I recently came across an old post from our first year on the farm, and I want to post it as a reminder of how we began. When we moved to our farm in the autumn of 2016, we had only a foggy idea of our goals. Our ideas of how to make a living on the farm continue to change as we learn what things we’re successful growing, what gaps are in the local market, and what tasks we enjoy. Writing a business plan has been a huge help in narrowing down our ideas and forming clear goals.
It’s gives us a dose of perspective to look back and realize how open-ended our early ideas were! I wrote the following post in our first year on the farm:
“We’re starting a farm with the intention of feeding our own family for the next few years using food that we have grown ourselves, with the long-term goal of launching a certified organic farm business. It’s a daunting task, considering neither my husband nor I have ever farmed or run a business before! We expect to remain on the steep part of the learning curve for a while, but it’s an exciting place to be. We both recently left careers as research biologists in favor of a lifestyle that will allow us to be at home with our young child and follow our dream of self-sustenance. We have an overabundance of ideas for what we’d like to grow, including vegetables, aquaponic greens, blueberries, apples and honey. It will take some research to figure out what will be marketable in our area.
We left West Virginia, our home of 6 years, and purchased our farm in southern Wisconsin in August 2016. We had a long list of criteria for our prospective homestead, and it took many months of searching before we found a place that satisfied most of our wishes. We chose our farm because it fulfilled the following points:
1) At least 10 acres of tillable land.
2) Fertile soil. We were lucky to find a farm that sits on silt-loam, a highly fertile soil type.
3) A source of clean water on-site. Clean, drinkable water was high on our list after living through a water crisis West Virginia, in which a highly toxic chemical was spilled into our drinking water. We were hoping for a spring on the property, but we’re thrilled to have good well water.
4) South-facing aspect to maximize sun exposure for crops.
5) An existing house that was already livable without too many extreme renovations. We love our 1910 farmhouse, which needs still needs some minor fixes but is in great shape overall.
6) Close to a progressive, friendly community which offers good schools, opportunities to play and listen to music, at least a couple decent restaurants, nearby recreational areas, and potential employment opportunities (in case our farm business isn’t enough to support us on its own). Amazingly, our new area provides all of these and more. We’re thrilled with the friendly, vibrant community that we’ve joined. There are so many knowledgeable, experienced farmers in this area, and we look forward to the opportunity to learn from them.
As an added bonus, our farm came with a large, heated greenhouse! The greenhouse makes up for the fact that our farm doesn’t contain any woodland, one of the points on my original wish list. The greenhouse holds enormous possibilities for year-round vegetable growing.
Now that we have the farm, we’ll spend the next year or two deciding what to grow commercially. We’re bursting with ideas; the difficult part will be narrowing them down to what we can feasibly achieve with of us. “