Many sustainable farmers are fascinated by the concept of allowing the land and its contours to dictate the best practices for every acre. For those of you who are looking for some grist to add to the mill on this subject, give Water For Every Farm: Yeomans Keyline Plan by P.A. Yeomans a try. Read More
Looking for an easy introduction to the complex topic of grazing management? Give this bulletin a try—Intensive Grazing: An Introductory Homestudy Course by Burt Smith. Read More
Looking for something to do indoors on those cold, cloudy days of winter? Put that time to good use with one of these projects:
- Set goals for the new year. And schedule time to work on them. When pursuing an objective that requires a long-term commitment, writing down your goal is the first step to making it happen. Planning time into your day for zeroing in on that goal is the second step.
- Research a new enterprise. Get a head start on that new project you were contemplating and do some research. Winter is a great time for reading, making notes, calculating budgets, and laying plans.
- Plan a garden. Don’t waste a minute of the growing season! By preparing for spring gardening now, you will give yourself plenty of time to create a planting schedule, purchase seeds, and start vegetables indoors.
- Learn a new craft or skill. Many crafts typically considered hobbies can be enjoyed for their own sake, but they can often be put to practical use, as well. Hand-knit scarves for the family will be greatly appreciated during winter chores. Original art can be sold for extra income. Woodworking can be useful in hundreds of ways around both the farm and the house.
- Overhaul your web content. Are your links (both internal and external) still functional? Is your more timeless content still up to date? Is your about page still relevant? Are there tweaks you could make to your design or taxonomy to make your content easier to find?
- Start a reading challenge. Is the weather outside frightful? Sit down with a good book. Taking up a reading challenge is a good way to stretch yourself by reading about topics you might otherwise have overlooked, thus expanding your knowledge base.
- Write a book. While you’re reading broadly and acquiring new knowledge, take some time to put your own knowledge into a form that others can benefit from. Research, writing, and editing all take time—what better time than when the outdoor chores have let up a bit?
Niche marketing is the norm for many small business owners, no matter what they are selling. Before diving in, however, it’s best to have an understanding of both the opportunities and the challenges of niche marketing.
Are you ready to capitalize on your strengths as an entrepreneur in a niche market? Read on.
- Live your dream. Not all of us are cut out to be multimillionaires or world powers, but that doesn’t mean that we have to settle for boring 40-hour jobs. Niche marketing taps into passion—our passion and the passion of like-minded customers.
- Set the trend. Have you spotted an underserved niche? You have a tremendous competitive advantage! By developing products that meet the needs of the niche and by marketing those products efficiently, you have an opportunity to dominate the market. The more unique your niche, the greater the likelihood that major players will shy away from competing with you.
- Scale down. Don’t have the space to raise a thousand hogs? Don’t have the workforce to crank out a thousand handmade chairs? Niche marketing means that you don’t have to mass produce. With the world being the marketplace these days, you will actually find running your own niche business much easier if you focus on a particular customer base that you can serve well instead of trying to compete on the global scene.
- Offer quality. Many of us sleep better at night if we know that we have pursued quality in our endeavors. Niche markets tend to reward that pursuit.
- Set your price. Yes, if you are unrealistic when setting prices, you will do yourself out of a job. That said, when niche marketing, you do have some control over prices. You do not have to be at the mercy of the corporate world, but can consider both margin and customer expectations.
- Put the dollars where they matter. It can take a big budget to compete in the global marketplace. You probably don’t have the money to advertise your home poultry flock enough to compete with Tyson. You may not be able to advertise a new formula of soft soap that can steal the market from the leading brand, either. By focusing on a niche, however, you can set a budget that reflects the size and purchasing power of a specific group of people and reach them more effectively.
- Connect with customers. Businesses thrive when they put their customers first. While large companies can serve customers, niche businesses have a unique advantage in this area. You probably already have a feel for what your customers need; therefore, you can probably meet that need and give them the tailored service that they are looking for. This in turn results in loyalty to your brand.
- Learn as you go. How well do you know your market and your products? To succeed at niche marketing, you’d better be prepared to become an expert in your field. You will have to stay abreast of information concerning all aspects of producing and marketing your chosen products.
- Research the market. Maybe there’s a reason that the niche you are looking at has not been filled. To take an extreme example for the sake of illustration, there’s a reason farmers’ market participants in Kansas don’t offer homegrown bananas. Producing bananas in Kansas is simply not practical. As another example, there’s a reason that you aren’t likely to find a high-end restaurant catering to a low-income neighborhood. The locals probably are not going to eat at the restaurant because they can’t afford to.
- Start small. A niche is small by definition. By finding a niche, you are accepting the fact that your product simply does not fit all potential buyers. It may never become a staple at the grocery story. By scaling up too fast, you run the risk of losing your hard-earned customer base. Also, do your market research in advance. Be sure that your niche is not too small to support your business.
- Count the cost. Developing a niche market takes time, effort, and money. Count the cost before you make the jump. And be cautious about taking on debt—heavy liabilities have been the undoing of too many startups. Recognize the fact that it will be a while before you start to see a profit. While your margin may be better than a mass-marketing company’s margin, you will still get a slower start because you won’t be making nearly as many sales, especially at the beginning.
- Pay the price. Big companies can get discounts on supplies and shipping because of the volume they work with. A niche business works on a much smaller scale, usually making its production costs per product higher.
- Work, work, work. Face it—niche marketing is a lot of work. You will have a hard time tapping into preexisting marketing structures (unless it’s Amazon) because you stand out from the crowd. Mass marketers look for products that fit the box. Therefore, you will have to handle your own promotion and distribution for the most part. This takes time and effort.
Niche marketing is an outstanding way for a startup to gain a foothold in a global economy. However, it requires focus, knowledge, and close attention to the bottom line.
A niche business is not a big business, and it cannot be run in the same way. Capitalize on your strengths—but do your research.
January is a great time to plan for a new year! Take some time to shape your philosophy and develop a farming or gardening approach.
- Plan a garden.
- Discover community-supported agriculture.
- Learn the pros and cons of gardening in Kansas.
- Study the farming practices of the Plains Indians.
- Define sustainable agriculture.
- Preserve Kansas heritage.
- Evaluate the interstate highway system.
- Find out how compost gardening works.
- Examine your horse’s conformation.
- Read about the peopling of the plains.
The new compact edition of The Family Garden Journal, published by Homestead on the Range, is currently available for $19.99 at Amazon. This offer will end at the beginning of the new year!
This beautiful paperback journal can help you or a loved one develop a green thumb while creating a keepsake:
- Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
- Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
- Mark each plant’s place on your garden map.
- Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
- Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
- Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
- Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.
The Family Garden Journal makes a great gift, so take advantage of the introductory pricing and order a copy or two before Christmas. Don’t forget to buy one for your own family!
Sample pages are available for preview here.
Just getting started?
Whether you are still in the early planning stage or are trying to overcome your first obstacle, one of the best things you can do is to read extensively. Many others have walked the path before you. Why not smooth your own learning curve and take advantage of their experience?
While there are many excellent books we could recommend (just check out our bookshelf), we have picked out 10 must-reads to get you going.
Need to identify a plant in your pasture? Start here. Although a little technical, it is well organized and supplied with a glossary and illustrations for ease of use. The plant descriptions include useful notes on suitability for livestock where applicable. (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.
To solve problems with insect pests, you must first be able to identify the culprit. This guide offers descriptions of 850 species, liberally illustrated with color photos. Bonus: It includes a section on beekeeping! (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.
How to start a farm business in 10 steps. This is a concise introduction to the questions you will have to answer as you get started. Learn how to write a business plan, find funding, choose venues, price products, meet legal requirements, market effectively, and more. Helpful resources are provided each step of the way. Read our full review.
Need equipment for your farm? See if you can build what you need before you buy something. This book offers ideas for projects useful around the farm, the garden, and the house alike. Whether you need a fence, a compost bin, a simple animal shelter, or just an easy way to bale hay on a small scale, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here. Read our full review.
Great starting point for animal health research. Covers the basic care of cattle, horses, goats, sheep, swine, poultry, rabbits, dogs, and cats. Each chapter begins with the basics of animal housing and feeding specific to the species in question, and then moves to a discussion of the symptoms and treatment of the most common health problems. Advice on home vet care basics, such as first aid and administering medication, is also provided. Read our full review.
Is a garden or orchard part of your plan? Make sure you have this encyclopedia on your shelf. If you have a question, whether about the needs of a specific plant or about implementing a sustainable gardening practice, you will find a concise answer here. No wonder this book has stood the test of time! Read our full review.
4. Stocking Up
Whatever type of food you need to preserve, it is almost certain that you will find directions in one of the editions of this classic. The original edition offers good old down-home cooking, while the third edition was made for the health-conscious crowd. Both include substantial information on making the most of your harvest, whether it be fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, or meat. Read our full review.
If you intend to grow field crops in Kansas, this one is not optional. (Good news—it’s free!) Multiple charts tell you when to plant and at what rate. (Not from Kansas? Check your local extension service to see if they offer a similar resource.)
This one is a must! Even if farming is your hobby, you can still benefit from the valuable planning tools provided in this book. In five straightforward steps, learn how to write a business plan that you will actually use. Identify your values, recognize your current position, develop your vision, examine your options, and choose your path. Worksheets and examples help you through the process. Highly recommended—and it’s free! Read our full review.
1. You Can Farm
Need inspiration or ideas? Give this one a try. Joel Salatin shares valuable tips for successful and profitable farming, drawing from his experience along the way. Learn how to choose enterprises that will work for you, then develop your farming philosophy and dive into direct marketing. You don’t need a large land base or a well-filled wallet to get started. Salatin demonstrates that it is your mindset that makes the difference. A must for all beginning farmers! Read our full review.
Even when the afternoons are too hot for outdoor work, you can still make the most of the time with research and planning. Spend some time studying business, marketing, nutrition, animal health, and more.
- Consider new ways to direct market your beef.
- Find out how reproduction and animal health are related.
- Discover 96 horse breeds of North America.
- Build a sustainable business.
- Learn what kobe beef is.
- Ponder the relationship between the railroads and the homesteaders.
- Enjoy the wonderful art of drawing horses.
- Practice body condition scoring.
- Read about the Kansas climate.
- Study the roles and natural sources of vitamins.
Spring is in the air! Are you ready to get outside, grow some plants, and build something new?
- Learn how to transplant successfully.
- Take advantage of three free planting guides from K-State.
- Mix up an easy radish salad.
- Download free building plans and construct something new.
- Learn how to tell a rattlesnake from a kingsnake.
- Try out three easy ways to use asparagus.
- Consider new marketing strategies for your farm-fresh milk and meat.
- Learn how to increase the productivity of your home acre.
- Decide if heritage livestock breeds are right for you.
- Invest in the ultimate encyclopedia of organic gardening.