Sunday, February 11, 2007

Starting Up In Agro-Business


The agricultural gold rush is a long ago thing of the past. There aren’t very many start-up opportunities any more, yet I often hear of people who want to get into farming. Maybe it’s the romance of the idea of living off the land or getting back to basics. Maybe it is fear of modern life. What ever reason, farming is a gamble at best. When you enter a casino the odds favor the house and as a farmer you have no better odds.

The start-up price of land and equipment makes it virtually impossible to even consider making a profit for many years. Yet there is a way to become a farmer if you so desire.

The trick is to start small and progressively build your product and experience. In agriculture experience is the greatest teacher. Reading all the books on any topic never prepares you for when a cow dies in your milking parlor, or when you deliver a truck load of walnuts and find they are infested with husk fly.

Diversifying is a great hedge against failure. This is where let’s say, you have sheep; it is convenient to have dairy goats as well. Both have different products and you’ve diversified your line in the even there is a catastrophic failure of a falling market for one of your products.

Another way would be to have beef cattle, and then you could raise long-horns as breeding stock. Most times a good breeding long horn with great confirmation will sell for ten times the price of beef for meat. It’s show business.

The trick is to start slow, and grow slowly. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have gotten into agro business in a big way and lost everything in three years. I’ve seen it happen in horse farms, nut and fruit orchards. I know a few migratory beekeepers who went from a hobby to five-hundred colonies in one year and lost over four-hundred colonies during their first winter.

My advice is to first join an agricultural organization in your field of interest. There are associations out there for every field, many with local branches. Get to know those who are teaching your subject of interest at Oregon State University. Meet people who are established and working in your field. When talking with them don’t try to impress them with what you know, but rather talk to them about the things you don’t know.

Over the next few weeks I plan to explore different aspects of all sorts of agro businesses. I will try to deliver these articles in an honest way so as not to give the illusion that you can make tons of money in any of these fields without a lot of hard work, and I mean a lot of hard work.

There is an old adage that says, do what you enjoy and the money will come. Let’s make that the first rule, it has to be enjoyable.

Stay tuned.

9 Comments:

Anonymous THartill said...

Hey I recognize that barn!

Anyways I hope you do one on Goats. They seem like interesting creatures to me. Some guy on DailyKos yesterday was telling me about his goats and how he teaches them to jump. And once they grow-up he likes to watch them jump around the field. But he has since had to redo all of his fences because of these jumping goats.

BTW are you horse trading today or blog-meetin? I'll have find some way the conceal my camera and snap some pictures for GIMP.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous THartill said...

Oh forgot to mention, hit the ORblogs button below your stat counter....I'm popular today!

9:34 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I have a four part series on goats. Goats in general, meat goats, dairy goats, and fiber goats.

Who or what is GIMP?

I plan to do both so don't mock the spurs because they work.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous THartill said...

You don't know !?

It's a photoshop type program...except it's free!

Everyone says "I have to photoshop this picture".

I say "I have to GIMP this picture".

9:45 AM  
Anonymous THartill said...

Ah hell!
It worked fine when I previewed it.

9:47 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

The link works. Thanks, I've been looking for a free program such as that.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

While I'm looking forward to the series of articles, any venture into agro business is not happening in my world.
But I did love reading about starting up a farm (of sorts) in Margaret Atwood's latest book Moral Disorder.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Ahhh...the dangers of monocultures. When will they listen?

The one thing that makes me feel so uncomfortable about living on our city lot is how little land I have to cultivate. But I will,

Of course, I have no room for livestock, sigh!

Lovely to see you again, hope you found a nice pony!

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Thartill said...

If your not in bed yet....does that flashplayer look alright that has some of the local blogs in the upper-left corner of NCO?

I'm still trying to figure out how to embed links in the photos.....if it's even possible...

10:25 PM  

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