Starting a farm from scratch presents the obvious problem of finances. The initial capital to obtain property, adequate housing for yourself and your family, livestock, infrastructure including fencing, outbuildings, corrals, as well as supplies and feed can be a daunting task. Each one of these items on their own requires an investment of capital.
How to be a frugal farmer: set clear goals, wait for the right deal, and be open to a good opportunity when it presents itself.
One Step At a Time
It is completely unrealistic to expect your vision to materialize overnight. That is unless you are purchasing a up and running homestead or endeavour. Assuming you are starting at square one, it is going to take time. Remember you are starting a farm. I suggest a good old pencil and paper list of priorities.
My List Looks Something Like this:
#1 Purchase Property
#2 Secure or Improve a Home I can Tolerate
#3 Chickens (the gateway livestock)
#4 Start A Garden
#5 Implement Basic Systems
#6 Aquire Livestock
#7 Implement Better Systems
#8 Aquire Better Livestock
#9 Secure Better Home
#10 Grow Better Garden
Almost 18 months into this venture we are solidly at number 6. Which I must say is pretty good. We have invested as much cash as possible into the project thus far, and more time than I thought was possible. We are about 75% finished with a top to bottom farmhouse remodel. Our farmhouse is small but comfortable. I have my first real garden under my belt. We have chickens, goats, the beginnings of a base herd of cattle, and so much fence to repair!
I am a huge believer in setting clear goals. Whatever your personal philosophy about how the universe works and the meaning of life, if you don’t know what it is you are after, it is pretty darn difficult to get it. Spend time learning, talking, and exploring your ideas to determine what it is you want to do.
Handy Husband and I have lots of ideas about what we could do with our place. We have spent hours working out a few different plans, and discussing what we think might be the right idea to try first.
Be Open to Opportunity
The counterpart to having clear goals is not dismissing a good opportunity when it presents itself. Keep an open but sensible, mind toward your goals.
Obtaining all the necessary equipment to start a project like this does not necessarily mean buying everything new. Part of the beauty of this way if life is being able to use what you have and solve problems. Assuming you have clear goals, you can wait for what you need to become available. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you simply kick up your feet and wait for livestock to meander on to your property. Wait actively. Check craigslist each morning while you drink your coffee. Join local facebook buying and selling classifieds groups. Join local homesteading facebook groups. Read the paper. Talk to your neighbors and friends and get a feel for what is out there. Do your homework and find out how much the things you want and need are worth, and be financially prepared to act when you see a good opportunity.
In the past year I have purchased the following items from Craigslist; local classifieds, neighbors, yard sales and the like; six tons of hay, a stock trailer, cattle panels and gates, three lowline Angus steers, five lowline Angus heifers, four Spanish meat goat bottle babies, a crossbred billy goat, a jersey-brown Swiss milk cow, and 15 golden comet hens. All of which I paid very good prices for.
There are some inherent risks from purchasing livestock in this manner, so don’t be a dummy. Keep questionable or new animals isolated from your herd until you know they are disease free. Ask questions. Do not be afraid to walk away if you get a bad feeling.
Give it Time
I sometimes feel like we will never get there. However, in reflecting back on what we have accomplished so far, I am very proud of our progress in just 18 months.