Written by Trevor Cullen, a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
On December 12, I went to New Entry’s Lowell office anticipating sitting in on my first Farm Business Planning Course; however a wrong turn led me to sit in on the Explore Farming! class, which ended up being a great one for a newcomer like me to attend. It was led by Sam Anderson, who fielded questions from another diverse group of both already established farmers and those interested in entering the business. It was a smaller class, with eight other people besides me.
One of the points of conversation that stuck out most to me was the continuous stressing of the fact that quality of life should be the main motivating factor for a farmer, or someone interested in becoming one. In the class it was recognized and understood that as a small farm, making a substantial profit, especially during the first few years, is a challenge. A more realistic goal is breaking even during the beginning. So the lifestyle, not potential profit, should be a farmer’s biggest motivating factor. I thought this was such an intelligent point to bring up to those who were interested in beginning their own farm.
There were a couple other smaller points of conversation from the course that I enjoyed as well. One was the fact that you don’t need a barn and a silo to be a successful farm, meaning there’s a misconception out there that successful farms need to have hundreds of acres of land, a fleet of tractors and the trademark barn and silo. This is not so, Sam stressed. There are plenty of small farms that have plenty of great produce from small plots of land. The last thing that I thought was smart to address were the alternatives to starting your own farm. During the last part of the class, we discussed how if you weren’t sure the farming lifestyle was for you, or you didn’t have the money to start your own farm, there are other options out there, such as landing a job as a worker on a farm, finding an apprenticeship, or researching and networking to better understand the farming market.
As someone who is still new to New Entry, I thought this was an outstanding course for an outsider with an interest in farming to attend. From the basic concepts and suggestions, to the lack of pressure to do anything but listen, the class was a great starting point.