IF YOU’RE SEARCHING for something meaningful and rewarding to do with your life, be a farmer. If you appreciate the land and want to work it to help feed the world, be a farmer. If you’re looking to join the ranks of some of the most down-to-earth and salt-of-the-earth folks around, be a farmer. If you think that farming is your calling, be prepared. Be well prepared.
Farming has never been easy — if it were, a lot more people would be doing it. But, if you have the capital and “the right stuff” for the business, an abundance of resources today makes the “I-want-to-farm” research-and-planning phase much less cumbersome.
As with most research, you can start with the Internet. An excellent initial resource for would-be farmers is BeginningFarmers.org. I’ve mentioned this site in a prior column. Primarily, the guide it provides is for small farm operations, but that’s okay, because most U.S. farms today are owned and operated by families or small businesses.
With a quiz, a question, and a statement — “It’s complicated!” (starting a farm, that is) — BeginningFarmers.org promotes and encourages thoughtful thinking about farming vision and values, farm location, planning, education and experience, risk management, and reasonable objectives and expectations. “Start small,” the site advises.
A Google search for “how to start a farm” also can lead you to these helpful sites (and more):
• How to Start a Farm: 15 Steps — www.wikihow.com
• 9 Rules for Starting Your Own Farm — www.artofmanliness.com
• I Would Like to Start Farming: Where Do I Begin? — www.smallfarm.org
• Starting a Small Hobby Farm — www.southernstates.com
Good and thorough planning for a farming career and business also will require some time away from the computer and outside the home. Visit the local cooperative extension service — which, in Polk County, would be the UF/IFAS Extension Service office at 1702 S. Holland Parkway in Bartow — and talk with the agents and experts there.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, once you’ve narrowed down your choice of farming specialty — Will it be blueberries or vegetables? Will it be ornamental plants or tropical fish? — seek out folks who have “been there, done that” and spend some quality time with them. The education you’ll get from experienced farmers and industry old-timers will beat any old thing you’ll find on the Internet.
column by BAXTER TROUTMAN
BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, and Arcadia. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.