Sunday, May 31, 2009

Starting a Farm from Scratch the Beginning

The Beginning

So I thought I would start a blog page about how to go about starting a farm and what thoughts run thru my head from time to time.


FUNDING

The biggest part of course with any business venture has been funding. Wheres the money coming from to start this new business? How and when will you become profitable? What do you need to start your business?

Unfortunately you need alot when starting from scratch. And of course in typical Michael style I dont do anything small I want to start big from the beginning. LOL :)



Infrastructure

Infrastructure has been the biggest foreseen expense when starting a farm from scratch. Its overwhelming at times what all you require to start out a true farm instead of just a back yard garden like we have been operating.


The Barn

A multipurpose building (aka a barn) is looking to be a rather large expense. We could use it to house animals, house tools and equipment, house interns, a tractor, indoor classes on the farm, a cleaning station for crops, a storage place for crops in a cool room for delivery the next day, and the list goes on and on. You can see how valuable a barn would be if we had one on the property.

The problem then becomes how big of a barn to build, how big can we afford, and how do we plan the floor layout of the interior to utilize it to the max????


Clearing of Land

We are really starting from scratch we have 37 acres of woodland so we have no open plains or fields to till and farm. Everything must be done at the beginning. Those open fields you see with corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, etcetc all started out as woodland many years ago. Over time farmers removed trees with saws, horses, oxen, and good old hard back breaking work. Today we have bulldozers that can do it in a day or less. This is good for me as I am inherently lazy. But this also cost money. So the question now is how much do we clear, how much can we afford, do we just clear a little and as we grow call them back out to clear more later as we can afford it???? Ahhh questions questions questions!!!!!! And more money spent.

Fencing

Well now that you have land cleared you have to fence it. Oh yes fencing is just as important as clearing the land. Since we live in the woods we have deer, rabbits, raccoons, possums, coyotes, wild dogs, wild hogs, and more. These animals can tear up a garden in no time as we found out with our small backyard garden near the house. Fencing has to be tall enough to keep out deer as they can easily jump a 6ft tall fence to get to the goodies you planted and are growing in your farm. But guess what good fencing isn't cheap, so we are back to spending more money and trying to figure out the best way to create secure fencing that does the job. More money spent.


Electricity

OK lets say you have the land cleared, its fenced in, you have a barn, now you need electricity. You need the electricity to run the cooler for your crops to keep them in good shape when you pick them the night before you have to take them to the farmers market. You need electricity to run the lights to see at night when packing things away after a hards days work in the fields, and you need electricity to wash and clean the crops and yourself after playing in the dirt all day. So now you have to contact the electric company to run a new line and box out to your barn so you can have power. More money spent.


A Well

When putting in the electricity to wash and clean your crops and yourself you realize you have no water. Oppss. You need a well. So now we must contact a well driller and see what that will cost. That has a wide variance due to where in the world you live. The water table may be deep or shallow depending on where you live. It also has to do with what type of soil or rock you have to drill thru to get down to that water table. More money spent.


Irrigation

OK you have water but how do you get it to the fields and the crops? Irrigation and you guessed it more money. :) Digging trenches can be done by hand and backbreaking work. And depending on the soil you have could be easy or difficult. You could rent a ditch witch a gas powered machine that makes it look really easy and fast like drawing a straight line. This saves time and heartache trying to dig by hand and gets the job done much faster. Then go buy your pipe and fittings to run the lengths of the field and attach different drip nozzles for each specific crop and you’re set. Sounds easy right. Uh huh. Oh and More money spent.


Greenhouse

Well you have to have a greenhouse to grow year round unless you are lucky and live in Florida or California where the weather is consistent year round. Here in Georgia where I live we get in the teens and single digits in the winter and in the hundreds during the summer. So we have both extremes. A greenhouse can get you started earlier in the spring and can keep you going later into the fall. It can also grow things thru the entire winter. So having one can increase your year round growing seasons and your bottom line. Now the problem becomes money again. How big of a greenhouse can you afford, where to position it on the cleared land so it receives the right amount of sun for your region and so much more. Do you buy plastic that you must replace every 4-5 years or do you buy the semi rigid dual wall or triple wall polycarbonate that last 10 years but cost alot more? Ah more money spent.

Planning the layout

Remember that cleared land you paid for you only have so much of it. You already have a barn, irrigation, a well, fencing, and now you have to put a greenhouse on it. Plus you also need room for travel lanes for the tractor to drive, people to walk, trails for rolling carts and wheelbarrows to get crops in and out of the field. This ideally would be the number one thing you would do but it doesn’t always work out that way. Everything you do or buy will have hidden expenses and cost more than you first thought. So your expense budget is probably shot LOL :) Each of these things should be researched and then researched again. Then decide what you can afford and go with that.

If there’s one thing I would spend more money on than anything else that is clearing the land. Clear more than you think you will need. All of this stuff ends up taking up more room than you can imagine. Making plenty of room for it all and sitting down and drawing out on a piece of paper the layout makes alot of sense. Otherwise you are going to run out of room fast and you will be calling the land clearing people back out to do more work.

Also its easier to erase a piece of paper than to move a barn or greenhouse once they are in place. Proper layout and design is important. Think about how easy this will be doing routine daily task. if I have to walk 5 miles to grab a hoe it’s not as convenient as if I walk 5 feet. Making sure isles or walkways are large enough for wheelbarrows and or tractors is important as well. Everything takes and needs space make sure you have enough. And EVERYTHING takes more money spent.


Tractors

Well I’ve brought this up several times so lets talk about this. You need a tractor to get large amounts of work done quickly. Its a multipurpose tool around any farm or homestead. From scraping the driveway, to drilling fence post holes, to mowing down grass and weeds, to moving and turning compost piles, to tilling and harrowing the land for crops, there’s alot of work a tractor can do. Depending on how much land you cleared would determine how big a tractor you need. The more land the bigger the tractor in my opinion. Small tractors are good for hobby farms and people who need to do moderate work that a regular lawnmower wont do or cant do. Its easier and stronger than a lawnmower or a wheelbarrow at moving and cutting and do things and much more versatile.

Bigger farm means bigger tools. it just makes life easier and gets things done faster. You wouldn’t want to hoe and plant by hand 100 acre farm, but a back yard garden might be ok. You also wouldn’t want to rototill a 100 acre farm but a small hobby farm tractor might be ok. So size matter when it comes to using the right tool for the job and in being more efficient.

New or used? There’s a big ball of wax. What do you choose. Buy someone else's problems in a used tractor? Do you know anything about engines or working on one? if not maybe the new one is the way to go. New tractors usually come with a warranty although they dont cover new user abuse so be careful and don’t try to overstrain your tractor or make it do something it was intended to do. If you go new you spend ALOT more money but if taken care of it should last you a lifetime. If you buy used chances are its been used well and depending on how well it was taken care of it could have few problems or it could have alot. And that doesnt even go into all the implements that you need to do different chores with the tractor. Choices Choices Choices!!!!! Again more money spent.


What to do?

I could go on but for now thats all folks You see what I am having to go though to figure out what is needed where. Of course any help is much appreciated. We don’t have any of this at the moment but are looking closely into it. As we progress we will update our pages here to let you know how far we have gotten.


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