Are the start up costs too high to start a farm nowadays?

mike758August 11, 2013

I'm now 18 and grew up in the suburbs. One thing I really enjoy is gardening and raising animals. I've always been into farming and I would like to be a farmer myself. I would like to do something "green" like free range poultry or organic farming. I already know what I would be up against work wise, I know it's hard work but its definitely work I can handle and enjoy. The only thing holding me back though and the thing that people keep saying to turn my idea of being a farmer down is the start up costs. Between machine costs, land costs, and property tax, it seems almost impossible to start a farm. And I wouldn't even consider relying on marrying a girl who already has a farm, because whats the chance a "city boy" like me would find that.

Anyway though, even though its what I'd want to do, are the start up costs too high for me to be a farmer?

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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Mike,

I don't know where you are now, but you probably have some CSA farms (Community Supported Agriculture) nearby. Look online or ask at your local farmer's market.

Ask for a tour, see what happens, ask lots of questions about the work involved.

Biggest cost (at least around east central Illinois) would be cost of land. And that can be expensive and, at your age, darned difficult to obtain financing. Even if you buy something of less than 5 acres, and that can be a lot of land for a novice, your cost of acquisition can stop you in your tracks.

An alternative...you might see if you can rent some land from a local farmer. Start with one or two acres. Equipment for something of that size would not involve a lot of money.

Sometimes, county extension offices offer classes on getting started on something like you envision. Contact them to see if they offer that.

The CSA that I belong to is always seeking volunteers to help with 'stuff' on the farm. You need a bit of on-the-job experience before you go too far. Learn through osmosis.

The big thing is to ask lots of questions of folks who are currently doing what you want to do.

Best of luck on this.

Jim

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:04AM
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trisha_51(5 Nebraska)

The Univ of NE, Lincoln has beginner farmer classes; maybe your state university has something like it, too.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 6:43PM
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heavenlyfarm(zone 6b)

Mike,
I just wanted to say I feel your pain!! It's about the same situation for me. This year, I finally got back into gardening (of course now its too late to start much) and farming and I'm also searching for a new better job also one that gives me set hours and more time to work on gardening! I want a farm one day and I just keep saving. I'm 22 and the whole farm dream started when I was 18 also!( kinda got myself depressed about the chances and became a workaholic). Anways, just keep trying to save money, get out there and meet new people that are farmers as well and attend courses/classes if they are available! Every bit counts :) Wish you luck on your farm dream! :)
~michael

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 9:36AM
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Sumatra(6)

Yes, it's possible, and you don't need a lot of money, but you need to know what you're planning on doing.

You've got to really want to do this. And be sure that's what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time.

Break things down to the smallest possible facets. Figure out all the problems, find solutions, then find sources.

Cheapness and quality are the two standards to look for. They're very hard to find, but the options are there.

Lastly, experience counts as much as work. So... have you ever grown anything? Or had a few chickens?

I've been planning my farm since I was 13(currently 16), and there's no end to the research needing to be done.

This post was edited by Sumatra on Wed, Oct 2, 13 at 21:17

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 9:13PM
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Agapefarmfhl

My wife and I are in the same boat as you, The key is to start where you are and with what you have available. you can do a lot in just a house and a yard, you'd be surprised. we currently are renting a house on a little lot from our cousins (0.2 acres) not much land but there is A LOT you can do with it, just maximize on whatever you have available and keep your mind focused on your goal and it will happen! O ya, marry a great girl with the same goal! ;)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 11:00PM
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brookw_gw

At your age and level of experience, I'd look for an internship to see what the life was actually like. It's too easy to romanticize about the bucolic life. There's a reason farming is declining as a profession. Nonetheless, we started a farm 8 years ago and aren't looking back. We also didn't quit our day jobs. We bought 22 acres of wilderness 8 years ago and have turned 6 acres of it into a fruit and vegetable farm. Land prices are unreal right now, but tax on farmland is still very cheap. Originally, mine were $12 a year. Now, they're a whopping $20/year. On the land, equipment, pond, trees, berries, roots, etc., we've easily spent over $150,000. All is paid for but with a lot of sacrifice. Fuel is a huge expense. We also need a building, greenhouse, and irrigation system which may run around $70,000. We have taken a loss every year we've been in business. Some day though, there should be some profit.

Time is the biggest investment as it takes certain crops years to mature--fruit trees, berries, asparagus, etc. Then there are structures like trellises, deer and other crittter protection, etc. The time I spend on the farm is unreal. I have left the state once since buying it. From April to the middle of Sept, there were 3 days I did not work on the farm. Then there are weather, disease, insects, and predation to deal with. One bad storm can wipe ten years of work away. Good luck staying organic if you live anywhere other than the west coast.

Marketing your product is a whole other realm as demand and prices fluctuate and tastes and attitudes change.

Still, I don't regret anything I've done and look forward to doing it till I can't do it any longer.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 5:02PM
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