So you wanna be a farmer | Living the Country Life

So you wanna be a farmer

Before you jump in, you’ve got to know about the good, the bad, and the ugly

Living in the country means wide-open space, fresh air, and peacefulness. No wonder people are flocking in from town. But many don’t realize that there’s also mud, livestock diseases, and an ever-changing climate to deal with.

Violet Stone is the program coordinator for the small farms program at Cornell University. She says from their perspective, there are basically two kinds of people who are craving the country life – retirees with money to spend, and young, college-educated people who are looking for answers.

"An answer to all the environmental degradation and kind of dissolution that they’ve seen with growing up in the era of box stores, and food in the supermarket not seeming to them to be as wholesome," says Stone. "I think that generation is really looking toward farming as a way to find a fulfilling and meaningful livelihood, and as a way to make a difference in the world in that concept of act locally, and yet have a global impact."

Stone says anyone who wants to be a farmer has to have a diversified skill set and be good at juggling multiple things. That would include one or both partners having an off-farm job, and good business sense. Business planning and marketing are just as important as working the soil or with animals.

"The business planning and marketing are certainly where people kind of get into trouble because people do have this romantic of working out on the land, under the sky, and feeling good and healthy at the end of the day," says Stone. "But there are a lot of other components, especially for small farms, and that whole dilemma of I’m going to produce something, where’s it going to go and how am I going to get compensated for it?"

Before you turn a single spade of dirt, Stone says to get some experience first. Find a mentor, an apprenticeship on a farm, or even take an online class that helps you understand the in’s and out’s of life on the land.

See how young farmers are getting into the business through mentoring and other avenues

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