Putting Your Vacant Land to Use
If you have property and are considering using it for a small farm, take time to make a plan and consider different enterprises before getting started. There are many resources that can be used to help you determine which enterprises best fit your goals and resources.
You will need to spend some time thinking about your goals, including the time you are able to invest and the financial returns you require to stay in business. You may have family members or business partners who want to participate in your enterprise. It is important that your team is able to communicate early in the process their expectations and the amount of time that each person is able to contribute to the business.
A smart way to begin is to develop a business plan together with your team or family members. The beginning of a business plan is always a mission statement and goals for your enterprise, which when developed together will help you understand if everyone shares a common vision and goals for the farm.
A tool that we use for this and recommend to our clientele is called AgPlan, a free online business planning website tailored to farm enterprises. You can start your own business plan at http://www.agplan.umn.edu, share it with your team or even your lenders.
I would be happy to review your plan: you simply use my email address email@example.com to invite me to be a reviewer.
There are many directions to take in considering a marketing plan for your enterprise. The marketing channels you will use are important to know when developing your enterprise. Your location, skills, available time, transportation, production methods (organic, season extension, etc.) all are important to consider when selecting a market for your enterprise. So often, we hear about farms that produced a wonderful product but didn’t have their market set before they started, and had poor sales as a result.
Finding available startup financing is a frequent concern of beginning farmers. Some enterprises require more initial capital investment than others. Some of the highest potential return enterprises often require the highest investment.
Agricultural loans are available from many sources as one option. Leasing land and equipment is a method of reducing capital outlay that may work in your enterprise. Forming a producer group and sharing costs or developing a cooperative is another idea to minimize your personal risk. Building needs, equipment, labor, operating costs, marketing, insurance and maintenance are all items to consider when deciding what to produce and your budget for your enterprise.
More people are becoming interested in the lifestyle that can be achieved by living and working on a family farm. More part-time and full-time farms are becoming established in Richmond County as result of this movement.
People who do their homework and work through the options before making investments in a particular enterprise will save money and time. Through your local extension office, you can learn more about what enterprises best suit your farm, how to develop a vision and mission for your operation, a business plan and a marketing plan.
Call us to make an appointment at 910-997-8255 and we will be happy to assist you in making a plan for a new enterprise.
Susan A. Kelly is county extension director for the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Richmond County Center.