Do you count yourself among those who dream of being a farmer? Do you have some property and want to do something productive with it, maybe even make money off it? Are you seeking land and working on developing a viable plan for a future farm business?
At this stage of a farm startup, landing on an idea that is a good fit for your property, resources, time availability, personal interests, and has a viable market can be tricky.
Tips for generating viable ideas for a farm-based business
Begin the brainstorming process
- Explore potential farm enterprises with eFarmony, Extension’s Ag Matching Tool. This online tool helps you search for enterprises, filtering options by land availability, risk tolerance, equipment availability, mechanical aptitude, labor intensity or marketing skill level.
- Interview and listen to what “non-farming” friends and family talk about when it comes to food access, farming, the environment, etc. Are there issues they see, or experiences or products they want that they can’t access?
- Find inspiration by reading farm publications. A few recommendations include the Wisconsin State Farmer, AgriView, and Growing for Market.
- Attend farm and food-related workshops and conferences. Find opportunities at: Extension Events Calendar and MOSES Events Calendar.
- Visit agritourism destinations and farmers markets, locally or in other states or countries.
Consider your skills and experience
- Non-farm experience may be your best asset. A background in marketing, logistics, technology, mechanics, engineering, or finance can provide a competitive advantage in a farm-based business.
- Inventory skills of family members or others who may want to help with the business – how might you leverage them?
Consider your passions, motivations and values
- What motivates you to want to farm? Consider enterprises, production practices, or business models that will help you live your values.
- Take time to identify your core values and vision. Practice articulating this with trusted individuals who will give you feedback.
Think 10, 20, and 50 years into the future
- Farming can be a physically demanding career, and may require adaptations as you age. Consider enterprises that you will be able to sustain or have a transition plan in place to prepare for your golden years.
- Think like a futurist – observe emerging trends and signals and consider how you may position your business to adapt or take advantage of them.
- If you start a business, who will it be passed on to or how do you plan to exit the business while protecting your equity and retirement needs? Start with the end in mind.
Consider all revenue models
- Don’t get stuck on the idea that farming is limited to producing food for livestock or people. Many farms and ag businesses provide services and experiences, such as custom-farming for other farms, recreation or event rentals, and farm-stays.
Start “dipping your toe” into your ideas
- Find a farm internship, employment, or volunteer on a farm that’s involved in an enterprise you’re curious about.
This article was written by Leigh Presley, former Extension Agriculture Educator for Racine and Kenosha Counties.