People have dreams. And one dream that many people have is to be a farmer. Beautiful rolling farmland, a gorgeous barn, sweet animals who look forward to seeing you at feeding time, fresh and delicious food - what's unappealing about that, right?
Oftentimes, the reality of farming is very different than the fantasy. Yes, it can be very rewarding, fun and even financially profitable. But let's take a harder look.
Are You Ready for Labor?
There is no doubt about it: farming requires a lot of hard, often repetitive and boring, physical labor. The first thing to ask yourself is: how is my physical health? Am I fit and ready for long hours of work in often uncomfortable positions?
In the beginning, you will have to give up significant amounts of leisure time, especially if you have to hold down an off-farm job while you get started. Instead of propping your feet up on the couch and clicking through the channels, are you ready to grab a quick sandwich for supper, then head outside to shovel, rake, plow? Are you willing to muck stalls and turn the compost even when you don't feel like it? How about standing watch for a pregnant cow who is about to give birth?
Can You Invest the Time?
If ever there were something that was decidedly not a get-rich-quick scheme, it's farming. It requires years of investment, building up infrastructure and knowledge, before it pays off. Yes, you can definitely start small and work your way up, building your farm business slowly and using the profits from what you have to grow the farm bigger. But, it will still take a significant amount of time.
Do You Have the Farming Bug?
If you're still with me, you probably do. Passion and commitment is needed to follow your dream. Think hard about your reasons for wanting to farm or homestead. Make a list on a piece of paper. If you're doing this with a partner, make sure you're both on the same page. If you have a family, everyone should be ready and willing to support the farming venture.
Farm Where You Are
Sometimes you just have to get started. You can start doing something toward your goal of farming, even if you live in the city. Urban farming and homesteading is becoming more and more popular. Having a few chickens, a vegetable garden (perhaps in containers), or even growing herbs on your windowsill are all great ways to get started right where you are, and allow yourself to explore the potential of the farm lifestyle before you plunk down your life savings on a piece of land in the country.
When you're doing it with your eyes wide open, farming can be truly rewarding and fun. Checking in with yourself can be the key to finding out whether farming is truly right for you.