It turns out I am a little bit of a procrastinator and an over-analyzer among other faults. What I will have you know is this: I’m skeered to death to start a farm. I’m afraid of failure and more than that, I’m worried about what you all will think of me. My natural inclination is to research this project into the ground and resist taking any active steps toward actually beginning. Eventually I’ll get sick of sitting in my duplex living room reading ‘Ranching for Profit’ information packages, and I’ll go get a unsatisfactory “real job” with some vague tie to agriculture.
So I have decided to give myself a little accountability by posting my fears, failures and succeses on the internet for everyone to see. Gulp. You know how you see a successful person and wonder how they got over the “hump” and made their way toward success? I’d like to document the process of starting a business from square one with the hope and intent that someday I will make it into a successful venture. Maybe I’ll fail but I have to take a risk, right?
This is what I’m starting out with:
1. A Bachelors of Science degree in Animal Sciences
2. Two years industry experience in row crop farming and processing
3. Four years of experience raising 4-H steers, hogs, sheep, laying hens and llamas (they eat llamas in Peru, so I’m going to go ahead and throw them in there as meat animals, so as to pad my resume).
4. Four years of experience managing a flock of sheep for reproductive physiology research at Oregon State University.
5. A pile of books on pasture-based farming by Joel Salatin, Julius Ruechel, and Greg Judy.
6. A laptop computer for research
7. A strong pot of coffee, fed by intravenous drip.
8. A wild vacillation between debilitating fear of failure and ridiculous “I Can Do It!” optimism.
Please note that nowhere on that list is any more business knowledge than what is required to not overdraw my checking account.
Way Back When
I believe this all began at age 8 when I developed a Bug Business from my home in Toledo, Oregon. I had a little book of money-making ideas for kids, which I referred to pretty much every day because I suffered from Chronic Boredom/A Need for Constant Stimulation. Over the years, I utilized my love for organizing other people (some might call it bossiness, but I prefer to think of it as just plain management skills) and roped my siblings and neighborhood kids into my start-up enterprises. I had a lemonade and popcorn stand on Highway 20 (no slow-paced neighborhood sales for me), a Beneficial Bug Business complete with home delivery via Radio Flyer wagon, a chocolate chip cookie business, and a pie business. Eventually I graduated to 4-H market animals. I’m not sure I ever amassed much wealth, but I learned to record profit and expenses in a spiral notebook and how to work up the nerve to knock on doors and market my products.
A few weeks ago I headed down to The Business Enterprise Center in Corvallis to take a class on beginning a business. It was $10 well spent, learning the preliminary steps required to get a business idea off the ground. I have a lot of work to do but there is a world of resources out there for entrepreneurs.
I stopped by Afton Field Farms booth at the Corvallis Farmers Market and chatted with Tyler and Alicia. I got some good advice from them and worked out a time to go visit their operation. On Monday, I did that and learned a lot. Most importantly, they assure me that it can be very profitable and it is not an impossible thing for me to undertake. I got a stack of books from them (See above list of authors), and advice on how look for leasable land.
Today, I worked on establishing my goals for personal life and business. This is paramount to the success of any business. Keith and I will go over them tonight and make sure they represent our desires. I read a bunch of Joel Salatin’s book by the cheesy title of “You Can Farm.”
Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated with my 30 minute cycles of panic attacks and optimism. Stay posted.