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Title slide.
If a small farm is to become profitable, the operator needs to adopt these four objectives.  These objectives essentially evolve around making the farm operation simple and efficient.
 
This slide provides a historical look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of what they required as a minimum to be classified as a farm.
This slide lists some of the limitations that small farm operators face as they attempt to participate in production agriculture.  The primary limitation on small farms is size.  This impacts upon everything else in the farm operation.  Being small restricts getting discounts on purchases and limited production restricts taking advantage of market strategies.  Small farm operators represent a large number of voices in the Ag community that have not been heard from, since they are not typically members of Ag organizations.  They could be a powerful voice on behalf of Ag.  Citizens want choice/diversity in Ag production.  Small farms can provide this diversity.
This slide lists six of the benefits that small farm operators can expect if they became part of a small farm cooperative.  Small farms are stronger collectively than they are individually.  Collectively small farms represent a significant portion of the Ag community.
Virginia, non-traditional farmer Joel Salatin in his book, You Can Farm, outlines his top ten recommendations on how to become successful in your small farm business enterprise.  Joel is a pioneer in the development of pastured/free range poultry. 
Joel’s commandments continued.
Joel’s commandments are concluded.
The farmland itself has a direct impact on what enterprises can be successfully operated on the farm.  Soil type and conditions are only a small part of the overall evaluation of a farm’s potential suitability, as the right farm for your farm production needs. Air drainage: Having good airflow through a field is essential for healthy plant growth.  Air pollution can settle over and injure tender plants and frost will form in areas of the field where cool air is allowed to settle. Water: Access to water can mean the difference between success and failure for some operations.  Water is vital for irrigation and watering livestock.  Fields located in flood plains are likely to be flooded in some seasons.  Light, shallow soils with poor water holding capacity provide a risky environment for raising crops without irrigation.
Geographic Location: Depending on what is produced on the farm, the proximity of markets for the farm products can impact on profitability.  The availability and distance to markets affects the cost of doing business.  In addition, if the farm operation depends on having customers coming to the farm, its location has to be convenient to the customer.
 
Access:  The farm operation depends on customers coming onto the farm. They need to be able to be able to easily find and enter the farm. Security: This is an increasing problem on farms.  It is an issue that most farmers fail to recognize as a problem until something happens. Cattle rustling, vandalism, and theft are continuing problems on farms in this area.  Farms located next to housing developments are especially susceptible to problems caused by their neighbors.  Counter measures such as fencing and establishing a dialogue with the neighborhood can help.
Wildlife: The damage to farm crops by wildlife should not be underestimated.  In recent years, complaints by farmers concerning crop losses that were caused by deer, geese, and other wildlife have increased significantly.  Control measures for these animals are limited, since the government protects many wildlife species.  Avoiding their favored habitat is the best way of reducing wildlife’s impact on crop production.  Farms located near woodland are going to have deer problems and resident Canadian geese will live year-round near farm ponds. Acreage: The size of the farm has the most to do with how much land the operator has to farm.  While rented ground may be available, it is unwise to rely too much on it for your farm business because you can always lose it to someone else.  The soil type and soil conditions, such as poor drainage will affect what can be grown on the farm.  What you plan to do on the farm will affect what you need from a farm.  Grazing animals on pasture does not require the farm to have excellent soils.  Also, not all of the land on the farm may be useable for crop production, some may be in trees, wetlands, or too hilly.
This and the next slide provide Joel Salatin’s comic look at the progression of a person’s dream of owning a farm and how it can quickly turn into a nightmare.
The continuation of Joel Salatin’s look at what can happen with farm ownership.
This is a list of questions that need to be answered by the small farm operator who is trying to decide on what farm enterprises are right for the farm.
 
This is a list of things that the small farmer should do when selecting an enterprise. The small farm operator should not be competing with larger farms, do experiment with new enterprises, spread out risk by doing different enterprises, and exploit new markets.
This is a list of things that the small farmer should not do when selecting an enterprise.  This includes not selling to middlemen; small farms should be selling directly to the customer.  Small farms should not use outside labor; try to keep it in the family.  Farming should be fun; the enthusiasm that brought you into farming could be lost if you get overworked.
The objective of the small farm operator should be to select enterprises that have the potential to return high value per acre.   Limited land requires a high return on investment per acre if the farm is to be profitable.  This slide provides a partial list of some enterprises for small farms.
 
Niche marketing offers the best opportunity for small farm operators to get high value for their farm products.  The best opportunities come early in the market before everybody else is in the market.  The key here is to identify the market then to put you in a position to be the first to exploit this market.  Make your product stand out from competitors.  One of the keys to marketing is: “Why should a customer buy your product over a competitor’s?”
This is a list of some niche market enterprises that have been popular over the past few years.
Small farm operators just getting started in the farm business can find farming equipment, tools, and other items from the list on the slide.  Some farm newspapers, such as the Lancaster Farmer have an excellent classified section.
The key to being a successful small farm operator is to be resourceful, innovative, and efficient.  You should remember that when you are buying things for the farm, you are buying it in the context of a business.  You need to know that the enterprise can produce enough income to cover the cost of the expense.  You want to make a profit.  This is the difference from a hobby farm.
The biggest reason why small farms fail to be profitable is that the operators did not take into consideration the overhead expenses they developed when they added new structures and equipment to the farm.  Items such as new tractors, barns, and board fencing are great, but they are difficult for enterprises on small farms to overcome financially.  Used equipment and less showy, but practical structures make more sense.
This slide is a reminder that farming is a business and that understanding this is key if a farm is to be profitable.  All farm purchases need to be considered in the context of its cost being covered by farm income.
This is Joel Salatin’s comic look at some of the problems that plaque farmers from his book You Can Farm.
 
This is a continuation of Joel Salatin’s lessons.
This is a continuation of Joel Salatin’s lessons.
This is a continuation of Joel Salatin’s lessons.
This is a list of resource agencies where you can find assistance with farm related needs. Maryland Cooperative Extension: Provides educational support through programs, printed materials, and one-on-one contact. Natural Resources and Conservation Service: Provides technical assistance with soil and water conservation related farm practices.  They can provide you with information about the soil on the farm.  They are also a contact for information of conservation related cost-share programs. Soil Conservation District: An appointed board of farmers, working with NRCS to implement the state and federal conservation cost-share programs. MD Department of Agriculture: The state agriculture agency.  MDA operates many of the regulatory programs in the state such as noxious weed control and pesticides.  MDA also keeps agricultural statistics and developments local and foreign markets.
 
 
MD Department of Natural Resources: This state agency is the regulatory agency for the forests, wildlife, and fish.  MD DNR is who you call to report crop damage from a bear, or for a permit to shot problem deer, or for a permit to raise game birds. County Weed Control: This is a county agency working with MDA to implement the state’s noxious weed control law.  The state law prohibits landowners to allow johnsongrass, all thistles, and shattercane to produce viable seed.  Some county programs provide spray services for a fee. MD Department of Environment: This is the state regulatory agency that issues and oversees permits for the land application of biosolids (sludge) and discharge permits for large-scale livestock and poultry operations.
This slide provides a list of resources for Ag information.
Joel Salatin provides a somewhat “tongue-in-cheek” list of how new farmers should behave when meeting their new neighbors in the farm community from his book You Can Farm.
 
This is a continuation of Joel Salatin’s good neighbor list.
This is a continuation of Joel Salatin’s good neighbor list.
The State of Maryland enacted a law permitting counties to develop “Right to Farm” ordinances.  Check to see if your county has such an ordinance.
This is a continuation of the right to farm topic.
Concluding slide.