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Questions and Answers

Do I need to go to college for sustainable agriculture?

I want to simply start my own small (5-acre) diversified farm. There is only one decent college that offers practical sustainable agriculture that I have found and is located halfway across the country. I was thinking that the summer program at Sterling College and internships at farms for a few years might possibly suffice. Do I need to go to college to start a farm/restaurant? Do you know any good ones?

Posted by anonymous
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You wish to grow produce on 5 acres, yet you mention a restaurant at the end of your question. To effectively do either one you need experience and you are willing to go to school. I am not convinced that there is only one decent college for you to learn life skills. You have narrowly focused your intentions on one school and a 5 acre parcel of land. At this point I feel that you are way too focused. Back up several steps, check out your state colleges and if there is possibly a Land Grant University in your state that provides agriculture/horticulture classes. You need to become well rounded for all of life'ss requirements. Take business classes, economics, horticulture, agronomy. Use your 5 acre parcel as your learning tool for classes, like writing a business plan, financial statements for cash flows and P&L, etc. Get your education, for when the economy goes against your business plan, what is your back up. If you are wanting to run a restaurant for the produce you grow, that is great, but take time to learn basic business principles to help you through the good and bad times. Find jobs that interest you in your line of work, but do not let that get in the way of attaining your education.

Would working on a farm look good on an application?

I am a sustainable business major, which is "green business" essentially. I have sent in so many applications just to get an income for the summer, but so far, it's not looking good…. No responses. Anyway, I tried looking for internships or volunteer work, anything close to my major. The only thing I could find was working at a nature center with kids, but it is a volunteer job 8-5 everyday, all summer. The other thing is an internship to work on a farm. However, I would live there and work 40-50 hours a week and doing field work. Should I do that or would that be too far off from my major that it would be a waste?

Posted by NatureGirl
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I would say that working on a farm would look very good on your applications, as it shows a willingness to work hard and to diversify your skills.

How do very small farms earn a living?

I've often loved the idea of just quitting everything and buying a little piece of land (say 5-10 acres) with a house and maybe and outbuilding or two – and trying to make a modest income from that – but have no idea what small farms do to make money. That's certainly not enough land to say have a dairy farm – or (I'd think) to grow enough of a crop to make much of a profit. I've thought of maybe a small greenhouse type thing – but have no idea who you would sell your product to. Does anyone know anything about this – or have any websites or books to suggest? Thanks very much!

Posted by Taylor B
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It can be done. It is a lot of hard work, and one member of the family will need a job to sustain the family, pay taxes and medical insurance. You will have to live in a manner that farmers existed prior to the advent of electricity; up with the sun, to bed when it gets dark. You will need to get used to using a lot less electricity, knowledge to fix things, or barter to get things fixed. You will need to learn when to plant, what to plant.

Small farm families survive by finding niche markets. You will want to raise certified organic foods and find a restaurant or grocery that will carry your produce. Free range eggs, raw milk and organic produce fetch a premium price, but you will not be driving a lexus, you may be riding in an ox-drawn cart.

If you are serious, get a subscription to the Mother Earth News. You can do an internship at an organic farm in Loveland Colorado and see how it is done, then decide for yourself. Http://www.stewardshipcommunity.org/inde… There may be a sustainable farm like this near you to visit. Use your favorite search engine and find out.

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