Photo: Grady's Farm. Red Hook, NY.
There’s a lot of information out there about starting a farm. The amount of information only seems to increase as you learn about it. Have you ever tried to dig through a sand dune? I lived in New Mexico growing up, so I have. Reading about starting a farm is a lot like that. For every useful book or blog you come across you find another! And another! And another! And they’re all hidden gems and they’re all extremely useful and critical to your farm education, but they won’t build you a farm.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that you can only learn so much before you just have to get started. One of my favorite farms is Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton, Georgia. Tim and Liz Young follow many of the practices that we would like to implement at Little Seed. What Tim says about potential new farmers is true for a lot of people looking to transition into a new field, or start a new business. There’s a lot of talk and little action. It’s Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim and more aiming. Joel Salatin calls it paralysis by analysis. I know first-hand that it happens. There are times where I get so fixated on learning and analyzing and understanding that I forget all about doing. That’s why I’ve found it extremely helpful to actually get out there and visit farms. Get on the phone and give a call to one of your favorite farmers and ask to go their farm. Just do it. If you don’t know your farmer, then start at the beginning. Go find some food that you can trace back to who produced it (that might be an adventure in itself!). Then go visit the farm! If you get rejected see if the farm offers tours or events. Some will even let you drop by for a “self-guided” tour.
After we spent some time on four or five different farms across the country we had a much easier time visualizing ourselves farming. It gave us a lot of confidence. We knew that we could get out there and walk the walk when the time was right. Until you see it in action, you don’t know anything about what’s actually going on. Even when you do see it in action you still don’t know anything about what’s actually going on, but at least it helps cement in your mind the image of yourself, outside, in the heat, working with animals, solving problems, planning ahead, interfacing with customers, facing road-blocks, suffering through drought or floods, and every other multitude of factors that goes into farming on a small scale.
So keep reading books and blogs, but don’t let the end goal out of your sight. Go see some farms you admire, take a step back, soak it in and then get out there and go! It’s not the only step along the way, but it’s one of the most important steps that I’ve identified.
In light of all that, we plan to do a “Farm Adventures” series of posts. These posts will focus on the farms we’ve visited. We’ll discuss how we discovered the farm we visited, how we convinced the farmers to let us visit and what we did while we were there. We’ll even give some helpful tips to make the whole process easier on you and the farmers.
Whether you’re interested in starting a farm or just curious about farming and food, we hope it inspires you to get out there and see what its like!