It was an excellent class. I enjoyed it very much, and was sad to see it end in November.
Would-be farmers like me -- having taken the intro -- were encouraged to learn more. We could sign up the following semester for either:
- "Exploring the Feasibility of Your Farming Ideas"
- "Understanding the Business, Tax, and Regulatory Implications of Your Farm" or
- "Use of Back-Pack Pesticide Application."
While I might eventually decide to use a Back-Pack for Pesticide Application, I'd just as soon wait before learning my poisons.
Does it even bear saying that I would never willingly take a class to explore the Feasibility of any of my Ideas? When exploring the feasibility of my ideas, for crying out loud, I want to end up with a basket of apples, not a plan of action.
So, it's Understand the Business, Tax, and Regulatory Implications of Our Farm for me. The first hour of the webinar was devoted to risk management. Farming. Risk. Seriously?
Farming IS risk: drought, pests, soft markets, hard soil, bad luck, and plague. Broken fences, floods, hail, wandering livestock, honey-bee collapse, the neighbor's marauding dogs, trespassers -- these few just off the top of my head.
In a rare moment when the tired investment metaphor actually jumps up and does its trick, this eccentric farming endeavor of ours is precisely where the phrase "minimizing one's exposure" nearly makes sense.
Most farmers borrow money in an effort to pull dollars from the ground (or pluck pennies from the trees). But Jeff and I aren't starting in an unleveraged position, thankfully. We aren't investing in livestock. We have no plans to sink funds into buildings. We will not be signing mortgage papers for tractors or combines or agitators or seeders. This year's farm budget might touch the lower end of the cost of a busy sailing season -- making our exposure laughably small:
- We purchased a four-wheel drive truck that's old enough to vote.
- A mail-order box of seeds arrived recently, costing less than a tank of gas for the truck.
- Soil testing, is, well -- dirt cheap.
- We've culled a sweet armful* of hand-tools from the collection out back.
- We're going to need a truckload of gravel from the quarry down the road. Not a big ticket item.
(*The reference is from John Webster's The White Devil. "Stop her mouth with a sweet kiss, my lord. So/ Now's the tide's turned, the vessel's come about./He's a sweet armful. O we curled haired men/Are still most kind to women." Not much related to shovels and loppers and rakes, but I like it anyhow.)
The real investment this year will be some hours and sweat and a good chunk of brain-time. We can afford that much.