Did you know that in the United States there are an average of 2.2 million farms farming around 922 million acres of land?
That is a lot of people contributing to our food sources, but what does it take to become one of those 2.2 million people?
What exactly determines whether you are a farmer or not?
Well, I’m not sure there are exact answers to that second question. It is more of an opinion, but today, I’m going to share with you my view on how you can become a farmer and what actually makes you a farmer in the first place.
Here are my thoughts:
1. The Mind of a Farmer
My great grandfather was an old-school farmer. He had a small 11-acre farm, but he worked the land as he should. He always got a great harvest. He paid for the land by the sweat of his brow in less than 5 years time.
And he raised a family with my great grandmother and supported them with the fruits of his labors.
Now, what he didn’t do is get too big for his britches. He was okay with a simple life, and he was very smart with his money. That is why when my great grandparents passed away, they had quite the inheritance to leave to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And it all started with those 11 acres of land.
So the first step to becoming a farmer is to develop the farmer mentality. I realize if you are going to farm for a living some farmers have to cut deals and go into these big contracts with big wig corporations. That’s okay if that is your way of thinking.
But I also believe people can still farm in the same manner my grandpa did. They can live simply, raise their own food, sell the excess, and live within their means. I have a lot of respect for my great grandparents because of the way they lived, and I believe we can still share those same values today.
2. What is Your ‘Why?’
Now, if you want to become a farmer to get rich, then you are probably in the wrong business. I know some people sign large contracts with large corporations and make a lot of money, but around my area, those opportunities are few and far between.
Plus, the ones that do have large contracts, work really hard to keep them. So farming is not a get rich quick scheme.
But maybe you want to farm full-time so you can have a family business and spend more time with your family by working together.
Or maybe, you just want to be a hobby farmer so you can enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables all while raising adorable animals.
Or you could want to be a small scale farmer so you can grow your family’s food. Whatever your ‘why’ is for wanting to farm, you’ll need to keep that front and center along with the farmer mentality so you can accomplish your goals.
For me, my ‘why’ has changed over the years. When I first started farming, it was because my husband and I had just moved to a new state to be closer to his family. We were starting over and it was scary, but we knew we wanted to make a change from the way our lives once were.
So he started a new career path, and I began being a stay-at-home mom. This meant major budget cuts.
However, I didn’t want to feed my kids less than healthy foods just because they were more expensive, but I still had to keep my grocery budget low.
So we began raising as much of our food as possible. But over the years, money has gotten a little better, I learned a few tricks to making it as a modern homesteader, and we loved the freedom and challenge of raising our own food.
Which is our new ‘why’. We want to be as self-sufficient as possible because the less we have to buy in order to sustain our family, the more money we have for other things. Just always make sure you know why you are doing what you’re doing. It will serve as your motivation through the years.
3. Plan It Before You Till It
So you’ve decided to embrace the simple life. You know why you want to farm. Now what?
Well, now you need to look at your land and decide what all you can do with it and what you want to do with it. If you don’t have a huge plot of land, don’t be discouraged. You can still be a micro-farmer and grow lots of food.
But whatever size land you have, you need to plan what you are going to do there. Otherwise, you might make some of the same mistakes I made when we first began farming.
So once you have a plan for how you are going to layout your farm, be sure to put it down on paper. Then go over it again to make sure that it does in fact make sense. You might even want to ask someone else to look it over too before you get started creating it.
But once you are satisfied, you are ready to move on.
4. Fire it Up
So now you are a man/woman with a plan. Your next step is to begin to build the necessary structures for farming and gather the needed equipment.
Which means, if you are raising chickens, you’ll need to build a chicken coop. We have lots of great designs here for you, or if you are working on a budget, you might prefer this chicken coop.
But you’ll also need to build a barn for other animals. If you are raising goats, you may like this goat cabin we created for our goats.
Plus, don’t forget the tools you’ll need on your farm as well. You can find a lot of items second hand, but farming does require some necessary items to ensure you have the best chance for success.
However, I want to offer you some encouragement in this step. When I realized what an investment we were making into being self-sufficient, I almost quit. It isn’t cheap to homestead, but there are ways to build everything on a budget.
Plus, once you get what you need, if you take care of it, it should last you for many years to come.
So realize that building a homestead will take time, money, effort, and patience, but don’t grow discouraged. Keep plugging along with one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, your farm will be functioning like you need it to.
5. Start Tilling
After you’ve got your design all laid out, your structures ready to roll, and the equipment you need, it is time to begin the farming process.
Now, realize, you may not build your farm in this exact order. You may want to start with chickens. Which means you’ll build the chicken coop, buy the chickens, and then figure out how to feed them cheaply.
Then you might move on to the next item. This is what we did, and it works if you are working on a budget.
But if you are someone that has saved to take on the task to build a homestead, and you want to build first, then buy the equipment, and then make it function, it is all about what works for you and your circumstances. There is no right or wrong way to homestead as long as all living creatures are cared for properly.
So once you are ready for your farm to function, you just have to plant your garden, get your animals all set-up, and then care for them until everything comes to fruition in its time. If you are unsure how to grow certain vegetables, here are links to some how-to posts we’ve done for common fruits and vegetables.
6. Harvest Your Hard Work
After you’ve planted and cared for your plants and animals, the time will come that you will get to reap the harvest.
So usually toward the middle to end of summer, you’ll get a great harvest of many of your common vegetables.
Then you’ll get to store and can them so you can enjoy them all year long. But you can also plant a fall garden which will stretch that harvest into late fall so you can preserve that food for the rest of the year as well.
Also, your animals will usually have babies in the spring. Which means, for goats, you’ll have milk all year. Then as for your chickens, you can raise meat birds to be butchered in the fall as well.
Finally, rabbits are another good meat source, and their babies can be butchered every 8-12 weeks.
So if you care for what you decide to raise, you should have a rich harvest throughout most of the months of the year.
7. Congrats! You’re a Farmer!
So you have developed the ‘simple life’ mentality. You know why you want to farm and are keeping that tucked at the forefront of your mind to serve as motivation during tough times. You planned out your land. You built up your land to sustain plant and animal life.
Then you planted a garden and raised animals until you actually got a harvest. Finally, you preserved that harvest to sustain yourself (and others) for the remainder of the year until you do it all over again.
Well, I’ve got to tell you, in my book you are a farmer. It isn’t about how much money you make. It isn’t even about how many mistakes you make. The fact is that you are willing to try and learn new things. You are willing to keep persevering through the mistakes.
And you are willing to work your land so that it will produce what you and your loved ones need. In my mind, I don’t care if you have fancy equipment or high paying contracts. If you are willing to work the land and put your blood, sweat, and tears into each year’s harvest, to me, you are a farmer.
So put the internet to good use for you. You have advantages that your parents and grandparents didn’t have. You have people out there that are willing to try new things, share their methods, and even share the mistakes they made to spare you the wasted time.
Also, you have many options for farming. You can do a till garden, a no-till garden, garden with straw bales, and even plant everything in garden beds or containers.
The internet is your friend when it comes to canning recipes and utilizing as much as possible so you don’t waste. You have advantages.
So use those advantages to help yourself along to become the best farmer you can be.
Well, now that you know my two cents on the subject, hopefully you’ll be encouraged that you can farm anywhere. You can be a suburban farmer or a traditional farmer. It is all about your mindset.
But I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think makes a person a farmer?
We love hearing from you all so please leave us your thoughts and comments in the space provided below.