I’ve been greedily devouring any information I can get my hands on regarding farming, homesteading, even B&B business planning in an effort to be as prepared as possible for problems that could arise. Of course through this process we are always refining our business plan and our goals. Recently I was looking up some info on the Missoula County extension office website and found a flyer for a seminar on starting a small farm and I decided to sign up. The info was good, but the most benefit came from being in the same room with 15 people all with the same type of goal we have: to produce healthy, organic, and local food products and value add products.
At the end of the seminar I stayed late to talk to a few of the other beginning small-farmers and exchange ideas, and one subject that came up was the idea of a “food hub”, or specifically our location becoming a “food hub” for our local area because we have the space, will presumably already be retailing our own produce, are located smack in the center of a 20 mile diameter circle with no food retail at all, and are conveniently located right off a main thoroughfare. I think it’s a great idea and as we move forward I’m going to be looking at the feasibility of setting up a small retail stand/area to carry products and produce from other local small farmers to maximize value for our customers and work together with other folks starting out just like us.
The process for us so far has been to “just do it”. “Lean start-ups” just do it. We can’t wait for years to save enough money to build out everything at once, nor do we want to. An incremental process will allow us to start small and slow in all areas of production and find out what we really like and what performs well in our model. Chickens are a great example, we just had seven chickens our first year to learn about them, decide if they were worth the effort for us, and develop systems. Now that we have been working with ours a while we were able to make an informed decision about whether to expand our chicken operation, and we are as we speak! Taking this approach to every facet of our homestead will minimize our exposure to financial risk and flatten the learning curve.
During my weekly phone business meeting with the wife we decided we want to get all of our land into production this year, why waste it? We want to offer areas of our property that won’t be used by us this year to folks in our area that maybe don’t have any space for a garden, but want one. We’d like to set up a kind of share-cropping deal with some local folks so we can get a little food in exchange for the water and electricity, and provide them with a place to grow their own food or animals!
My year is going to focus on planting trees. We need to get that done this year because they need time to get established and grow. In addition to trees I’m going to be setting up raised beds to grow a few different high-dollar-per-acre crops so we can see how they perform and make a decision about what we want to grow out here long-term.
Stuff happens, and things change. It’s exciting to be living on this property and growing it, and growing with it. I’ve learned so much this last year and can barely sleep at night thinking about the potential this venture holds for us. I’ve got a lot planned for this summer, from planting and building to networking in the community and focusing our brand. Stay tuned because I’m going to be hitting y’all up with a Kickstarter later this year to purchase a small still that we can use to produce alcohol from our fruit trees, I intend to let others use it for a fee or a small share when we get it up, running, and licensed.
Anyone interested in homesteading, backyard chicken ranching, small-scale farming, etc., take a look at your county extension office’s website for some helpful information and opportunities to find like-minded folks to bounce ideas off of.