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By Austin G. Hackney

It’s no secret that the majority of new enterprises fail. That fact applies as much to setting up new farming projects as anything else. It isn’t always because of a bad business idea or that the market wasn’t there for the produce.

Running a successful farm on any scale is tough. There’s more to it than having a brilliant idea, identifying a market, pulling together the financing, and setting up the infrastructure. There are five common reasons new farmers may fail. It’s worth knowing what they are so you can avoid them and make your project a success.


Running a successful farm is time consuming. Don’t let it become soul destroying. It’s hard to get the work/life balance right. Your farm will be the focus of your attention around the clock, especially in the early days.

But if you let your farm take over your life, you set yourself up for failure. Your happiness, your energy, your sense of identity and value outside the farm, are all vital contributors to your business’s success. Make sure you don’t abandon your hobbies, social life, and family time. Take exercise for pleasure not just at work, and eat well. If you lose touch with your loved ones, your friends, and your health, what are you working for?

Lack of Planning and Development

A great idea is only a great idea. To turn it into a successful farming enterprise means putting in the time and resources to develop the idea into a sound business plan. A poor plan or an underdeveloped concept can spell doom for a farm before it even gets started.

Make sure you explore and develop your business idea. Don’t forget to plan for contingencies. Make realistic cash flow forecasts and allow for scaling up and down as things change and develop.

Losing Heart

Most successful entrepreneurs have tried and failed in business many times over before achieving success. Running a new farm is tough. It’s demanding mentally, emotionally, and physically. You can’t always see the progress you’re making. When you’re working like a dog around the clock and don’t see the results, it can be demoralizing.

It’s important to remind yourself that the only way to win a race is to keep running. Remind yourself of your original inspiration, how great it will be once you succeed, and your deep motives for making things work. Contact other farmers who are already successful. Most are happy to help and inspire others just starting out. Keep inspired.

Irrational Decisions

Successful women who farm have the mark of genius about them. Several of the most successful are considered eccentric in their lifestyles and habits. They may be passionate risk-takers, but they have their feet firmly planted on the ground. In enterprise, doing things differently can be a route to success. But in decision-making nothing beats stepping back and taking a cool, rational view of what to do.

Don’t let your passion and enthusiasm cloud your thinking. Before you decide, it’s a good idea to consult with people whose knowledge and ability you trust. By all means leap, but make sure you look before you do so.

Losing Focus

Managing a farm or smallholding is complicated even if you don’t have a large staff to support. With so many aspects of your business to manage, it’s easy to lose sight of your aim. If you stop doing the few things that push your business forward, and become distracted by the many unnecessary ones, the success of your farm can falter.

As part of your business plan you should have drawn up a mission statement. Make an inspirational version of that statement like a screenwriter’s “elevator pitch.” What that means is to name your core business aim, and the essential strategies for achieving it, and then sum it up in only two or three sentences. When you lose focus, return to that elevator pitch and get yourself back on track.

One thing all successful farmers do is learn from their mistakes. The most successful also learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re running a new farming enterprise, make sure you do both to avoid unnecessary failure. Finally, keep in touch with your passion, work smart as well as hard, and never give up on living your dream.

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