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.