Whatever some Americans may imagine, the evidence is clear that farming is not a vanishing way of life. To many, this is a fine time to get into the farming business, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers critical resources in taking the first step.
Farming is alive and well
A Forbes article recently dispelled some common myths about farming. It pointed out that:
- U.S. farms net a healthy average income of 20%.
- Nearly 36% of U.S. farmers are women.
- U.S. farms create only 9% of the U.S. carbon footprint and may soon become carbon negative.
- U.S. farmland is still 95% family owned.
- Farmers rent about 40% of U.S. farmland.
USDA helps new farmers think through their first steps
Like Forbes, the USDA’s New Farmers initiative stresses farming as a viable business. It offers encouragement, advice, resources and first steps for new farmers who are just starting out:
1. Understanding your land use rights
You may want to convert your land into a farm to use yourself. Or you may opt to lease out portions of your land for others for farm on. It’s important to understand any legal steps you may need to take to assert your rights to use your land how you want.
2. Defining your vision
You need a business plan to help you understand the budget and income required to make your farming business successful. How much money will the startup take? How can you make your costs and your income add up to a profit? How will you grow your business?
3. Reaching out
In any kind of business, reaching out for help is a fundamental skill. The experience and advice of others is as essential as basic farm equipment. The USDA has been in existence since Lincoln was president. It has seen some tough cases, and it is experienced at designing programs to help farmers succeed.
4. Making it rain
Financing is another key step in setting up a farm. Land, equipment, seed, buildings and utilities all take financial assets. Many involve contracts and other tools of the legal trade. The USDA has long experience guiding new farmers to sources of seed money and explaining how they can make the best use of them.
Starting a farm is an exciting decision in any farmer’s life. But it also comes with many questions and unknowns. Taking the time to consult with experts every step of the way can make all the difference.