Musings: Becoming a Farmer

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by jaggednib, Feb 1, 2011.

  1. jaggednib

    jaggednib Junior Member

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    G'day fellow plant lovers!

    Right now, I am a stay-at-home mom that lives in the suburbs. My question is, how does one become a farmer?
    This year will be the first year that I'll implement permaculture principles and designs into my backyard garden and I'm pretty excited:clap:. I'm in the planning stages and I already have some lovely places to acquire seeds, especially heirloom and native seeds! (I'm in Ottawa, Canada.:()

    I love gardening and I think running a farm sustainably and with no machinery would be an incredible venture. :blush:

    How does one go about looking for property? Would I just grow lots of veggies and sell them at farmer's markets? What are other sorts of things I could grow to sell? How do you as a farmer make enough money to see you and your family through the winter?

    Thanks!
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Can I suggest that you master your own back yard first? I can't remember who the quote was from but as someone once said - don't try to feed other people until you have learned to feed your own family first! Lots of people try out the rural farm dream and find that they don't have the skills or knowledge to make it a success.....
     
  3. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    I agree with Eco. It is amazing how much work, especially in the early years even half an acre can be - especially if you take the no machinery, very-low inputs road. We have been here at our place for 3 years (or is it 4 :sweat:) and I'll be honest and say that more often than not so far we have had pretty poor crops. This has a lot to do with the approach we are taking. I have a science degree in horticulture and about 20 years or so of experience growing vegies in some form or other. In the past I have had pretty good success on small plots where I could build the soil quickly with a lot of inputs. This is a different process. We have almost no money to invest into it, we have two young kids, the ground we started with was hard-packed reactive clay (even putting a fork or a shovel in them was a risk to the fork or shovel), until this year we had been in extended hot and dry conditions (drought). I always said it would take about 5 years before we started to see real results. The soils are looking much better in some places, but still lack the real richness and depth we are looking for. The 'paddocks' are pretty much as they were when we got here, and I have decided to let them be until I have the time and resources to care for them properly.

    Start small and build on it. You may even find that the gloss of the idea wears off for you when you realise how much work it can take. But as time goes by you get better, more efficient and the systems start to support themselves.

    This is a richer place than before we arrived, and we are richer for it.

    Good luck
     
  4. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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  5. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    I think as you go through this year gardening your own back yard for food get lots and lots of books out of the libraries. You can learn a lot that way. Try not to be in too much of a rush. I know myself when you head is full of ideas, everything seems easy but lots of things quickly either become something of a drudge or have other difficulties pretty quickly so don't make any big investments too soon. And in anything you do do, leave some room for alterations or course changes.

    I would also suggest you visit farms. When you decide on what you want to produce, go and check out farms and talk to farmers who are producing the same thing, even if you are not going to do it the same way. You will learn about the piftfalls and tricky things that you might not otherwise think of in advance.

    Personally, i find growing vegies a bit of a drudge because you have to raise seedlings all the time and plant them. I prefer fruit trees. No doubt if you doing that on a large scale there will be drudge invovled there as well unless you've got diversity. I think diversity makes everything in life more interesting, and even farming.

    Also look at your government farming websites. And other food production govt sites. This will give you an indication of any mandatory expenses and procedures you will have to follow to be legal.

    Talk to the producers at farmers markets as well. See if you can visit any farms.

    The further you go into this hte more ideas will come to you. You will figure it all out including how you are going to survive through winter. Try to avoid getting bogged down iwth a big mortgage though as that could make life a living hell if you are going to depend on making an income to pay for the mortgage.

    Once you do start this venture, get an accountant so that you can claim as much as possible on your tax and avoid having to pay any. And you need to understand cash flow and other business principles otherwise you will go under very quickly if you don't know what you are doing. So maybe a business course is not a bad idea. I've done one so I know what i am saying. In business cash flow is the difference between being a going concern and being bankrupt.

    Look into the niche markets for restaurant supply. If you are the best in the business, and can win the support of a few steady good customers you may be set. I recently saw a cooking show on tv lately where they went to a butcher shop where the guys had made their shop into a museum peace so they said. Anyway it was an experience. Nothing banal about that but they knew what they were doing. Go for quality and keep costs down.
     
  6. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    Sunburn has covered it pretty well , i have grown up and farmed all my 51yrs , as well as working off farm for many years shearing sheep so i could AFFORD to be a farmer and raise three children , unfortunatly i am 700kms from the nearest city so frieght for produce and inputs eats away at profits , we do have a local grain export facility so that is the obvious choice for most around here . Research it well , decide on what you want to do , dont have too many irons in the fire or you will just wear out , make sure you have a CLOSE , STABLE market then look for a parcel of land . Anything to do with fresh food is riddled with regulations and fees and annual charges .
    Terra
     
  7. Bumbu

    Bumbu Junior Member

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    I think Jaggednib's question is a really good one, and one I often ask myself.

    For those of us who have grown up in the city and never been exposed to the basics of farming in the way that country people have been, it is a really big leap to make, and often a scary one, giving up all that is familiar and stepping into the unknown. Given that farming and food production is so crucial to any nation it is amazing beyond belief that there are not properly established or well known routes for city people wanting to make the conversion to tread to get into this field. I wonder why we don't have any sort of apprentice scheme for farmers?

    And in particular on the organics/permaculture/self-sufficiency side, in which we the participants should be taking much greater self responsibility for paving the way for new entrants (and not waiting for governments to do it for us), I wonder why we have not set up schemes ourselves to assist city folk to make the transition? Sure, if you trawl through the forums occasionally you can strike it lucky with a rare opportunity, but given the size of the environmental problems we face and the growing problems in the food supply, surely we need to streamline the entry process and make it possible for masses of city people to go bush, join the solution and stop being part of the problem?

    Perhaps WWOOFing is one such scheme? If so, maybe more permaculturists need to get involved in it and support it to truly open up numerous learning opportunities for would-be organic farmers. I know here in the land of Indonesia (Bali) where I live, there is no WWOOF organisation, and there are only 7 hosts listed in the WWOOF Independents organisation (which manages hosts in Indonesia and in the other countries that don't have WWOOF organisations). In a country of 300 million people, and millions of farms, I'm sure we could do better than that.
     
  8. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    We must have scared Mr Nib off because he never did come back and tell us what he was going to do next....
     
  9. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    being a "stay at home mom" can eat into a blokes free time Eco. Maybe he will gat back to us soon!
     
  10. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Oh - err - um - well

    I can't be accused of gender stereotyping! (Inattentive on the other hand I will have to accept.)
     
  11. Bumbu

    Bumbu Junior Member

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    Since writing my post this morning I have been looking into WWOOF and Workaway to see what opportunities lie there. The former has 7 hosts in Bali, while the latter has 11 (only a few of which are permaculture related). However, they do look like ideal ways for budding farmers to find gardening and farming experience. Apart from the permaculture forums like this one, and permies, are there any other places on the web that are good for people looking to get more practical experience on volunteer projects? Which are the largest, particularly for this part of the world (Australasia)?
     
  12. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    https://www.wwoof.org/

    I am not using Wwoof'ers. I am doing this myself, and slowly transitioning things while working on my PDC.
     
  13. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Hi Jaggednib,
    If low tech vegetable farming is what you think will interest you, why not become an Urban Farmer. Besides the groovy label, its a great buisness model. You have your customer base close by, you have plenty of access to waste resources and city infrastrucutre, and you can build upon your experience by utilising other peoples backyards when you have your own experience down. You could even outsource jobs to other wannabe farmers. This is a great example at https://greencityacres.blogspot.com.au/ and a good interview on Curtis sone and his successes at https://vimeo.com/20785959 with newer ones there too
    Bumbu... have you seen the article at https://permaculture.org.au/2009/12/09/the-nomad-way-in-bali/ maybe approaching this man will help open some doors and get you experience. I know there are other organic farmers in Bali, if you want to farm, these could be your ticket in!
     
  14. Bumbu

    Bumbu Junior Member

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    Thanks Matto, yes I had seen that article about the Nomad way in Bali before, but there is no way of contacting the man - no information provided. I would love to meet him, if I could.
     
  15. matto

    matto Junior Member

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  16. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    Hi Jaggednib, I live in the suburbs and work in the city and my wife and I dream of having some acreage. We would like to escape the rat race and create food security for our family while gaining a sense of independence.
    I asked about acreage on the forum just as you have and took the advice to practice in my home garden first and I have enroled in a PDC course at the PRI in April.

    Don't be put off if it is really what you want to do. We still want acreage some day but we have decided to wait a few years. I am learning from my garden and having successes and failures on a small scale and gaining experience before going to great expence and changing my life. I will continue to learn in the garden, do a lot more reading and begin wwoofing and take more courses before we make our move. I will by then hopefully have a better idea of my abilities, know what I want to do, be able to select a suitable location and know how to do it.
     

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