Lots of things to think about, and it can be a little overwhelming at the beginning. Farming is running a very challenging small business and that can be complex. But when done well, farming can be a multi-generational business that comes with skills transferable to future generations. Farming involves passion to keep us going when the days are long.
Farming is a business that connects the family both to the land and the community like nothing I have experienced. We have developed lifelong relationships and friendships among customers and fellow vendors at the farmers’ market. None of us start out to become the expert, but some level of expertise eventually sneaks up on you, at which time you can begin to give to others.
Share your hard-won knowledge with an open hand and you will leave a legacy in your community that will be remembered for generations to come. We have tried to become vital, not viral, to our customers and other farmers. We don’t want to be sensational or titillating. We don’t need any big names or fancy titles. We aren’t inventing any new technology or patents. We’re using tried and true information that has stood the test of time.
Finally, to be truly successful in farming you must advance the craft, you must do some things on the lunatic fringe. (Note I did not say you need to take high risks financially.) Playing it safe and sticking with the middle of the road approach to products and processes is okay. But you will not excel, you will not contribute to the advancement of agriculture that way. One of the ways of doing this is benchmarking. Hint: one of the best places to look for weird ideas is the the past, or what I like to call the ancient future.
Become a good backer-upper. One of the principles of backing a wagon or a truck is to go slow and steady. That applies in farming too.
It takes courage and hard work to be a leader in your field, but you do not have to be a genius, you just have to be a little weird. One of the reasons I sought an engineering degree in college was a desire to create and a joy of learning. In reality, I found an equal level of creativity and learning in farming, compared to engineering.
There are infinite opportunities for contribution, investment, community building, teaching and discovery in farming. We try to do one or two weird things every year. Recent forays into weirdness are making biochar from wood grown on our farm, drying habenaro peppers, making salsa, making pickles and making black garlic.
So these are the stages of learning in farming. Wherever you see yourself in this spectrum, you can help others that are at a lower stage and you can study how to move to the next stage. As long as you are still farming, you can grow and learn. There should never be a boring moment on that farm.