Small Scale Aquaponic and Hydroponic farming is all the rage, but not every farmer who starts a farm is successful. In fact, many close down in their first few years from lack of experience, no sales, or poor farm management. So what sets apart those who find success from those who don’t?
In today’s post, we’ll explore the three things every successful farmer does to ensure they set themselves up for success.
1. Start Small And Scale Up
The biggest factor in failing farms is starting too big too soon. Start within your means, figure the smallest scale you need to turn a profit and then use your profits to add onto your farm as you go. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it allows you to get a sense of your local market demand before you are growing thousands of crops a week, and set up your sales and distribution channels before you have hundreds or thousands of heads of lettuce coming off the farm every week.
This approach also allows you to get comfortable with farming while keeping your risk factor small. You want to make your mistakes when they don’t cost you thousands in crop loss. Once you get comfortable with managing a farm then you can scale it and continue your established success with confidence.
2. They Get Top Dollar For Their Crops
No matter the sales channel small scale farmers survive by getting at or above top market value for their crop. Whether they achieve it through a CSA, farmers markets, live sales, creating value added products, packaging for specialty grocers or any other method, their farms turn a profit because they market and sell their produce as high quality, high price, highly in-demand product. They also turn a higher profit margin by selling locally, reducing labor, storage, and transportation costs while delivering a higher quality, better tasting and fresh product.
Small scale farmers find innovative ways to get the most value from their produce. It can be as simple as selling herbs and greens together in a “salad pack” at the farmers market as opposed to selling the crops individually. The way you market your product will dictate how much you can get for it. If you don’t highlight what’s unique and sets you apart from other local farms, you won’t be able to sell your produce for more. Talk about the growing process, educate the consumer on your methods, how they benefit the plant, the planet, and the consumer. If you sell somewhere you don’t get that contact point with the consumer go for organic labeling on the packaging to signal higher end quality to your end consumer. Starting small doesn’t mean selling small or small profits. If executed correctly small farms can turn a nice profit that can be used to scale and bring in even more profits.
3. They Are Active In Their Communities.
Success as a farmer all comes down to enough people knowing about you that you have enough people or places interested in your products that you can ultimately sell enough to turn a profit and earn your living. That will not happen if you sit on your farm all day talking and tending to your plants. That is very important, but you also need to get off the farm so to speak and engage in local community events and social activities.
But it’s not just about getting out into the community and making your presence known, it’s then about bringing the community to your farm, and integrating your farm as part of the community. Schedule, tours and classes and invite the people you’re meeting outside your farm. Follow up with people you meet on social media, get them to follow you back and use those platforms to promote your events, tours, and classes. Talk with local schools about field trips to your farm. There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to get creative and engaging with the local community. The successful ones spend just as much time on community engagement and marketing as they do tending the plants. It’s important that people know about you so that when you harvest those plants that you work so hard to grow, people are excited, and there to buy it from you.
A lot goes into making farms successful, and every farm will have unique factors that will make it a success. But all successful farms can credit these three things as key components to them finding success, especially at the small scale. If you think a small scale farm is right for your lifestyle, check out our start here page to learn how to properly set goals, design a system, and set yourself up for success from the first seed planted.