By Caitlin Arnold, Furrow Horse Farm
You want to be a farmer? That’s great news because we need a lot more farmers! But there are some things you should know before diving in:
1) Farming is really, really hard. (Let me stress that one more time….)
Seriously. The hardest work I’ve ever done. You will work longer days then you ever have and take less time off then ever before. You will be perennially sore and exhausted. You will have less money than most (if not all) of your friends. There is no paid vacation, no health insurance, no company-sponsored retirement plan.
2) Farmers are not just farmers.
There is a lot more to farming than just raising your crop and bringing it to market. Farmers are bookkeepers, marketing geniuses, writers, advertisers, organizers, social networkers, managers, and office workers. Not only do you need to be good at growing what you grow, you need to know how to start and run a successful business.
3) Farming can be dangerous.
Here at Furrow Horse, we live out of cell phone range and rely on a satellite land-line that doesn’t work if the power goes out. I’ve heard rumors that the nearest hospital, which is 10 miles away, can take over an hour to dispatch an ambulance to our area. In the back of my head I know that Brandon and I each need to be prepared to drive each other quickly into town if necessary. On a daily basis we use: chainsaws, hatchets, axes, hammers, nails, sharp tools, drills, vises, post pounders, you name it. Not to mention draft horses! Our horses weigh over 1,600 pounds each. I weigh 110 pounds. We take lots of precautions and are careful, but accidents do happen.
4) You’ve heard this one before: It takes money to make money.
Starting your own farm is incredibly expensive, especially if you do not have farmland in your family. Leasing land is expensive, let alone attempting to buy your own land. Even without buying land, you will probably still need to take out loans for equipment and supplies. In my ten years of farming, I have always held an off-farm job, either seasonally or throughout the year. Having an off-farm income, finding creative ways to access credit or loans, and growing your business every year are essential to making it work.
5) It’s the best work you’ll ever do.
Do you want to feel completely satisfied and fulfilled by your work? Lay your head down at night knowing you are doing something that helps the planet and your fellow humans? There is nothing more satisfying than providing a basic need: food. I love what I do, and wouldn’t trade it for anything—sore muscles, financial risks, and all.