So, here goes nothing...
- To be sustainable, a farm must be environmentally sound and socially acceptable. --Taking care of the environment not only keeps other people happy, but it provides longevity for your farm in future generations. It just makes sense! Also, by building a farm that is socially acceptable some of the generalizations and stereotypes about farmers can be busted.
- Avoid debt. --Do you want my entire financial knowledge ... it is summed up in those two words! I don't know much about money, investing, or creating wealth. But, I do know that being debt free seems like a good thing whether I'm farming or not.
- Keep costs down. --Kind of piggy backs on avoiding debt don't you think? But really, if I desire to have a full-time farm I am going to have to lower my costs and create great products ... it all goes back to thinking outside of the conventional realm of agriculture.
- Try for low inputs. --It's all about sustainability, the less inputs the more the soil benefits and the more the bottom line is helped.
- Do things on time. --This may be the key to any successful business! If you are going to have livestock, crops, and a farm based business you need to do your things like baling, weaning, and harvesting on time and in time (with the seasons).
- Plan your farm to minimize work. --This principle is about the physical layout of your farm. Is your farm set up to maximize your effort without wasting it. I suppose I'm not going to tear everything down, but it is important to look at your entire farm with workload and a plan in mind.
- Develop a system of production that balances farm resources and available labor. --Let me sum it up for you ... make sure you have enough time to run your farm! Don't bring in 60 cow/calf pairs if you don't have the time to work them, rotate them, or feed them in a timely manner. It does keep coming back to planning doesn't it?
- Keep good records. --I'm going to lean on my wife for this one. She is the record queen, just take a look at her 4-H records someday! But seriously, it is important to know where you money is going and coming. What you are feeding your animals and what they are returning. How your rotations are working, and so much more.
- Learn basic veterinary skills and tasks. --If you can do it then you don't have to pay someone else to do it. It is that simple!
- Learn carpentry, electrical, and machinery repair skills. --See above!
- Learn stockman skills, and keep gentle livestock. --Gentle livestock are not only easier to handle, but they gain faster, are more calm on the day you take them to be butchered, and generally make your farming life more enjoyable.
- Take good care of your buildings, machinery, and livestock. --One word ... Stewardship! Be a good steward of the thins that you are entrusted with. You land, your family, your money, and you stuff ... plain and simple.
- Have a good water system, and save ever drop of water that falls on your farm. --This doesn't mean that you have rain collection troughs everywhere, but it does mean that you take care of your soils and build up the organic matter so that it can absorb that much more water. Oh, and think about a watering infrastructure for your farm instead of just buckets and hoses (at least it is something to aspire towards).
- Maintain or improve the soil fertility. --This one keeps popping up lately. I'm going to have to spend more time researching and learning about the topic.
- Let the animals do as much feed harvesting on their own as possible. --Make the farm work for you instead of you for the farm. There will still be plenty for you to do even if you pasture your animals and stockpile forages for winter, so let them do some work also.
- Use crop rotations. --They do so much to help that I can't even cover it all. But, let me say that there is a reason that rotations have been done for centuries!
- Have 2 years' worth of hay and grain in storage. --If weathermen can't predict the weather what chance do I have of controlling it? It is a good idea to have stockpiled hay and feed. You might not have 2 years' worth, but building up a years worth is a good place to be.
Remember, these are my principles ... they are Ron Macher's principles. But, I think they are great basics and get to the core of what small scale farming is about and how it can be done. Do any of those really stick out for you?