After getting my hands dirty for a year on the farm while researching extensively, I uncovered some important information. From the anecdotal evidence found in blogs/feature articles like this one, most small farms fail because they don’t have the guidance provided by goals within an extensive plan. Both of these require immense research, calculations and planning; all things that can be completed while retaining personal financial security from unrelated employment. The reality is most farms fail because they start producing without a plan to turn that production into income. Realizing that there is either no market available or will require lots of extra work to reach a market (making the venture economically unsustainable) tends to shatter the romantic views of back-to-the-land farmers.
I’ve also been researching the sustainable farming industry as a whole and found some equally distressing issues: most of the successful farms rely on off-farm income or free labor from interns or students. These operators may reach personal success while in my opinion, fail as farmers. I want to delve deeper into how the successful ones obtain that success and conversely, why the ones relying on free labor must do so. I’ll publish my reports along the way while undergoing this big project.
Since my research contains some negative reflections on the state of an industry I am passionate about, I expect to get some equally negative reactions. I simply want to ask and follow through on the tough, soul-searching questions that only with complete intellectual honesty can significant conclusions be reached. Since I want to create a replicable sustainable farm model, profits must come directly from farm products thus I am unwilling to cheat with relying on free labor to do so. Also, what if the reason so many farms fail while successful ones are being consolidated under a few corporations is a government policy to which citizens can initiate change? Regardless, I seek to gather data first then draw conclusions later.
I accepted a job I am passionate about in the clean energy production industry. It is close to the farm allowing continuing establishment while planning out how to be a successful-stand alone business. Plus I will have no commute living downtown in a small city.
All in all, the job was too perfect to pass up!
What does this mean for the farm? Not much change! I had already decided to focus the organic garden on self-production while maybe offering some add-on offers for sales primary commercial products. Diving into both animal production and crop production is simply not feasible at the time of start-up. In the future, what I learn during my attempt to gain produce self-sufficiency will be invaluable to diversifying the farm efforts in the long run. My love of botany will certainly keep plant operations going strong thus generating fresh content for this blog.
Bottom line: the only change to the previous plan of more posts as the farm is implemented full-time farm is that there will be not much of a change relative to the current state of the blog!