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How to set up a farm

Updated July 19, 2017

Setting up a farm is a long, difficult and often costly process. However, if you are prepared for the challenges and have some knowledge of farming, you can set up a successful farm almost anywhere. The size and operations of farms vary drastically, so it is important to have a clear understanding of what type of farm you would like. For example, the skills, equipment and land requirements are very different for livestock than for fruits or vegetables.

Locate an area to set up a farm. The size and location will depend on what type of operation you wish to have. Livestock will require more land than a small, diversified vegetable farm. If the land is not already being used for agricultural purposes, you will need to check to make sure the land is zoned for agricultural use, and you may have to clear it to make it suitable for your needs.

Write a business plan with a detailed description of your goals and your plans on how to grow, market and sell your crops. This will be used to secure financing and will guide your operations throughout the starting phases. Farms are often financed heavily or entirely through loans or commercial credit. Check with your local bank or other lender about financing options. The USDA Farm Service Agency also provides direct loans to potential farmers. Debt can be crippling to a small farm, so it is important to be realistic with your assumptions from the beginning.

Decide if your farm will be year-round or seasonal. Also decide what you will grow and what equipment and help you will need to do so. Purchasing used equipment is a good way to lower start-up costs.

Test the soil to determine what, if any, amendments are needed, and what crops will grow best. You can purchase a testing kit and do it yourself, or send a sample to a lab for more detailed analysis. You will also need to decide whether your farm will be conventional or organic, and if so, if you will need to become certified. This is an important decision that will affect how you grow your crops and the potential markets for them.

Comply with all government regulations and obtain the necessary permits and licenses to operate your farm.

Plant your crops and care for livestock and continue to plant, irrigate and harvest as necessary. Setting up a farm is not easy, and although you can plan ahead, much of running a farm is being able to adapt successfully to changing circumstances and conditions.

Tip

Talk with other farmers in the area in which you wish to set up a farm. They can be helpful in many ways and probably will be willing to share information.

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About the Author

David Orr has written professionally since 2009. He has written about issues relating to food and the environment for Change.org and Patch.com. Orr holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from New York University, and a Masters of Arts in government from Georgetown University.