reach your determined financial goal.

This will enable you to develop a production plan that is in line with both the local demand, as well as your objectives.

So decide on one of the three methods of starting a farm that resonates the most with you personally, get clear on how much it is you need to earn, identify your customers and the actual demand and plan your production system around it.

3.Generate income

Tip number three, start generating an income. Often when I talk to new beginning and aspiring farmers about farming, they’re trying to do a little bit of everything and they end up experimenting with way too many things.

Let’s start growing 30 different types of vegetables, a couple of pasture-raised chickens, a food forests, aquaponics, some cows.

And let’s add a little bit of honey in the mix and I get it because I’ve been there myself.

When I got back from my travels and our overseas work on many different farms, we wanted to apply everything that we had learned.

We wanted to have orchards, uh, food, forest palms, and more vegetable production, animal systems, bees, and a bunch of other stuff.

There was no real structure and no plan. And what ended up happening is we got us off a piece of land, and we actually invested quite a large amount of money into features that would have never bring us any revenue. We just wanted to create a paradise and sell any surplus we were going to get.

Basically, we were dreaming, as you can imagine, we quickly had to reevaluate the way we were doing things. And that’s when we decided to go full-time into market gardening.

As this is enterprise is one of the lowest barriers to entry in the farming world with one of the quickest returns on investments.

So my tip to you is to start small and start with income-generating enterprises like a market garden, and then grow from there.

You can always add additional enterprises later on onto your farm.

That might be more in line with your ideology, but when you’re just starting out, you need to focus even more. So if you’ve never farmed before, whether on your own or for someone else, it’s a big learning curve to grow certain crops, to implement systematized work and to handle all the business aspects of it.

Start with a small piece of land, pick a handful of familiar crops that are in demand, start growing them and start sending them to your customers. Start building our trust and relationship with your customers and build up a reputation with the quality and freshness of your projects.

4. Invest in customer relationships

But above all focus on generating an income as soon as possible, which brings us to tip number four, invest time and effort in customer relationships.

One of the most important factors in successful farming is the relationships you build with your customers.

This is where the small scale farmer can distinguish themselves from large scale agriculture.

The way small scale farmers can compete with big farms and all the inputs that projects is by providing your local community with the best of the best.

And when I say that, I mean this literally in terms of everything,

  • your produce,
  • your surface,
  • your representation,
  • intimacy,
  • the personalization,
  • like every single thing.

When it comes to building relationships with your customers.

The first impression counts when we first presented ourselves to our potential customers during the market study phase to find out where the demands were and what the actual demand was.

We made sure that we always looked clean and presentable, a little shave, clean nails and decent clothing can go a long way for a first impression.

After we had identified who we were selling to and what we were going to grow, we started growing our crops and selling them to our customers.

This is where the quality of freshness comes into play and the way you communicate with your customers, this is where you can make a big difference.

First of all, the quality of your produce has to be top-notch after all, you can be as nice and likable as you want. But if your produce is not at the level where it should be, eventually people will turn elsewhere from there on it’s all about being genuine, honest, and transparent.

Whenever the opportunity allows it, get to know the names of your customers and show sincere interest in them and their lives. Get to know the name of their kids, their hobbies, their interests.

And before you know it, you might even gain a new friend building relationships like this will give your customers a personal connection to you and the food they are eating, the food that you’ve grown for them.

What also helped us a lot with building the relationships we have with our customers was to share the story of our farm and why we got started farming in the first place.

Now, obviously when doing this, you don’t just go to people and start sharing your story, your values, and what you stand for.

Instead, let the conversation naturally evolve and when customers start asking questions, get the ball rolling from there.

Another great way to build those important relationships is to have an open door policy but be careful as some doing farm visits might have different motives.

We allow customers to come and visit the farm on predetermined days and times to buy the project directly from the farm or just for a visit, then a chat this way.

They can get a feeling for the farm, the work that we do and see for themselves, how we produce our crops and the amount of care and attention we put into growing those crops. It’s one thing to imagine the way the food is being produced, but being able to see it with your own eyes is something different entirely.

Now, I do want to say that if you do allow people to come and buy directly from the farm, be very clear when it’s the best moment for you as the farmer to allow them to visit, to buy the produce.

Last thing you want is to stop several times per day, to chat for half an hour when you’ve got things that need to be done, or we know if you’re able to build strong connections with the people in your area, and you build a loyal following.

5. Find a market or customers early

You don’t have to compete as much on price and you don’t have to worry that that much on selling your produce.

Tip number five, identify your customers and the demand before you start growing. Before you start growing, before you invest in tools, before you do anything, do a little bit of research, get to know the demands in your area.

More specifically, get to know who your main customers are going to be. Look for the possibilities in your area, what market streams are saturated and which ones are in need of your products.

Whether you’re going to sell  from the farm, or you’re going to sell your products at the local farmer’s markets or chefs, you need to have a good idea of whether you will be able to reach your financial goals with the demand in your area.

The way we did it was quite simple. We first made a big list with all the potential customers within a radius of our farm, that we were willing to drive, to deliver a product to.

Next to that, we made a big list with all the potential crops that we were going to grow with this list in hand, we literally went out and surveyed our potential customers during this allowed us to quickly identify the estimated demands for certain crops in our area, but also who our best customers were going to be.

Besides getting to know the demands in your area, talking directly to your potential customers allows you to spread the word of your farm and will you to start building those essential connections for farmer’s markets.

On the other hand, and a great way to identify what is in demand is by looking at what other farmers are growing and observe what is working well and what’s less in demand.

Go to several farmer’s markets in your area and make sure to visit them at the beginning of his day, as well as at the end of the day.

Keep notes of the crops that are selling well and write down how much they’re selling it for.

Even better before you start farming, chances are you need to buy your own items somewhere. Why not buy directly from the potential competitors to get the full experience and observe and analyze everything that they do well, but also the things that might be lacking.

Having a basic understanding of what the demand is in your area for certain crops will allow you to create a production plan that is aligned with the demand.

So before you do anything on your farm, start by identifying your market streams first and identify the crops that are in demand.

6. Start small

So you won’t end up growing crops that no one wants tip number six, start small with the right equipment and grow with your market.

When you’re just starting out, it’s much better and easier to start farming on a quarter acre, get your production systems under control, the weed management under control and the overall day-to-day tasks on the control, as opposed to farming a full acre in total chaos.

When we started out, we started only with a third of an acre, and I’m really glad we did.

If we would have started out with an acre, I don’t know whether we would have been able to keep up with all the production and the management that goes into farming.

The acre of land, starting with just a third of an acre, allowed us to implement our growing systems, our weed management systems, and really helped us to concentrate on learning both the production and the business side of farming without stressing out too much.

Start off by growing anywhere between 10 to 25 different items that you know is a demand for, and really concentrate on getting to know how to grow these items to a good end result that your customers will love and you are proud of to sell.

Once. You’ve got these handfuls of crops under control, and, you know, you can get a great end product you can then start venturing out into growing even more crops for your customers.

Also, when you start a farm, remember you don’t have to start with the craziest infrastructure tools and equipment.

Sure. You need some basic tools and the right infrastructure set up, but you don’t need to have a greenhouse to get started.

Uh, you don’t need the paper for transplant to get started, and you certainly don’t have to invest in a walk-behind tractor.

7. Track everything on the farm

This will allow you to get started quickly and efficiently. Tip number seven, track everything. One of my biggest areas when I first started out farming was the lack of notes that I was taking on the numbers, the crops and the things that were happening on the farm.

I somehow always seem to be too busy or I would extend it and say, I’ll do it after or later and finding it.

Never did it a big mistake. If you want to know how profitable a crop is, days to maturities per crop, growing season, the characteristics of different varieties from the same crop, the best problems during different parts of the year and the thousands of other things keep track of everything.

There are so many moving parts on the farm and trying to remember every single thing is an impossible task. If you don’t write it down, you will forget it.

Make simple spreadsheets for the production, track your revenue. How much are you selling of what, what did you grow too much of and what did you not have enough of.

By writing down every single piece of data into simple spreadsheets will allow you to optimize your production systems with every growing season. Ever since I started really analyzing the data from the farm, I realized that some crops were not making enough money.

We quickly took out those crops and replaced them with something else. This is just a small example of the benefits of tracking, being successful in farming largely comes down to your planning tracking and how well you adapt your plans to fit your needs and the needs of your customers.

Credits The Dutch farmer

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