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.