Interested in starting to farm?

There seems to be an increasing interest in farming, and it seems every situation though slightly different fall within a few common themes.

I inherited 10 acres; what can I grow to make a living from it?

My child just graduated and wants to come back to the farm; what opportunities are there for them on limited acreage?

I just left the military and have heard that farming can provide a number of benefits to vets; where can I get land and learn to grow a crop?

I am getting ready to retire and have always dreamed of making a living from the land; what rules and regulations am I facing to get started?

Conventional farming has gotten too big for me to get started, and I don’t want to go into debt to buy land; what niche markets are out there where I can get started in a small way and grow into the farming over time?

If for no other reason, we need new farmers simply because the average age of today’s farmer is in the upper 50s. And with only one to two percent of our population farming it would seem to make sense that as a nation we need to foster the ability of new farmers to enter the profession.

Some may say, ‘We don’t need another farmer competing with us at the farmers’ market or selling freezer beef.’

But the fact is, demands for many of the products beginning farmers are interested in growing and the way they tend to want to produce them are meeting with increasing demand by today’s customer. Marketing in new ways may be in order, but that is just another piece of the puzzle beginning farmers need to plan to address.

Does this mean we abandon larger conventional farms producing commodity grains and meat animals in larger scale ways? Absolutely not.

We need all of today’s farmers and more for the future. But the needs of today’s beginning farmers are many and varied and quite different from conventional grain and livestock operations. They also need different learning opportunities.

To begin to address this expanding need, Purdue’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher program is offering new and aspiring farmers an opportunity to visit 10 Indiana agribusinesses and learn from Purdue Extension educators, as well as producers and other experts about topics ranging from organic produce to aquaponics and to get a sense of the realities of farming as a lifestyle and profession.

These free learning opportunities will be conducted at various locations across Indiana from May through October and will each cover content that is unique to specific production systems, crops and livestock. Each will be held at a site where these are being conducted in a day-to-day basis as a model for new operations.

Remaining tour stops and topics:

June 25: Silverthorn Farm, Rossville: Organic fruits and vegetables, pastured pork and working with restaurants.

July 10: Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer: Flower production and selling at farmers markets.

July 14: Melon Acres, Oaktown: Community-supported agriculture and agritourism.

Aug. 16: Greystone Farm, Lawrenceburg: Pasture management and the production of pastured-raised meats, eggs, honey and herbs.

Sept. 8: Becker Farms, Mooreland: Multi-species grazing systems and producing your own feed for livestock and poultry.

Sept. 29: River Ridge Farm, Roann: Four-season vegetable farming, operating an on-farm store and farm-to-school programs.

Oct. 7: Hawkins Family Farm, North Manchester: Poultry, hogs, cattle, and vegetables and a discussion on processing meat.

Oct. 20: Fields of Agape, Carthage. Developing partnerships and infrastructure to support small grain farming.

While the tours with lunch are free, registration is required.

Registration is now open for the first six tours at mdc.itap.purdue.edu/wk_group.asp?wk_group=BeginFarmer. Registration for the remainder of the tours will be available in early June on the same website.

For more information about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher program, or the farm tour schedule, contact me at 317-462-1113 or rballard@purdue.edu.

To join a mailing list to receive updates on the farm tours and other events planned by the Beginning Farmer team, please email beginningfarmers@lists.purdue.edu.

Roy Ballard is an agriculture and natural resources educator with the Hancock County office of Purdue Extension. Contact him at 317-462-1113 or rballard@purdue.edu.