From The C-Suite To The Pig Pen: Transitioning From Corporate Life To Farming
Are you currently reading this under the depressing fluorescent lights of an office building? Do you wish you were outside, working the earth and enjoying the sunshine? Disillusioned with corporate America, many people are trading in their white collar jobs for a blue-collar life on the farm. But it’s not a simple transition. Managing a team in an office building is a far cry from tilling soil or herding sheep. (Well, it’s sort of like herding, I suppose)
Here’s how you can make the switch from your corporate job and into farming.
Do a trial run
The sunshine and fresh air make farming sound really appealing, but it’s not an easy job. If you want to become a farmer, make sure you know what you’re getting into first. Try doing small-scale homesteading at your home, whether you’re in suburbia or an apartment. Container gardening and even keeping a few chickens will give you a taste of what’s to come.
If you find you don’t like tending crops or caring for animals, farming might not be right for you. Instead, pursue homesteading as a hobby to get outside and decompress from your job.
If you really enjoy your trial run, farming might be for you!
Become financially fit
Farming comes with many upfront costs. While you can request grants from the government for assistance or take out loans, it’s best to get your finances in order first.
The best way to begin farming is to have all of your debts paid off. You’ll likely have to take on debt when starting up the farm. You’ll need equipment like a tractor, but it doesn’t come cheap! If your personal finances are in order first, it’s easier for you to secure the funding you need to succeed.
Make a plan
Some people purchase a tract of land and do whatever they feel like doing. But if you want to succeed as a farmer, you need to go in with a plan. How can you make the most of your land? Will you raise animals? Will you farm crops? How can you stay compliant with USDA and FDA guidelines?
Make a plan for how you’ll use your land. If you can’t afford to raise chickens now but you’ll want to later, include that in your master planning. You don’t want to run out of land!
And take some time to do a bit of research. Stop by our Resources page and get your new lifestyle off to a good start.
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The Big Business Of Growing Flowers
Vegetables and fruits aren’t the only things that can be grown in the homestead garden and sold for profit. In fact, cut flowers are one of the most profitable crops per acre, with an estimated gross of $55,000 per acre or more on a good year. Of course, you’ll need to deduct your labor and expenses from that to figure out how much you actually made. But, if you start out small and build your cut flower business slowly, you can avoid debt. And, by adding on services like floral design and wedding flowers, you can increase your income even more.
Of course, flower farming is still farming, so it’s hard work that involves physical labor and long hours. But the rewards are many, being your own boss, providing valuable habitat for bees and pollinators, and working outdoors instead of behind a desk. Not to mention being surrounded by gorgeous flowers and making your living doing something you love.
How Much Land Do You Need to Get Started?
Some of the most successful cut flower farms are making a significant profit on only two or three acres of land. If your dream is to own a profitable micro-farm, flowers just might be the crop for you! Typical crops like grains, fruits, and vegetables (or even livestock sold for meat) require more land and machinery for adequate production. With flowers, they are usually planted, cultivated, and even harvested entirely by hand, so limits of time and labor often play a more important role than the amount of available land.
Things to Think About Before You Get Started
In order to achieve profitability on your small acreage, high-intensity production will be required. Startup investments will need to include things like hoop houses and greenhouses to extend your growing season, soil amendments, and things like weed control fabric. You’ll also need seed starting trays and cultivating tools like shovels, hoes, and possibly a rototiller (you might be able to rent one). As you grow, a cooler will be needed for keeping flowers fresh until they’re delivered to your buyer. A van will also be helpful when you start making deliveries or transporting flowers to market.
You’ll need to have an excellent succession-planting plan so that you can get your next crop in the ground within days of when one stops blooming. Mastering this technique will allow you to harvest two crops from the same space each season. Take some time learning about this succession planting before you get started.
You also need to consider if you have a good outlet for selling cut flowers in your area. The amount of money you can charge for your flowers will vary significantly by your location, too. Start small to allow for that learning curve. You’ll need to learn all about germination and harvest times, as well as post-harvest handling for each variety you want to grow. Where you sell your flowers matters… you probably won’t be selling the same varieties at the farmer’s market that you sell to your neighborhood wedding florist.
The Easiest Varieties to Start With
Certain varieties stand out as being easy to grow from seed in a variety of climates. You’re looking for long-stemmed varieties with abundant blooms. Browsing through seed catalogs and reading seed packets can help you figure out if a particular variety is suitable for cutting. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
• Snapdragons: These are a favorite early summer flower that blooms prolifically in a variety of gorgeous colors. The flowers have a lovely citrus scent, long stems, and live a long time after cutting. Best of all? The more flowers you cut, the more they grow!
• Celosia: These heat-loving flowers are easy to grow. You’ll find them in a variety of colors and shapes, from a crested cockscomb shape to a plumed form that works wonderfully as an accent flower in bouquets.
• Amaranthus: Another heat-loving flower that easy to grow, Amaranthus comes in earthy shades with some forms looking like hanging tassels. It’s a beautiful base for market bouquets.
• Marigolds: We are all familiar with these cheerful summer flowers, and they’re great for the cut flower garden, too. They are some of the most abundant, tough flowers you can grow, and they make great additions to market bouquets. You can expect to get up to 15 or 20 blooms on each marigold plant!
• Zinnias: Zinnias are incredibly easy to grow, and they’re prolific producers of abundant blooms in a variety of sizes and colors. They are great for market bouquets in the summer, and they’re a perfect first crop for the beginning cut flower farmer.
• Cosmos: If you want to grow a flower that keeps coming back every time you cut it, you can’t go wrong with cosmos. Every plant will produce armloads of flowers over a period of months, and the daisy-like blooms come in a vast variety of sizes and colors.
Where You Can Sell Your Flowers
One of the first things you’ll need to consider is where you’re going to sell your flowers. Here are some ideas to get you started.
• Farmer’s Markets: If you’re taking your crafts or produce to market every week anyway, why not grow some cut flowers for market bouquets, too? You’ll sell more flowers for more money in urban areas, but even small community markets can be profitable.
• Retail Florists: Upscale florists in your area may be interested in purchasing locally grown flowers. Consider visiting a few shops, ask them what they might be interested in, and leave them your business card.
• Floral Wholesalers: Wholesalers will pay the least amount of money for your flowers, but they’ll also buy a lot at once. If you live in a remote area, a wholesaler might be a good option for you.
• Grocery Stores: Many grocery stores have floral departments and buying from local growers is becoming more and more common.
• Farm Stand Sales: If you live on a well-traveled road, you might be able to sell your flowers at a roadside stand, right next to your homegrown produce and fresh baked cottage foods.
Whether you decide to grow a few flowers to sell alongside your produce at the local or market, or you grow enough to get the wholesalers interested, flower farming can be a fun and profitable side income for your homestead. Remember to start small and give yourself time to learn what grows and sells well in your area.
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