Can You Make a Living Being a Farmer
Sometimes people wonder about what it is like to be a farmer and if there is “big money” in farming. How realistic is a career in farming?
Starting a Farm
Start up costs of farming are huge. This is why most farmers started out as farm kids who inherited their parents farm, or whose parents divided their land and/or livestock, giving some to their children.
To be a farmer you need land, farm equipment, and may or may not require livestock. Most farming has a slow pay off, in other words the crop is planted, but it is several months later when it is harvested, as such income is typically far off, and not a guarantee, farmers carry crop insurance as many years crops are lost due to drought, flooding, or other disasters.
Livestock farming also has its ups and downs, livestock must be purchased, fed, and prepared for market, which in some cases can be over a year away. With breeding animals the process can take even longer, particularly with cattle.
Many farmers start up by buying land and leasing it to others, in this way they accumulate some money from their land while saving up to have their own venture. Others will lease the land for grazing or to harvest crops.
photo by author - my hobby farm "Pets"
Common Types of Farm
Livestock – Dairy Cattle (milk/veal), Beef Cattle, Sheep (meat/wool), Goats (milk/meat), Chickens (laying hens/broilers), Turkeys, PMU farms (horses for urine), Equestrian, Hog, Bees (honey/wax) and a few others, including snails.
Crops – Hay, Grain, Potatoes, Peas, Corn, Beets, Carrots, and so forth.
Mixed Farming – Most farmers who raise livestock also produce crops of some sort, typically for the purpose of feeding their own animals, but occasionally they produce more than they need for sale. Other farmers have several types of crops, allowing for crop rotation which typically improves soil quality.
Farm equipment is not cheap, but people new to farming may find they have neighbors that will “share” at harvest time, you help them, they help you. For such a venture it is good to talk to ones neighbors (being anyone within 5 miles away) and see who has what in terms of equipment, and who needs what, even if they simply need another helper.
For livestock farming barns and fences are required, in addition to the equipment for growing and harvesting feed. You will note that if a farmer buys all their feed, profits will decrease.
photo by author
The days of the “family farm” are nearly all long gone from most areas, as many farms are now “Factory run”, meaning a large corporation owns them.
Many farmers who do remain “on the farm” also maintain other jobs off the farm, often selecting jobs that allow them to be home when most needed (calving time and harvest time). Many farmers have so much money tied up into the farm that they barely get by without a second income.
Although many people complain about the price of food in the grocery store, they need to be aware the farmer gets very little of this money. The grocery store gets some, the processing plant gets some, the auction market/slaughter yard gets some, shippers get some.
If you Want to Start a Farm
Do more research to see what is in demand in your area and do not fall for “gimmick” or trendy crops or livestock (llama farming would be a perfect example of this). Research the needs and expenses required for getting into such a venture.
Take a class on Agriculture, many colleges offer Agriculture options.
Spend money on land, equipment, buildings, and so forth, but plan on a humble home.
Farming is typically considered “Self Employment” do not forget to set money aside for taxes, and retirement, although you may plan on selling the farm, you may change your plans later.