One of the first things new farmers, or people thinking about farming must do is define their goals. Of these goals, few are as important as whether or not you want a business or a hobby, because there's a big difference.
Decide if organic farming is a realistic business endeavor or simply something you'd like to do in order to feed your family, have fun or help the community.
Red flags that you ARE NOT thinking like a business owner:
- You only want to grow enough food for your family.
- Growing food and giving it away to help the community is a top priority.
- You're going into organic farming in order to make the world a better place.
- You think organic farming would make a fun hobby.
- Organic farming seems like a fun lifestyle choice.
- You hate dealing with money and paperwork.
- You can't imagine charging people for your crops.
There's nothing wrong with the above thoughts, but they do show that maybe you're more inclined to hobby farming than running an actual profitable farm. Sometimes people get into organic farming with intentions of doing both - helping the world and making a profit, but the two sides don't always fit together.
Some farms manage to be able to do both; turn a nice profit and help others by donating food or time, but not without a lot of hard work, and almost never in the beginning. For example, Liz Smith, a successful organic farmer points out that, "Aspiring farmers should remember that farming is a business first." Liz goes on to say:
"One farmer I know wants to grow affordable food for the community. He sells crops for less than he should. Because of that he's not a successful farmer. In the long run he could set aside a fund to help people afford food. Since he's not thinking of farming as a job first, he may not get the chance. Take care of yourself first if you also want to help others."
Liz's advice is excellent for new farmers. If you do want to eventually make a difference, it's smart to pay attention to your own needs, and the farm's needs first. It's great to want to give back, and with enough profit you'll be able to, but if you dip into resources you need to live on and run your farm, soon you'll no longer have the farm.
Signs you ARE thinking about organic farming as a business owner:
- You're willing to deal with the money end of farming.
- You know you should charge reasonable prices for your goods.
- Paperwork may be kind of scary, but you're willing to learn how to manage it.
- You have clearly defined your farming goals and located potential organic buyers.
- Organic farming seems like fun, but also seems like a lot of hard work.
- You're ready to learn as much as you can about organic farming, both the growing and business side.
Again, there is nothing wrong with organic farming for fun, charity or simply because you feel it's your calling, but really keep in mind that hobby farms and business farms are different goals.
Interested in running a real organic farm business?
This website is packed with information for business minded organic farmers. Take a look at the following to get started:
- Do Small Organic Farms Need to be Certified Organic?
- Is Organic Farming for You?
- Getting Certified Organic
- Selling Organic Farm Goods
Interested in organic hobby farming?
If you feel that you're more inclined to hobby farming or organic farming for fun, there are plenty of resources to help you out.