Advice for a beginning farmer

Jeff,

Great to find a link which will allow contact with those who are 'making it happen,' so to speak. My grandmother has a small 50 + acre farm she is wanting to sell. We are trying to coax her into keeping the farm a "few more years"--she has had many offers from "developers" who have big plans for her property.

Her property was never sprayed, and always grown naturally, organically. What is your opinion for us, a new generation of new farmers trying to hold on to the farm? What crops would you recommend which would possibly yield us the ability to help hold on to her farm and survive the hands of the hard working novices which will be attempting to keep this farm!

We have always grown for our own consumption and my generation has not grown commercially. When she farmed her land, the market was obviously a bit different. She grew a variety but it was mostly trade or barter.

If you have a spare moment it would be great to hear some inspirational words from someone who is making it work! We are located in Western Pennsylvania. Thank you for your time and congrats to you in your rewarding accomplishments and your many years of work!

Melissa Davidson


Good morning, Melissa,

Keeping a family farm, for those who are not professional farmers, is always a tough decision. While it is true many developers will be glad to profit from your sale, once gone it will be gone forever. Lost to all the future generations of would-be farmers. Obviously, with 50 + acres, you won’t be looking at growing corn or soybeans if you are looking to make enough money to live on. If your goal is to work as few hours as possible and still generate sales, then grain crops might be the way to go. I can’t really tell from your brief letter how many people are involved, what your financial goals are, if your plans include full time energy or part time hobby, or even what you like to grow. Are animals in the farm’s future, or only crops? Many farm families are able to generate livable incomes on farms smaller than yours (check out the many stories on the New Farm web site). I suggest you do some more research on possibilities, join up with PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture). This organization holds a great winter meeting at Penn State in February (February 5-7 in 2004) where over 1000 farmers like yourself meet each year to share ideas.

If you decide to move forward and save the farm, you will be starting on a venture that will last for generations. It will be a trip well worth the taking. As most people in your situation tell us years after they’ve been farming – It’s more work than I ever thought, but I love it more than I ever though I would.

Jeff