Running and maintaining a small farm as a business is not easy, however, done right it is possible to make a good income from the land. The good news is that there are some simple things to do first which will help you reach your goal – after all, any business has some key rules to making a success, a farm business just has some specific farm responsibilities.
Let’s jump straight in!
1. Plan and set a goal
So, you’re already asking, ‘how do I turn my farm into a business?’ – this is a great place to start. However, before you even set foot on your farm it is important to have a plan and a more specific goal.
Are you wanting to make a bit of extra money from your farm or to be fully reliant on your farm for all your income? Being clear on your goal from the beginning is essential in prioritising your work.
2. Assess your land
A lot of work goes in before planting any seeds. Without careful planning and preparation, you risk not getting the most from your seeds.
What is the soil type?
Before you decide what to grow, it is important to learn about your soil and how to make the most of the soil you have. Take some time to find out what type of soil you have , whether it is mostly clay, sandy or a loam will dictate how you prepare the land for planting, and there are more tips on preparing your soil in tip 6!
Is there accessible water?
Ultimately, without water, your farm will struggle. First take some time to explore what water sources are available to you.
Could you dig a well, or access a local river or lake for water? Are there rainwater harvesting options you could set up to make the most of the rains when they come? Have you considered water storage in a tank to help with early morning or evening irrigation?
How will you get water to the field?
Once you have assessed the water available to you, it’s time to think about how you will get it to your crops in the most efficient way.
Irrigation is important to farming as a business as being able to irrigate as and when you need gives you control over the growth of your crops and your business. You cannot leave it to chance.
Depending on your water source and farm set up, there are several different options for irrigation systems. You can find out more in detail here.
As you can see from the points above, to be secure in your business takes pre-planning and you need a budget to get you through this planning stage. It’s important to consider how much the different options for preparing the land, setting up irrigation and purchasing seeds and inputs.
This budgeting and planning for expenditure should not just happen at the beginning, it’s important to maintain records throughout the years of farming.
Knowing how much seeds cost, how much you grew, how much the produce sold for at the market will mean that each year you are more and more knowledgeable on what will be a good bet for your farm. This increases your likelihood for success!
4. Decide your crops, your seeds and investigate the local markets
Once you know how much money you have available to set up your farm and what soil you have, you can look into the right seeds. There are some great resources online or speak to your local seed provider or agrovet, they will be able to assist.
You also need to investigate the local markets to help decide what will be most successful for you. If everyone in the area is producing a specific crop, supply may outweigh demand and the price will be lower. Can you spot a gap in the market? There are also benefits to growing different crops at different times of the year. With irrigation, you can grow more produce in the dry season, here you can meet the demand for fresh produce.
Some of the most profitable small farms are those where the farmer has identified a market need for what they are growing. This might be tree seedlings, high-value cash crops or irrigated crops in the dry season.
5. Plan when to plant with the seasons
It’s a good idea to know your local climate and weather patterns and plan to plant to make the most of these. Either by making the most of the rainy season to reduce your need for irrigation, or by planning to irrigate and grow in the dry season to supply market demand. This should be incorporated in your planning.
With climate change and more uncertainty in weather patterns, this is one of the hardest things to plan for, however, being aware of this helps you to be prepared. As mentioned above, irrigation is one of the ways you can be more in control of when your crops get the water they need.
6. Prepare the soil
You’ve got a plan, you’ve got your seeds, now you need to prepare your land for planting. How you prepare your soil will depend on your soil type. For example:
- If you have clay soils, lightly tilling the surface and adding well-rotted compost will loosen the soil and help plant growth.
- With sandy soils, adding well-rotted compost to the top of your soil will also help add structure and organic matter that will slow down how quickly water drains through.
7. Start, learn and experiment
With all businesses, especially farming where there are a wide range of factors influencing your yields, it is important to try things and be prepared to change your plans if needed.
Being adaptable and learning from previous years by reviewing your records is essential to keeping your business running smoothly.
At Futurepump we are experts in the manufacture of solar irrigation pumps. We want to help smallholder farmers across the world grow crops sustainably all year round. You can find out more about our work and bigger mission across futurepump.com
We are of course not agronomists, we just want to help you get the most out of your farm sustainably – so for more help on looking after your soils and crops it is a good idea to speak to an agronomist in your local area who can provide you tailored advice for your farm.