Survival

How To Plan A Micro-farm Operation

So you’re committed to starting a micro farm. You recognize the dangers in this fragile world, and want to be prepared for anything. But you still have no outline of how to go about it. Like any important endeavor, micro farming takes a bit of research and planning.

Why Create A Written Plan?

Your micro-farm is going to be an investment – not only in financial resources but also your time.  And, since you’re probably not experienced in running a farm it is only prudent that you create a road map of your own.  Knowing how you’re going to get to your end goal will help you recognize when you’re starting to flail and make it a lot easier to adjust and react faster to issues.

Having a written plan also forces you to recognize, acknowledged and even profit from the financial side of the operation.  If you’re going to make an effort to secure your food supply, why not turn a profit while doing so?  There is nothing wrong with preparing for the inevitable while enjoying the fruits of your labor today! [Watch a video on why you should set up your own micro-farm]

1. Assess your resources

The first step is to take a good, hard look at the land and resources you have available. Then you can start researching exactly what it offers. You have to be realistic with your conclusions. Some plots are just not fit for growing crops, but you might be able to use them to raise chickens or farm pigs.  The internet will be your best friend during this process.

2. Decide what you want from your farm

Once you have a good grasp on your land’s resources, decide if you want your micro-farm to be primarily for you and your own family’s use or if you want it to generate a stable income. These are not mutually exclusive options. A good model will cater for both, as you’re likely to be left with too much produce for one family to consume. Wasting is never necessary.

3. Create a business plan

Farming requires time and money – just like a business. Even if you have no plans on selling your produce for profit, having a business plan is still essential to ensure success. In your business plan, you should set goals, create a map for your operations, judge your progress, and make adjustments as you proceed. A basic business plan includes the following:

Where are you farming?

Describe your land, how large it is, and what natural resources it contains (pasture, woods, water sources).

What are you farming?  

Describe your products. Are you only growing vegetables or do you intend to raise chickens as well? Is your main focus on livestock?

Why are you doing this?

Describe whether you’re farming for yourself or for others. Are you prepping for the worst case scenario? Include all the additional reasons you think your farm will be beneficial.

How are you going to go about farming?

Describe the tools, equipment, materials, and supplies you will use. Include how you intend to finance your farm, where your production costs will come from, and what your realistic budget is.

Labor Costs

Do you plan on doing all the work yourself?  How much labor will your family contribute to this initiative?  Will you recruit friends, possibly forming a coop?

Do you plan on selling your produce?

Who will you sell to? Describe your customer if you intend on selling your produce.  How do you plan on getting customers?  How do you plan on delivering your produce to your customers?  Are you going to be selling at farmers’ market? Selling on the internet?  Shipping via USPS/FEDEX/UPS?

How will you track your expenses?

Set up expenditure charts and worksheets on a computer—there is plenty of software available to help you.  Though, we do favor a good ‘ole spreadsheet to get started.

  • Keep a list of current retail prices of the plants you want to grow and the animals you want to raise.
  • Determine how much you are willing to shell out to cover initial production costs and stick to your budget.
    • Having the foresight to estimate exactly how that is going to happen will help you reach your goals. To that end, you must know how to keep costs down. There are plenty of attractive but expensive tools and equipment.
    • Realistically, you will only ever need the basics to be successful. For example, a greenhouse is not a necessity. Simple plant stands with fluorescent lights can be built for around $100. If your land is big enough to use a tractor, do not buy one; rent or borrow one when you need it.

When are you going to accomplish all this?

Ideally, you should have your farm up and running – and profiting if that is part of your business plan – within a year, but you don’t need to rush if you wish to make a cautious start. Make a timeline and list all the objectives you need to fulfill to reach this goal. There are three main factors you need to take into account in constructing a realistic timeline:

  • Property: if you already own enough land to farm on, you can get started right away. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy or lease land – a process which takes time.
    • Remember, you only need a half an acre to prepare for a worst case disaster scenario!
  • Money: if you don’t already have the financial resources at your disposal, securing a loan will be a major time consumer.
  • Learning: your learning process will be a major part of your timeline, especially if you are starting with very basic skills and intend to do research, attend seminars, or apprentice with experienced farmers.  The internet is, once again, your best friend here! There are plenty of resources out there that can help you plot a realistic timeline.

Its a Living Document

Finally, recognize that your business plan is a living document.  As conditions change on the ground, as you learn new things, make it a point to update this written plan.  Its the only thing that will keep you focused on all the right things and steer you clear of accidentally focusing on the wrong things.  In the heat of battle, this plan will make all the difference so keeping it up to date is crucial. [e-book: Set up your own micro-farm now]

Wrap Up

Micro farming, done right, requires a lot of up-front planning, but don’t let it overwhelm you. The more work you do up-front, the easier it becomes to actually run your farm properly.  But, you don’t need to get it exactly right from the start either – in your plan’s time-line make sure you leave room for making mistakes. While you will make a lot of them, having a solid plan that is written down will minimize the number of and severity of those mistakes. So get out your pen, paper or spreadsheet and get started on your plan now.  Don’t let anything get in the way of securing your own supply of fresh food!

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