Compact farms | Living the Country Life

Compact farms

This Oregon man can show you how to farm on 5 acres or less

Josh Volk worked as an engineer in the Silicon Valley of California, and also volunteered in gardens that were growing in the poor areas of East Palo Alto. He saw the positive impact those gardens were having on the residents, and became interested in food production as a community-building tool, and as a way for people to get good food at the same time.

Josh started exploring how you could make a living on a small farm. He has been working on and managing small farms around the country for the last 20-years, studying the systems that make them efficient. Now, he’s written a book and is consulting farmers on how they can make a go of it on 5-acres or less.

"Sometimes it’s as simple as somebody just wanting a tool for a very specific application on a farm and helping them develop that tool or the system around using that tool," he says. "And sometimes it’s a much larger vision for a full farm."

Josh says he emphasizes to his clients that if this is going to work, they have to make plans before the dirt is turned over.

"Plan for how things are going to market and how the economics for the whole thing is going to work out. And then at some point, you do just have to jump in because the numbers are never going to look perfect, or you can make them look too perfect on paper," says Josh. "You need to be a really good observer of what’s happening and taking that all into account. But I think that starting with a good plan is definitely the thing that makes the biggest difference in my mind."

Josh says he’s noticed there is a romantic ideal of having a small farm. Reality sets in when people discover how hard they have to work for financial returns that aren’t very large. But if they stick with it, they find huge returns in quality of life and connecting with their community.

Josh's book - Compact Farms: 15 Proven Plans for Market Farms on 5 Acres or Less

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