Did you know that we entered 2017 with a record number of organic farms and processing facilities?
According to data released by the US Department of Agriculture, there are now exactly 21,781 certified organic farms in the United States. In the last 15 years, organic operations increased nearly by 300%, and the total retail market for organic products is now valued at around 39 billion dollars.
When you look at those numbers, it’s no wonder why so many people are drawn to organic farming. In addition to financial benefits, people also want to do something good for the environment, promote healthy eating habits and start leading a simpler life in the country.
But, if you’re toying with the idea of becoming an organic farmer, you have to be aware that all farming is hard work that demands the same skills and commitment to success as any other small business. So in order to help you get started, here are a few tips that will help bypass some initial obstacles.
1. Find the Right Location in Time
The first step to a good farm is finding a piece of land with great drainage, fertile soil and access to high-quality water. And if you want to qualify for the USDA certification (more on that in a minute), it’s crucial to find land that’s been free of artificial fertilizers for at least 36 months.
You should also try to find a property that’s close to your buyers. And since most people interested in organic food live in urban areas, you have to be aware of the fact that the price of land close to a metro-area market will probably be more expensive.
2. Get the Certified Organic Status
The USDA notes on their official website that the certified organic license may cost you anywhere from “a few hundred to several thousand dollars.” Nevertheless, you have to be aware that “a few hundred” is a low estimate for this certification.
In most cases, the certificate cost around $1,200 for an organic processor to get a license, and minimum $700 for a new farm to get certified, according to The Balance. Also, if you’re planning to work with a private certifying agent, be prepared for additional fees.
3. Learn about Direct Marketing
When you finally start producing organic food, naturally, your next job will be to market and sell your produce. But rather than selling to grocery stores and wholesalers, most organic farm owners these days rely on direct marketing to earn a living.
For instance, organic farmers mostly sell their fruits and vegetables to markets in their areas, local restaurants and the members of the community-supported agriculture program. People who subscribe to the CSA program receive a selection of produce every three days and order directly from the farmers.
4. Make Sure the Soil is Properly Conditioned
Finally, in order to get the best crops, you’ have to make sure that your soil is properly maintained. With a good, healthy soil, you’ll easily grow strong and productive plants. But before you start planting, you have to gauge the quality of your newly-bought soil.
This is why people often hire a soil testing firm like Douglas Partners in order to get a complete breakdown of nutrient and pH levels. The company you hire will also send you treatment recommendations, but be sure to notify them that you’re going organic.
Dealing with Financing
Now, everything we mentioned above is mostly affected by a one single issue – financing. And bear in mind, we didn’t mention a single word about farming equipment, which can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Without enough money, starting an organic farm can be rather though, to say the least.
Chances are you’ll need a loan in order to fiancé everything from the purchase of land to the farming equipment. You should definitely look to lender who member of the FCS (Farm Credit System). Furthermore, certain financial planning program can accessed through the SDA in your state
And while becoming an organic farmer may seem a little overwhelming at first – don’t worry – your hard work will surely be rewarded. Farming is a smart and financially successful career – especially if your ultimate goal is a niche field like organic farming.