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Author Topic: Starting a Small Farm/Homestead
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  JessHamm
  Saint Louis
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Starting a Small Farm/Homestead    (Posted Wed, Sep 25 '13 at 06:39 UTC)

Hello!

I am new to this forum. In fact I just signed up, so please bear with me.

I am a 25 year old living in the heart of Saint Louis City in Missouri. Recently, my boyfriend and I have decided to try and start a life of a small farm/homestead. My boyfriend comes from a small town, but not with a farming background, and I come straight from the city. I have always had a strong desire to be as self sufficient as possible, for myself and for *possible* future children. Living organically is also something I am passionate about, and I am making the effort to continue to try to achieve this. He is a creative, compassionate, and hard working man with a desire to live off the land and enjoy everything nature has to give, both the good and the bad.

We of course, have thoughts/dreams/opinions of what we would ultimately like to do in our future, but we understand that these things are not always quickly achievable or realistic. We do have some things that I have a fear will keep us from achieving our goals as quickly - he owns his home with additional members living in the house, I rent my own place and will be combining my household with his in January, but I also have 20K+ in student loan debt. We both have close family ties, but are supporting ourselves completely without the ability to ask family for "help". He and I seem to have tired of our office jobs that are getting bills paid, but not giving us any sort of sense of challenge, happiness, etc.

I am looking to find out what we will need to do in order to reach this goal of ours. I have begun doing various bits of research, but am not sure of where we should both even start in terms of outlining goals, planning, and large and small details such as finding/buying the right land, farming equipment, crops and animals, and so on. We are both very passionate people, willing to learn and to research, plan, and work VERY hard...but we welcome any advice.

Thank you for taking the time out to help us on our journey...we both very much appreciate every bit of advice and help that we receive.

jrhhc8@gmail.com
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: Starting a Small Farm/Homestead    (Posted Fri, Sep 27 '13 at 11:19 UTC)

If neither of you have any gardening, farming, pasture management, wood lot management, marketing, sales, skills... Have you ever used any power tools, farm equipment, planted a garden, kept any livestock,

I would suggest finding a nearby farm that produces similar products to what you want on your small farm, and volunteer, work trade, or become an employee of that farm to gain some experience. Hard work at a 9-5 job is totally different from farm work 7a-7pm.

Are you hoping to replace one or both of your jobs with farm income, or just put up enough foodstuffs to supply you family?

Pencil out your goals, for a year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and then figure out how to best meet those goals within your current debt/income load.

 JessHamm
 Saint Louis
Re: Starting a Small Farm/Homestead    (Posted Fri, Sep 27 '13 at 02:39 UTC)

idigbeets,

I have quite a bit of gardening experience from my childhood and recently (my aunt has a few acres that we garden on). Although he or I do not have pasture management, wood lot management, or have kept any livestock, between the two of us, we do have some experience with the other pieces you mentioned.

He and I both planned on speaking to a few friends, and parents of friends that have farms, and possibly reach out to other places (those that have similar products, like you said) to see if they are willing to give advice. We fully understand that achieving this goal is not like a 9-5, that it will consume all of every day for us...but we are willing to do that. I will look into volunteering at a small farm to gain more knowledge and experience for the both of us.

The hope is to eventually replace both jobs with farm income, but we would like to start, for the first few years, with putting enough foodstuffs to supply our family and growing from there. My father grew up on a farm, and would love to get back to his roots, my mother worked with horses for an extensive period of time, and his mother is well versed in many things such as canning. The hope is to have them at some point be living close to us so that we can not only be there if something happens, but so they can contribute their time also and receive foodstuffs and such as a result. Our parents would love to get back to a life like that, and we would love to have them around for possible future grandchildren and so on, so this is very important to us.

He and I have discussed it/were planning on penciling out goals within the next couple of weeks as you suggested for years ahead, and decide on what we will need to do now debt-wise and such, to meet the goals.

Thank you for the advice!

jrhhc8@gmail.com
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Starting a Small Farm/Homestead    (Posted Fri, Sep 27 '13 at 04:25 UTC)

You might want to consider what happens with a steep increase in the price of gasoline/diesel in the next few years. Also, in the short term, it is difficult to justify the energy expense if you are traveling over 50 miles to market to sell your goods. For example, in my book I go through the calculations for vendors traveling from Whatcom County (where I live) to Seattle farmers markets. The energy cost, just for transport, is 210 kilocalories per acre. Guess what the transport energy cost is for produce trucked 1500 miles to market on semis? Yep - 210 kilocalories per acre. Right now small-scale farmers can make some money at metropolitan farmers markets because they take advantage of cheap gas/diesel - just like everyone else. By the time your farm is in production, the situation might have changed dramatically.

Sorry - one more thing to worry about.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: Starting a Small Farm/Homestead    (Posted Fri, Sep 27 '13 at 05:23 UTC)

Each year I cultivate approximately 30 acres of land, with a well maintained tractor I do not even use 50 gallons of fuel, for all the plow/disc/seed/cultipack/cultivation that happens on that land.

Rest of the farm is pasture,no fuel required except for hauling the steers etc to the processor.

I wouldn't get too worked up about fuel costs on farm, when you're working with under 100 acres. When I was farming only 5 acres a season years ago, I didn't even go through one tank of fuel all year.....

Back to your comments Jesse, I'd definitely meet up with other farmers and get a feel for what you're taking on. Start small w/ what you can afford (to lose) and scale up each year.

I will concede that if you are planning on sales, research and visit the farmers markets nearby (I agree anything over 20 miles or so turns into a hassle), talk to small grocers, food co-op etc.

Getting your parents involved is a great idea if they are able to manage, canning is a great start.

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