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July/August 2009 – Advice to Young Farmers

By TOM HENRY

? Find a good chiropractor, treat him/her like a deity.
? If you need to borrow money, borrow from family, not the bank (banks charge interest and want regular payments).
? Grease is one of your best friends. Use it liberally.
? What may seem like a cockamamie farming practice to you may be someone else’s hard won experience.
? Men: accept that at least one part of the yard needs to look nice, help your wife/partner keep the dahlias weed-free.
? Women: accept that old machinery is, in fact, a sort of warehouse of possibly useful parts. Resist the urge to have it hauled for scrap.
? Be nice to your non-farming neighbours: they are more likely to have time to help in haying season than farming neighbours
? Eat at least some of what you raise.
? Get a gun, learn to use it.
? Avoid unnecessary expenses. As a Greek philosopher said, economy itself is a great source of revenue.
? Don’t move boars or bulls when you are tired.
? If raising livestock, understand that killing is part of farming.
? Have a professional designer make your business cards and website. (Just because your sister-in-law has a “flare” for art doesn’t mean she can create something attractive.)
? Don’t get hung up on owning land: security of tenure is really what you need.
? Do get hung up on soil fertility: constantly add manures and organic matter.
? Accept that you will need an off-farm income.
? Unforgiveable family tenses will arise if you transport a billy goat in your mother-in-law’s Volvo.
? Slow cookers are your other best friend.
? Bill promptly but pay slowly.
? Keep your fuel clean and your tractor seat dry.
? Develop/learn a unique skill: welding, shearing, castrating, artificial insemination. You can charge a high hourly rate for these skills and, more importantly, you’ll be a sort of essential service in your community.
? For every 4 hours you spend in the garden/field/barn, spend one hour in the office (work on the business, not in the business).
? Learn/develop hobbies or pastimes that have nothing to do with farming, like ping-pong or Brazilian folk dancing. Farming can be all-consuming. Best if you can get right away from it.
? Keep one vehicle free from grease and dirt.
? Livestock need a constant supply of water.
? Maintain records: varieties planted, when, and where; harvest dates and yields; breeding dates, birth & growth rates.
? Understand your costs so thoroughly that you know what your per lb, per unit costs are on any given day.
? Accept charity.
? The best fertilizer is the farmer’s boots: spent 15 minutes a day observing your livestock; fields.
? Don’t always bitch and gripe about farming. Be positive most of the time and euphoric at least once a week. You are growing things: hurray!
? Strive to keep greasy tractor parts, bits from recently eviscerated chickens etc off the freezers from which customers buy their beef.
? Be proud of what you accomplish and humble of what you have yet to learn.
? Learn to like yourself and your thoughts: you are going to be spending a lot of time working alone.
? Remember that deodorant isn’t just for city people.