The demand for local food, and organically grown local food, is growing rapidly, and if you’re passionate about organic gardening, you might consider expanding your reach by starting an organic farm. This green business idea could put food on your own table, supply the local area with more organically grown vegetables or fruits, and contribute to the strength of your local food system.
1. What is an organic farm?
Organic farms supply natural foods to wholesale markets or retail outlets. Depending on the size of the farm, owners choose to focus on a specific good (e.g., herb farm) or provide a variety of products that grow in local climates. Organic farmers avoid using synthetic pesticides and use farming practices that protect the land (e.g., biological pest control, crop rotation, green manure). As there are a variety of options for the size and product of your farm, the cost of startup and the potential income will vary greatly.
Market trends toward more sustainable farming, however, are not in question. On the supply side, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that roughly half of all farmers will retire by 2020. On the demand side, the United Nations estimates that global food production must double by 2050. Add growing interest in healthier, more local, and organic foods, and you’ve got a prescription for steady income. Farming will likely never make you a millionaire, but this business is more about a lifestyle you might want for yourself and your family, who will be the first to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of your labor, so to speak.
There are also a variety of ways to start. You need not own a piece of land, as long-term farm leases are a possibility. With so many family farmers retiring in the next decade, too, you may be in a position to take over someone else’s operation.
2. What knowledge or skills are necessary?
If you are starting a large organic farm (2+ acres), we recommend having substantial farm experience. You need to know how to handle equipment and must be well versed in sustainable farming practices. You must also be physically fit (eg able to lift 25+ pounds) in order to run a large farm.
If you have little experience or do not think you can handle the physical strain, consider starting a smaller farm or an herb garden.
3. How much money is required to start?
$$ – $$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
Start-up costs depend primarily on the size of land you choose to farm. If you have a large backyard, that may be enough for you to start with.
4. What is the income potential?
$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
5. What is the best location for this business?
Rural or semi-rural location with easy access to wholesalers or farmers’ markets.
6. Best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):
- Are you well versed in organic farming techniques and methods?
- Are you physically fit?
- Do you enjoy working the land, getting dirty and working with your hands?