This is great advice from Michael Kilpatrick over at the Thriving Farmer Podcast
This Spring we’re ramping up our new farm here in Ohio, The Farm on Central. Since this is the second farm I’ve built, one would think that starting would go a lot more smoothly…and many things have. There will always be things that go wrong and contingencies you can’t plan for, I’ll do a podcast episode in a couple weeks about some learning experiences we’ve had along the way – but in this newsletter I’m giving you a couple tips to weather that first year:
1. Start small. Even as an experienced farmer with a good startup budget, we’re only planning on 1.5 acres of production this year…and, I probably should’ve done less. It’s better to start small and sell out than to get overwhelmed and not be able to follow your plan because you’ve got too much on your plate. The number one thing I see new farmers struggle with is weeds…because they took on too much.
2. Don’t max out your production space! If you have an acre of land you’re planning on planting, only plant 3/4. You need margin and space for things to go wrong…AND, if you give yourself that margin, it allows you to be less worried about a super complicated and tight rotation, giving you more freedom as the season progresses.
3. Create your planning system to be flexible. There’s a lot of awesome farm centric software out there to use to plan your farm, but nothing beats a spreadsheet. You can very easily change planting dates, move plantings around, and make adjustments for things you didn’t see coming. Because trust me, that will happen.
4. Focus on your marketing! Sales bring cash and cash keeps the doors open. At the beginning, you frequently have to go quite wide to see what works, but then tighten back quickly to what sells. For us, we started with 12 microgreens and then rapidly identified the ones which our local market likes…and we’ve dropped the other 7.
Well there you go! I’m heading out to set up for our plant sale – and to pick a few thousand strawberries!