The United States is currently in the midst of a full-fledged agricultural boom. Land prices are sky-high, commodities are costlier than ever and farming in general is on the up-tick. Regardless, it’s not necessary to secure millions of dollars in bank loans to purchase a thousand-acre spread in Iowa to participate. Organic farming is an easy way to hop on the bandwagon. Consumers will pay top dollar for food that’s not sullied by pesticides and GMO seeds. Starting up a small-scale organic farm is fairly straightforward if you go into it with a plan, though it’s not without some major challenges.
Select Your Organic Niche
Before you get started, it’s crucial that you decide upon your niche organic focus. From organic apiaries (also known as places where beehives of honey bees are kept) to chemical-free tomato farms, there are dozens of viable options available to any would-be organic farmer. Regardless of whether you’re producing honey, potatoes, rutabagas, wheat or artichokes, you’ll need to pick a narrow approach and stick with it. This important step depends heavily on your area of expertise, your willingness to learn about new crops and your options as far as local land purchases are concerned. As you’ll discover, picking a niche and surveying available local acreage go hand in hand.
Locate Organic-Certifiable Land
You’ll need to scout local land that’s well-suited to your purpose. For instance, a major organic strawberry patch requires sandy soil. Tomato plants, on the other hand, demand a different soil makeup entirely. To be certified as organic on any given land, an absence of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and GMO seeds is required. You’ll also need to get your land vetted by a USDA-approved certification organization. Fortunately, the Organic Cost Share Program by the USDA will cover up to $750 worth of licensing costs per year for any farm. There are plenty of government incentives that can help you to cover additional initial costs.
Tools of the Trade
Outside of paying for land, you’ll need to buy equipment specific to your produce of choice. For all but the smallest of organic farms, a tractor and some tilling equipment are musts. In addition, you’ll need to plan for the harvest and carefully spreadsheet any preliminary expenses and labor costs. The USDA actually sponsors the EQIP Organic Initiative, which offers attractive loans to up-and-coming organic farmers in need of start-up capital. Your own costs will inevitably hinge on your unique circumstances. Either way, expect to spend a lot at the outset on equipment to get started.
Grow & Market Your Produce
After completing the process of selecting a niche, bankrolling land that’s eligible for organic status and financing your equipment, the actual planting and harvesting is pretty easy by comparison. The first thing you’ll learn about organic farming or any kind of agriculture for that matter is that very little actually goes according to plan in reality. Whatever your eventual harvest haul, you’ll need to get rid of it in a hurry as produce is inherently quite perishable. Prior to your banner harvest, make plans ahead of time to sell your wares once they’re ready to hit the market at the end of the season.
Harvest, Sell and Profit
Some of the best venues for liquidating inventory include local restaurants and farmers’ markets. A bit of social media marketing online can move produce quickly and even make your home farm stand a destination for local consumers. Check out the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education website for tips on every aspect of local agriculture, including becoming a CSA operation. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Anyone with the desire to start an organic farm can ultimately succeed with a bit of determination and effort.