FARMING COMMERCIALLY isn’t for the fainthearted, but no day goes by without someone, somewhere, considering a leap into the profession. People see the increasing worldwide need for food, they see new farming operations pop up around their communities, they see some outward signs of business success, and they think: “Hey, I want to be a farmer! I can do this, too!” Well, maybe — and maybe not.
Anyone with thoughts about starting a new business— any kind of business — has to do a lot of soul searching, ask a lot of questions, and do a lot of research. When it comes to the business of farming, you can raise “a lot” by a factor of two, or three, or more. There’s no doubt it’s an important business, and it’s often gratifying and rewarding, but it’s also a very demanding and challenging business. A lot of things can go wrong — and wrong in a hurry. You have to really admire and respect all the people — especially the self-employed — who make farming a life’s work.
If none of that has tempered your motivation, if your heart’s desire really is to farm and grow and help to feed your community and people around the world, where would your preparations and research begin? One place is a website guide called, appropriately, BeginningFarmers.org.
The first thing the guide suggests is that you take a quiz to determine whether farming really is the right career choice for you. It goes on to make this very important — and perhaps understated — point: It’s complicated! “Starting a farm is complicated because it encompasses so much.”
If you’re still encouraged at this point in the guide, it takes up with several things to consider, including vision and values, farm location, planning, education and experience, managing risk, and starting small.
You really have to appreciate all farmers and respect the desire and courage of anyone who wants to make farming a career. Success in the field begins with paper, planning, and preparation — long before the first spade of dirt is turned.
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 citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.