Planning a farm can be an exciting process. Lots of new farmers look forward to farming so much, however, that they forget important parts of the planning process. We can't blame them - we have a hard time containing excitement ourselves - but unfortunately things that new farmers forget can cause problems later on!
Farmer Tyler with Hort Americas works with new farmers and advises them to pay special attention to these two areas: the learning curve during the first months of the farm, and the group of tasks surrounding sales.
Both of these areas tend to get swept under the rug during planning. Later, farmers find themselves in a tough situation when their budget is too low or when they have produce without buyers.
1. Farming is a learning curve.
Multiple farmers have touted the first few months (up to a year) as the critical "learning curve" stage. During this time, farmers are learning to manage the farm and tediously learning to troubleshoot. Crops often take hits during this period and production is dented for that crop cycle. Sometimes, crops are unsaleable. Sales accounts might not be set up yet.
That means that for a few months, farmers need to cover full costs without full profits rolling in. If you're a new farmer, plan this lag phase into your budget.
2. You have to sell your crops.
Farm sales are as important as growing a good crop!
While the word "sales" can often cause farmers to wince and shy away, it's a challenge that has to be overcome in order to operate a profitable business.
“You shouldn’t forget that [farming is] a business and that reallyin order to do long term good, the farm needs to be economically viable. That’s got to be one of the biggest focuses when starting a farm."
Luckily, many farmers find that the process isn't nearly as distasteful as it's painted in their imagination. There are a few myths surrounding sales that should be dispelled. Bright Agrotech's Director of Sales, Elesif McDonald, outlines the top 3 myths about sales that need to go:
Myth # 1: "You have to be pushy to make sales.
If you know your product is the best, and can genuinely solve a problem for your customer, there's no need to be pushy. The solution (your product) should be a natural choice for them if you explain the benefits well."
Myth # 2: "You need a lot of experience.
Do you need knowledge of your product and the market? Sure. Do you need 10 years of experience? No. Working hard and being empathetic to your customer and their situation will take you a long way."
Myth # 3: "You have to be extroverted to be in sales.
Consultative sales require you to listen, be analytical, and help your customers solve problems. If you can do this, you can be successful."
When you think about it, selling your produce is the end goal of your farm. Over the weeks or months, you've painstakingly grown your crops to be the best they can be. You've watched them and checked them hundreds of times, cared for them, protected them from pests, and poured hundreds of hours into them.
Now you have the opportunity to bring the fruit of your labor and present it to the world to enjoy. This is your moment!
Need to learn more about sales before you're ready to dive in?
If you're still not quite comfortable with the idea of sales, we highly recommend shadowing another farmer or learning sales from someone experienced.