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Farm Partners

 
                                        
Posts: 19
Location: Medford Oregon
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Successful Farm Partners

In order to run a successful farm operation, you need dependable helpers, teamwork.  For it to be sustainable, everyone needs to feel equally important and share an equal benefit from the effort.  All partners need to have realistic expectations, and provide a reasonable degree of tolerance for differing opinions among them.  As long as they share pretty-much the same basic goals, then all this should not be too difficult, right?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve kept a slot open here for at least one new conscientious business partner to join the farm.  We’ve had a few attempts, all have failed.

It takes more than just a desire for material gain to pull something like this off.  There are ethical and ideological motivations required too.  But the bottom line always seems to be, “How much money will you pay me?”  What I end up with are “helpers” who make more per hour than I do, and just put in their time, doing as little as possible in the process.  They know that they can get a job at the Burger Queen (or whatever) and make more money with less effort… and still have time to party.  Such short-term thinking is what makes it easy for corporate monopolies to enslave the masses.

With increasing unemployment & under-employment, you’d think that the pool of available homesteading partners would be also increasing.  Up to now, the vast majority of prospects have been, sorry to say: impractical utopian idealists, deadbeats, compulsive pot-smokers, and outright thieves.  Unemployment is heading to 20%, so I guess we’ll see if anything changes.  Thanks...
 
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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I've had my share of interesting farm employees too. The best helpers have always been the ones who have either worked on other farms or who have first tried to make a living farming on their own. The experienced ones tend not to suffer so much from unrealistic expectations.

I've never really considered looking for someone to become a partner in my operation. I feel like I take all the financial risk and therefore I deserve any potential reward. I've spent over a decade building this business up from nothing to where it is now, and I don't feel like handing an ownership portion of it over to someone else. In my mind the others working here should be shielded from that risk as much as I can, and if we had a great year I could share the reward. That means paying an hourly wage and then giving a bonus when appropriate. My goal is to grow the operation large enough to hire a fulltime farm manager, mostly so I can get a break from time to time. I see this possible at annual gross revenues of starting around $200 - $250K. We grow year-round and it's very hard for me to leave. When I do leave there are always major issues.

I am curious what you feel a farm partner would bring that a farm manager would not.
 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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I've been self employed and involved in different adventures over the years- a candy company, cleaning services, cabinetry and carpentry, and most recently an organic farm. 

I have found that honest communication is a critical aspect.  All partners need a full understanding of the other partner's intentions, aspirations and desires.  This is over and above any written agreement.  All a document can do is establish the rules and divvy up the cash.  You need to understand what's inside the other guys head before bringing him on board. 

I disagree with you on the equality issue.  2 equal partners have no way to resolve a disagreement.  I have a buddy who started an advertising magazine, was going to bring in a partner in a 50/50 arrangement.  I suggested he make it  51/49 in order that they don't get stuck on an issue that must be resolved with certainty. 

 
steward
Posts: 33256
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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2 equal partners have no way to resolve a disagreement.



When I read that, I swear I could hear a choir and harps.

I think interns are great - just bring in more than you need and be prepared to let a few go early on.  I know this sounds mean, but it does seem like A)  the no-show rate is generally high anyway, and B) for the ones that do show, there are some that have the wrong idea about how this works.

I think it is great to have a business deal or business relationships.  If you have a big farmhouse with five bedrooms and you are there by yourself, you could rent those rooms out to people that you want to do business with.  It's possible that you could even develop a business relationship with somebody that lives on your land.



 
                                
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I've been more or less unemployed since my seasonal job ended in September and have started looking for exactly the situation you describe.

Only catch is...I'd like to stay in Alaska. Ha!

I think what you're proposing is reasonable to someone in my situation. That being:


  • [li]Can't find a job for the life of me, despite looking continuously. (Always in the wrong place at the wrong time, it seems.)
    Has an existing interest in sustainable farming as a financially feasible endeavor, but knows that doesn't come without hard work, trying lots of different things to see what works, and learning as much as you can from people that are already doing it.
    Has the ingenuity and business sense and work ethic to really pitch in a lot and help a project.
    Needs in exchange housing, some food, and just enough spare time to work on projects that can put money in my pocket for things that I can't work/trade for.[/li]
    [li][/li]


  • I really do love living on a barter system. I'm tired of dumping what little money I can make on small projects into rent, when I could be doing stuff I'd rather be doing anyway for someone that has space to put me up and room for me to help produce my own food! (And add to their bottom line, as well.)

    Alas. I don't suppose you're in AK, eh?
     
                                            
    Posts: 19
    Location: Medford Oregon
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    Sorry, Not in Alaska.  Southern Oregon.
    Too bad, because what you are seeking there sounds pretty close to what I'm interested in.  Basically, we're in a "holding pattern" as we wait for the economy to reach a resolution.  There's no use in trying to push deeper into the chaos, so this is a good time for preparations, developing skills, and making contacts.
    Patience and realistic expectations are vital during times of great transition like these.  If you can follow the global political/economic agenda, then you have a real advantage too.  It's not going to be "business as usual," we really have to be flexible and resourceful if we want to survive and prosper in the years just ahead.
    Anyway, good luck to you.
     
    Posts: 42
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    This is a fascinating, and for me , relevant topic. I have 10 acres in Reeves County Texas, which is just alot of flat land about 1 hour 15 minutes from Odessa-Midland Texas. I actually have two properties but I am going to put my effort into a larger 23 acre property about 3 hours South in Presidio county texas. In general I am trying to build living fences of mesquite and plant this desert land with forage bushes and trees from species mostly American, South African and Australian. My goal is keep a small mixed herd of deer and exotic sheep and sell a few off as my partial income, graduating later to higher priced exotics such as Gemsbok and European Red Deer once my experience improves. The land in Reeves County needs somebody to work it and I have been baffled how I can develop it but derive some modest sort of income from it.  I've put out some ads over the years but couldnt get anybody interested.  Any ideas on what sort of arrangement I could offer somebody? The land is good--the market is nearby...any help most appreciated....
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 1305
    Location: Green County, Kentucky
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    Texan8b wrote:
    This is a fascinating, and for me , relevant topic. I have 10 acres in Reeves County Texas, which is just alot of flat land about 1 hour 15 minutes from Odessa-Midland Texas. I actually have two properties but I am going to put my effort into a larger 23 acre property about 3 hours South in Presidio county texas. In general I am trying to build living fences of mesquite and plant this desert land with forage bushes and trees from species mostly American, South African and Australian. My goal is keep a small mixed herd of deer and exotic sheep and sell a few off as my partial income, graduating later to higher priced exotics such as Gemsbok and European Red Deer once my experience improves. The land in Reeves County needs somebody to work it and I have been baffled how I can develop it but derive some modest sort of income from it.  I've put out some ads over the years but couldnt get anybody interested.  Any ideas on what sort of arrangement I could offer somebody? The land is good--the market is nearby...any help most appreciated....



    I would suggest, if you want to keep the land, a long-term, low-cost lease, with possibly a small percentage of the profits going to you.  If they do well, you and they both benefit.  I wouldn't necessarily dictate what the tenants are to grow, other than looking for someone with similar ideas about permaculture and caring for the land.  Might be easier to find a tenant with experience raising niche-market sheep, for example, than one with experience in and interest in the exotic deer.  But then, what do I know?  Maybe those critters are more common in Texas than they are in Oregon!

    Kathleen
     
                            
    Posts: 5
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    I have 170 acres, 55 conventionally farmed tillable ( corn/soybean ), 100 cattle pasture and timber, 10 acres hog tight fence  Also 3 bedroom house, outbuildings and infrastructure for maintaining livestock. I would like to rent the total package to someone or a group. How does one go about that?
     
    Michael Littlejohn
    Posts: 42
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    Thanks for that Kathleen it sounds like a good idea..I will put some feelers out....Mike
     
                                      
    Posts: 13
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       This was a riveting thread to find. It's only the very thing I've been mentally gnawing on in the back room of my brain for some time now, as I busily try to focus on just keep the bills paid.
       I have a complicated story but the gist is imagining the perfect room-mate and wanting to start a small CSA. I can't write much at the moment as it's First Night and my H and I have a date to stroll downtown and take in the Art. I have been envisioning an Ag graduate who wants to start a CSA practicing on my small but well situated piece of property.
     
                            
    Posts: 508
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    When I was a little girl the Hungarian Revolution was going on and appeals were put out for people to do what they could to help. My father had two 1/4 sections each with houses on it (one had two), all perfectly livable but not new, we lived in one. He offered the use of the one quarter section and houses (including utilities!)  to work for themselves , possibly with the prospect of buying  the land then or eventually, a share in what we produced (milk meat and potatoes)  AND wages to help work on the quarter section we were living on. Nobody had any interest whatsoever, we were told they considered farming beneath them, so he simply sold the land, as it was too much for us to use.

    I have been looking to find someone/family to share/develop my land and the only interest has been from someone in the States who found that immigration to Canada has too many hurdles to make it worthwhile unless planning to stay (which he wasn't, unfortunately) .I keep seeing these people who are living in tent cities and wondering how to get in touch to see if there are really any people in there who are willing to work for a future...seems to me most people find it easier to talk the talk than actually follow through, but maybe that's just my disappointment showing.
     
                                      
    Posts: 13
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    Hi Pam,
    I too see great potential for land owners and and young aspiring farmers to collaborate. I live in Montana and we have an organization here called  CFAC  - Community Food and Agriculture Coalition www.LandLinkMontana.org Their aim is to preserve Farm land from developing and help make these kinds of connections between land owners and Farmers.   I know you are in Canada, but I imagine there must be grass-roots Org.s there too dedicated to Local Food issues. Maybe Paul Hubbard would have some ideas for you since he is so immersed in this world. The other idea I had is to go to your closest Ag. schools - connect directly with the graduates.
    I don't think this is just a dream. As noble as it is to want to help folks in tent cities... it may not be the place to start, but a place to look for workers after you get the system up and running.
     
                                          
    Posts: 22
    Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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    I'm reading this topic with interest.  I'm looking for a partner to help me turn my family farm (been in our family for 350 years) from the current situation of being conventionally farmed on lease to a sustainable polyculture model.  Thing is, I have a great job in the city and it doesn't make any kind of financial sense for me to quit it.  I'm earning the money to build the infrastructure.  Lots of models are possible, ranging from caretaker for my operation, to someone running a profitable business of their own.  My interest isn't in taking money out of the farm, but in allowing the farm to sustain itself as I build it into the type of property I want to retire to in 10 years.

    I've already done a lot on my own (restoring the family home from a roofless owl-roost to a showplace, for one thing), and I may be able to build up orchards and pasture and pay someone to tend the animals for me with me being there on weekends, but it would make much more sense for someone who wants to enjoy the farm life as well as the fruits of that labor to participate.  I like community.

    I posted a description of the situation today in the Woofer section of this site.  I'm thinking of contacting the ag schools in nearby states, as well -- this might be a good situation for someone getting a ag degree now without capital for their own land.  Really, I'm offering all the benefits and none of the risk of startup farming, but I do want to find someone who's realistic, serious and hardworking.  A partner.  Do you think it's possible to find someone like that?
     
    Pat Black
    Posts: 123
    Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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    willowdale wrote:

    I posted a description of the situation today in the Woofer section of this site.  I'm thinking of contacting the ag schools in nearby states, as well -- this might be a good situation for someone getting a ag degree now without capital for their own land.  Really, I'm offering all the benefits and none of the risk of startup farming, but I do want to find someone who's realistic, serious and hardworking.  A partner.  Do you think it's possible to find someone like that?



    Well I hope you find someone, sounds like an interesting project. I must say, risks still remain for anyone who would take you up on the offer. Everything from crop failure leading to zero income for the farm partner, to you deciding the partner wasn't a good fit and asking the partner to move on.

    As for people getting ag degrees, they likely are coming from programs that don't teach polyculture or permaculture or even sustainable agriculture. So their knowledge base will be more skewed to industrial ag.

     
                            
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    NM Grower wrote:
    Well I hope you find someone, sounds like an interesting project. I must say, risks still remain for anyone who would take you up on the offer. Everything from crop failure leading to zero income for the farm partner, to you deciding the partner wasn't a good fit and asking the partner to move on.



    This is the sort of thing which is so discouraging for those of us looking to find people to share the land with. Do you suppose owning your own land will guarrantee no crop failures? Who gives the OWNER guarrantees?

    I have just had a long correspondence with someone who wanted to come so badly, for a month he was talking about  "we" would do this and that but when I wouldn't get into financial arrangements that would give him equal control over the land until we had at least MET, he suddenly found he was being called elsewhere.

    Life is about taking risks and if someone isn't willing to put in some hours of time/effort for a few weeks  in order to gain land for virtually no money then they want more security in their life than any sort of farming will ever give them.

    I'm likely just going to put my land into a land trust if nothing starts to seem promising in the near future. That way at least I get to do my thing on it for my lifetime and  nobody will get hold of it to turn it into a subdivision down the road. I had thought about Ducks Unlimited but they will sell land so there's no assurance that won't happen.
     
    Pat Black
    Posts: 123
    Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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    I grow full time for a living, own my land, and am quite familiar with crop failure. I'm not supposing anything. I am addressing willowdale's statement that a farm partner has no risks in startup farming.
     
                                          
    Posts: 22
    Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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    Actually I wouldn't quibble with your observation, NM, that it's not risk free for either party.  In the situation I'm proposing, the partner stands to lose the time they invested if it doesn't work out.  The risk I was thinking of when I made that statement was taking on a big mortgage to buy land, counting on income from a farming venture that fails to materialize on schedule, leading to utter financial ruin and losing the land to foreclosure.  A farming partner on my land doesn't have to worry about that.

    Of course, maybe I'm a colossal jackass, unreliable, etc.  Or a serial killer.  Or the proposed partner is.  I have found that plenty of conversation and communication allows both parties to see if there's a match of ideals and values.  It's good not to get ahead of oneself early on, it's like planning a marriage before the first date.  Avoids disappointment.

    I've had a couple of nibbles on the post I made, which I think is a good sign.  If I can't find a farming partner, I know I can find a room mate to keep the house occupied and mow the lawn, and I'll just have to scale back converting the farm to permaculture to what I can do or pay for on my own.
     
    Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work - Edison. Tiny ad:
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