What Are the Pros and Cons of Becoming a Farmer?
Becoming a farmer, like any career choice, involves weighing a variety of pros and cons. On one side, farmers enjoy the benefits of self-employment, control over business choices and operations, a traditional lifestyle, and the possibilities of lucrative profits. Alternatively, becoming a farmer also means relying on favorable weather conditions, dealing with sickness and disease in crops or livestock, investing large amounts of capital, as well as mitigating the effects of fluctuating prices. Changing consumer interests can also affect farmers in both negative and positive ways, depending on operational choices and which way consumer interest fluctuates.
Every business venture carries risk, and becoming a farmer is no different, regardless of geographic location. All farmers must assume the risks associated with losing crops to poor weather conditions or disease. Similar risks are associated with raising livestock, with the added challenge of sickness, injury, and veterinary expenses to maintain animal health. Farmers must invest in preventative measures to reduce risk, such as crop insurance, irrigation equipment for dry weather conditions, and livestock inoculations.
Capital investments are a major detractor to becoming a farmer. Equipment; ongoing expenses such as seed, fertilizer, taxes and insurance; the construction of needed outbuildings and fencing, along with their associated maintenance; and other investments are required continuously. For some entry-level farmers, the large initial investment to purchase a farm and its associated equipment presents a huge barrier to entry in the field. While considerable, initial investments stand to gain lucrative returns when weather conditions are favorable, proper maintenance schedules are utilized, and risk reduction measures are employed.
Profitability does not rely solely on the farmer. Fluctuations in market prices can positively or adversely affect farmers and farm operations. Over-abundance of crops and livestock in the market typically results in a drop in prices. Under-abundance in the marketplace can result in a higher return on farming investments. Likewise, waxing and waning consumer interest in various farm products, such as specific types of beef, genetically modified foods, organic agriculture, and other dietary fads also affect market prices and thus farm profits. As such, becoming a farmer means understanding the risks market fluctuations pose.
Like investors in the stock market, farmers must produce goods at a low price and sell at a higher price in order to turn a profit — factors that are not always within the farmer's control. In spite of the risks associated with large farm investments and the myriad possible threats to such investments, becoming a farmer offers options unlike other careers. Farming is a lifestyle as much as it is a career. Individuals who choose to become a farmer can enjoy a traditional, time-honored, work-from-home lifestyle rich in outdoor activities, personal satisfaction, and control over working hours.
During the Neolithic and Paleolithic age farming was a huge step and Neolithic was the beginning of this extraordinary discovery. Some may say farming made people lazier when others may say it helped us advance in technology. Both statements are true, but the real question is which is more important -- technology or laziness? The answer is simple: technology is one of the most important aspects of who we are today, so farming is more important than hunting.
Even though there are many setbacks to farming, such as how unhealthy it is and how hunter gatherers had a much better diet, or how, in a case of a bad year, a farmer's whole field of crops might fail, and with the entire field gone the farmer has no food.
But then again, farmers do have many advantages. They can quickly gain a surplus of food or they can easily advance in many jobs or economics due to the fact that they don’t have to work so hard at getting food because of the surplus.
@ana1234 - I know a lot of people who fancy themselves as small farmers, but wouldn't have the first clue how to take care of livestock or grow a crop for sale.
If anyone is interested in learning the farming trade, particularly organic farming or permaculture, I would suggest they try a stint with WWOOF (Willing Works On Organic Farms) which is an organization that will match volunteers with organic farmers to work in exchange for room and board. It's a great way to travel, as well as a very good way of learning the ropes on a farm if you're completely new to it. It might be harder than you expect.
Another option is to take a course in agriculture at a university or community college. Most of the time they are relatively practical and will give you a good grounding in the business and science side of things as well as allowing you to learn all the skills needed on the ground at a farm.
@Iluviaporos - Getting rich is not going to happen for the majority of people going into agriculture or horticulture, but it is a good industry to get into at the moment if you do your research. Food is never going to go out of style and becoming an organic farmer in particular can be quite lucrative.
You are subject to the weather and price changes and pure luck though, so it takes a lot of resilience.
Be very cautious about becoming a farmer in order to cash in on a fad. The chances are that by the time you've heard about it and arranged to purchase a farm and grow the crop, many other people will have done the same thing and you'll be stuck with a lot of produce in the middle of a glut. And that's if you manage to get a good harvest in the first place.
A friend of mine's father decided he was going to grow a particular kind of melon that was really popular in Japan in order to export them and ended up sending their family bankrupt because he couldn't get the price he expected.
Farming is a long term prospect, not a chance to get rich quick. If you want to become a farmer you have to be prepared to stick it out for the long haul.
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