Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nature's Harmony Farm Q&A - Part 3

Today we are going to tackle part three of my question and answer interview with Tim of Nature's Harmony Farm in Georgia. If you just stumbled across the blog today I encourage you to check out "Part One" and "Part Two" of the interview to get a basis for these questions and answers. Also, in this part of the interview Tim took some time to answer questions from a couple of readers. I hope you enjoy the interview, and come back tomorrow for the final part of "The Beginning Farmer" Blog Q&A with Tim.

The Beginning Farmer - Tim, first of all thank you so much for being so willing share with me and anyone who has a chance to stumble across the blog. I just hope it is as much of a benefit to others as it is for me. Here is a multi-part question from "The Beginning Farmer Blog" reader, John. Tim, you made a pretty big cultural change (or are making ... editor) from having a high-tech career and income to farming. Looks like this kicked off in earnest in 2007 and will be in full motion in 2009. What do you miss from that former way of life? What did you do right? What would you do differently if you had to do it again?

Nature's Harmony Farm - Hi John. It’s a great question, and it’s one that I’m wondering how my answer today will compare to the answer I might give you in 3-5 years. Honestly, I don’t miss anything at all. What’s there to miss? I used to travel a lot...coast to coast every 2-3 weeks, and to Europe every 6-8 weeks. Now, you can’t get me to even travel for vacation. I don’t miss the board meetings, the sales calls, the servers crashing, the difficulty recruiting in times of growth and the process of cutting back in times of decline. I don’t miss being “the guy”.

Now I’m outdoors, using my muscles and observing nature. Sure, I still have corporate projects that I consult on, but find myself on the farm trying to figure out how to sell a ten dollar chicken instead of devising a new market penetration strategy for a client like I’m supposed to.

What I did “right” was I found something that I was passionate about. That’s crucial. I’ve always done the same thing in business, and I suppose that’s why I don’t really miss business. I was never just into the technology or the growth. I always put myself behind something I was passionate about. At this stage of my life, I’m passionate about humanely raising healthy food for our family and our customers, and helping others to feed their families great food.

If I had it do again, what would I do differently? So far, I like the choices we’ve made. They were well thought out and I don’t believe in a “right decision”. I believe in making a decision and then making it right. People who know me know that I describe some people as “Ready, aim, aim, aim, aim...” instead of “Ready, aim, fire”. I’m a “Ready, FIRE, aim, FIRE” kind of guy. But I have learned a lot in the last year, and if I had to name one thing I would have liked to have done differently I’d say that I would have paid more attention to the soil of the property I was buying rather than the location or lay of the land. I would have done a soil test first, better understood the forage capacity and factored that into my decision. As it turned out, we got lucky in that regard, as we have a great sod of fescue and Bermuda, and no chemicals have been put on the soil in over a decade. But I get no credit for that...we just lucked into it. If you raise animals, you need good grass and an ability to hold moisture, particularly given our drought. So I’d recommend looking closely at that.

The Beginning Farmer - Now a question from reader, Devin Rose. I have read Joel Salatin's books as well, and I recall in You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise , he recommends first leasing land and gaining experience for some number of years, then after that buying a plot of land, that way you know what to look for better, have experience without having sunk a lot of money into land, etc. So why did Tim buy land right away instead of leasing it?


Nature's Harmony Farm - Yes, Joel does make a number of recommendations like that. Joel has been a great spokesperson for the industry and has inspired countless people. But my recommendation is to listen to the essence of what he’s saying and not follow everything he says. For example, he says lease it first. I didn’t. I jumped in and have had no problem learning what I needed to know. But I’ve committed myself. I’m sure that Joel would agree that if a person was fully committed and driven, they’d find a way to succeed. Joel also says not to get involved in farming if you’re over 45. That’s a ridiculous thing to say, but the essence of what he was saying is that farming is hard work requiring energy and stamina. So does starting and running a business, yet some CEO’s and entrepreneurs are going strong at 70 and beyond (right Sumner Redstone?).

To answer your question, I bought land right away because I was committed to this, and by buying the land, I solidified (forced) that commitment. As an entrepreneur I learned that you can commit yourself to a strategy if you burn the bridge behind you. Then you have to make it work. And don’t worry, you will. The animals know what they’re doing. We need to listen and get out of the way.

6 comments:

John said...

Thank you very much, both Ethan and Tim. Excellent answers...

Steven said...

I'd just like to say that it's really awesome to see this blog becoming such a wonderful place to exchange ideas and advice. It's great to see a little bit of a community developing here and it's great to see that sustainable farming really isn't just for hippies! ( No matter what some friends and family think )

I really agree with Tim on the idea of committing yourself and burning the bridges behind you to force yourself to succeed. It's important though that people like me don't get so excited about farming that we loose site of the fact that you do have to be able to sustain yourself from the time you quit your town job until you can make a living on the farm. All this talk really makes me want to save every penny though. So that I can make that transition some day.

Ethan Book said...

John - I'm glad you found these few posts informational. I'll be posting the last section tomorrow so check it out!

Steven - You are right! After my e-mail conversations with Tim I'm ready to jump in, but I must hold myself back and make sure we are completely read ... especially when my family is involved. But, you do bring up another thing ... saving to prepare to farm ... I guess that goes under that "what are you willing to sacrifice" post and discussion we had.

Christy said...

I've enjoyed these Q&As, thank you for doing them.

Gaic Conan said...

Hello,

Interesting article. we building a free Entrepreneurs Investors community. Our idea is to bring to entrepreneurs advice that will help them in the growth process. The website is free of charge while still in beta. Let's develop markets together!

I leave you the decision to publish the address of the website (thestreetmarket.com).

Thanks and good work!

Steve said...

I have a question. Did you just up and write Tim an email telling him you were wanting to be a farmer, ask him all these questions, and then he replied? I want to get into farming but I can't seem to get anyone to reply to my questions regarding the subject. What do you suggest for starting a dialogue. My start date is 2 years from now, so I've got lots of time to research and build some relationships.

Thanks.
Steven
ouroldfarm.blogspot.com

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