Plan the First Year on Your Small Farm

It’s time to take your dreams and make them happen. You are ready to start planning your first year: you have an inventory of resources, both physical and financial, you have some ideas about what animals and crops you want to raise, you’ve done the research into care of the animals, local markets and how to start a business. What’s next?

Set Priorities

Go through your list of animals and crops and pick the ones that match best with your available resources, knowledge and time. Resist choosing too many: one to three is probably the ideal number. With farm animals, starting with one species is a good plan.

Even if your goal is homesteading or self-sufficiency, resist the urge to try to do a little bit of everything. Either do one small, but well-rounded, garden plot, or do just a few veggies – the ones you eat the most of and the ones that are most expensive or difficult to get locally. You can always go pick up that bag of carrots from the farm down the road, for now. Later you can tackle carrots. For now, perfect growing your own greens, onions, and tomatoes.

Check out these easy-to-grow vegetables as a good starting point. Chickens are probably the easiest and least resource-intensive farm animal for the beginning farmer.

Create an Action Plan

You now have an overarching view of what you want to accomplish in the first year. The next step is to take that down to specific, actionable tasks – an action plan. Your actions might involve learning new skills, such as how to write a business plan, or how to operate a tractor. One action might be to build a chicken coop. Or, you might have “locate suitable land” first on your list.

Include what the action is, who will be responsible for doing it, and when it will be done. Keep your action plan somewhere easy to access – perhaps a planning binder where you can also keep farm records.

Adjust as You Go

Farm planning is a process. It never goes quite as you think it will in the beginning. Make sure that you are flexible enough to come back and reassess your first-year plan every month or two, and allow yourself to change your goals or actions as needed. Whatever you do, keep your original vision in mind, and make sure your actions support your values and priorities.

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