For New Farmers
I want to grow/raise XXXX on my farm. Where can I find information to help me?
Determining what you want to grow or raise is an important step, often the result of a lot of planning and investigation. Your farm site's natural and built features must be suited to the product, and your chosen enterprise(s) need to "pencil out" to meet your farming goals. When you are ready to learn more about specific crops or livestock, there are many sources of information.
Here are some things to think about:
- Visit farms that are producing the products you are interested in. Many farmers are happy to share their experience and knowledge.
- There are important choices to be made about how to grow your crop(s) and manage your animals -- different production practices and regimes, such as pest management or milking systems
- Your investigation will likely include information about production and economics. Preparing an enterprise budget is as important as preparing the soil. Be sure the cost of production does not exceed the expected price for your product! A market analysis will help you assess whether you'll be able to sell your product at a profit.
- What kinds of equipment and machinery are required or desirable for the enterprise mix you choose?
- Diverse farming systems are seen as more resilient than monocropping in many ways. Enterprise and crop diversification, including combining crops and livestock, can offer both environmental and economic advantages.
- Many farmers successfully "add value" to their farm product, by processing or packaging, for example. Additional infrastructure may be needed, and often there are additional regulations.
- Remember you don't have to grow everything you want to market, if you are selling retail to the public. It may make economic sense to purchase some products for resale. This controls for some of your risks and can be a way around some resource constraints.
- Your land grant university's Cooperative Extension will be able to answer many of your questions, and provide information about how to grow specific crops.
- Check out specific commodity groups and trade organizations for information, publications, and advice.
Here is a sample of resources:
Contact your local department of agriculture for information on local or regional commodity groups and/or industry organizations.
For sample budgets of different enterprises, try Penn State's Agriculture Alternatives.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences has a huge catalog of fact sheets and resources on line.
The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries offers business planning guides for many agricultural enterprises and lots of other great resources.