• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Beginner question; how do I get started farming if I've never done it before and have no money?  RSS feed

 
Scott Fike
Posts: 44
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Greetings,
         I’ve never farmed before in my life but I’m wanting to start. I’m middle-aged, single, have no children, and I’m wanting to begin crop farming and gardening on a small scale (perhaps 1 acre or less). I live in the state of Missouri in Clay county just north of the Missouri river (I live pretty much in the Missouri river valley in former tallgrass prairie land). I would kind of like to stay somewhere in the central great plains states to learn how to crop farm and garden, such as Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska as I learn how to farm.
         I don’t have any money to speak of. I’m pretty much broke most of the time. I currently live with some relatives in a suburban/townhouse setting. The main thing I need is a much more rural place to live and some land to get started. I’m pretty certain I’d like to start out by renting both a farm house and some land. How I make a living exactly I’m not for sure at this point. 
         I’m interested in sustainable farming practices such as natural farming, no-till farming, and organic farming.
         I could use some guidance, suggestions and directions on how and where to get started.
Thank you
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2586
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
502
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Last month, a fellow called me a vacant lot farmer. That pretty much sums up my philosophy towards farming. Around here, and I expect in a lot of other places, land is a burden to the property owner. So if you want to be a farmer, my first word of advice is DO NOT PAY RENT on farmland. Offer to take care of the land for property owners who are burdened with the thought of taking care of the land. Perhaps offer the land owner some vegetables. Under that scenario, there is probably vacant land within a couple miles of where you are currently living, and property owners that would be delighted for you to take care of it for them. Perhaps practice on that for a few years before moving to the country. It's sure easier to find a market for vegetables in town than in the country.

Around here, there are lots of fruit and nut trees that drop their fruit onto the ground year after year. Perhaps offer to prune the trees, and deal with windfalls in exchange for the fruit from the trees. That gets you an orchard your very first growing season.

 
Waylon Breaux
Posts: 20
Location: Campti, LA, Natchitoches Parish, Zone 8
books forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
good to see a new person interested in farming.  There's so few of us left.  One of the first things I'd recommend is to pay attention to the way that nature works in your area.  Everything from weather to the way the water flows around you.  Don't be afraid to ask questions of any farmer or gardener in your area and then (in your own mind anyway) immediately question what they just told you.   Always be asking and learning.  Starting with just one acre is still a lot of work.  Starting with any amount of land requires that you have a PLAN.  What are you going to do with what you grow?  the answer to that will determine how you get to where you want to be.  Read EVERY book you can get your hands on.  Your library is your friend.  Here in Louisiana, if my local library doesn't have the book, they will get it on loan for me.  That's how I was able to read all of Bill Mollison's books

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them here, or to me.  I'm a beginning farmer, too, so it could be like the blind leading the blind.  LOL!

 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 980
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A further suggestion....go to your local at extension office. You can find growing info on vegetables for your region. You don't have to buy into the idea of chemicals, ag loans, or whatever. The growing information is still there and it's usually free. You'll find info about growing temperatures, soil types, nutrient requirements, veg varieties, seed sources, insect pests, plant diseases in your region, etc. You can ask about how to construct a poly tunnel, how much water you'll need for irrigation, what sort of nursery supplies you may need. I find the extension offices to be quite helpful.
 
amarynth leroux
Posts: 37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would echo ... do not pay rent for farmland.  It may be an idea to trade your labor to a farmer while you learn some stuff?
 
Chrissy Star
Posts: 26
Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
LAND AVAILABLE FOR USE:

Hi, we have a 30acre property on Noosa Rd, Traveston (Queensland, Australia) which we are happy to share with others who have a need for land.  Your needs may be – agricultural, animal care, ecological, sustainability, your suggestion?  The only requirement we have is that the activity is agreed upon by property residents & is environmentally friendly (ie. organic ferts only).

Land description:
• Neighbours “Woondum National Park” including access to “Noosa Trail Network”, 4WD tracks, mountain bike tracks, hiking trails etc.
• 2 dams (1 dam used to fill up water tank which services watertaps for garden/yard).
• Grasslands.
• Woodlands.
• Fully fenced – with possibility of creating paddocks/fenced areas.
• Possibility of shed space & equipment.

Why?  We are supporters of community, understand what it is like to have skills/ideas and nowhere to execute & are open to skill-sharing.

Property residents:
- Permaculture teacher (qualified environmental scientist).
- Mechanic/horticulturalist.
- Family pet dog (desexed).
- 5yr old mare.

 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
Posts: 753
Location: Virginia (zone 7)
78
books dog fish food preservation forest garden hugelkultur hunting solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Start small. I wouldn't go the renting route, especially if you have to sign a long term lease. You may find yourself stuck in a crappy legal situation if you want to change directions. Have you looked at the offers on the WWOOF forum?
 
Steven Kovacs
Posts: 226
Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
9
urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you looked into SPIN farming (Small Plot INtensive)?  It is a methodology for implementing the "vacant lot farmer" approach Joseph mentioned.
 
kim dandelion
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you thought about the idea of exploring intentional community?  There are quite a few in MO and that is one way to not necessarily need as much upfront $ while also learning from those around you.  I live at one called Red Earth Farms in NEMO and am next to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (which isn't as much about farming but some people do) and Sandhill Farm is 3 miles away.  In Southern MO there is East Wind, Oran Mor, I'm sure others.  There are some in La Plata....  MIne is Dandelion (did I do that right?) which is transitioning to a women-focused homestead (potentially single mom focused since that is an especially oppressed class of people) and we've been here for about 11 years on 9 acres doing permaculture style food forest and whatnot.
 
Mike Hoag
Posts: 14
forest garden urban woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are plenty of farms in your area that hire hands for the season. Find a farmer who knows what they're doing and learn some craft before you jump in on your own. Don't wwoof if you want to farm. Get a pay check to learn from somebody who knows what they're doing and is profitable enough to pay you to learn. Most new farms go like this: http://modernfarmer.com/2014/01/two-idealistic-young-urban-farmers-inspired-community-failed-business/

But yes, there are Permaculture people doing much more clever land-sharing agreements than SPIN. Also, don't pay that fortunre to buy that SPIN book, sheesh... much better info on the topic out there for much less $$$. That's my .02.
 
Eugene Howard
Posts: 38
Location: Missouri
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you only knew. There are probably hundreds of elderly folks within 50 miles of you who would be glad to have you live with them or give you a place to live in exchange for work and care, both for them and their farm. They know exactly what to do and how to do it and would be glad to teach you…..assuming you are not a reprobate and/or loser seeking to take advantage of them. Put an ad in the KC paper, the Rocket or similar and get ready to go to work.
 
Troy Cook
Posts: 5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello.  I saw your post and thought I'd share my experiences so far.  First off, if you're interested in sustainability and permaculture, you've come to the right place.  Permies.com is a treasure trove of information and inspiration.  I bought 10 acres 15 months ago in SW Alabama.  I am disabled/retired, and I have a decent income which makes it easier for me than most.  But I still have to save and budget, so I'm not able to do everything as fast as I'd like.  Where I live things are surprisingly expensive.  It would have cost me $7K to get electricity installed from Alabama Power Company.  So instead I invested in a small off-grid solar power system with a backup generator for cloudy days.  I knew absolutely nothing about solar, so I had to educate myself.  The septic tank cost $3400.  The county water meter cost $1700 to get installed.   I can't afford to build a home yet,  so I bought a used Travel Trailer for $4K.  I am slowly clearing the land as I can during the cooler months.  I already pretty much have all the animals I want with sheep, meat goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, Guinea fowl and pigeons.  I spend around $500 a month on just animal feed and hay.  I have a beautiful fall garden in a raised bed

I'd recommend that you start small and proceed from there.  If I were in your shoes, I'd consider sharecropping.  Where you farm some land owned by someone else and you pay them with a share of your products or profits.  Obviously the details would have to be worked out.  It will need to be close to your residence because having to drive any distance gets very old in a hurry.  As previously suggested you could maintain the property overall and use a portion for your garden.  Of course the Internet is a terrific source for information on farming.  I love YouTube for videos on every aspect of farming/animal husbandry and homesteading.  Amazon has a program called Kindle Unlimited, and it is only $10 a month which allows you to download over a million titles for free.  Often times these publications are more like booklets than in depth reference manuals, but I have gotten some very good books from them for free.  You are allowed a maximum of ten titles at one time.  If you want to download new titles after ten, you have to delete a title to make room for the new title.  But the good news is that you get to choose which title to delete.  You can get Kindle apps for any cellphone and keep your books with you without actually owning a Kindle.

After you have raised several successful crops and you are certain that this is what you want to do, then it is time to find some land for yourself.  By yourself without help physically or financially, you won't need a big piece of land.  An acre would probably be fine or two at the most.  Especially if you will have to work a regular  job to pay the bills. You'll want land outside of the city limits.  Also check to see what restrictions exist on the property.  I had a hard time finding 10 acres without restrictions.   I was living in NW Florida, but bought property in SW Alabama mostly because Alabama is a very agriculture friendly state where Florida is very UNFRIENDLY to small AG.  For example, a full egg license in Florida costs $1,500 a year.  In Alabama that same full egg license costs $5 per year.

Another critical piece of information you need before you buy land is what is the soil like.  There is only one way to tell if you have good soil or not and that is to have it tested.  Your county extension agent can test your soil for you for free or inexpensively.  They are also a tremendous help to farmers large and small everywhere.  I didn't know it when I bought my property that I have an invasive species of grass called Coggon Grass or Japanese Blood Grass on most of my property.  It is a nightmare to get rid of.  The goats can and will eat it, but too much of it can cause internal bleeding as it has serrated edges and a high silica content.  I also have a lot of Bracken Fern which is DEADLY to all animals if they eat enough of it.  They can eat it with no apparent ill effect until they accumulate toxic levels, and then they get sick and die and nothing will save them.

Another resource once you own land is the USDA's National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).  You apply to NRCS for assistance, and they will evaluate your plan and approve you for certain projects.  For example they will pay a percentage of the costs of a high tunnel greenhouse, loafing sheds for animals, paddock fencing for rotational grazing.  They will pay for the construction of a pond as a water shed and for livestock watering (but won't approve the pond if you plan to stock it with fish, so stock it after it is built and you've gotten your reimbursement).  The list of projects they will assist with is long.  Once your application and plan are approved, you have 2 years usually to complete the project and have it inspected.  Then they will reimburse a percentage of your expenses up to a certain limit.  If you are a veteran or disabled, you'll get a higher priority for project approval or on some projects a higher percentage of reimbursement.  If I remember correctly my percentage for reimbursement being that I'm a disabled veteran is 75%.

You can be successful at farming and make a living, but it is difficult.  You'll need to find a niche market and be prepared to work very hard.  The couple I bought my rabbits from make a living raising and selling goat and rabbit products.  They sell rabbits, rabbit meat, rabbit furs, rabbit manure, goats, goat meat, goat milk, goat manure, goat's milk cheese and goat's milk soap.  They market their products at farmer's markets and on Craig's List.  They have 300 breeding stock of rabbits and about 30 goats.  The goat and rabbit manure is their most consistent cash flow item. 

I spend all my free time in the evenings watching videos and reading about all aspects of farming, animal husbandry, permaculture, aquaponics and sustainability.  I am particularly interested in aquaponics and hope to build a greenhouse this winter to start my aquaponic garden.  I am also trying a couple of specialty crops... Japanese persimmons and Chinese water chestnuts.   I really like non-astringent Fuyu Japanese persimmons and will be planting a good part of my orchard with these trees along with apple and pear trees.  Fresh Chinese water chestnuts are incredible.  They are sweet, crisp and flavorful, unlike canned ones which are only crisp.  The water chestnuts are an ideal crop for aquaponics.

Like everything in life, knowledge is power.  The more you know the better decisions you'll make.  There is more free material out there than you could ever watch or read.  I found some terrific information on aquaculture of freshwater prawns on the United Nations website the other day.  Your county agriculture extension agent will be your new best friend.  They are experts on all things agriculture or can refer you to people who are.  All the information in the world is a poor substitute for hands on experience though.  It is so cool when you encounter something on the farm and you remember reading about it.  It is like a light bulb turns on in your head, and it really cements your knowledge and boosts your confidence. 

 
Henry Bjorklid
Posts: 31
Location: Bulgaria
2
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You might try this:

https://www.workaway.info
Map of hosts in your area:



My story:
I am a Finn and I have lived in different countries. Now I moved from Greece (where I tested the Hügelkultur-options) to Bulgaria. Here I travel using the workaway-site as a guide where I can find hosts that are building different kinds of gardens and what not. It cost something to be a member.
(I think it is about 40 $ per year)
The normal situation is like this:
- You work 5 hours, 5 days a week - two days free
- You get three meals every day, also the weekends and a free accomodation.

For me, it means that I have no need to pay any electrical-, internet- or water-bills, rent or anything else and my small pension is intact and I can buy what I need for myself.
At the next place I will probably make some Hügelkultur-beds => The tractorist does the digging, I collect wooden material,leaves, mycoriza and such for the bed. I am 67 years old so i am not able to do any heavy work.

Hugelkultur:
https://permies.com/forums/jforum?module=search&action=search&forum_id=-1&search_keywords=hugelkultur&match_type=all&search_in=ALL&forum=117&groupByTopic=true&sort_by=time&sort_dir=DESC&search_date=ALL&member_number=&member_first_name=&member_last_name=&member_match_type=memberPosted

In the afternoon, we will probably study languges, watch DVDs and such. Thehost told me that wealso will study howto make 'moonshine' - not illegal in Bulgaria. We are from different countries: Great Britain, Russia, Finland, Germany and Bulgaria, so we have much to learn. And I have much to learn about gardening too.
I aim to spend 1 - 2 months with each host, there is about 30 - 40 (of 135 hosts) suitable for me in Bulgaria  alone. E.g. in France there is about 300 hosts suitable for me.

Henry
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1826
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
91
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm glad you've been getting advice not to invest in land, whether renting  or buying.

It's a good idea to find someone (elderly people with land and a place to live for one example) who can teach you, who would value your strength and willingness to work. 

I also would mention SPIN, once you know how to do it.  Find vacant lots or front or back yards where people will give you access, pay for your water and taxes, in exchange for vegetables. 

But first find a way to trade work for teaching.

I am not in your area, but I am in the category of people who have more work than they can do, and grow more food than they can eat. 

Perhaps it will be useful to you to consider what one person's criteria are, as you enter the process of finding a good work study work exchange situation.

What I look for in work exchange is a good work ethic, a sunny disposition, a lively intellect, high level of accountability, and an active interest in learning how things work.

I also like a trial period, a getting to know each other period before a final agreement is reached.  I won't allow a person to arrive who does not have an alternative plan, alternative place to go, and who understands it is two week trial period, and after the two weeks we will make a plan together that will work for each of us.  And come to think of it,  people do leave before the two weeks, and I have asked people to leave before the two weeks is up.  Incompatibility is incompatibility and when you recognize it, my philosophy is you might as well go ahead and act on it.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1826
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
91
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And another post for another idea:

It is a good idea to learn about farming in the region where you intend to farm, and to stay where you have connections.  But you say you have NO experience at all, and since most of farming is not particularly region specific, you could travel a bit to find the right situation have a larger area to search in, then return to your area with more skills to offer in exchange for learning the specifics of your preferred region.

Also you would get a chance to find out how many different kinds of farming there are.  Perennial vs annual.  no till vs till.  Plant crops vs animal crops. 

Take a look at any thing you can find on Mark Shepard's "New Forest Farm" in Wisconsin.  In a dozen years, he went from spent conventionally farmed corn ground to a permaculturist's dream, ideal soil, diverse plants and animals, song birds, insects, trees, shrubs, berries and small fruits.  Take a look, if you want to get an idea of one kind of farming and how he did it.

And just for starters here is a link to a very recent Mark Shepard webinar speech. 

https://vimeo.com/189268646

Good luck with your endeavor.

I agree with who ever said you have come to the right place to get  constructive input from experienced people with diverse points of view. 
 
Eric Bee
Posts: 107
5
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am a farmer.

Since this is under finances, I have to assume that you expect to earn a living from farming, whatever that "living" might be for you. Starting from zero knowledge is very very hard. When you have no money it is nearly impossible. You would need exactly the right land, the right market, the right crops and you will have to work very hard. The less you know the more expensive your mistakes -- in fact any investment is basically paying for that education when you could have gotten it for free or even been paid to learn. When you have little or no idea what to look for in terms of land or location, you may well find you can make no headway at all. If you do not have a clear understanding of how you will make a living then you can pretty much count on that not happening. Trust me on that... I know.

I strongly encourage anyone wanting to go this route to find an internship of some kind. Even one season will cut your learning curve and all the costly mistakes significantly. It will teach you what to look for in soil, what crops sell well, and of course the mechanics and logistics of a market farm. Without this you are flying blind and I give you almost no chance of succeeding. Even with that experience it is a very hard row to hoe. Most people have no idea just how hard.

All this said, I do know people who have started out with very little (but not zero), both in terms of knowledge and cash. The only ones who made it were the ones who were over-the-top determined and passionate and who happened to be in exactly the right kind of market and lucked into good land. It is possible in the right situation, but from where you are now you may not know what that looks like. The states you list, for example, are not exactly high demand areas for local produce... or produce of any kind, much less organic. I am from the Ozarks, btw, so I'm not just guessing. Small scale organic farming is, sadly, never a case of "build it and they will come".

 
Travis Schulert
pollinator
Posts: 306
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
29
dog fish food preservation forest garden hunting tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Follow the links in my signature below, I detail how I started farming without any savings or knowledge on the subject. No formal education or training on the subject and I made it work.
 
Barbara Scheltus
Posts: 1
Location: Croatia (top of a hill, surrounded by forests in inland Croatia)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And when you are setting up your farm, you could ask the help of WWOOFers. Volunteers that are interested in organic farming.
Hosting volunteers is a mutual learning system; some of them have a lot of experience!

Good luck!
 
I like tacos! And this tiny ad:
Book Review Grid
https://permies.com/wiki/31762/Book-Review-Grid
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!