Becoming a farmer is a career-move on the increase in this part of the States. Rich and Val from Mossback farm are one of about 20 people we’ve met or heard about over here who’ve started out in farming completely from scratch. And organisations like The Greenhorns are a good indicator of this flow of of new and different blood entering the agricultural industry. Something the UK would welcome in its quest to find 60,000 new farmers perhaps?
So what do you need to start a farm?
It was really interesting talking to Rich and Val about their experiences, and those of their friends. They’ve been farming in one form or another for about ten years now, have started a family in the process, and experienced the full spectrum of highs and lows that seem to be all part of the fun of attempting to build a viable farming enterprise. I’ve also been leafing through Joel Salatin (of Food Inc. fame), whose book seems to be a bit of a bible for people starting out in farming (I’ve seen it on at least 3 bookshelves so far!). Here’s my take on it so far:
Experience. This seems to be the most important thing. Most of the beginner farmers we’ve met here have done an internship, or been mentored through their first year or two by an experienced farmer. There seem to be a wealth of opportunities for this in Oregon. Anyone know of any similar resources in the UK?
Avoiding massive debt. Easier said than done, but not impossible. Check out this brilliant ‘full disclosure’ post on the finances involved in setting up a new farm from some friends of Rich and Val’s.
Not getting hung up on land. Apparently, you don’t even need land to farm, as London’s very own Farm:shop is setting out to prove. Joel Salatin gives the example of a guy raising rabbits in his NY apartment. He says that starting now is crucial, and that what they’re doing now is a good indicator of a prospective farmers’ future success.
So that’s my start. But you might also want to read Rich’s excellent account of the Mossback farm story. You can’t beat real experience.