Moving from the city to a small farm is the right choice for many families. Is farming life new to you? Some families mistakenly romanticize life in the country. Farming the land is extremely hard work and involves certain financial risk. Smart novices consider not only their agriculture interests, but also their financial resources, attributes of their property and benefits of the crops they choose to plant.
Assess your family's financial position and risk tolerance. Be realistic in determining how much income you expect the farm to generate. Take into account your skills, available time and return on the crops that are to be grown.
Factors impacting the eventual monetary return are determined by farm's efficiency, weather and agricultural market shifts. Choose crops with low financial risk and you'll likely earn little income. Crops with potentially high-profit margins come with higher risk levels.
Small farms typically use conventional, organic or sustainable farming techniques. Assess the financial implications of each approach. Over time and with increased experience, adjust and adapt the production methods to your operation.
Data about the physical land helps you narrow down the crops that are a good match for your farm. If what you're considering doesn't initially appear to be a good match, there's probably a valid reason for it. Investigate further before investing in that crop. Our agronomists and agricultural & crop services experts can provide additional detail about what will be likely to grow well in your soil. Stop by to conduct a soil test and talk to our farm experts. Find a Southern States store by using our Store Locator tool.
The better the farm's soil, the more row crop options you have. You can identify your farms' specific soil types using a county soil map.
The farm's climate zone and related factors such as sun exposure, rainfall amounts and patterns, air movement and frost also factor into successful crop growth.
Water rights associated with your property determine whether your farm may access water and, if so, from where. Discuss your water rights and agricultural restrictions with the local water rights authority. Once the irrigation sources are confirmed, test the salt content, pH and other minerals in it. They impact the water's suitability for irrigation. Talk to your local Southern States store for a farm irrigation overview.
As a novice, you can benefit from starting with basic crops & vegetable seed and varieties that are successfully grown your geographic area. At Southern States, we have a track record of growing success and people who can answer your questions.
Field corn, wheat, rye and soybeans are common row crops for small farms. Other row crops include peanuts, cotton, tobacco and sugar cane. Each crop has specific soil, water and pest control requirements, so research the alternatives thoroughly to determine which will thrive on your land. Crop rotation planning is critical when developing a row crop strategy as well.
Look into the number of acres needed to produce each crop most economically. Make the most of existing acreage and equipment by choosing crops that can be grown with what you already have. As you become more adept, add more of that crop or others with similar growing requirements to increase efficiency.
Growing a variety of row crops can minimize the impact of weather or seasonal agricultural market prices. However, ensure the diversification doesn't require additional equipment that's costly and labor skills that aren't readily available or affordable.
While some crops benefit from field rotation to manage diseases and weeds, be aware that rotation requirements can increase acreage needs.
Additionally, choose crops that your family will enjoy working with. Consider the family's obligations away from the farm when reviewing your preferred crops' growing season and associated tasks.
If you're interested in reading more about starting your own small farm, you can also read our Starting Your Own Hobby Farm article.