How to Start a Farm: Planning Your Farm

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

     "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my axe." ~ Abraham Lincoln

     Planning your farm will help you get started, and define where you will end up. So you've decided you want to farm {congratulations!}.--but what do you grow? What are the conditions you have to work with (such as soil/ location/ water) and what resources are you are able to invest?

#1. Do your Homework

Attend farmer workshops, conferences and visit the market to see what is in demand and the prices. Keep a notebook to track your findings. Read our farmer profiles and upcoming Emerging Farmer guides and resources for inspiration. The Zimbabwe Farmers Union and University of Zimbabwe host a number of  farmer workshops. Talk with established farmers in your area, they will usually have plenty of experience. You should really consider working on someone else's farm for a season or two. You will gain valuable skills and experience. Nothing prepares you better to farm than experience does.

#2. Draft a plan and set farm goals

Goal setting is important in every aspect of farming.  Since farming is a business, it needs a vision and plan on how to attain that vision. In most parts of Africa, you'll only have 2-3 months (winter) to plan for the next growing season. Set up a plan for your target income and from there work backwards. To do this, you should do your market research to find out which crops the market needs and at what price you can produce them versus the average price on the market. This will help you work out your expected profit per year. Growing food requires good timing and attention to detail.

#3. Map out Your Farm

The next step is to map out your farm. This will help with planning your crop rotation and in ensuring that your farm is being utilised to its full potential. Have your map drawn in a basic notebook, this map will guide in determining soil types of each field and in planning what, when and where next crops need to be sown in a particular field.

#4. Draft a Simple Budget

It's helpful to have a budget for what your farm is going to cost. You will need to invest things like seeds, farming tools, water and an alternative energy solution for powering your farm when the power goes out.

#5. Raise Funds

Can you borrow from family or get a bank loan? Have you saved up enough to get started? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you get started.

#6. Look for Land

You don't need to own land to farm. You could look into leasing land from farmers with excess land. You could also consider growing food in your rural village.

#7. Source Supplies

Get your seeds, farming tools and equipment. Visit a farm supply store or research centre to purchase your seed.

#8. Get Growing

Get started with quick and easy crops like peas, beans, and tomatoes and learn what it's like to be in production. This will help you build relationships, and also your confidence.

#9.   Keep Records

This is very important because in farming there are so many ‘miscellaneous’ expenses and if they are not monitored, you will soon find himself in debt. Most farmers I have met are just like me when it comes to record keeping—haphazard and inconsistent. Unfortunately,  it is one of those things that MUST be done. The good news is that once you have a system it is easy to just add numbers and it easy to track expenses and income to determine the success of your farm. There is no ‘best’ way to do this, the important thing is to do it as simply and clearly as you can. My first accounting book was just a notebook with a line in the middle where I wrote every expense on one side and income on the right-hand side.

Ask for a receipt every time you purchase anything for the farm, then make sure that you reconcile all receipts at the end of the month. This step is important for the African farmer because there are many businesses that sell farming resources but do not have receipts! If you are computer literate, which I assume you are since you found this website, then there are countless apps and websites that you can use to keep all your farm records.

Examples of records every farmer should have: income, expenses, assets, fertiliser/ pesticides usage, wages, etc..

#10. Have Fun!

About the Author

Kundai is a co-founder of Emerging Farmer. She is an award-winning emerging farmer. She grows, processes and distributes mushrooms and vegetables and raises pigs on her family's farm. Say hello @kundeezy

Disclaimer: while Emerging Farmer does everything to ensure the accuracy of our guides, it is important to contact an agronomist or your Agritex officer for accurate recommendations for your farm. Emerging farmer takes no responsibility for any losses or damage incurred due to information in this guide.


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