Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Four "Don'ts" for the Beginning Farmer

Yes, I'm still working my way through Success on the Small Farm by Haydn S. Pearson. I can only imagine that all of you reading this are searching the book sites for your own copy of this classic (it's out there and it is relatively inexpensive). Last night as I was reading I came across a lot of interesting quotes, but I thought I would focus on a fairly informational one list of "don'ts" now ... as long as I can share a great section tomorrow that makes me completely rethink home construction!

Here is an interesting little list from chapter four ::

  1. Don't go into poultry as the major line -- hens or turkeys.
  2. Don't specialize at first on one or two crops.
  3. Don't try to do too much and neglect everything.
  4. Don't think you can run a real farm and hold down a part-time job.

Like I said ... a very interesting list of don'ts. Obviously we could argue whether or not these are valid "don'ts" for the beginning farmer, but for the moment I just want to see how I've done with the list and think about how that impacts the farm.

Luckily I didn't get in to poultry as my major line ... although I know quite a few that have and that Joel Salatin's book Pastured Poultry Profits makes a case for poultry being the centerpiece of a farm. Unfortunately in this chapter Mr. Pearson does not share why he includes each item on the list. Maybe the reasons will show up later in the book. So far so good though ... I did not start out with poultry as my major line!

The second point is a little iffy ... On one hand I didn't do that because I'm not working with a market garden (which is the main focus of the book), but I did kind of focus just on my cattle and hogs. In my mind livestock is partially exempt from this "don't" though because it is a whole different animal for the beginner (pun kind of intended). There is a possibility though that in the 21st century Mr. Pearson would include "Don't begin a livestock based farm ... period!"

Don't try to do to much ... guilty. Don't neglect everything while trying to do to much ... guilty. I think this is actually a great point and wonderful advice for the beginner. It is important to rein yourself in from time to time in order to let your physical surroundings catch up with your mind. I'm working on that one ... and failing from time to time.

Finally the last "don't". Yes, that is very true. Don't think that you can work part-time/full-time in town and make the farm go ... or at least go very quickly. I'm not saying that trying to do both is a bad idea, I'm just saying that it will take time and you need to be prepared for it to take time. In some senses I think working in town and on the farm has benefits for the beginner ... just take your time commitments into mind when you are planning your goals and thinking about farming ventures.

Overall I don't think I pass the Haydn S. Pearson "Successful Farming Test". But, it's my first time through the book, so give me some time to work on things ...


Donna OShaughnessy said...

For years we did not meet the fourth suggestion in this gentlemans book. My husband farmed full time while I worked off farm full time and our farm survived but stayed fairly static. After kids were grown and we were responible for just ourselves, we lept into full farm sustainability and forced creativity to get the bills paid. 6 months in and it is hugely satisfying and very frightening to rely on our customers consistent patronage. But even if we fail in the end result, we know we did not fail in the attempt. We each must do what is best for our own family and our own farm.

Allison at Novice Life said...

My husband and I too are guilty of 3 and 4, but it is hard to not have a full time job off the farm, at this point, to SUPPORT the farm :/

Walter Jeffries said...

We tried poultry, repeatedly. For us it didn't work as our main gig. But the ducks and chickens are an excellent part of the system for what has become our main profit center - pastured pigs. We keep a lot of chickens, not to make money on them directly but for their organic pest control, breaking up of the manure, smoothing the soil, the eggs for a protein source for weaners and then the chickens in the fall. The ducks stir up the pig ponds and eat the mosquitoes. Without one or the other we see the negative (increased pests, etc) and appreciate having them.

The Farmer's Daughter said...

My dad works off the farm full time, while my mom and I work on the farm full time along with my huband who also works on the farm part time and I think of the day my dad retires from what we call his "real job," daily! I know our farm will flurish when he does retire but I understand the need mainly for health insurance that is provided through his place of employment as well as my husband's other "real job," its unfortunate. Good Luck! Love your blog!

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