Press-Republican

Columns

November 24, 2013

Small farm requires careful planning

I visited with a small farmer a while back who had a whole menagerie of livestock on his place; cows, goats, chickens and who knows what else.

He had accumulated his livestock over time as his family’s interests had evolved and he enjoyed the variety. As is often the case with small farm and beginning farmers, family members often play a large part in determining the mix of agricultural activities. Caring for small livestock is a great way to teach young children responsibility and start educating them about animal science and the facts of life.

I also encounter many folks who move to the country to reconnect with nature and live a simpler life. Many often have a family farm that has remained in the family and want to make it productive once again.

Small farming is by and large an endeavor that is started to improve a family’s quality of life, not necessarily to produce income, but to live a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle. Often someone buys a home in a rural area that includes some acreage and raising some livestock and vegetables fulfills an idealistic dream of becoming a farmer.

However, some thought on how to make good decisions and choices is important. Farming is hard work whether it is small or large scale, and like any endeavor, should be given a great deal of thought prior to jumping right in.

The first step in starting a small farm should be to evaluate your resources. The environment, the land and your existing facilities will have a large impact on your ability to produce crops or livestock.

Many times, if the land has been abandoned as farmland or is being sold for housing, it has been for reasons that may limit its agricultural value. A farm’s soil quality, drainage and pH all have an effect on productivity. Old farmland that has been abandoned for some time often has poorly drained soils, stony soils and low fertility.

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