Many people dream of quitting their day job and making a living in the country, perhaps directly from the land or perhaps through a cottage industry. Whether you dream of selling fresh eggs, stocker cattle, handspun fiber, or books, you can succeed as a small business owner with a little planning and a whole lot of perseverance. Here’s how to start a farm business.
What It Takes to Start a Farm Business
Running a business successfully has a lot more to do with inner character qualities than formulas for success. It takes:
- A servant’s heart.
- A willingness to learn.
- Good time management skills.
- A positive outlook on life.
- The ability to delegate wisely.
Running your own business will almost certainly require you to grow as a person. Are you ready?
The Start-Up Phase
The specifics of starting a business will vary tremendously with the type of business you envision, so before you launch anything, you’ll have a great deal of research to do. In particular, a food-related business may have to meet regulatory requirements, so be sure to check into this aspect.
As for planning, you don’t need a formal corporate-style business plan if you aren’t taking on debt (highly recommended for minimizing risk), but on the other hand there are some plans you should write down for your own use. It’s a good idea to have some notes on what you plan to sell and how, along with specifics on direct marketing venues that interest you, as well as your marketing and promotion strategies. You will almost certainly revise all or nearly all of these plans as you go along, but keeping notes will help you learn and remember key information.
It’s a great idea to start small and build gradually. Not only does this reduce your risk, it helps build a solid, loyal customer base. A strategy commonly recommended in direct marketing discussions goes as follows:
- Create a product you love for your own table.
- Give it away to your friends and family.
- When they get excited and share it with their own friends, offer to sell it to this new group of people.
Be patient. Your efforts very likely won’t pay off as quickly as you expected. The key to success is to not give up. Iterate instead.
And above all, follow your heart on this one. The best way to start a farm business is to do what you love.
- Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing Guides
- Free eBook: Building a Sustainable Business
- Farm Fresh
The Growth Phase
Once your business gets off the ground, the dynamic will start to shift a little. In the beginning you will have more time than money and will likely need to do just about everything yourself. Later on, you will probably end up with more money than time.
At this point, you can start to delegate. Make a list of your duties in running your business, and take note of those that you don’t enjoy and aren’t good at. Find trusted individuals who are good at these things, put them in charge, and reward them for performance.
Also think in terms of streams of income, preferably complementary streams. Grassfed milk purchasers might enjoy your pastured eggs, and the chickens will help keep down the insect pests that bother your dairy cows. An advantage of adding streams like this is that several small but complementary streams will add up to a nice income without the need of becoming a high-volume producer.
But as your business grows, don’t lose sight of your vision. Sacrificing your customer’s needs and your dedication to quality products in favor of chasing the dollar is a sure recipe for disaster.
Also, remember to give back. Donating to charities is kind and tax-deductible, but don’t forget that there are people with less experience than you out there who would love to know what you’ve learned. Share your knowledge!
The Golden Rule
On a final note, another key for business success is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This may seem commonsense or even clichéd, but this factor is so commonly overlooked in business and marketing discussions that a repetition seems in order.
Here are some examples of how this can look in entrepreneurship:
- Create a product or service that truly benefits someone.
- Never let an inferior product get out the door.
- Do whatever you say you will do.
- If you find particular forms of advertising or promotion obnoxious, don’t inflict them on someone else.
As you can see, making your living from your own business depends largely on your willingness to grow as a person.