You don’t mind waking up before the sun rises. You’re undaunted by physical labor. Shovel a pile of manure? No problem. Work boots and dusty jeans make up your daily wardrobe- and you love it.
You might just be a farmer.
Nobody needs to explain the joys of working on a farm. Even city dwellers know its appeal. You become immersed in a natural, growing world. Crops aren’t children but you will devote a lot of time to caring for them and watching them grow.
People are less clear-headed about the drawbacks. Running a profitable farm is a real business and it carries all the risks associated with entrepreneurship. You need to love being outdoors but you also you need to have a strong head for business. Corporate farms are ready to devour profits if you slip.
Living a bucolic country lifestyle seems simple, however, it can be very expensive. Your farm will require a lot of money upfront before it can become profitable. For example, you’ll need to invest in equipment.
At https://www.exapta.com/product-category/planter, Exapta notes that its no-till planters and parts can increase your crop yield and beef up your profits. Farm equipment isn’t cheap but it’s necessary.
So, what do you need to know if you’re starting a farm?
- Figure out Your Finances
Debt will cripple you. It’s better to start off with a smaller, more manageable farm than to plunge into debt. Your income is far from guaranteed, especially in the early years. Most small farmers live modest lifestyles. Few can afford to be loaded with extra payments.
This doesn’t mean that you should never take on debt. Sometimes, you really will do need a new tractor and you can’t scrounge up the cash. It might make more sense to borrow money to cover the costs than to spend an indeterminate amount of time without a tractor.
If you decide to take out a loan, work out your business plan first. You want to borrow the minimum amount.
- Know Your Market
There’s no point in growing organic kale if you don’t have anyone to sell it to. It might be delicious, fresh, and healthy but you’ll only make money if the market falls in love. That’s why you need to meticulously research the area where you plan to build your farm. How will you reach your customers? What are people in the area buying?
Focusing on a niche market means that you’re forced to hunt for your customers. Big box retailers aren’t going to be knocking on your door looking to make a deal.
- Plan Your Produce
What are you going to grow? Farming is hard, dirty work. There are days where you’ll be exhausted at the end. If you’re going to devote so much time to farming, you may as well grow something that makes you happy. Don’t focus on growing vegetables when the idea of producing blueberries or bananas makes your heart sing.
- Brush up on Marketing
You’re on your own here. It’s your farm and you’re the boss. The responsibility lies entirely on your shoulders. You may have amazing, in-demand produce or meat but it doesn’t matter if nobody knows that you exist. Figure out you’re marketing plan BEFORE you start your farm, especially if you borrow money.
If there are no farmer’s markets in the area, you could team up with other growers and start one. You can also set up a small produce stand near your farm if there’s enough traffic. The best marketing strategy for your farm depends on where you’re located.
- Prepare for Hard Times
Farming is TOUGH. The work itself is hard and it’s difficult to earn a reliable income. However, if you’re passionate about what you do, it doesn’t matter. For many farmers, being outside and feeling the glow of the sun warming your face in the morning as you milk your cows is infinitely more pleasurable than trudging into an office building.
Still, you need to be prepared for when it gets rough. Because it probably will. Crops will fail, animals will get sick or die. If you can shoulder through it, you’ll appreciate your successes even more.
Starting a business farm is a great idea for people who love the outdoors and aren’t afraid of constant physical labor. Don’t go into the endeavor blindfolded. Speak to other farmers and learn everything that you can about the lifestyle before you commit.
Originally published on Africa Business