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So You Want To Start A Small Scale Maine Farm..(Rolling Up Sleeves)

 

 

Good for you! Are you sure you have the rest of the family on board with this vision...this new way of life that is not all glamorous? The unknown weather patterns are the biggest obstacle to your day to day now that you've decided to give up your inside desk job.  If you are raising crops, you have to work around the hectic spring planting and rushed harvest time.  You can have a day all planned and the early morning weather suddenly shakes you like an etch-a-sketch to quickly rethink on your feet and move in another direction in another area of the farm needing your attention.  What to plant...what do you have for storage and for a market? How far are you from the market and how do you deliver it? What equipment do you need to plant, cultivate and hoe and harvest this crop? How much labor is needed and how large is your family?  What is the price you can reasonably expect for the produce hoping the yield is large but that somewhere else in the country there was not a banner year and a shortage for what you raised exists.  Sounds mean spirited but a farmers best years are when there is a drought, shortage or disasterous growing season somewhere else in the nation.  It works both ways and those farmers eighteen states away benefit from your misfortune too.  It's part of the game of farming.  Are you going to grow food for local roadside and farmer's market consumption?  Are you going to have U-pick for those strawberries, apples, etc or are you simply growing a 1000 to the acre christmas trees seedlings for cut-your-own at christmas?  The tree farmers don't have a ton of money in equipment and start after Halloween cutting, wrapping and bundling to ship on flat beds to the cities.  What aphid do you have to worry about spraying for, when do you trim the top of the tree to avoid double points,  when do you spray and what does it cost?  Of if organic platform to the operation, when was the last time this soil has had pesticides, etc. Has it been seven years?  Where is thelocal USDA soil conservation office anyway Martha ? (reaching for phone book).Maine barn view looking out

Or are you going to try your hand at critters?  Raising replacement milkers, beef cattle, goats, alpachas, chickens, pigs, red deer or even pheasants for state release? Again, how much land will you need, is there a building suited for your use on the farm or farmette you contemplated buying and if not, how deep are your pockets, what is the reasonable expectation for return on investment if you build new?  Are you going going to run a dairy farm...seven days a week?  Where is the closet dairy?  Maine has four and Houlton Maine is lucky enough to have Houlton Farms Dairy as an outlet for how ever many hundred weight of milk you can produce.  Milking parlor, stanchions with watering bowls, stainless steel tanks, glass lines, do you know what you are getting into?  Pole barns with shelter from wind and rain for the livestock.  Where is the nearest vet? Selenium for white muscle disease? And you give the shots or make sure a salt/mineral block is handy for the Durhams, Holsteins, Black Angus or prize line horses to keep healthy? Didn't mention that on the half hour show on Public Broadcasting on farming you watched last sunday..one of the details they had to leave on the editing room floor in show production I guess. Manure spreaders, fencing, haying, tractor breakdowns, purchasing new attachments, reroofing the barn, insuring the machine shed and chicken house...get out your yellow legal pad and make a list.  And how old are you anyway?  Feeling older as your consider this new livelihood? Or now thinking just have a chicken, a pony, a barn cat and a hunting dog and call it good? Maybe a 12x12 garden to round it out? Or rent out the land and buildings to a farmer down the road so you can look over the operation of farming...but not getting your hands dirty or bank account tapped with start up capital? Is this something you could have kick started twenty years ago but not now with your back ailment or bad shoulder starting to reach for the Bag Balm or Ben Gay?  "When it hurts, it helps." This is good honest but hard physical labor.  Humbling, with some new machinery advances to ease the load. But you may be using the older technology  to stay small with old John Deere and Farmall tractors of the 1940's.  Cheaper to buy, fun to service but on the lower budget scheme of things you had in your mind when you pondered the farm life you remember at grandparents each summer when you visited from the city? How sweet or sour is the soil? Do I need so many tons of lime to sweeten the soil?  What PH does this crop need anyway (reading box of seeds slowly, squinting wit the fine print..)  Do you have to clear some rocks or trees that grew back over the years?  Do you own a D-6 or want one for christmas? Again, costs, how large a scale farm are you really thinking of getting into?  Is you partner on board with all this?

Tax benefits? Yes farming is great for that. Lots of expenses, depreciation schedules, money going out.  So it this off setting a home run you have hit in another employment endeavor?  Talk to your tax expert to learn about structuring this one for next April 15th before next April 15th rolls around.

Crop rotation so the soil does not get worn out, renting extra ground, is half your farm pasture or tilable fields? More questions...and you thought of just sitting on the front porch with iced tea watching a sunset planning your next easy day on the farm?  Hobby farm or full time pay the bills operation?  Tread lightly old man!  For $150,000 you can buy a 40 acre spread, with big barn, brook, three bedroom home on side road and woods/cleared fields.  Or you can buy a 300 acre operation with storage sheds, multiple buildings and a half million dollar or higher price tag in Northern Maine.  Let us know if you need help with your homework!

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Comment balloon 0 commentsAndrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 • April 18 2007 08:41AM

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