[blockquote cite=”Adam Klaus” type=”center”]”In the beginning we thought a lot about ‘not what we can do, but what can we not do.“[/blockquote]
Want to be a farmer? Always dreamed about having your own farm? Lessons from a family farmer who has gone from grassroots to prosperity in 8 years. If you are young and thinking about starting your own farm, then this podcast is a must listen.
P.S. It wasn’t easy and required A LOT of hard work and sacrifices, but it was done. And that means that you can do it too.
Adam Klaus of Bella Farm joins me in this episode to talk about his journey into the small farm business. Learn how he bought an abandoned apple orchard with his wife at age 25, and in 8 years they have turned 12 acres into a thriving small family farm that raises dairy cattle, a market garden, chickens, and multiple tree crops.
Adam definitely brings it in this episode. It is absolutely jammed with knowledge and tidbits that you can use to improve your existing farm or plan your journey into the world of small farming. He keeps it real, and he might shatter some people’s romanticized views of farming with his emphasis on how much work it will require and the possibility of a big change in lifestyle. But he might also motivate some people to change their lives. It is hard to not feel the happiness when he talks about his farm and his lifestyle. I think that a lot of people will listen to this and think “I don’t talk about my job that way. What he is doing sounds pretty awesome. I want to live more like that.” And we all can by just focusing more on really matters the most to each of us.
At the heart of Adam’s story is the biggest benefit of running a small family farm, his family and going through life with them. He is a living a life that he wants to live, working his land with his wife and kids, and to him that is what being rich is all about.
Adam talks about what worked and what didn’t work along the way; and he doesn’t sugar coat it. He will get people thinking. His story is educational and inspiring, and it proof that if you have a plan and put a lot of hard work and thinking behind it, then you can succeed at farming.
Adam’s Myths of Farming:
- Most people under estimate how all consuming it is. It is a very committing enterprise.
- People think that by being a farmer you will instantly be valued for your contribution to society. That will take time and a lot of work.
- People think there will be an endless stream of free labor. Enthusiasm often wains when the work gets tough and boring – i.e. weeding.
Takeaways from this episode:
- Start a farm on the scale that you can handle, and not be dependent upon outside labor which is expensive and can often be quality challenged.
- Grow what people are attracted to.
- Growing experimental varieties is risky on a big scale. Grow top quality staples.
- Know your market and who you are selling to.
- With permaculture and biodynamics focus on closing the loop by recycling wastes through the system. That keeps over heads low and margins high.
- Youth is a huge asset in starting a farm. It is mentally challenging, physically demanding, and you have to have the heart of a lion.
- Consider small dairy for its farm health and economic advantages.
- Adam highly recommends living in a tent the first summer, being out on the land puts you in connection with it.
- Focus on getting quick yields in the first 5 years to help grow and sustain the farm. This gets cash flow going which can be used to grow the farm.
- Focus on longer term yields later. The long term won’t matter if you can’t survive in the beginning.
- Fully commit to farming and the farm.
- Visit a lot of farms before you start your farm, see what is working and what isn’t.
Adam’s Advice for a Fledgling Farmer:
- Find a region that appeals to you and get an idea of the climates, soils, and markets in that region.
- Talk to successful farmers in that region and try to find out why are they successful? What are the successful crops? What hardships and challenges do they face?
- That gives you a region and a rough outline of what the farm will look like in that region. Then start to visual the farm. How do you want it to look, operate, and function?
- The run the numbers and see how it shakes out. Use realistic numbers for production, pricing, and sales estimates.
- Then go for it – all in. At the beginning be OK with economic sacrifice. Maintain dignity, but realize that there is a huge upfront economic sacrifice for the greater long term good. Have faith that great abundance will come your way, maybe not monetarily, but in the ways that are most meaningful.
Adam’s Ideas on How You Can Compete with Established Farms?
- You have to be able to bring something special to the table. You aren’t going to compete with established farmers with mediocrity.
- Visit farmers and talk to farmers. Discard the weak points and adopt the strong points.
- Look outside your region to similar regions See what they are doing there that works. For example, are there some special varieties that they are growing? Bring successful and compatible ideas in from different environments.
Quotes from this episode:
- “Farming is a total lifestyle. Not something that you can clock in and out with.”
- “If one is looking for a lot of outside activities in their life, then farming might not be for them.”
- “Farming is much more skilled than people realize.”
- “Trial a bunch of varieties and find the best. Your customers don’t want six varieties of green beans, they just want the best green beans.”
- “If products look the same and taste the same, then you are probably going to get paid the same.”
- “Produce a superior product that you can sell at top end prices and at a lower cost than standard organic competitors.”
- “The family aspect of a family farm is what makes it so over the top awesome.”
- “In the beginning we thought a lot about ‘not what we can do, but what can we not do.“
- “Every time that you give people something try to make sure that it enhances your reputation.”
How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons
More information about Adam Klaus and Bella Farm:
You can contact Adam Klaus at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Bella Farm FACEBOOK
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