Starting out

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by ebur436525, Mar 29, 2005.

  1. ebur436525

    ebur436525 Member

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    Hi to all I have been a lurker for months and now it seems I have a question that I would like to get some information on.
    I am looking at acquiring a farm where I live, central pa, and due to the high cost of getting in I was wondering if any of you know of grants, programs, or what have you. In PA there is the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program that I have investigated but the process looks to be somewhat drawn out, if you have been through it or know someone who has I would like to get some first hand info. I really dont want to get into a farm and only be able to do things that dont cost anything. If you know of any federal, state or other entities that would be a help chime in.
    There is a possibility that I may be able to get into a farm on a one year lease with a option to purchase so that may give me some time to apply and what have you.

    What are your thoughts.

    Thanks
    Ed
     
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Most beginning farmer loans require that you have 3 years experience operating a farm. Most of the loans are for acquiring ground, not other things like stock or equipment. All of them will require a very long drawn out process. Some require follow-up, as in they want to see your books, your operation, etc in order to make sure you aren't screwing it up.

    They are subject to available funding in your area, so even if you qualify, you might have to wait for funding to be accepted.

    You usually have to be declined by a commercial lender before you can apply.

    You usually need a substantial down payment, even for the downpayment loans! The usual farm downpayment is 30%. If you have 10%, you might get a downpayment loan for the other 20%, but then you have a regular mortgage, plus the downpayment loan, plus no equipment and no money to get any. KInd of hard to make a living unless Uncle Joe farms next door and has equipment for you to use.

    Grants do not exist for buying land or getting started. Grants don't really exist, but they do have cost-shares for conservation measures and other things based on where you live. Cost shares are like grants because they let you pay yourself to do the work so you end up ahead $ wise. There are grants through SARE, but they aren't for start-up.

    This is probably discouraging. I guess it can be done, but you will be jumping through hoops all the way. None of it is quick and easy. Once you get equity in the ground though, you get the keys to the bank as far as other ag financing.

    Jena
     

  3. ebur436525

    ebur436525 Member

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    I have two years of experience farming, spent time living with a friend to graduate high school because my family moved. This is what I was afraid of. I can get a mortgage for the full amount but then I am not left with much at the end of the month and I dont like living paycheck to paycheck.
     
  4. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure they mean helping out at a farm as a teenager when they're talking farming experience. It also seems as though you have a job already, so how do you plan on farming to the requirements of the grant while working off the farm?

    That said, all I can say is learn what you can while you're looking for a place. You shouldn't need more that 5 or 6 acres to get a good handle on animal raising and crop growing, unless you want to become a commodities farmer or something. Your state organic grower's association should have an apprenticeship program. Many of these involve living on a farm in modest quarters and working the farm in exchange. Sometimes they give you a small stipend as well. At least in my experience, these programs are very flexible with your schedule, so you might be able to keep working and saving while you get the experience you need.

    If you go to this link, you can get an idea of the opportunities that are out there. Look to the left of the screen and scroll down to click on the participating farms. Then go to your state's organic grower's association and contact someone about their programs.

    http://www.organicvolunteers.org/farm_finder.asp?Mode=1&S=38

    I bought my farm when I was 24, after a few apprenticeships. It can be done.
     
  5. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

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    I dont like living paycheck to paycheck.[/QUOTE]

    HA HA Ha, it think that is the defintion of farming!!! I believe you need experience actually running the farm, not just working on it. Look at your local Farm Service Assoc. They often have a loan to get you started but you get buried in paperwork. It can make you a better manager if you need the bookwork skills and motivation. Maybe on of the farm link up groups They pair up beginning farmers with retiring ones. Here are some links
    http://www.fsa.usda.gov/
    http://www.extension.iastate.edu/bfc/
    http://www.extension.iastate.edu/nftn/wisconsin/
    http://www.extension.iastate.edu/nftn/pubs/omaha.htm

    Try Penn state extension foor more ideas
     
  6. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    There was a time that I would read everything I could about getting started. It really is amazing how little there is out there at beginning a farming business. Running one, yes, but not STARTING one!

    But, there is SOME info out there.

    Let's see what I remember....

    One book suggested buying land with marketable timber on it, selling some, using some to build. A log cabin you live in today can be a barn after you can afford to have something built.

    Or, buy calves in the spring and graze them all summer. Sell them in the Fall for a profit so you don't have to put up hay. Of course, the beef prices MIGHT go suddenly down....or not. A perimeter fence is needed for this, and possibly electric fencing if you want to increase yield of grass by rotating pastures. Joel Salatin has one of 2 books on the subject that I know of: the OTHER book is called "No-Risk Ranching"....I think. It MIGHT have been "Low-Risk Ranching"

    Or, rent out most of your land while you get started with a small operation, and then expand after you have developed a market.

    *IF* you are good at marketing, start some chicken tractors. Personally, I think that people who can sell chickens for $4 a pound can sell ice to eskimos, but I have heard of this being done.

    I will think on this some more, and try to remember more.
     
  7. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    They do want experience operating a farm, not just working on one. To get experience operating a farm, you'd either have to rent land that you work, or work/volunteer as a farm manager. My kids are not building up brownie points when I make them shovel the barn out!

    What is your vision of farming? It can mean many different things to different people. Do you want to be a regular farmer who works with the ag commodity markets? What is it that you want to raise? Crops, livestock? Do you want to be a small farmer with a niche market?

    Those types of questions are going to define what to do and how to get there. Getting started in grain farming is a lot different than raising beef. Raising beef is a lot different than raising chickens to sell to local folks.

    I was lucky in that I married a man with an existing farm. I have access to lots of equipment and infratructure. I honestly don't see how anyone can start farming from scratch. The capital costs are just too huge. I do see how someone can start small though and maybe in a couple generations of smart management, a "real" farm will exist.

    Starting small also gives you the advantage of losing less on the learning curve. It's much easier on the finances to lose half of the 4 calves you bought at the sale barn, rather than half a crop of calves from 100 cows. Those learning curves are very real and can be very costly.

    For the record, I am not that good at marketing, but I sell chickens (though not for $4/pound!). Those darn chickens will sell themselves :)

    Jena
     
  8. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I remember a little more about the low-risk farming book.

    The gent looked for unused land between his work and his home. He looked up the (usually elderly) owner in the tax records at the courthouse. He contacted the owner and offered to rent it.

    That way, he could check on his cattle twice a day, and it would only take him a few minutes each day to make certain they were in, had water, and such.