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Need Advice From Experienced Farmers

I'm 21 years old from upstate New York. I've never worked or lived on a farm. When I was younger I did a lot of work with my grandfather who has a corn field and grows some of his own produce and I've also worked with some poultry and livestock. So my experience is limited but I do know very basic stuff. I'm pursuing a degree in farm management and I plan on moving to the southeast, most likely the GA, NC, TN area. I'm currently in the military and won't be starting school until the end of 2017 due to that. I plan on doing internships during the summer between school years when I get to that point. I was wondering if there's any advice anyone can give me to get to the point where I'd be able to actually start farming on my own. I understand I'm going to have to have a decent amount of money saved up first and obviously I'll need land. I'm hoping to start off with 20-30 acres with at least half of it good farm land. I plan on mostly growing crops. I want animals too, but mostly smaller ones like goats, poultry, rabbits. Any advice would be appreciated.
3 Replies
Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Advisor

Re: Need Advice From Experienced Farmers


Starting from scratch will be tough.  An apprenticeship will be a good way to get your feet wet and find out what you like and don't like.

What are your goals?  Let's say you'd like to work on the farm, have a family, send your kids to college and enjoy a long and happy life with retirement.  Many of us have those dreams.

What do you have to offer?  Youth and health (but what about health insurance), a little money, enthusiasm, and labor.

What will your competition have?  Experience, land, money, connections.

What kind of farm enterprise (besides growing weed) wll bring in a good income per acre?  This is a key issue since you are not going to have access to a lot of land.  You have to max out what you have.  Sounds like some kind of flower, vegetable, small animal, etc.  Look for niche markets.

20 acres at $5,000/acre is $100,000.  

Some get a good job that takes care of the basic income and health insurance, then farm after work and on weekends.  Maybe a shift job so you can farm during the day.

If you are going to be small and specialized, you may end up in the organic or similar niche markets.  This site here is more or less straight, conventional farming.  You'll get better advice by talking to people like the Joel Salledins, Rodale, Grass Farmers and such.

If you are looking at a certain area, go to the land grant university web sites for those areas and look for their offerings on the kind of ag you think you'd like and be interested in.  All of them will have new and beginning farmer programs, will feature information on niche markets and so forth.  When you get close to being ready, they have Farm Management program people who can help you run the numbers for some of your interests.


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Senior Contributor

Re: Need Advice From Experienced Farmers

ive got a couple tips....if you want to farm marry a farm girl thats got money or land or both!  it helps tremendously!! 

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Re: Need Advice From Experienced Farmers

Start out by working for a farmer and get experience. Also look into working for universities or larger ag companies. Get involved with test plots.
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