A Resource Guide for Beginning Farmers in Oklahoma
If you are considering becoming a farmer or rancher in Oklahoma, then you are about to embark on a journey. As with any long trip, your first step is to plan where you will go and how you will get there. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (OCES) at Oklahoma State University has developed this resource guide to help beginning farmers understand the steps needed to achieve the dream of having their own farm.
The first and most important step you should take in beginning a farm is to carefully
research the property and planned enterprises before investing. Attend educational meetings (such as OSU Extension programs) before properties are purchased. Become acquainted with professionals such as the local Extension Educator–Agriculture, who can help. The OSU Extension website, provides links to county offices, publications and many other resources.
Buyers often grossly underestimate the technical difficulties of farming and ranching.
People mistakenly think, “Anybody can do it.” This is far from true. Farmers and ranchers need to know about growing crops and forages (fertilization, management), managing livestock (nutrition, health, genetics), marketing, general business management (accounting, taxes), legal issues and more. Furthermore, farmers and ranchers need reliable sources of information. Prospective landowners often get advice from the wrong people. It is important to seek assistance from unbiased sources who are not selling something or taking advantage of the inexperienced person.
While conducting research about the physical property and possible enterprises, consider your family and business values along with the mission and goals for the farm. What is it that you are setting out to do? Is it to become a landowner, building a land base on which you can retire? Is it to generate more income? How much? Or, do you want to become a noted livestock producer regardless of the cost? Your goal for a new farm may be to enjoy a rural lifestyle that provides an opportunity to work outdoors plus have more space for hobbies and projects without expecting to generate additional income. Or your goal may be to establish a business operation that is intended to grow to support one or more families over time. Developing specific realistic goals can help the beginning farmer in several ways.
- Goals provide the framework for developing more detailed plans, including identifying
the resources needed to have a successful outcome.
- Having a well thought out plan is important for communications with persons providing
financing for the operation, whether a commercial lender or family member.
- Goals can serve as reference points to help you monitor progress once a business plan
- When faced with uncertainty, goals can assist you in making decisions.
- Goals can serve as tools for motivating your family or farm management team toward
Because the farm business often involves the whole family, it is best for the goal setting process to involve each member of the family. The family and the business are generally intertwined; thus, family goals and business goals should be set jointly. Goals should be challenging, yet achievable and specific enough that you can write them down and measure your progress toward them.
The fact sheet Goal Setting for Farm and Ranch Families outlines some basic steps for setting goals and includes a goal-setting worksheet. This publication, as well as others relating to farm and ranch management, is located online. All documents are available to download free of charge in PDF format. If you are interested in a more comprehensive guide, an excellent resource is Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses.