In the old westerns there were always those swashbucklers who blew through a territory with great gusto, shot a bad guy, had a bar fight and rode on down the trail. There were also people portrayed as shopkeepers, undertakers, lawmen and of course sodbusters.
The sodbusters were mostly family men, homesteading on a small tract of land trying to provide for themselves the best they could. They were at the mercy of the railroad men, the mean old bankers and of course the weather. But as the gunslingers died off, the railroads finished their lines and cities grew up along the tracks, out in the country the sodbusters quietly went about their business.
Today we are at another cultural crossroad. One hundred years ago people moved off of the farms to the big cities like Detroit where high paying manufacturing jobs could be found. Over the next 60 years plants sprung up in industrial parks on the outskirts of those towns and farms started to be gobbled up by land developers for suburban housing. Pretty soon the people in those houses needed services and so malls were built. First they were strip malls, then they became big indoor malls and in the later part of the century, Towne Centers, open air shopping and dining developments where suburbanites could go to spend their pay.
The economic collapse of the first decade of the 21st century brought much of that to a screeching halt. The manufacturing plants closed, the good jobs went away and the service industry struggled to find customers who had the disposable income to support these new businesses. But, out there at the edge of the cities lies an abundance of farm land, not consumed by subdivisions, still sitting there filled with the all the resources given to us by God and waiting for someone to see the richness of that lifestyle, but more importantly, looking for someone to go about the “business” of farming.
There are abundant opportunities for creating a richly rewarding life for yourself and your family in the farming communities around Kentucky, but the first thing you must wrap your mind around is the fact that farming is not a job, it is a business. Like starting any other business there are a number of things you must plan for in order to succeed.
I’ve been helping small businesses get started for over 32 years. I started my own back then and have started and run a number of small ventures over the
years myself. Starting and running a business of your own is not everybody’s cup of tea, but for those who possess the drive, the ingenuity and the self-confidence necessary to make their own way in the world, it is the most satisfying way to support your family you could ever find.
Farming is a business and for the next few articles I will discuss with you how to get your head into that game. Let’s get started.
Running a business is really a very simple concept if you think about it. You first have to examine the world around you and making full use of the resources available, determine what goods and services seem to be in demand, evaluate the ways in which those demands are being met and then think about ways to improve the goods, the services or the delivery of those things to the consuming public.
Since you will be considering a farming business think of the products, and services, being provided by farms. The first thing which will come to mind might be food. But did you ever consider “agri-tourism”?
There is a working farm in Northern Kentucky that runs a “Haunted Hayride” each fall. If you’ve witnessed the long lines of traffic entering their fields to park, seen the thousands of people lined up to take the ride, calculated the income from the ticket prices, the hot chocolate sales, the souvenir sales and the other miscellaneous merchandise sales you would go “Wow”. What would 20,000 people over a six week period of time at $10 per head create in the way of gross income? Get the picture?
Farms offer more than beans and tomatoes. They are more than tobacco and feed corn. Farms are rich with potential if one considers all of the things the public is still consuming and the “business” minded person sees this potential.
I’m not suggesting any one idea, but the example above was intended to get you thinking of what else a farm might offer in the way of a business opportunity.
The next thing we will discuss is what you will need to consider in terms of startup costs. We will then talk about marketing, delayed gratification and then show you some examples of how our neighbors who saw this potential and got busy with the “business” of farming are doing and how their ideas might serve as encouragement for you.
Stay tuned. It’s harvest season in Kentucky and we have a bumper crop of ideas coming up.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.