When we made the decision to farm organically we had no choice but to start small. I had grown up farming on a large scale with my Dad and Cousins but I did not take the opportunity to take over the family farm. Instead I waited another 15 years or so before I decided to get back into farming. I had an off-farm career and a limited budget to spend on my “farming hobby”. My wife was a self-proclaimed city girl and she knew nothing about the business of farming. She had only heard about how farmers were suffering and what a dumb decision it would be to get back into it. But I had other ideas.
I knew that farming conventionally was not an option. It went against my beliefs about pesticides; and expensive chemical inputs and equipment would never be in the budget. Not only are the output costs a problem, but the income for conventional crops is abysmal. To get started with conventional farming these days you need to be independently wealthy, certified insane or in debt up to your ear lobes. The amount of acres necessary to create any kind of respectable income dictates the size of the equipment and time needed to be able to farm successfully.
We started with what we had…a 40 acre parcel of land where we had originally kept a few horses. What could we farm on these 40 acres? We tried all varieties of livestock in order to test the merits of each. Sheep, pigs, chickens, bees. They all had their ups and downs. Deep in my heart I wanted to grain farm.
The only option left was to grow grains that I could sell at a premium price with equipment I could afford and land that I could easily obtain through renting. In other words, I started small. The Organic Certification was a necessity in order to be able to sell my product at a premium price and it fit perfectly with my desire to farm the way my grandfathers had…with their brains and acquired knowledge, not chemicals.