How to Become a Farmer at Fifty
Many people dream of escaping the fast pace of urban life and starting a farm. For those who have acquired a decent amount of savings or land and who are nearing retirement or have been laid off, starting a farm can be a real possibility. There are positive aspects like living simply off the land. However, farming takes a lot of work and usually includes major debt, a vast learning curve, and little pay. Do all you can first to learn about the realities of farming and find out how to become a farmer at 50.
Get some practice first to learn what farm life is like and see if you are physically able to do it.Look for a job on a local farm or volunteer at a farm or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) site. Another idea is to take a "farm vacation" where you can stay at a farm and participate in the daily operations.
Start farming on a small scale in your current location.This will help you ease into the farming life and give you some experience. Market your goods and make a little extra income or give what you grow to friends and family.
Research the farming industry thoroughly.Find out what crops are in demand and learn about government regulations.
Look for grants and financing for prospective farmers.The government has programs to subsidize or help with farm financing.
Visit farms in your area and talk to experienced farmers.Most farms are family businesses that passed from one generation to the next, so current farmers have a wealth of information about local markets and conditions and can shed some light on how to become a farmer at 50.
Take some classes.Look for courses in horticulture and agriculture. Business classes in accounting and management are also helpful.
Decide what type of farm you want to run.This should include a combination of factors including what crops or livestock you plan to sell, how much of investment is required for land and machinery, and any previous farming experience you may have.
Think about where to locate your farm.A successful working farm takes 50 acres or more of land. Unless you already have land, buying an existing farm is one option. You could also buy land and build up the farm and outbuildings gradually. Either option takes a large investment.
Figure out your budget.Besides land, you'll also need to pay for livestock, equipment, outbuildings and hired help.
Be realistic and accept the changes that life on a farm will bring.Most likely, you'll have to move to a rural area, away from current friends, family and activities. You will probably have to give up some modern conveniences, and it won't be as easy to drive to the local convenience store or fast food restaurant. Be sure you are comfortable with these changes before committing time and money to farming.
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