Og~ i eoftmn o
Getting Started in
Farmlng OR 8
;.Fi. Mi:ri~ ~I
JN T Y PRoouc E
M I / ~/
One of the first things you must have in mind if
you're going to get into small scale farming is how
and where to market whatever you produce.
Selling's part of farming, as this Mississippian
Getting Started in
Farming on a
Credit: This publication is based on material developed
and published by State Extension Service specialists or
regional committees of land-grant university staff
members in cooperation with U.S. Department of
Ag riculItu re (USDA) agencies. Some authors of earlier
publications who have been contributors, advisers, or
coeditors for this one, include:
E.E. Carson, Purdue University
K. H. Thomas, University of Minnesota
H.E. Workman, University of Missouri
Fred E. Justus, University of Kentucky
Getting started in farming on a 40-acre Missouri place they
began buying in 1977 are Steve and Cheryl Williams and their
four youngsters. Steve and Cheryl had lived on farms as
children, and Steve made sure he had a fairly secure hold on a
40-hour-per week job at the Dayco company in nearby Spring-
field before the family made its move out of town. Despite hard-
ships from occasional layoffs from Steve's job, the Williams
now have 5 beef cows they breed to a beefalo bull, whose
ancestry includes buffalo, Hereford, Holstein, and Charolais
breeds. Williams says some calves reach 500 pounds at 5 mon-
ths and market weight of 1,200 pounds at 11 months on native
and orchard grass pastures and fescue hay--and no grain. The
Williams also have a registered Guernsey dairy cow for their
John E. Brockett, Pennsylvania State University
E.G. Stoneberg, retired, iowa State University
Gerald V. Eagan, West Virginia University
John S. Huddleston, Virginia Extension Service
This bulletin was written by George B. Holcomb, Office
of Governmental and Public Affairs (GPA), USDA, with
guidance from Ovid Bay and Buel Lanpher of USDA's
Extension Service, Claude W. Gifford, Nelson Fitton,
Edgar A. Poe, J r., and Edna Carmichael of GPA, and
milk and a "couple dozen" barred rock and white rock laying
hens and a few roosters. They also have 5 "mostly Yorkshire"
sows and a boar to produce feeder pigs. Four years ago they
began experimenting with a quarter acre of strawberries. On a
pick-your-own basis, their 1979 customers bought nearly a ton
of berries. The next year the Williams expanded the berries to
a half acre and in 1981 to% 3 of an acre. Drought hit in 1980 and
they had to irrigate the berries, using water from their spring-
fed pond. During one job-layoff period, they also resorted to
selling some of their plentiful "precious Missouri rocks" to
landscapers for decorative purposes. Pictured on the cover are
Steve and Cheryl, their sons, John, age 5, and Stevie, 9, and
daughters Kerry, 14, and Kecia, 15, with glasses. (Photo by
Duane Dailey, University of Missouri, Columbia.)
Introduction. .. .. .. .. .. .. .............................. 1
Exploring ways of getting into farming ................... ................... ................... .........1
More training needed? ................... ................... ................... ................ 2
On-the-farm training ................... ................... ................... ..................
General planning procedures. ................... ................... ................... ...............
Financial projections................................................... 5
Selecting the farm ................... ................... ................... .....................1
Community. ................... ................... ................... .......................1
Land and its drainage ................... ................... ................... .................1
Buildings ................... ................... ................... ........................1
Fences ................... ................... ................... .........................1
Roads ................... ................... ................... ......................... 2
Water ................... ................... ................... ..........................1
Machinery, equipment, energy ................... ................... ................... .............1
Farmhands............ ................................................. 14
Selecting your kind of farming ................... ................... ................... .............. 4
Crop farming ................... ................... ................... ......................1
Field crops ................... ................... ................... .....................1
Treefruits................................ .............. .................................... 16
Small fruits ................... ................... ................... ............... ... 7
Vegetables ................... ................... ................... .................... 2
Specialty crops ................... ................... ................... ...................2
Tree crops ................... ................... ................... .....................2
Livestock and fish operations......................... ................... ................... ........ 2
Dairy. ................... ................... ................... ........................2
Sheep ................... ................... ................... ...................... 2
Poultry. ................... ................... ................... .......................2
Egg production ................... ................... ................... ...................2
Rabbits ................... ................... ................... .......................2
Fish ........................ .,........................ ................... ........... 2
Developing your farming entry plan and managing finances. ................... ................... ........... 27
Cash flow planning ................... ................... ................... .......... ........2
Cash inflow or income ................... ................... ................... ..............3
Cash outflow or expenses ................... ................... ................... .............3
Sources of credit and capital ................... ................... ................... .............3
Public sources ......................... ...................... ...... ........ ...................... 3 1
Private sources........ ............................................... 33
Debt load ................... ................... ................... .......................3
Keeping track of your business and records ................... ................... ................... .......3
Types of records ................... ................... ................... ...................3
Depreciation ................... ................... ................... ......................3
Tax reporting methods ................... ................... ................... .................3
Preparing for the future........................ ........................ 35
Selling the farm ................... ................... ................... ....................3
W killing the farm . .. .. .. .. .. . 35
Appendix I: Guide for appraising your resources ................... ................... ................... .36
Appendix ll: Additional reading sources ................... ................... ................... .........3
Appendix III: Is public land available? ................... ................... ................... .........3
Appendix IV: Where you can get information about energy, tax credits ................... ................... 40
Appendix V: Getting help from USDA and related federal agencies ................... ................... ...40
considerable costly investment by farmers and the
public in the future.
Perhaps your most pressing problem is not money
but uncertainty and a lack of technical know-how and
essential managerial expertise when it comes to farm-
This booklet should help you ease any uncertainty by
giving you basic information about farming on a small
scale. You can use this information in thinking through
your plans if you persist in your efforts to get a piece of
Best of luck.
Exploring Ways of Getting into Farming
You will want answers to many important questions
before you decide whether to operate a small as com-
pared with a commercial-size farm that would support a
family reasonably well. You will have to answer ques-
tions such as the following:
* How much capital could you borrow if you wanted to
grow and sell some farm product, whether it be regular
crops, fruits, vegetables, or livestock?
* If you should develop a prospective cash flow or cash
budget for a year, what would it show as possible ex-
penses and returns?
* Have you developed a 5- or 10-year long-range plan?
* Could you afford a net income loss from a farm for a
few years while building it up to produce at a profit?
* Would you be better off just living on or visiting your
farm and renting out its land to someone else to actually
farm, or perhaps just letting it stay idle and appreciate in
value as a hedge against inflation?
* How do members of your family feel about farm-
ing--especially your spouse?
* Looking ahead, either to retirement or resale of your
farm, can you anticipate problems so as to reduce wor-
ries that sudden emergency situations can cause?
* If you don't believe you are ready to buy a farm but
still intend to change careers and get into the farm
business, what are different routes you can choose?
These are but a few of questions you need to ask. You
can find many others, along with answers, in this
booklet and in other publications listed in appendix II on
"Additional Reading Sources."
It may be that after reading some or all this booklet
you will decide not to begin farming.
Perhaps you will decide you would be financially bet-
ter off to take the money needed to start farming and in-
vest it elsewhere.
That's especially true if you want to try to live solely
from the income generated by farm products. The
average rate of return in the form of cash income from
farm products as compared to the average farmer's
owned equity in farms in the United States has been
less than 5 percent for all but three of the past thirty
years. Some farm management specialists say such
returns from farming can't make up for land prices that
average nearly $2,000 an acre in many parts of the cou n-
However, appreciation in land values that averaged
13V/2 percent a year during the 1970s has helped many
Landowners and attracts potential investors. Even so, in-
definitely continuing appreciation at or near such a rate
Something about the land draws you to it. Why are you
thinking about getting into farming on a small scale?
Because. .. .
you like to get dirt on your hands, clothes, and shoes,
or sweat on your brow? .
your grandparents farmed, and walking across their
fields on crisp cool mornings left you pleasant
you're fed up to here with countless commuters and
exhaust fumes from stacked up lines of traffic?
you have become imbued by history with the feeling
that freedom and the right to own a piece of land
somehow go together?
you find investment incentives in the tax laws attrac-
you need to supplement your income while raising
some of your own food?
Whatever the reasons, you may want to become part
of the reversal of the tide that once swept so many of
our ancestors off the farms and into the cities.
These days more people are moving away from than
are moving toward the population hubs. As it was more
than a century and a half ago, rural areas gain residents
faster than cities. But from 1 820 th rough the 1970s, cen-
sus reports showed the cities growing faster. That flow
has been reversed. The 1980 report found the
nonmetropolitan population in the preceding decade
had increased 15.4 percent, while the gain inside cities
and suburbs had been only 9.1 percent.
About 1.3 million out of a total of some 2.3 million farm
families can be classified as farming on a "small
scale"--generally having not more than $20,000 in
g ross ann ual sales of farm products. Many, of cou rse,
would like to boost those sales and maybe farm more
Buyers have "bid up"--increased--the price of
farmland. In 1970, the average per-acre price of U.S.
agricultural land and buildings was $196; by 1981, it was
$795. That's an average increase of nearly 13V/2 percent
Prices for farmland continue to climb much faster
than net farm income. And capital to buy farms is not
easy to get. Thus it is hard to start farming unless you
inherit the land or have cash with which to purchase
land and an income from other sources to support you
for a few years. The trend has been toward fewer farms
in this country. But resourceful and sometimes foolhar-
dy people continue to try farming, thereby slowing the
In addition to increasing competition for land, which
boosts costs, other problems face those wanting to
start farming--and the Nation,
These include developing shortages of water for ir-
rigation and other farm uses, and the erosion of our soil.
Officials of USDA's Soil Conservation Service have
estimated that nearly 5.5 billion tons of soil washes or
blows off U.S. farmlands--both cropland and grazing
That much soil spread evenly over the State of lowa
would make a layer 1 inch deep, according to some
To ease such soil and water problems may require
*Some things are beyond a farmer's control, such as
losses of crops or livestock because of lightning or
drought or, perhaps, vandalism. Losses can be
devastating to people who did not grow up and ex-
perience "hard knocks" on a farm. Losses also can
mean real financial hardship unless Federal Crop In-
surance or other insurance covers losses adequately.
*There may be less communication with different
people--desirable to some people but not to others. On
the other hand, a roadside market, as noted above,
might well increase communication compared with
some city jobs.
*You may have to keep many more records on the
farm than you ever kept in the city. Some people find
recordkeeping a disagreeable chore. Records will be
needed on what some writers call the "DIRTI
5"--Depreciation, Interest, Repairs, Taxes, and In-
surance-each of which may become a problem requir-
ing professional help.
You should carefully discuss these advantages and
disadvantages with members of your family.
More Training Needed?
After you have considered your personal and financial
resources, you will want to explore whether you need
new skills training. Your county Extension agent can
provide details on various kinds of formal training, in-
cluding courses in agriculture at State universities.
You also will want to consider informal training, not to
mention publications on farming that your county agent
can tell you about. You'II want to continue informal
studies on farming in any case if you are to keep up with
the latest technology and research. You can get in-
formal training through the county agent's office, such
as through meetings or workshops, as well as through
educational events held by other public and private
farm-related g roups.
One way to get valuable experience is to get a job on a
farm. Where? Pick an area where you may hope to settle
later. Then hunt the best available job opening that in-
volves the type of farming you are most interested in.
Ask a prospective employer if you can assume more
responsibility as your ability increases.
If you do get a job, make certain n that you r em ployer
arranges for your social security coverage. And be sure
you realize that if you are laid off, you will have no
unemployment benefits to fall back on before your next
job. Such benefits don't apply to most farm jobs.
Whether you work parttime or fulltime, you will want
to continue studying and making plans to accomplish at
least four things:
(1) Learning the most you can so as to become a
(2) Becoming known in the community as a good
worker and manager;
(3) Accumulating some capital--which shows you
can handle money effectively;
(4) Deciding for sure whether you really want to farm.
Assuming you remain convinced you can get into
farming, either on a small scale or by going to work on a
farm, continue reviewing financial resources.
can hardly be taken for granted.
Meanwhile, as you proceed to make your decisions,
you will find one helpful guide, a form for appraising
your resources, in the first appendix of this booklet.
Other guidance tools include the decision framework
charts that follow this page. Figure 1, "Starting Farm-
ing: A Decision Framework," outlines some of the deci-
sions you need to make while studying this booklet, or
Figure 2, "'Ownership Questions if Your Family is Get-
ting into Farming," is to help you determine what kind
of farm ownership is best for you. You may wish to think
about answering any questions it raises as you consider
whether to begin farming.
Before proceeding, assess your own situation
carefully to decide whether you and your family, if you
have one, are suited for farming.
Farming, more than most occupations, can be a family
affair. It usually works out best when it is. Each person
often can contribute talent and labor. However, this
might not apply if you plan to take a job on a farm only as
a hired hand and would live elsewhere with your family.
A decision on whether to work as an employee or to
farm on your own should be considered carefully by you
and your family.
Each member of the family might well give thought to
5- or 10-year goals, which should be positive or ad-
vantageous, such as:
(1) developing farming skills and knowledge needed for
(2) increasing family income either through sale of pro-
ducts or through use of foods grown in a garden;
(3) achieving a pleasant retirement home that can keep
some or all the family busy part of the time for several
(4) providing the family with an investment with possi-
ble tax breaks;
(5) giving recreation to those who like working with a
garden, crops, or livestock, or with people through
sales, as at a roadside stand.
Other potential advantages sometimes suggested
that you may want to consider include:
*Providing children with open space and certain
learning experiences rarely found in cities;
*Giving security against inflation or recession
pressure through the ownership of land.
*Giving some family members more exercise than
city dwellers customarily have, usually in a healthier en-
vironment, since auto and factory pollution of the air
generally decreases with distance from a city.
Of course, you also will want to consider disad-
vantages, such as:
*Some farms will have more allergy-causing
plants--such as ragweed--than cities have-
*Farms often have unusual and undesirable odors
that some people don't want to become used to.
*The wide open spaces may be so isolated that
some members of the family will feel lonely, especially
if other members are away much of the time.
*Transportation costs often will be higher than in the
city, particularly if different members of the family often
have activities to attend in town.
Yes (Go Ahead)
Necessary Resources? No (Stop)
Yes (Go Ahead)
and Resource Assessment
Suited for Farming?
How to Start
PHASE III--Entry Plan
Development &. Implementation
FIGURE 1. Starting Farming: Adecision
Adapted from Mostly on Your Own, North Central Regional Extension Publication 82, by K. H. Thomas, M.D. Boeblje, and R.A. Luening.
1. When do you act?
2. Should you sell to heirs?
3. Should you will to heirs?
4. Should you buy total unit?
5. What sales price have you decided on?
6. What taxes on sale will you have to pay?
7. Will you sell on contract,
1. Is the unit 1. Do you plan
Iarge enough? to assist
2. Do you have in management?
needed skills? 2. Do you know
3. Do you have about business
enough capital? agreements?
Decisions Decisions Decisions
1. Is unit large I. What type of business 1. What type of lease
enough? arrangement do you have? do you have?
2. What type 2. Who will manage
of business arrangement the assets?
do you have with other
3. Do you have
4. Do you have
FIGURE 2: Ownership Questions
If Your Family Is Getting into Farming
Adapted from So You Have Inherited a Farm, North Central Reglanal Extension
Publication 85, by E.G. Stoneberg.
Keep the Farm in
Those people already working on a farm, such as for a
parent, obviously will be in the strongest competitive
position to establish their own farm business, as
pointed out in the publication, "Mostly on Your Own,"
by Kenneth H. Thomas of the University of Minnesota,
M.D. Boehlje of lowa State University, and R.A. Luening
of the University of Wisconsin. In becoming a farmer,
the authors point out, there are no legal obstacles, no
examinations, no set educational requirements, no
Substantial barriers to an otherwise legally free entry
into farming do exist, however. They include an ever-
increasing need for more land, machinery, livestock,
and other capital, plus exceptional managerial ability to
put them together into an efficient and profitable unit.
Average capital investment per farm climbed from
about $7,000 in 1940 to about $355,500 in 1980. Even in
1967 constant dollars, the average increase in invest-
ment per farm has more than tripled just since 1950. In-
vestments per farm in inflated dollars could double
every decade. That obviously will have an effect on you
as a potential small-scale or part-time farmer.
But assume you expect to be able to raise enough
capital to start on a small scale. You must carefully
determine how to use this capital. Keep in mind that
your needs will vary greatly with the type of enterprise
General Planning Procedures
Let's assume you have tentatively decided you have
enough savings or nonfarm income for living expenses
so you can go without profits on a small farm a few
years. What next? One crucial factor in deciding
whether to farm at all is summed up in the single word
If you actually have worked on a farm of the type you
hope to manage or operate, you may well know exactly
Or, you may find a certain place you favor for a loca-
tion but don't know what kind of farming would be best
there. Alternatively, you may have an enterprise in mind
but don't know where to locate it. Your family may need
to do some traveling, reading, and discussing before
you settle on a location.
If you have read advertisements in some publications
giving the impression that agencies of the Federal
Government, such as the U.S. Department of the In-
terior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), have free
public land that you might homestead, don't you believe
it. The Federal Government sometimes has parcels for
sale, but not at special prices. They may sell for as
much as or more than comparable nearby private land.
Even in Alaska, which has vast acreages of land that
might be used for special kinds of farming, the
Homestead Act of 1862 remains in effect only until 1986.
And no homesteading can occur in Alaska until after its
public lands have been apportioned among the Alaska
natives, the State, and various Federal agencies in ac-
cordance with the Alaska Native Claims Settlements
Act. Thus, homesteading on Federal lands in Alaska
won't occur for several years, if ever,
For more information on Federal land that sometimes
is sold to individuals, see appendix III.
Before or while you spend time looking for your own
place, you may want to study management, community,
land, labor, buildings, machinery and equipment, water,
and other matters dealt with in tables 1, 2, 3, and 4 that
follow. First, consider management,
There are at least four general levels of difficulty in
managing a farm: High, needing much involvement, as
with truck farming or dairy cows, and requiring daily
care 7 days a week; average, as with handling feeder
calves; periodic or seasonal, as with tree fruits or sow-
pig operations; and low, as with feed grains or raising
feeder pigs to market weight.
Check out your major interests in farming and deter-
mine the difficulties by looking at tables 1, 2, 3, and 4.
For example, if you are interested in a periodic or
seasonal job with relatively little labor, you would look
at the factor headed "'labor."' You will note that labor-
hours per acre of a grain crop or hay are few, but if you
look under the "potential gross returns" category, note
that gross returns also may be small. Labor involved in
strawberries is high, but so are returns. Handling game
birds might require relatively few hours--and return
only a few dollars.
Let's use an example. Select one or two of the
categories that suit your family's needs and desires.
Your next step might be to ask yourself how much cash
is available to get the first year's crop planted, say, or to
buy some poultry or livestock?
Let's assume you have $5,000 in cash and you want to
get as big a return from 10 acres as possible, or at least
$500 an acre. Looking at tables 3 or 4, check the line in-
dicating "cash expenses." You note several crops re-
quire less than $500 an acre in cash outlays, not coun-
ting equipment needed. Then look at "cash returns"
per acre. You notice the biggest return for a crop requir-
ing less than $500 an acre in cash is from
cucumbers--$1,200 to $8,000 an acre, depending on the
abundance of the crop. "Other vegetables" might do
just as well or better, but in any case you will want to be
sure about a market before proceeding. Otherwise, you
could wind up with a field of rotting vegetables.
Study the tables at length and do many financial
calculations, remembering they are guideline estimates
constantly needing money-value adjustments.
Financial planning is crucial to success. Tables 1
through 4 show that some kinds of farming require lots
of capital before a salable item is produced. Examples
would be fruit trees or livestock breeding herds.
Not noticeable on the table is the fact that some types
of farming require different types of capital spending,
such as long-term versus short-term. Capital items in-
volve different lengths of time over which you may
amortize their cost for tax purposes.
A dairy farm, for example, req uires capital expen-
ditures on buildings which may have a different amor-
tization rate than milking equipment or the cows. To
Table 1. A Comparison of the Requirements for Beef and Dairy Farming for Part-Time Farmers
Beef Yearling Fat Feeder DariryDarDay
Factor Cows Steers Steers Calves Cows Beefr Hefr eaesGats
Land Area Per Unit
Daily Water Per Unit
1-3 acres 1 acre
12 gal. 10 gal.
some some essential
slight some usually
none young usually
10-12/yr. 12-25/yr. 4-5/period
low periodic intense
1-2 acres 1-2 acres 0.1 acre
10 gal. 10 gal. 4 gal.
nOt now some none not now none not now some
multiple regional multiple regional regional multiple local
contract local retail
Building investment ($)
Equipment investment ($)
Animal Cost ($)
Cash Expenditure (S)*
Potential Gross Returns ($)
Minimum Units Needed
6-12 mo. 6-8 mo.
16-18 mo. 18-30 mo. 6-14 wk.
20-500 + 20-500 + 0-200 +
20-300 + 20-300 + 10-250 +
50-1508 150-2008 50-1258
500-750 525-1000 270-300
600-750 400-1 600 250-370
5 5 40
1 How important is timeliness and how important is keeping a rigid daily chore schedule to the success of the enterprise?
2 How important Is it for laborers to be able to make some daily decisions and accept some management responsibility?
3 Peak season usually requires more than average labor and management. When does it occur If ever?
4 Work hours would be per usual growth period or per year.
5 Each enterprise requires a different minimum level of managerial attention with Intense as highest followed by periodic (some periods of intense and some of low management attention),
average, and low.
6 Market I~mitations may affect the supply-demand ratio which In turn would mean a less than economical price or a i~mlted amount of salable units at any price.
7 Amount of time from purchase to sale of Item or amount of time for breeding animal to pay for herself through sale of product.
8 Included as part of cash expense.
9 Does not include interest on debts, labor, or taxes and depreciation on real estate.
(Data developed by John E. Brockett, Area Farm Management Agent, Pennsylvania State Extension Service.)
Table 2. A Comparison of the Requirements for Swine, Sheep, and Poultry Farming for Part-Time Farmers
Factor Sows Fat Hogs Sheep Capons Other Meat Game Birds Layers Broilers Rabbits
Unit 1 sow 1 pig 1 ewe 100 birds 100 birds 100 birds 100 birds 1000 birds 10 does
Daily Schedule' important some important some some important essential important important
Decision, Responsibility2 some little slight slight slight some slight slight some
Peak Season3 farrowing none lambing young young young usually usually birth
Hours/Unit4 30-401 yr. 1/period 1-2/yr. 80/ period 30-80/period variable 80-120/yr. 3/period 50-60/yr.
Management" periodic low periodic average average periodic intense periodic periodic
Land Area Per Unit 0.2 acre 0.1 acre 0.2 acre 0.1 acre 0.1 acre 0.1 acre 0.1 acre 0.1 acre 0.1 acre
Water/Day 5-8 gal. 4-5 gal. 2-3 gal. 5-15 gal. 5-20 gal. 10 gal. 10 gal. 5 gal. 1-3 gal.
Limitations nOne nOne none some yes yes some-yes possible possible
Type multiple multiple multiple local local regional local contract local
retailI retailI retail retail
Turnovers 6-12 mo. 4-5 mo. 10-12 mo. 5-6 mo. 2-6 mo. 4-5 mo. 14 mo. 8 wk. 10 wk.
Building Investment ($) 0-250 0-40 10-100 0-100 10-200 50-200 0-1000+ 100-150+ 50-300
Equipment investment (S) 0-400 10-70 20-100 0-20 0-50 25-1 00 20-200 50-60 50-200
Item Investment (S) 90-150 20-558 50-175 50-608 50-1208 100-150e 150-3008 90-110
Cash Expenditure ($)'o 350-600 90-106 80-110 500-900 150-900 250-400 100-1300 5-7 500-700
Potential Gross Returns ($) 400-660 70-165 80-150 800-1 100 300-1600 300-700 1400-2000 100-130 675-1000
Minimum Units Needed 5-10 15-20 10 1 1 1 2 100 3
1 How important is timeliness and how important is keeping a rigid daily chore schedule to the success of the enterprise?
2 How important is it for laborers to be able to make some daily decisions and accept some management responsibility?
3 Peak season usually requires more than average labor and management. When does it occur if ever?
4 Work hours would be per usual growth period or per year.
5 Each enterprise requires a different minimum level of managerial attention with intense as highest followed by periodic (some periods of intense and some of low management attention),
average, and low.
6 Market limitations may affect the supply-demand ratio which in turn would mean a less than economical price or a I~mited amount of salable units at any price.
7 Amount of time from purchase to sale of item or amount of time for breeding animal to pay for herself through sale of product.
8 Included as part of cash expense.
g All operating inputs furnished under contract. Gross returns for broilers are virtually free of cash expenses.
10 Does not include interest on debts. Iabor, or taxes and depreciation on real estate.
(Data developed by John E. Brockett, Area Farm Management Agent, Pennsylvania State Extension Service.)
Table 3. A Comparison of the Requirements for Various Crops for Part-Time Farmers
Factor Cucubers Beans Veg thaebres Potatoes Corn Wheat OatsA fhe
1 How important is it for labor to be able to make some daily decisions and accept some management responsibility?
2 Over 60 percent of labor and the most intensive management required for time I~sted.
3 For annual crops, workhours would be for growth period--for perennial crops such as hay, workhours are those per year.
4 Lower figure represents the percent of work that must be done manually, and higher figure represents the percent that could be manual.
5 The amount of management attention required by a crop to be successful varies from intense to periodic (some periods of intense and some of low management attention) to average to
6 Market limitations can be due to limited market demand or perishability of product ("yes" indicates a rather severe I~mitation, "some" means the limitation will occur during certain times
and for certain uses, "'possible" means the I~mitation is there but Is not very strict).
7 Turnover is time from planting until the harvest of the first salable crop.
8 Does not include interest, taxes, insurance on present real estate, or labor.
9 Minimum size depends on use--smaller figure is for local retail trade and larger figure is for wholesale trade.
(Data developed by John E. Brockett, Area Farm Management Agent, Pennsylvania State Extension Service.)
depends July and
yeS Some yes
multiple multiple local
possible none none none
multiple multiple multiple local
Equipment Investment (S)
Cash Expenditure ($)
Potential Gross Returns ($)
2 mO. 2 mo.
10-3000 + 10-3000 +
varies 4-5 mo.
10-3000 + 5000 +
Minimum Acres 9
1/4 to 2
1/4 to 50
Table 4. A Comparison of the Requirements for Various Crops for Part-Time Farmers
Factor Peaches Apples b ris beru -s Grapes Thr tems' SCo oate anaop
important important important some important little
some some little little some slight
April, March, May-June March, July April, Fall-
July-Sept. July-Oct. August June
65-100 80-100 600-2400 200-1000 60-200 300-400
30-50 30-50 60-90 60-1 00 60-80 30-90
periodic periodic periodic periodic periodic
special'* special fair special good none
well well well well well variable
variable variable level level variable variable
desirable desirable essential desirable desirable none
possible possible possible yes
multiple local local special
possible possible some
multiple multiple multiple
Equipment investment ($)
Plant Cost/Acre ($)*
Cash Expenditures ($)9
Potential Gross Returns ($)
3 mo. 2-3 mo. 3 mo.
10-3000 + 10-3000 + 200-3000 +
(Seeds rather than plants usually used)
4-5 yr. 5-7 yr. 1 yr. 3 yr. 4 yr.
2000-4000 + 2000-4000 + 200-2000 + 10-1000 + 200-100
450-6008 500-10008 700-10508 1500-25008 350-5008
1200-4400 500-2000 300-600
500-2000 1000-4800 4000-15000 400-5000 500-2000 4000-6000
500-1500 1000-2000 1500-3000
1000-1 200 10-15 Ib. 5000-6000 %/-1 Ib.
*christmas tree labor, expense, and returns are for entire growth period of 7 to 12 years.
** *Special" means that some special quality is necessary in the soil or location that is not necessarily related to the productive capacity of the soil.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Same as table 3.
8 Total cost involved from planting until first harvest season.
9 Annual expense including amortized establishment cost--does not include interest, taxes, insurance, or labor other than picking.
10 Number of plants or trees per acre for crops started from seedlings or pounds of seed for those started from seed.
(Data developed by John E. Brockett, Area Farm Management Agent, Pennsylvania State Extension Service.)
know about such differences, you must study the
"Farmer's Tax Guide," No. 225, published annually by
the Internal Revenue Service, or hire a tax consultant.
Some enterprises, such as raising feeder pigs or
growing wheat, require minimum capital spending if
basic land and buildings are available and you can hold
down machinery costs.
You may be best off if you start on a small scale--up
to limits of your readily available capital.
After you develop the experience and skill needed,
you can expand and operate the farm on a larger scale if
you wish. This also gives you a chance to see if you
have the endurance or toughness to continue and suc-
Credit is perhaps the chief way to get more capital,
but it may not be found easily. Used wisely, credit can
be a valuable asset. Misused, it can turn into a personal
You will want to keep credit payments within the
bounds your farm business can handle. You need to ask
yourself such question as: "Ilf we have off-farm income,
will it help us with credit payments and still leave
enough' to live on?"
You must decide: (1) How much capital you need to
start, (2) what the capital will accomplish in potential
returns, (3) where and how to get the capital, (4) the cost
of the capital, and, most important, (5) how you will pay
off any debt you incur from credit or loans. Capital mat-
ters will be discussed in more detail further along In this
booklet, as will budget planning.
Before getting further into such problems, however,
think about possible marketing prospects.
Have some specific types of farming in mind when
thinking about marketing. You can find information
about variations in markets and their limitations in
tables 1 through 4 for the different kinds of farming
listed. At some point, perhaps when you have narrowed
down your farm business choices to a few, you should
check out prospective market outlets in a State most in-
teresting to you.
Some products can be sold in a number of local or
reg ional markets, on a sales basis or th rough contract,
and, in the case of field corn as one example, also may
be used on the farm to feed livestock.
Other products, such as rabbits, fishing worms, or
strawberries, are mainly local market items requiring
easy access to limited or special demand markets.
When thinking about your prospective future situa-
tion, consider: (1) Main market availability, (2) transpor-
tation methods and costs to get the product to market,
(3) potential returns from different markets, and (4)
"Market availability" refers to a place to sell your pro-
duct at a return that usually yields you a profit. "Market
limitations" include such things as number of potential
customers within the market area, and local demand
and perishability of your product.
If you are going to be growing and marketing such
Roadside marketing your own squash,
cucumbers, peppers, and gourds in a shady
spot in the city is one of the surest ways of get-
ting the most out of your small farming opera-
tion. Here, a construction worker looks over a
string of red peppers while other potential
customers do some "window" shopping.
city. Few rural areas are protected by zoning laws. An
abandoned tavern or filling station, junkyard, lard-
rendering plant, or less desirable businesses near your
farm can lower its value.
Potential neighbors whose places look prosperous
and well cared for can be considered assets. Talk to
them to try to evaluate their neighborliness.
Once you have found a community or some com-
munities you like, you will want to check out things like
fire protection. If you have children, you will want to
learn about schools and school transportation facilities.
You also want to know what sewage system is com-
monly used, and how near are natural gas, water, and
electricity. Are there any right-of-way problems in get-
ting roads, utility pipes, and power lines to a desired
location? If such facilities are not nearby or at the gate
of your place, can you afford to get them to your prop-
erty, obtain any needed easements, or obtain
In looking over farms or acreages for sale, keep these
things in mind while you evaluate the overall investment
potential: (1) What is the location worth solely as a place
to live? (2) What are inflation prospects that can raise
the market value of the place? (3) What is the economic
potential for raising crops, fruit, or a garden as well as
livestock? (4) What are transportation costs?! (5) Does
the land also have potential for nonfarm development,
either short- or long-term?
Land and Its Drainage
Both quantity and quality of available land--through the
entire year--are important in selecting a farm.
If you want to g row certain n crops, is the soil suited to
their growth? Sometimes you can tell by looking at what
potential neighbors are growing. Ask them about the
Iand and local conditions.
Some crops require soils that are deep and well
drained. You can grow other crops successfully on
farms with broad ranges of soils. Sometimes other
things, such as drainage, are more important than soil
SoilI type, d rainage, or deg ree of slope of ten can
make the difference between good crops and poor
Land that is dry in summer can turn into a marsh in
winter or during spring rainfall or snowmelt. Before you
decide on a low-lying piece of land, ask neighbors about
potential flooding and drainage problems or visit your
prospective acreage at different times during the year.
If you are considering purchase of a small portion
divided from a larger farm or ranch, make sure your lot
is not located near a drainage outlet.
If you see sedges, rushes, or other moisture-loving
plants, check the possibility of a highwater table.
Highwater tables can cause problems with wells, septic
systems, basements, and with some kinds of crops, not
to mention pollution problems with neighbors and water
You may be able to convert land with a high water
table to productive use by installing a drainage system.
Although you know all drainage systems need an outlet
lower than the area being drained, you will need expert
things as vegetables, fruits, or specialty items such as
flowers, shrubs, maple sirup, honey, or others, you will
do well to consider carefully your potential for setting
up a roadside stand as one possible marketing method.
To be profitable, a roadside stand should be:
(1) Located on a road often traveled by many poten-
tial customers, such as commuters who might notice an
attractive and appealing road sign and visit you on
weekends or evenings after work;
(2) Open during regular sale hours, with a fixed
schedule easily read and remembered by passersby;
(3) Stocked with enough good products to attract a
variety of buyers who will come back because of quality.
Offering high quality at competitive prices, you have
completed maybe half the struggle for success.
Marketing experts calculate that another quarter relates
to availability of the stand, while the remaining 25 per-
cent of so consists of public relations--road signs,
advertising, good humor and sincerity with customers,
and similar matters.
Whether you have a roadside stand or not, select not
only the type of special crops you favor but the best
varieties among types. You may want to study how dif-
ferent varieties adapt to different soil, water, and
Fresh fruits and vegetables may be harvested at dif-
ferent stages of maturity. You will have to learn the
stages and decide on a harvest schedule--based in part
on the market demand you create.
Selecting the Farm
Unless you already own or are inheriting a farm, you will
be looking for one if you are serious about getting into
the business. Looking is an enjoyable experience for
many people. But what do you look for?
Let's assume that you have access to some capital,
you have worked on a farm and are familiar with farm
problems, you have set a goal of farming on a small
scale to supplement your other income, and you have
the State selected as most suitable for you. You also
have some knowledge of potential marketplaces. What
Perhaps you can begin narrowing your search for a
place that will serve you best. Among key factors to
consider are: Community, land, buildings, water, trees,
machinery and equipment, and labor. All are discussed
on pages that follow.
if location of job markets to obtai n an off-farm job isn't
essential for your livelihood, then you will be less
restricted in your search. But what about other
members of the family? Do they need to be near off-
The best job markets are near big cities. Nearness of
job markets also may make it easier for you to resell
your farm later, and may help you market your products.
Yet the closer you get to a city, the higher are land
costs. You have to balance different points against each
Aside from that, look for a farm in an area of well-kept
homes. There can be slums in the country just as in the
One source for help is the local soil conservation
district. Through an agreement with USDA's Soil Con-
servation Service (SCS), each local district has a staff of
technicians who help people with conservation prob-
tems. Often such technicians will have a county or area
soil survey map showing useful details.
The technicians also may discuss soil morphology,
the relation of soils to the general environment, prin-
ciples of soil classification, and a general description of
climate and other features significant to soil problems.
If you request help, your district may give you
technical assistance without charge in designing ald
laying out a drainage system. But usually you will have
to pay for any system you build, which can be a major
Before you decide on draining, check local land use
ordinances with county officials. It is illegal to drain
wetlands in certain areas. You can be denied govern-
ment sanction or help if you try to drain certain pro-
In some locations, you may have to join an estab-
lished drainage district to obtain access to an outlet
Regarding the amount of land you'II need, some kinds
of farming will require large acreages to be economical
because of market demand, low returns per unit, or
relatively high capital investment.
Livestock farming usually will require less acreage
than crops, unless you grow most or all of your own
livestock feed. However, in some areas you may need
many acres to meet environmental pollution re-
quirements for manure disposal. Sometimes you can
get cost-sharing financial help from USDA's Agricultural
Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) under
the AgriculItu ral Conservation Prog ram (ACP) or the
Ru ral Clean Water Prog ram (RCWP) to help reduce
pollution and protect water resources.
Check local ASCS and SCS officials about such mat-
ters and talk with feed and implement dealers about
local conditions and problems. Get to know and listen to
local people. Often they will help you with valuable in-
Buildings generally are assets. But if investment is your
primary long-term goal, farm buildings seldom enhance
the value of a farm in proportion to what they cost.
Some farm businesses require special, expensive
structures. Others can make use of existing structures
with little or no additional cost. An old dairy barn may be
converted to a hog farrowing unit or turned into a
modern milking parlor. Buildings should not dictate
your farming choice, but they may well influence you
toward one area as opposed to another,
The house, if there is one, is likely to be the most im-
portant building for your family's consideration. Will it
make a satisfactory full-time residence?
Check out any house's insulation, wiring, central
heating system, roofing, and plumbing to determine
how much you may spend if you want to make changes.
If it is not equipped with modern plumbing, can you
manage without that, or do you have money for renova-
tion? How much will redecorating, new appliances, and
rebuilding cost? Usually labor costs make up half of
Fences usually are more important if you have livestock
than if you only grow crops. But fences may add to or
detract from beauty of a place in the country, mark prop-
erty boundaries, and regulate access by people. High
fences may be required if you plan to grow fruit or a
special crop such as papayas, avocados, or water-
melons that may be su bject to theft i n some areas.
The most common types of fence are wooden and
wire. Most wooden fences are primarily ornamental in
purpose. They are much more expensive and not as ef-
fective as wire in controlling livestock.
A good barbed wire fence costs at least 30 cents a
foot or $1,584 per mile installed; a woven wire fence
costs nearly double that.
You can find standards and specifications for fences
at most local soil conservation district offices.
You can get information about vegetation and "living"
fences such as hedges from Extension agents and
forestry agencies, both Federal and State.
Check out whether any shrub fences or hedges con-
sist of the multiflora rose, which became such a pest in
at least one State-liowa--that lowa's government in
1978 declared it a "'noxious weed."' The multiflora rose
makes good wildlife cover but tends to spread and
"'take over."' You may think that you could destroy it--or
any other such weed pests--with chemicals. But before
doing so, you should check Federal, State, and local
regulations with your county Extension agent.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in
1979 suspended use, with few exceptions, of one
chemical--2, 4, 5-T--that controlled the multiflora rose.
Some alternative chemical controls have not been
banned by EPA.
Also keep in mind that most States require that to use
pesticides legally, you must be certified for your com-
petency. Wherever you settle, your county Extension
agent can provide details and perhaps arrange for you
to attend training classes for State certification tests.
Regarding roads, do not underestimate their im-
portance. Poorly designed or built roads may cause you
inconvenience as well as expenses resulting from
delays or damaged machinery. Some communities do
not build roads. Roadbuilding and maintenance could
be your responsibility. Some communities have dif-
ferent sets of regulations for farm areas than for urban
areas. Converting your farm into a housing subdivision
might make road costs suddenly yours under either old
or newly applicable zoning regulations.
Roadbuilding costs vary with terrain and slope.
Whether you build a road or not, you need to evaluate
how severe weather conditions might affect existing
roads. Soils with high clay content become slippery
when wet. Sandy soils often lack stability and erode
Your farm must have plenty of good water, more so if
you manage livestock or poultry than if you raise crops.
In some localities, you may need a lot of water to
manage livestock waste problems such as odors and
Studies indicate the average U.S. resident uses 50
gallons of water daily in the home. Actual use varies
widely among different people and with different
If you must get your water from a well, find out if
there's a good one. If not, how much would it cost to
drill one? Under most favorable conditions, the cost
would run $15 or more per foot. You can expect to pay
$2,000 to $3,000 for a well in many areas.
Check out usual well depths and costs with local well
diggers, or with the conservation district.
Sometimes well water can be used for irrigation, but
weigh costs carefully to decide whether returns can
justify investing in irrigation.
In some Western States, all well building requires
permits. In areas where water tables are lowering, per-
mits may be denied. And even if you get a permit, well
drilling can be very costly if you must penetrate rock.
If you find a stream next to your property, do not
assume that you have a right to use its water. Owner-
ship of water rig hts can be com plicated.
Ponds are a valuable asset. Depending on location,
ponds can help prevent flooding and erosion; store
water for your own drinking purposes--if filtered--and
for livestock and deer, ducks, geese, wild turkeys, and
other wildlife; irrigate orchards, gardens, and field
crops, and quench fires, not to mention produce fish of
Too little as well as too much water on land can
eliminate some farm areas from consideration unless
you can afford or otherwise manage to combine
drainage with irrigation,
One thing you might scout for in your search for a
farm is a seepy area on low-lying ground indicating a
near-surface release of water from a water-bearing soil
Iayer. That can mean an undeveloped spring, a valuable
Even if there is no pond around a spring, you might
tu rn one i nto a good water sou rce by i installing a g ravel-
packed perforated pipe which could carry the water to a
collecting wall or tank.
With proper storage facilities, water flow of 1 or 2
gallons a minute can meet most needs.
Check the water quality of the spring to make sure it is
safe to use. Your county Extension agent might arrange
a water-quality test. Many agents will have watertable
maps to help you spot potential problems.
The same precautions about water quality in a spring
--- r= r.
1-. ; ~..
";: ~ s;-- _~
~a~c: I --~e~- ..,..
LLLI.~BI~T-- ~-i~j~ I i~i2~~ U~-~L~l
Catching a large-mouth bass from a farm pond
gives kids fun and also helps feed the family.
(USDA-SCS photo, No. WVA-960.)
apply to any well or potential well. As indicated before,
you may get help from USDA's ASCS and SCS in deal-
ing with clean water and pollution problems once you
get a farm. Also note appendix V for more details.
You must fence any developed spring to prevent
pollution by livestock. If you use the water for livestock,
pipe it to lower ground if possible. If you have no lower
ground, pump the water away from the spring. That may
be less costly than drilling a well at another location.
If you can buy a small farm with a woodiot, you poten-
tially have a number of benefits. Check appendix V
under ASCS, FS, and SCS for details on where to get
USDA financial or technical help with woodlots or
If you have to begin a woodlot, you will want to plant
as many as 400 to 1,000 seedlings per acre. Depending
on areas of the country, it takes 10 to 30 years to pro-
duce pulpwood and 30 to 60 years for sawtimber.
Among the most valuable kinds of trees now are black
walnuts in many areas, the Port Orford cedar in the
Northwest, and the yellow cedar in Alaska. A black
walnut 40 years old, for example, may bring you $500 or
more, and those cedars are worth even more. Mature
walnuts also produce nuts that provide income. Values
of other kinds of trees vary widely, depending on the
Instead of a long-term timber or pulpwood plot, you
might start a shorter term Christmas tree farm, which
can produce 400 to 900 marketable trees per acre in 4 to
Christmas tree production can be combined with
growing other products, but it usually is advisable to
designate areas for tree production only.
Quality is the primary goal for Christmas trees. Rarely
have there been sufficient high quality trees to satisfy
market demands in any given year.
Contact your State or regional USDA Forest Service
office for advice on farm wood lots. You'II also find more
details on tree farming farther along in this bulletin.
Machinery, Equipment, Energy
You can reduce hand labor with equipment, but does
your financial plan cover machinery or devices to save
energy of various kinds? How much time will you have
to spend on farmwork? You will want to weigh the cost
of your labor against your health, the cost of equipment,
the hours of use, and the potential income-producing
capability of certain types of machinery.
If you have your own acreage, you can custom-hire
some of the work and avoid buying machinery. That can
be a more economical approach than buying costly
equipment which you may or may not be able to resell
easily later. In some areas but not in others, you can
easily find custom-operator farmers who hire out to
operate their equipment on others' land,
If you have friends in an area, particularly one with a
farm similar to the one you want, discuss possibilities of
joint ownership of equipment. What neither of you can
afford alone may be quite feasible together.
There are some energy innovations, such as use of
solar heating, that may be worth your consideration.
Some of them may be partially financed th rough tax
credits. For i information sou rces about energy devices
and potential tax incentives, check appendix IV.
An alternative to buying machinery or custom hiring is
to rent equipment and hire farmhands for labor. In some
cases, labor can su bstitute for certain n ki nds of equ ip-
You will want to consider labor needs from several
(1) The availability of workers,
(2) The amount of labor needed and when most of it is
required, as during a peak season for strawberries,
melons, or vegetables,
(3) The relative skills needed to handle particular
jobs and the need for labor to make management deci-
sions when you are not available,
(4) The importance of getting a job done within a
given time period--such as before the berries rot in the
field--which is related to the peak season,
(5) Possible conflict with other tasks in the overall
(6) Possible conflict of farm labor needs with your
own off-farm activities.
You use the same criteria for onfarm labor as with off-
farm labor to determine possible conflict. For example,
can you pay as much for onfarm labor as you receive for
your own labor off the farm?
Selecting Your Kind of Farm
Selecting an enterprise--your kind of farming--can be
approached from either of two ways. One is to decide
what you want to produce and then hunt for the farm
that will grow that product.
A second approach, generally used for commercial-
size farms, is, first, to find a farm, then determine the
optimum-profit crops that can be grown there. You also
might select livestock that best fit the existing situation.
In small-scale farming, however, the land selection
may be secondary to your management and labor situa-
tion. In that case, decide which enterprise best fits you
and your family and then look for the location most
You doubtless know that you can't ignore limitations
or strengths of the land and surrounding circum-
stances. For example, it would be foolhardy to try to
grow cotton in Minnesota, or to limit yourself to growing
Bluegrass in the fertile Mississippi Delta.
In forming potential decisions, consider:
(1) Available resources (see tables 1 through 4 to
compare different needs),
(2) Alternative enterprises that best fit family goals
(see chart, figure 2 for different possible future goals),
(3) Prospectives for expansion of resources over
The most important factors in choosing an enterprise
or kind of farming, in order of importance, are your
capabilities, capital, and market knowledge.
To succeed, a small farm operator usually has to be a
better marketer than does a commercial farm operator.
Knowing to whom and where to sell your products takes
preliminary work as well as persistent followups.
Small-scale farms often can't compete well against
large farms in the same market. You may need to create
your own new market by providing a special service.
One such service might provide convenience, such as
special deliveries of eggs, vegetables, or other pro-
If you can charge a price that's below the super-
market retail price, and also market fresh products
directly to the consumer, you provide consumers a dou-
ble incentive to buy from you. The price you get may be
higher than the wholesale price you would get from a
contract buyer, and could thus offset your added
One thing to keep in mind if you grow perishable pro-
ducts, such as certain fruits and vegetables, is that
many may be marketed in quantity only under jurisdic-
tion of the Federal Peris hable Ag riculItu ral Commod ities
Act of 1930, which is administered by USDA's
Agricultural Marketing Service.
So long as you sell only your own fruits and
vegetables, you do not come under the law's jurisdic-
tion. But dealers to whom you sell products might, if
they handle items valued at more than $200,000 a year
in invoice costs. Dealers can advise you on whether you
are af fected.
While you are selecting a preferred kind of farming,
you need also to calculate the best size of farm to buy.
Various estimates on the minimum size for each to be
practical are indicated in tables 1 through 4. The
minimum should (1)pay cash costs, (2) justify the fami-
ly's capital and labor, (3) provide enough salable pro
ducts to give the family access to at least one market,
and (4) be potentially, if not immediately, profitable.
The two general categories of farm products are
crops and livestock.
Call 'em punkins, pumpkins, or jack-o'-
lanterns, but get them out alongside a busy
highway from off your small-scale farm, and
you'll make sales. (USDA photo, No.
Under crops, five common subcategories are field
crops, tree fruits, small fruits, vegetables, and specialty
or miscellaneous crops.
Representative crops in these groups, plus a sum-
mary of requirements, potential costs, and potential
g ross or cash retu rns- not the same as profits or net
returns--and minimum acreages are covered in tables 3
Field crops include corn, soybeans, grain sorghum,
small grains (wheat, barley, oats, and rye), hay, and
Potential cash or gross returns for field crops
generally are lower per acre than for intensively grown
crops such as tomatoes. Because of lower labor re-
quirements, less need for irrigation, and a lower cash
outlay, a farmer usually can handle more acres of field
crops than vegetables or fruits.
With enough acreage, a farmer may net as much per
unit of labor and capital from field crops as from others.
The initial capital investment, however, may be higher
with field crops--depending on how much land costs
vary--unless a sizable acreage can be rented instead of
One disadvantage with field crops is that you need to
find custom operators to plant andlor harvest crops
unless you know how to operate the necessary
machinery and can afford to rent or buy it.
Field crops are easier to mechanize than some
others, and may be either marketed off the farm or fed
to your own livestock.
Field corn, for example, sometimes has the highest
potential return of all field crops, but in some areas
without irrigation a profitable yield is dependent on
rains that don't always arrive on time. Hence, growing
corn can be a gamble. By feeding whatever crop you get
to livestock, however, you might be able to avoid a loss
or realize a higher return for your investment than if you
sold it to a local elevator.
Check the tables in the first part of this booklet to ex-
amine various details about farming field crops.
In connection with small grains, don't forget that
sometimes you can sell straw for I~vestock bedding or
use it on your farm or garden as mulch.
One common and valuable hay is alfalfa. It contains an
average of about 50 percent total digestible nutrients
(TDN). A pregnant beef cow needs about 10 pounds of
TDN per day. She thus can get her TDN needs from 20
pounds of alfalfa hay. Also, part of the TDN in alfalfa
consists of protein essential to animals.
A cow uses 0.9 pounds of protein daily. Alfalfa hay
contains about 10.5 percent digestible protein by
weight, on the average. Thus the cow can get her pro-
tein needs from 9 pounds of hay. (TDN and digestible
protein are common terms you may want to familiarize
yourself with if you work with livestock.)
A cow could hardly eat enough oat straw or prairie hay
to provide needed protein, since such hay contains only
about 0.6 percent digestible protein. A cow can eat only
about 3 percent per day of her weight in hay; that is, a
1,000 pound cow can eat only about 20 to 25 pounds of
More details about feeding livestock will be found in a
later section on livestock, and you will find other data in
You can plant 100 to 200 small fruit trees, or 700 dwarf
fruit trees, per acre, depending upon spacing.
You can expect to pick salable fruit from peach, dwarf
apple, and plum trees about 3 to 5 years after planting.
Standard apples, pears, and cherries take considerably
If you start with fewer than 10 acres, your family con-
ceivably can plant and care for the young trees with
manual labor at first. But before long you will need a
tractor and sprayer to control pests and diseases if you
have more than one acre. Custom spraying is nearly im-
possible to obtain for fruit trees in most areas. Hand
spraying is a tremendous task for more than a few trees.
Aside from spray equipment, capital purchases can
be kept very low on most orchards under 10 acres
unless you need irrigation. There is no need to invest in
storage sheds or buildings unless the operation
becomes quite large.
M uch labor req uired by tree fru it operations can be
unskilled--by the family if you have enough members.
Some fam lilies whose members have fu ll-time jobs off
the farm may wish to plan their vacations to coincide
with peak labor periods.
To make even more efficient use of available labor,
you might plant several kinds of fruit trees--peaches,
plums, apples, pears, and cherries--north of the tropics
and d iff erent types of citrus and tropical fru it trees i n
the far South. Since they bear fruit at different times,
the need for labor can be spread over a longer period of
See table 4 for details on labor, capital, and returns
from fruit and vegetables.
Remember that costs of starting an orchard may in-
clude buying trees, lime, fertilizer, and irrigation, and
fighting insects and diseases.
You may be able to make a living with a fruit orchard of
about 20 acres, and the requirements for equipment will
be about the same for 20 acres as for 5 acres or less.
Risks in fruit growing vary with areas. In the North, for
example, low winter temperatures can damage trees,
and late frost in the spring can prevent an adequate fruit
"set." Hail, wind, rain, or drought may damage frult and
The Great Plains areas often are poorly adapted to
fruit growing because of low winter temperatures and
inadequate summer rainfall. Most Northern States have
occasional damaging winter freezes and spring frosts.
In the Deep South, certain fruits and specific varieties of
other trees may not receive enough of the winter chill-
ing they need to blossom and set leaves properly.
If you are looki ng for a fru it-g rowing area, check with
State or county Extension offices to determine which
fruits will have the best chance for success and to get
other information about their care.
A site which seldom has temperatures below -4"F. or
:~~ ~ ,,
~g~ ~9iPk. r~
Would-be orchardists may take the time to
learn how to graft the bud of a desirable fruit
tree variety to the rootstock of a hardier,
disease-resistant variety. Others, however,
prefer to buy already grafted trees from a
nursery. Above, an orange tree scion--the
leafy bud--has developed, and the top of the
rootstock has been lopped off so the budded
plant will become one tree. (1.SDA photo, No.
labor, their available market, or both. Can you find
harvest workers on a seasonal basis? Where? Check it
As with tree fruits, small fruits need from 1 to 3 years
to grow before they are ready for sale.
You can keep your capital investment quite low, with
the most expensive item usually being a small irrigation
system, which is needed in many areas.
Strawberries.-Strawberries have the biggest potential
gross cash return of all the small fruits, with a range of a
few dollars to several thousand dollars an acre, depend-
ing on yield, weather conditions, and available labor and
Strawberries require a lot of labor--between 600 and
-20*C. should be sought for greater likelihood of suc-
cess with tree fruits.
Marketing outlets include commercial wholesalers,
canners or freezing companies, or other types of pro-
cessors, plus a roadside fruit stand. In some areas you
may be able to rent trees to people who come and
harvest the fruit themselves. But that takes persistent
Small fruits can provide a higher potential return per
acre of land than most other crops.
Small fruits require relatively large amounts of manual
labor and are difficult to mechanize. Sometimes families
start a smal l-f ruit operation that is too big for their own
5; ;, ..C
2,400 hours an acre per year for growing and picking.
The total depends partly on whether you hire pickers or
use a "pick-your-own" approach--trying to attract city
people to come and select their own fruit. You have to
figure on labor of 8 to 12 persons per acre every day to
keep up with the bearing season.
A winter mulch will help protect strawberries in many
northern areas. It may also help control weeds--a must
for raising strawberries well.
Strawberries are qui re adaptable to many cl inmates
and soil conditions, but sandy soils with plenty of
humus are preferable. They need an inch of water a
week during the bearing season. But they are also
damaged by either too much or too little water and by
too much weed competition.
Check locally to find which varieties are most suited
to your area. Some varieties are resistant to pests such
as virus diseases, nematodes (worm parasites), mites,
fungi, and insects. But they also may need chemical
controls on occasion.
The best soil for strawberries is slightly acid, with a
pH of 5.5 to 6.0.
The term "pH" refers to the relative acidity versus
alkalinity of solutions such as solutions in soils.
A neutral solution has a pH of 7, while acids range
down from 7 to 1, with 1 being most acid. Basic or
alkaline solutions range from 8 to l4. By comparison,
the normal pH of human blood is about 7.4, slightly
alkaline, while saliva is nearly neutral, with a pH of
about 7. Different plants require different levels of pH
for best growth.
Bramble plants.--Bramble plants--blackberries and
raspberries--are like strawberries in their need for
some slig ht acidity i n the soilI, good drai nage, and plen-
tiful organic matter.
They provide lower returns per acre than strawberries
because of their lower yield. But they require only about
a third as much labor and are as adaptable as strawber-
ries. They do not have anywhere near the market de-
Bramble plants are quite hardy and spread like weeds
unless carefully controlled.
Raspberries are not very successfulI south of the
minimum temperature zone 6 established by USDA. In
that zone, tem peratu res range from not much below
-10*F. or -24"C. Blackberries are not successful much
north of that zone.
On the following page is a map of USDA temperature
Both types of bramble berries are subject to
numerous pests, which can be controlled by finding
resistant varieties and using pesticide sprays.
Blueberries.-Blueberries can be as profitable as
strawberries if you can develop a good market. They are
nearly as adaptable to soils and weather as strawber-
Blueberries need 3 to 4 years to grow to maturity and
should be pruned to be from 5 to 10 feet in height and 3
to 8 feet in width and depth.
The soil should be well drained, fairly moist, slightly
acid, with plenty of organic matter--just like that for
strawberries. Roots are easily damaged by excessive
fertilizer salts and standing water. The plants need pro-
tection against weeds and other pests. There are some
Blueberries are quire hardy but usually cannot be
grown successfully where temperatures fall lower than
-20* F. On the other hand, they don't do well in tropical
areas because they need winter chilling for about 1,000
hours with temperatures under 45"F. for proper
development. The 1977 Yearbook of Agriculture,
Gardening for Food and Fun, contains an article on
suitable varieties and cultural practices, by Galletta and
Draper, p. 279-283.
Blueberries will bear for 25 to 30 years or more, and
each plant yields from 6 to 15 pounds, depending upon
variety and growing conditions.
Table grapes.--Table grapes require less labor than
strawberries but have only about a fourth the potential
for profit per acre. Growing areas suitable for their
growth and local demand are limited. They need a frost-
free season of 140 days or more. You can get sugges-
tions about varieties of grapes best suited for your area
by contacting your Extension agent.
PLANT HARDINESS ZONE MAP
The map on the following page, prepared by the U.S.
National Arboretum, Agricultural Research Service,
USDA, shows 10 different temperature zones. Each
represents an area of winter hardiness for certain n
plants, especially ornamental. The zones are based on
data from the U.S. Weather Bureau or the Canadian
Meteorological Division, with supplemental information
from State experiment stations and numerous individual
Some plants, such as orchard peaches (Prunus per-
sica), will be suitable for the lower portions of zone 6,
but not in those upper portions of zone 6 which are not
free of late frosts. To locate the areas more specifically,
check with county Extension agents and others familiar
with growing conditions.
There are many "island climates;" that is, areas con-
siderably milder or colder than the zone average. These
occur especially in hilly or mountainous areas. Other
factors--such as frost occurrence, seasonal rainfall
distribution, humidity, soil characteristics, and duration
and intensity of sunlight--also are important in deter-
mining whether a plant will grow in a zone.
A plant species that flourishes in one part of a given
zone is likely to be adaptable in other parts of the same
zone or in a warmer zone. But not always. The Southern
magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), for example,
flourishes in the lower part of zone 7, but its ability to
thrive in the upper areas is doubtful. Some flowering
plants, such as Abelia grandiflora, will survive in zone 6
or even in zone 5, but will not normally produce flowers
farther north than zone 7.
Many commercial seed catalogs refer to temperature
or plant hardiness zones or areas. Ordinarily, the zones
on this map are the ones to which they refer.
III IIIIIIIIII I
I I I I I I I I
I I I I I I
I I I I I I I
I I I I I I
i I I I I I
1'1 I I Ir
APPROXIMATE RANGE OF
AVERAGE ANNUAL MINIMUM
TEMPERATURES FOR EACH ZONE
ZONE 1 ELOW -50' F
ZONE 2 -SO* TO -40*
ZONE 3 -40 To-30
ZON1E -30 TO-20 1
ZONE S -240" O-10* ~i
ZONIE 6 10*TO O'
ZONE 7 O TO IO*~
ZONE 11 10' TO 20' ii
ZONE 9 20* TO 30 "
ZO1E 10 307 TO 40
You may find it necessary in some areas to use a dif-
ferent root stock than the variety of grape you prefer.
That requires grafting, which is an additional chore and
time-consuming task you would need to learn unless
you bought plants already grafted at a nursery. Most
people prefer to buy plants already grafted.
Cost of establishing a vineyard is generally estimated
at about $3,000 an acre, exclusive of land cost. This in-
cludes vines, trellis posts, wire, labor, and pesticides
for about 3 years before vines begin to produce. Labor
needs are high, and many specific chores are seasonal.
See table 4 for more details.
Pest prevention is essential. Once pests begin in a
vineyard, control costs can become excessive. Pests of
grapes, even more than with some other small fruits, in-
clude deer, rabbits, and birds.
Like strawberries, grapes require plenty of moisture
and good drainage. They need full sunlight and protec-
tion against frosts.
An acre of grapes--with about 400 vines--can pro-
duce 200 to 240 bushels of grapes, or about 4 tons. It
may be difficult to find markets for them on a timely
Roadside stands are one popular marketing method,
whether for table grapes or grape juice, jellies, or
wines. The offer of a sample of the final product is often
a good way to convince a prospective customer to buy.
Pick-your-own marketing is a good method, but it
must be developed over a period of years. Once you
find customers, you may want to establish a mailing list
to keep them informed of developments at your
vineyard, especially if you are able to encourage some
winemaking hobbyists to become active participants.
As with small fruits and other crops, marketing is a key
item in planning a truck garden or farm.
Two distinct markets are available for the sale of
vegetables: (1) Fresh produce markets, which usually
provide higher returns per unit produced, welcome
high-quality products, and are most available to small
growers; and (2) processors, who provide a steadier
market that is less subject to daily price changes
brought about by either overproduction or under-
production and who can handle larger quantities of a
Your situation will be more stable, then, if you can
find processors who will buy your produce under a
If you want to sell directly to a chain store, you may
need to pool your product with that of other growers and
sell through a broker-shipper. In that case, your returns
will be only about 25 percent of what you see a par-
ticular vegetable selling for in your grocery store.
As with fruits, you may be able to market from a road-
side stand or with a pick-your-own operation.
The range of cash returns and labor requirements is
about the same for vegetables as for fruits. You'll re-
quire help when you need it if you plan to produce in
Some vegetables, such as sweet corn, potatoes,
tomatoes, and beans, have a wide consumer appeal,
either fresh or for processing. The market thus may
take relatively large quantities of your production if you
plan for it.
Potatoes and rutabagoes are salable for several
months after harvest because they can be stored longer
than most other vegetables named.
Other crops that may be sold fresh include peppers,
many types of squash, pumpkins, okra, muskmelons,
watermelons, eggplant, and salad crops, such as car-
rots, beets, collards, cabbage, kale, parsley, and let-
tuce of various types. However, these have a limited ap-
peal, so beware of overproducing for local demand.
Sweet corn has one of the lowest potential gross cash
returns of all major vegetable crops, but it also req uires
less labor than most others. See table 3 for details. Corn
ears often serve as a better "'drawing card"' to roadside
stands than do many other vegetables.
Melons and fresh market tomatoes can gross as much
as $2,000 to $3,000 per acre, but have relatively high
labor requirements and a lower consumer demand than
sweet corn. They can also ripen too fast for good market
absorption when the weather is very warm and too slow
when it is cold.
Other vegetables, such as fresh market cucumbers
and squash, have potentially higher returns per acre
than melons but also a much lower market demand.
Cucumbers have high labor requirements and are
similar to melons in their response to weather changes.
Most vegetables produced for fresh market consump-
tion have somewhat rigid market limitations during the
peak harvest season. This may limit the acreage from
which produce can be sold at a profit.
To avoid such peak market problems, you may wish to
produce several types of vegetables--and perhaps
some fruits--which will provide income over a period of
weeks or months.
On the other hand, you may wish to specialize in one
crop and find several different markets, such as pro-
cessors. In that case you will need a larger acreage both
to obtai n a contract and to justify necessary capital cost
Like the fruits, vegetables grow best in slightly acid,
fertile, and well-drained soil.
You can improve soil quality, of course, by adding fer-
tilizer. To decrease acidity, you can add lime. To im-
prove drainage, you can install tile, but that is an ex-
pense you might want to avoid by selecting a better site
in the first place. Vegetables also need lots of sunshine
and plenty of water.
In some areas, you will need an irrigation system. It
can also double as partial protection against frosts for
some crops when temperatures dip slightly below
The length of the frost-free growing season and the
temperatures during that season have a bearing on your
ability to grow vegetables well.
In the 1978 USDA Yearbook of Ag riculItu re, Living on a
Few Acres, you can find a chapter on growing
vegetables. By Allan Stoner and Norman Smith (pp. 199-
209) it includes a table on plant spacing, number of
seeds or plants required, and average yield of the most
Markets are the key to success with specialty crop
items such as flowers, shrubs, Christmas trees, maple
syrup, honey, pulpwood, English walnuts, pecans,
chestnuts, or herbs, including ginseng, thyme,
oregano, and the various mints.
Many such crops require lots of manual labor, but
often only seasonally.
The 1978 Yearbook of Agriculture contains several
chapters on specialty crops and is a source of informa-
tion on small farms generally,
Perhaps no other special item can provide you a
return for as little capital investment or space as honey.
Honey bees thrive in most areas and climates. Only
about 1 percent of some 300,000 beekeepers in the
United States are commercial; the rest are hobby or
sideline beekeepers. Many communities have bee clubs,
and there are two regional bee organizations: The
Eastern Apicultural Society and the Western
About a third of the food we eat depends on honey
bee pollination, and honey bees provide about 80 per-
cent of all pollination done by insects in this country.
You might be able to rent out your hives to orchardists
or farmers growing seed crops that need bee pollina-
tion. Sometimes orchardists will pay rental ranging from
$10 to $30 per hive per crop year. However, unless you
are located close to farmers needing bees, you may find
expenses of moving hives can exceed your rental fees.
About two hives are needed to poll inate an acre of fru it
trees, flowers, vegetables, or other crops.
You will need to be alert to anticipate when neighbor-
ing farmers might be using insecticides that could kill
your bees. Try to keep the farmers from using the
pesticides near blooming flowers or orchards. If you are
renting out your hives, have a contract whereby the
orchardist ag rees not to use an insecticide d uri ng the
Learn all you can before starting a hive or colony of
bees. Otherwise you may lose the bees to disease,
have half a colony (potentially a new hive) escape in a
swarm, or find your surplus honey spoiled.
With skill, you can get as much as 100 pounds of
honey per hive annually. Starting a hive--also called a
colony--should cost you not much more than $100.
There are many excellent books, periodicals, and
pamphlets on bees, often at county Extension offices.
USDA also has a publication, Beekeeping in the United
States, Agriculture Handbook No. 335. It is for sale for
$7.50 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
Some community colleges offer beekeeping classes.
Some might start a class if you, as a local taxpayer, pro-
The various tree crops--such as Christmas trees,
pulpwood, sawtimber, maple syrup, and nuts--can
make use of hilly land and need relatively moderate
cash outlays or capital mnvestsment.
Depending on the species grown, you have to wait
from 4 to 10 years before harvesting 6-foot Christmas
trees. An acre can provide from 400 to 900 trees.
Besides providing profits, Christmas trees maintain or
improve abandoned farm fields and inhibit land takeover
by undesirable shrub species. They also contribute to
scenic beauty, give habitat for many wildlife species,
and coexist with recreational uses such as hunting and
You should use care in selecting a place for your
trees. They can be hurt by too little or too much
moisture, and sometimes a strong freeze can deform
certain species. They require ready accessibility but
not so as to subject them to easy theft. You have to give
them adequate security and supervision.
When you harvest some Christmas trees from an
acreage, you should replant in the vacant spots. Careful
planning can avoid having too much variation in size and
location. Scattered sizes increase your cutting and
You may be able to get technical help with trees from
your Stdite division of forestry and the Extension Ser-
vice. Most States have foresters assigned for each
county that has significant forest resources. Contact
the State forester to find the public forester in your
You can start a hive--sometimes called a col-
ony-of bees for about $100, and, with skill,
you may get 100 pounds of honey per hive an-
nually. Some estimates indicate a third of our
food depends on honey bee pollination. (USDA
photo, No. ST4070-17.)
Help can include guidance on establishing a woodlot
as well as harvesting its products. Publications on
woodlots are usually available.
in addition, there are two Federal cost-share pro-
grams for forestry. One is the Forestry Incentives Pro-
gram (FlP). The other is the Agricultural Conservation
Program (ACP). Both are designed to help private non-
industrial forest landowners and are administered
jointly by the USDA's Forest Service and Agricultural
Stabilization and Conservation Service.
FIP authorizes the Government to share up to 75 per-
cent--not to exceed $10,000--of the annual cost of an
approved program. Technical services are provided by
State forestry agencies and private consulting
foresters. FIP's primary objective is to increase the
supply of wood products at a reasonable cost.
ACP cost-shares with the landowner up to 80 percent
of the cost, but not to exceed $3,500 annually. AII
technical services are performed by State forestry
agencies. ACP objectives vary but include one or all of
the following: Protection of forest lands, conservation
of soil and water, improvement of wildlife habitat, timber
production, and enhancement of forest recreational
In hopes of increasing tree farming, Congress
adopted the Reforestation Amortization law of 1980 to
give certain tax relief to tree growers. The law made
private non industrial forest landowners eligible for a 10
percent investment tax credit on qualified reforestation
expenses. These expenses are direct costs for planting
or seeding to forest, or reforest, property held for com-
mercial timber production. The law also allows you to
amortize, over an 84-month period, urp to $10,000 of
these costs you incur for each tax year.
Contact your State forestry representative for latest
information on how the income tax changes of 1981 tied
in with the 1980 law.
You can buy seedlings for planting from private
nurseries and sometimes from State forestry organiza-
tions. One person working hard can plant 1,000 trees in
a day by hand. With a planting machine, you can plant as
many as 2,000 trees a day. However, it takes 30 to 50
years to grow salable logs. So you may want to develop
a tree farm and try to sell it at a profit after a few years.
Growing nuts, such as pecans, English or black
walnuts, filberts, or Chinese chestnuts, may return a
profit if you build your market. Often you can retail
directly to consumers at a roadside stand or in your own
home. Satisfied customers are likely to come back.
Regular pecans thrive in States such as California and
Texas and can be grown as far north as Virginia. Some
scarce types are found even farther north. Walnuts also
grow in northern areas, but it should be kept in mind
that some strains can be damaged by winter
temperatures of 14* F., that is -10* C.
Nuts require harvesting on a seasonal basis. Often
your family can do that chore during a vacation,
Harvested nuts can be kept in storage easily and
marketed gradually with little spoilage problem.
Livestock and Fish Operations
Raising livestock or fish is a way to make use of land
that is nonproductive because it's too hilly or otherwise
can't easily be used to rent to others or to grow land
crops. Cattle, goats, and sheep can forage on pasture-
land too rugged to farm easily. You also can use your
own feed grain for your livestock, thus possibly getting
a better return for your investment of labor and money,
Livestock also help maintain or build soil fertility by
Livestock also give some people more satisfaction
than do crops, but at the same time the livestock con-
fine you to the farm, especially during special periods,
such as lambing or sow farrowing. Such events often
seem to begin in the middle of cold or stormy nights.
Livestock also may require above average skills to
return a profit. And some animals--such as dairy
cows--need rather specialized and expensive buildings
and equipment and must be milked 7 days a week.
You may well be aware that animal and poultry wastes
can be a disposal problem as well as a source of odors,
flies, and other insects even though you try to keep the
Fencing is essential for most livestock farming. While
it is expensive to build good fences, it may be even
more costly to build poor ones.
Some special kinds of decisions to be made concern-
ing livestock follow:
(1) In selecting livestock, decide (a) which breed,
unless you mix breeds, (b) what quality, (c) the number,
(d) health standards to follow for culling and other pur-
poses, (e) age, (f) if a breeding herd, whether to buy
open--not preg nant-or pregnant females, and (g)
where to buy them.
(2) In feeding, decide the quantity and quality of feed
and be able to set up a feeding schedule.
(3) In breeding, decide (a) how to select the best
breed for the sire, (b) whether to use natural or artificial
insemination, and (c) in the case of cows, whether to
make preg nancy checks.
(4) In culling out the least profitable animals, decide
which females are "hard breeders"-not easily im-
pregnated-poor mothers, low producers, and sick and
overage. Stunted, sick, or slow-growing animals can
keep you from realizing a profit.
(5) In buying capital items, decide how long you will
keep equipment, what items you need for breeding,
housing, and feeding animals, and what storage
capacities you will need.
Questions such as these are pertinent about each
item: (a) Is it feasible? (b) How will I pay for it? (c) Will it
do the job? (d) Is it really necessary for success of the
business? (e) Will it increase the value of my property to
the extent of its cost? (f) Will the farm pay for it? (g) What
added expenses may be needed to support the item if it
(6) In keeping records, you must decide what to keep
track of, such as animal health, timing of jobs, costs,
and related matters.
Beef, dairy, swine, sheep, poultry, egg, and rabbit
farming are discussed below; additional details, on
goats, for example, appear in tables 1 or 2.
Beef enterprises range from relatively low-risk, cow-
calf, and yearling "'grass-steer"' operations to the
higher-risk and potentially higher-return finished-steer
The cow-calf program produces 350- to 500-pound
feeder calves as the main salable product about 9
months to a year after the calves are born.
You can start with 3 bred cows and should have 30
cows from them in 10 years if you keep only the best
heifers for breeding. Meanwhile, you also will have had
some heifers and steers to sell, either as feeder calves
or finished beef--and you also may have been providing
your own beef for the family to eat.
It takes from 16 to 20 months to turn baby calves into
1,000- or 1,200-pound beeves for slaughter.
If you don't want to "feed out" calves to slaughter
weight, which can be a risky business because of the
long time it takes, you may be able to sell them to other
farmers to feed.
Most beef operations can make good use of home-
raised forage, such as alfalfa hay, which helps cut cash
outlay. You also may be able to use rough pastureland
not suitable for crops.
Raising the yearling 'g rass"' steer or heifer has an
additional advantage in that you have your money tied
up in the animal only about 5 to 6 months while finishing
it to market size. Finishing usually means confining cat-
tle in a lot while you feed them grain and a protein sup-
Whether in a feedlot or outside, cattle can stand low
temperatures, but they do need shelter if you live in a
cl imate where tem peratu res get below 0" F. or -18*C.
You can shelter cattle in buildings that otherwise would
be of little use. They may need extra feed to furnish the
energy to keep them warm in cold weather.
Cattle should not be kept confined in a barn. Confine-
ment will cause more health problems than if they have
free-will access to an old barn or even a three-sided
shed with the open side away from the prevailing wind.
This shelter advice applies equally to dairy cows, ex-
cept you will confine them at milking time and usually
Profits from beef cattle vary with grain prices,
economic conditions, and the "cattle cycle"--which
has a trend your county Extension agent may be able to
show you. The agent also may give you current profit
A beef feeding operation generally has relatively low
labor requirements and can make use of family labor.
Time needed for raising beef cows can be more flexible
than that needed for managing dairy animals. Invest-
ment per unit can be kept low if you are careful. Several
beef markets--such as auctions--are available in most
parts of the country, but you need to check nearness to
markets if you decide to raise beef.
To finish yearling calves to a weight of about 500 to
600 pounds in a feed lot, you feed about 8 to 9 pounds of
feed mix for each pound of animal gain. The mix has
about 7 to 8 pounds of corn, for example, and 1 pound of
a protein supplement. By comparison, a hog needs only
about 4 to 5 pounds of feed mix per pound of gain, and a
broiler chicken even less.
U nfortu nately, beef enterprises usually have a rather
low net return and slow capital turnover per unit. Capital
turnover refers to the time required for income to equal
investment in the enterprise.
It is common to invest considerable money in beef
cows and pasture or other land. If calves sell for an
average of $200 to $300, it takes 7 to 10 years to get the
investment back. That is considered slow capital turn-
Dairying doesn't fit easily into most pattm opera-
tions. Dai ry cows req u ire (a) i intensive labor and
management, (b) an inflexible daily labor schedule 12
months a year, and (c) a higher per-unit capital invest-
3n addition, milk and milk products are highly
regulated and must comply with stringent health regula-
Dairy cow milking can bring cash returns of $400 or
more per cow per year. However, the annual labor re-
quirement is as much as 60 to 100 hours per cow.
An alternative to producing milk is to produce dairy
heifer calves. You might buy baby heifer calves from a
major dairy farm, feed them until they are about 22 to 30
months old, and then sell them either as bred heifers or
fresh cows shortly after they calve.
A second approach is to contract with one or more
dairy producers to raise heifers for them. Labor is
somewhat higher per year than that required for beef
but lower than for dairy cows. A heifer-raising operation
has a potentially higher return per year than a beef
Dairy heifers, like beef animals, can eat a con-
siderable amou nt of home-rai sed forag es- pastu re,
silage, and hay.
Disadvantages of heifer raising are: (a) The time be-
tween purchase of the baby calf and its sale is relatively
long. (b) The farm family members must either "catch"
the heifers in heat and breed them with artificial in-
semination or keep a bull with them. Both approaches
can be costly, and the second is sometimes dangerous.
(c) Management requirements for raising heifers are
higher than those for producing beef.
Two different veal-calf programs are available to the
part-time operator. One is to buy baby calves, called
vealers, and feed them 4 to 8 weeks, then sell them at
170 to 200 pounds at a local market for veal. You need
only about 2 to 3 hours of labor per calf produced,
unless you have problems with its health. Capital costs
are low, and cash turnover from purchase to sale is fast.
The second approach is to feed vealers for 12 to 15
weeks, and then sell them at 300 pounds or more to a
special slaughter market, usually on a contract basis. In
this case, you need about 4 to 5 hours of labor per calf,
and capital costs are about $200 per calf, depending
upon the cost of feed.
Neither veal program requires extensive land or
buildings. Potential cash returns for medium vealers are
$20 to $25 apiece, while heavy vealers may net you $20
to $45, depending upon sale conditions.
The primary disadvantages of raising vealers are: (1)
The difficulty in buying good calves at a price enabling
you to convert them into a profit, (2) the need to buy
most feed, and (3) the fact that calves sometimes may
become anemic and get sick with "scours," that is,
diarrhea, especially if they are confined and lack fresh
Brahma bull, with hump in the background,
with hopes of improving his cows' offspring.
(Photo by Duane Daily, University of Missouri-
Farmers with a small-scale beef breeding
operation such as the above in Missouri con-
stantly have to make decisions on how and
whether to spend scarce capital funds on im-
proving operations. This farmer bought a
Raising hogs is usually a more confining operation and
requires more careful management than handling cat-
tle. They don't graze on grass, thus often need more
feeding care than cattle. As with cattle, you can choose
any one of several ways to handle swine. For example, a
herd of sows can be bred to produce two litters of pigs a
year. The pigs can be sold as feeders after reaching 40
to 60 pounds, or finished out to 210- to 225-pound hogs
If you produce pigs intensively in a relatively small
area, you may use farrowing pens almost continuously.
Farrowing facilities usually are a big investment.
One alternative approach in the North is to farrow only
one litter per sow each spring so you won't have to in-
vest in farrowing buildings, which would need a heater.
In the Deep South, farrowing might be spread over the
year without expensive farrowing facilities.
Another approach is to buy rather than farrow feeder
pigs. To feed hogs for slaughter is a medium to high
risk--depending on price cycles. But labor investment
may be low, while cash turnover from purchase to sale
can be quite rapid. Potential cash returns may vary from
$5 to $30 per animal--if prices are favorable.
Whi le sows can u se a limited amou nt of pastu re and
hay or silage, their pigs will need grain and a supple-
ment for finishing. It takes about 3V/2 tO 3%/ pounds of a
feed mix to produce a pound of live hog, so you need
about 650 to 700 pounds of feed to grow a marketable
hog of 225 pounds from weaning weight of about 40
pounds. Feed costs usually equal 70 to 75 percent of
You can get some idea about your potential profit by
calculating the cost of feed and the sales price of a 225-
Heavy broilers and roasters are somewhat less ex-
pensive to produce than capons but lack the readymade
advantage of the capon name. Cash retu rn ranges from
$40 to $150 per 100 birds.
As with so many part-time operations, finding or
building a market is the key to success.
If you have a lot of family labor, you might consider
turkeys. But mass production and inflation have nearly
ruined the one-time market for locally produced
turkeys, which must command a premium price.
If you raise turkeys, keep them away from chickens
and other birds to prevent costly disease, which can
destroy your flock in days.
You might raise game birds if you have a fairly large
acreage in a remote area which you can protect from
poachers and predators, which can wreak havoc in one
night. Bad weather can be as destructive as predators.
You should develop your market before you venture
into the business. Potential cash return is usually no
higher than that for other poultry enterprises, and the
risk is greater.
Prime young guineas are like game birds but some-
what easier to raise and manage. Like game birds, they
are susceptible to predators. It take about 15 to 18
weeks to raise them to market size of about 2V/2 pounds,
dressed to cook.
Ducks and geese may be raised partly on pasture, but
they need a house for shelter and protection against
predators. They also need feed such as that used for
chickens or turkeys. Pekin ducks take about 7 to 9
weeks to reach market weight; the Rouen breed needs
20 to 24 weeks. Most geese need 20 to 24 weeks to
grow to market size--about 11 to 15 pounds.
There are some problems with raising poultry to sell
for meat. You are limited in the number of dressed birds
you can market without Federal inspection, unless you
are a subcontractor. Check with your State department
of agriculture to learn latest marketing regulations.
The odor and waste disposal problems deserve
carefulI attention. You r State department of ag riculItu re
can tell you about applicable pollution regulations.
Near large cities, you may be able to establish your own
market for ungraded fresh eggs, either by putting up a
sign or a stand along the road or in some other way let-
ting customers know you are in business. You may sell
directly to consumers without getting involved in
But if you have more than 3,000 hens and sell to retail
stores, bakeries, or restaurants, you are subject to
Federal sanitary and other requirements.
You should be able to handle a flock of up to 2,000 lay-
ing hens using family labor. But you will need to devote
about 80 to 120 hours per 100 birds during a year. Daily
chores are not quite as rigid as for dairy cows but more
so than for many other kinds of farming. You need to
maintain the flock throughout the year to keep eggs
moving to customers. And regular hours must be spent
daily gathering the eggs. Sometimes you may have
trouble keeping egg production steady enough for de-
Sheep require little labor except at lambing time. Most
of their feed can be farm-produced forage or even come
from rough pastureland. They require relatively little in-
vestment in buildings or equipment, but fencing can be
costly. A 10-acre plot will take at least 2,500 feet of
fence. Electric fencing sometimes may be used rather
than woven wire.
Predators such as dogs and coyotes that kill lambs
and sometimes adult sheep can be a problem in some
areas. But one good live-animal trap may help you get
lone predators first. Sheep are more prone than hogs or
cattle to die from panic brought on by harrassing dogs.
Another problem you could face is finding shearers to
harvest the wool; you may want to learn shearing
yourself. In certain areas you can get a premium price
for black wool. In other places, you may have difficulty
establishing a market for wool, mutton, or lamb. Work
out such problems before you start a flock of sheep.
Check such matters with the Extension Service.
At lambing time, ewes may need assistance,
especially with multiple births. You may need extra
labor then. Otherwise, labor requirements are relatively
low when averaged over a year.
Sheep are well adapted to grazing pasture with dairy
or beef cattle. Returns per ewe can range from $80 to
$150 a head per year.
Some people grow lambs for what is sometimes
called the "'hothouse"' slaughter market. You may get
$60 to $75 for a lamb that is only 8 to 10 weeks old. Cer-
tain ethnic groups buy lambs for use at Easter. An alert
producer and sales person will get in touch with poten-
An alternative to raising ewes to produce lambs is to
buy lambs to feed. Lambs may be kept in more confined
conditions than cattle, but they need much care to pre-
vent disease or infestation by parasites.
Don't get into lamb raising if you are sentimental
about animals or dislike sheep.
The poultry industry has become so large, mechanized,
and specialized that few part-time farmers are likely to
be able to compete with big operators.
But you might raise commercial broilers on a part-
time basis under contract with a slaughtering and
marketing firm. If you have adequate building facilities,
labor and capital requirements are low. Potential cash
return may be no more than $100 per 1 ,000 birds. To be
practical, then, you would probably want to raise as
many as 20,000 birds per batch, with five or six batches
In some areas--where large cities are nearby--some
part-time farmers may be able to profit by producing
capons--male chickens that are castrated at age 3 to 5
weeks. A popular meat bird in the Northeast, 10-pound
capons command a premium price in some local
markets. That weight requires about 5 to 6 months of
feeding. Capon producers have to learn how to castrate
and dress birds or hire those jobs done. Cash return
may range from $60 to $250 per 100 birds.
Feeding baby chicks under contract with a farmers. (USDA photo, No. 0476R417-27, by
commercial broiler marketing firm can provide G.A. Robinson.)
one source of steady Income for small-scale
If adequate building facilities are available, you may
not need to spend additional funds.
Potential cash returns vary widely. See table 2 for
details. Daily egg sales can give you a regular cash flow.
You also can be producing eggs for your own family.
Hens eat about a quarter pound of feed apiece daily,
and layers in a well-managed flock should produce eggs
about 70 to 80 percent of the time, or an average of 7 to 8
eggs from 10 hens.
As an alternative to raising layers for your own use,
you might grow, under a contract, pullets--young
layers--for egg-producing poultry growers. You would
want to house your enterprise in a special brooder
house, which requires some investment. The commer-
cial poulItry grower has a housi ng and eq uipment i nvest-
ment of $5 to $7 per bird. You would have to keep your
costs within that limit to be competitive.
You also need to recognize you must buy most feed at
regular market prices, so you must calculate carefully to
know whether returns will exceed investment.
You don't need as much space, capital investment,
land, or labor to grow rabbits as you need for most other
animals. Like most others, however, they are suscepti-
ble to bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal diseases.
As many as 200,000 producers raise 6 to 8 million rab-
bits in the United States annually. Meat markets use
most; laboratories use about 600,000. Check out your
potential market before you invest money in rabbits.
To find processors, contact the American Rabbit
Breeders Association at 1925 S. Main St., Bloomington,
III. 61701. It publishes a list of processors and current
market prices paid for fryers and roasters.
To supplement your own meat supply, you may want
to start with a unit of three or four breeding does
(females) and a buck. One doe will produce about 25 to
50 rabbits a year. That's about 100 to 200 pounds of rab-
bits if they are raised to the 4-pound (live weight) size
for frying, more when raised to roaster size. You might
be able to manage a herd of 50 to 150 does on a part-
Capital investment is likely to include cost of all-wire
cages with feeders and automatic waterers, and heating
facilities if you are getting into business in Northern
States. Breeding animals cost $15 to $25 apiece.
State laws governing the sale of dressed rabbits vary,
and you should be aware of the laws of your State. You
Demand for rabbit meat is tiny compared with ily has a high protein diet--on less than an
that for beef, chicken, or pork, but by planning acre. (Photo by Duane Dailey of the University
all marketing carefully, a rabbit raiser can keep of Missouri, Columbia.)
active selling meat--and make certain the fam-
can obtain information about voluntary grading and in-
spection of rabbits from the Food Safety and Inspection
Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington,
D.C. 20250. And if you plan to sell rabbits to
laboratories, you will need a license from USDA.
You need about 12 weeks to produce a 2-pound
(dressed weight) fryer rabbit, or as many as 24 weeks
for a roaster of more than 4 pounds. Except for grass
and vegetables which rabbits forage on their own if
allowed to do so, feed will cost about 10 cents a pound,
and it takes about 4 pounds of feed to grow each pound
of a live fryer and also maintain its mother.
If you want to produce rabbits for use by laboratories,
hospitals, or health departments, make sure of the type,
age, and size of animals your buyers want. Be sure to
establish a market before you move into production on a
Farm ponds have many potential uses, not the least of
which is to use for fish: Large-mouth black bass,
bluegills, red-eared sunfish, channel catfish, or trout.
For fish production, your pond should not be built
across a running stream that would carry a lot of silt and
water. Silt would clog it too quickly, and too much water
would make it difficult to keep stream fish out. A fish
pond needs at least V/2 aCre in SUffaCe afea. Check the
Extension Service for information on the kind of fish that
you can produce and market in your area.
Don't expect that raising fish requires no special work
or care. Stocking may be necessary. Since stock rates
vary by geog raphic area, you shoulId stock at the rate
recommended by people from your State fish and game
agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or your soil
conservation district. They may also help you obtain
fingerling fish for stocking.
Fertilizing also may be needed for maximum produc-
tion but is not recommended unless you fish the pond
heavily or need to control waterweeds.
Developing Your Farming Entry Plan and Managing
One way to start planning your moves into part-time
farming is to decide which of four different categories
best fits your situation: (1) Limited experience /limited
capital, (2) limited experience/some capital, (3) con-
siderable experience/Ilimited capital, (4) considerable
If you are short both on experience and capital, con-
sider going through a preparation study stage before
actually looking for capital to invest in any farming ac-
tivities. This preparation could include formal training in
classes at a college, employment as a hired hand on a
farm, or just doing a lot of informal reading, visiting farm
people, and calculating with pencil and paper.
The same advice about learning also applies if you
have limited experience but a source of some capital. In
that case, you may be prepared to put some money into
a small farm and start operating on a small scale while
you hold down a part-time or full-time job--either farm
or nonfarm work. Some families take that route.
Such families may consist of a husband and wife and
some small children, all of whom can benefit from farm-
ing activities--if you make it enjoyable. In such a situa-
tion, either the husband or wife may hold a reg ular full -
time job and the other spouse takes on the double or
triple duties of co-managing the farm, home, and
With this--or any--arrangement, both co-managers
should keep in mind two important goals if they hope to
become more active in farming and less active in non-
farm work: (1) To become better prepared for farming,
and (2) to become known locally as careful, hardworking
Of course, if you have experience but little capital,
then you must look for sources of capital. And if you
have both experience and enough capital, you need
only settle on the type of farm and location and begin
your entry plans on a schedule.
Cash Flow Planning
In any event, one of the first and most important steps in
moving into any kind of farming is to build a potential
cash flow analysis for a span of several years, and then
fill in each year with an annual cash flow plan, also
called a cash budget. In this way, you chart how much
cash will flow in and out of your farm business.
Presumably what you are driving toward is an invest-
ment that will bring you some profits over the long run,
as well as some positive and controlled negative cash
flows over various short runs.
The cash flow analyses can help you anticipate cash
flow shortages during certain periods so that you can
arrange for loans or draw from savings. If you have a
cash flow plan showing possibilities of a profit over a
long term, you may find lenders willing to make loans.
To survive, in the long run, your business must either
reach and maintain a positive cash flow or have a source
of subsidy, such as a part-time job or a pension which
can help you make up for losses.
Some farming--such as a swine finishing opera-
tion-could generate favorable cash inflows within a
year or so of initial investment.
An orchard, on the other hand, provides an example
of an enterprise that will show a cash outflow over a
number of years before cash inflows results. In this lat-
ter type of investment, negative cash flows are usually
subsidized from other sources, such as your full- or
part-time job, pension, savings, or loans which you can
pay back over a number of years before, and perhaps
after, sales from your orchard occur.
Investment in a machine shed is an example of a cash
outflow-expense-with little prospect of additional
visible cash inflow. Any ultimate benefit may come from
holding down your machinery repair costs and helping
maintain its resale value longer. Such benefits are
something you can point out on a cash flow chart span-
ning several years. Check this with your tax adviser,
Knowing about the various types of investment you
are dealing with during your planning can give you an
important feeling that you know where you are going
and will help reduce your prospects of becoming what
some farm management experts call "'a creditor's
Your long-term and short-term cash flow charts are
tools to help you with financial plans and expectations
for the future. You will want to rethink them regularly as
new events cause you to re-evaluate your situation.
In fact, you probably will want to re-develop your an-
nual cash flow plans at the beginning of each calendar
You may want to combine your cash flow plans for
your farm business and family living into one. Some
people call that a "'system"' of cash flows.
In past generations, cash flows on small farms were
so small that not much long-term financial planning was
required. Today, careful financial management is
needed to submit detailed income tax reports to the
Federal Government and most State governments. In
addition, real estate taxes vary widely between farming
and nonfarming activities in some areas.
Your cash flow charts may well help you avoid a
reputation for insolvency by alerting you that you may
be short of cash when bills come due. The needed cash
must come either from receipts from sales of your pro-
ducts, nonfarm income, or funds borrowed from your
own reserves or some lender.
Generating the cash requires a complex combination
of production, marketing and financing decisions. You
as a farmer constantly will be making decisions.
As emphasized earlier, producing a crop, of corn,
say, or a number of hogs or sheep for slaughter usually
uses up cash. You don't get a return until you sell the
product. Sometimes you will not get paid at the time
your product is ready to sell, as when it may be stored
for a better price at a later time. Grain, nuts, or honey
are some examples.
If you delay sales, then you must have a source of
cash during storage. And that delay should bring you
enough greater return to pay for the added cost of bor-
rowing. Otherwise, your delay will be costing you more
than if you had sold immediately.
On the following page is a portion of a sample cash
flow planning form designed for either quarterly or
monthly entries. You'll have to decide which is most
helpful. You also may wish to compare this form with
material in appendix I, which has a guide for appraising
your resources prepared by John S. Huddleston of the
Virginia Extension Service.
1. Beginning cash balance (demand deposits plus currency)
2. Crops and feed
3. Livestock and livestock products
4. Government payments, patronage dividends & custom work
6. Breeding livestock
7. Machinery and equipment
9. Nonfarm income
10. TOTAL CASH AVAILABLE (add lines 1 thru 9)
11. Labor hired (including employer taxes)
13. Rents and leases
15. Fertilizer, lime, chemicals
16. Custom machine hire
18. Livestock expense (breeding, vet., etc.)
19. Gas, fuel, oil
20. Storage and custom drying
21. Taxes (real estate and personal property)
22. Insurance (property, liability, crop)
23. Utilities (electricity, gas, telephone)
24. Marketing and transportation expense
25. Auto(farm share)
27. TOTAL CASH OPERATING EXPENSES
LIVESTOCK AND FEED PURCHASES:
28. Feeder and Breeding Livestock
29. Feed purchased
30. Machinery and equipment
31. Building and improvements
32. Family living withdrawals
33. Nonfarm business and investments
34. Income tax and social security
35. Intermediate and long-term loan payments--principal
37. TOTAL CASH REQUIRED (add lines 27 thru 36)
38. CASH AVAILABLE LESS CASH REQUIRED (Line 10 minus line 37)
39. Money to be borrowed
40. --intermediate and long-term loans
41. Operating loan payments--principal
43. Ending cash balance
LOAN BALANCES (at end of period):
44. Current year's operating loans
45. Previous year's operating loans
46. Intermediate and long-term loans
Month or ouart.,
Cash flow for 19
; Data Completed 19 _
Cash Flow Planning Form
that is, can losses be suffered without seriously disrupt-
ing family living or farm operations? (3) How much will it
cost to insure against the losses?
Your principal and interest payments on loans are im-
portant items of outflow or expenses. At times, they
may cause a shortfall in your cash flow and require you
to dig into savings or renegotiate a loan over a longer
Your tax payments also are part of cash outflow.
Sometimes, in the short run, some investments can
generate tax savings from investment credits or from
accelerated depreciation methods, points also detailed
on a later page.
You also want to know about Federal and perhaps
State fuel tax refunds if you use a nonhighway vehicle
such as a gasoline-burning tractor on your farm. Con-
tact your State tax department or Extension agent for
details. For the Federal refund, use form 4136 and file it
with your annual Federal tax form.
In some States, farmers are exempt from State sales
taxes on costs paid for certain farm production items or
their repair or maintenance. However, materials used in
repair, construction, or remodeling or real estate are
not generally exempt. Check with your Extension agent.
In some areas, especially near big cities, you may find
farmable land owned by a nonfarmer who would like to
pay the lower farm real estate tax than the "'developed"'
acreage tax. The nonfarmer owner may rent you his or
her land to farm at a modest rate so as to qualify for the
Iower real estate tax.
If your farm nets a profit, you will have to allocate part
of your cash flow to pay higher taxes. Besides studying
the sample flow chart in these pages to make your
plans, you will want to study Schedule F of the Federal
income tax form. Carefully note whether the latest tax
law changes have you report items such as sale of farm
capital items--which might include dairy cows and
breeding animals--differently than you report sale of
Other farm products.
Sources of Credit and Capital
Credit is extremely important to farmers. You must
know where to find it, terms for obtaining it, and how
best to use it so you can pay for it.
Credit can speed farm ownership, add productive
assets, make the farm more efficient, and increase in-
come. It may be used to obtain production supplies
when income inflow doesn't coincide with expenses. At
times, as mentioned earlier, it may be used to delay
sale of products until prices rise seasonally higher.
Credit also may be needed in emergencies. It can
also provide conveniences for you r fam ily before you
generate cash from sale of your products.
Credit also entails problems and risks. Unless you
plan well, you may find it difficult to meet loan payments
on schedule. Loan payments that are too large can
restrict money you need for current operating expenses
or family living costs.
Unwise use of credit can lead not only to worry, emo-
tional disorders, and temporary hardship but to
foreclosure and bankruptcy in extreme cases,
Several kinds of loans may be available from public or
Cash Inflow or Income
On most farms, cash income, or income inflow as some
accountants call it, is relatively easy to keep track of. If
you raise feeder pigs, for example, you might sell most
of them at the same time and get just a single large
check. But if you manage bees for honey and sell their
product through many small outlets, including a road-
side stand, your receipts will be numerous and require
considerable time to keep track of properly.
You also must keep track of cash on hand from other
sources, such as a pension, a job, investment credit
refunds, or money resulting from reduced taxes.
Cash Outflows or Expenses
Cash outflows include operating expenses, principal
and interest payments, taxes of various types, and
Operating expenses may be fairly easy to estimate
except when they include investment in cost-savings
types of equipment. Sometimes operating expenses
will be reduced as a result of trading an old machine in
on a new one, but the costs are not easy to calculate.
For tax and record purposes, some expenses must be
divided between your farm and your personal living
budget. Items that are divisible include utility bills, your
automobile, real estate taxes,and property insurance.
Wages paid for work done by your children for farm
work are legally deducted expenses under Federal in-
come tax regulations. You should keep proof of all
payments. Cancelled checks serve well.
You must pay a social security tax on any employee to
whom you pay $150 or more per year. You should get a
copy of IRS Circular A, dealing with Federal employ-
ment taxes the law requires you to pay.
The law does not require you to pay social security
taxes for your own dependent children, but they must
have their own social security cards if employed by
Other cash outflows will include insurance premiums.
You will need both casualty and liability insurance. Part-
time farmers can be "wiped out" by a fire, a hurricane,
a tornado, or an accident involving other people or pro-
perty. You could be held liable for accidents caused by
your children or part-time employees. Such insurance
usually can be obtained under a "blanket" farmowner's
policy that is less expensive than individual coverages
Casualty insurance should include a clause for theft
as well as the usual fire and wind coverage. Coverage
should include buildings, building contents, equipment,
Regarding theft, cattle and hog rustling seems to be
increasing in many areas. In iowa, rural areas reported
theft of more than 2 million dollars worth of livestock,
equipment, and related items in 1979.
Liability insurance should cover (1) damage of injuries
caused by your workers, equipment, or animals, and (2)
injuries to people on farm property that occur as a result
of possible negligence.
You may want to consult an insurance agent on your
needs. An agent can help you answer three basic ques-
tions about potential losses: (1) What are chances of
such losses occurring? (2) What are the consequences;
small orchard or a few acres of truck crops.
You may well need to buy a small tractor to
help control weeds, even if you only farm a
Interest rates vary according to prevailing capital
costs, and the maximum loan period is 7 years,
Sometimes, however, you may pay off part of the prin-
cipal in 7 years, with the remainder "ballooned"--that
is, to be paid off after another 5 years, for exam ple,
FmHA's farm ownership loans are not easy to obtain
by a first-time farmer. They may be used to enlarge,
develop, or refinance a farm, and sometimes to buy
one. The maximum loan to an individual is $200,000.
FmHA may participate with another lender by taking a
second mortgage up to $200,000 i instead of a fi rst mort-
gage. There is no upper limit on the combined loan from
FmHA and another participating private lender.
Such FmHA loans may not exceed the appraised
value of the property. The interest rate fluctuates along
lines similar to institutional rates. The ownership loans
may be written for 40 years.
If you qualify as a "Iimited resource" farmer on the
basis of low income, under existing law you may be able
to get a lower interest rate on either an Fm HA operati ng
or an ownership loan.
Another way to classify FmHA loans is on the basis of
Short-term or operating loans, usually for a year or
Some people obtain loans or loan guarantees from
specialized units of the Federal Government:
Farmers Home Administration (FmHA).--FmHA makes
all of the three major types of loans: Short-term, in-
termediate, and long-term, with which you should
become familiar. To be eligible for an FmHA loan, you
must be unable to get credit elsewhere. FmHA is a
"'lender of last resort."' Cong ress allocates fu nds for
FmHA annually, hence funds are limited and may run
out before you get some.
FmHA makes three types of farm loans: Emergency,
operating, and ownership.
Emergency loans are not available unless the county
in which your farm is located is declared a "disaster
area"' by the Federal and State government because of
some widespread natural disaster such as a hurricane,
volcano eruption, flood, or extended drought.
Fm HA operating loans usually are of the short-term
type, but they also may be used to refinance chattel
debts and to help improve use of land and labor
resources. The maximum available under this program
ca^~x4~1, 1 I 1
~4~C-~'~.c~jc ~--1;------ ~;~sll
less, are used to buy things for production of crops or
animal products, such as seeds, chemicals, fertilizer,
feed, hired labor, fuel, and livestock for feeding,
These loans usually are secured by a chattel mort-
gage or a lien on your crops andlor livestock you ex-
pect to produce or are buying.
Intermediate-term loans usually are used to buy
things such as livestock for breeding purposes, and
other such assets as machinery, equipment, and minor
building additions. These loans usually are for larger
amounts than operating loans. Repayment periods may
be 5 to 7 years. A chattel mortgage is usually required
Long-term loans will be used to buy real estate and
for major building investments. Mortgages serve as
FmHA loan applications are made at county FmHA
offices--found in nearly every county. Expect close
supervision and examination of your operating plans
and your financial position, income tax returns, and
other papers when you apply for FmHA loans.
Farm Credit Administration.-This independent
Government agency supervises the cooperative Farm
Credit System, which obtai ns loan fu nds by selli ng
securities to investors. The System is owned and con-
trolled by users--farmers and their cooperatives, such
as Federal land banks and production credit associa-
The System provides nearly a third of credit used by
farmers and more than half the credit used by their
cooperatives. A Federal land bank can make long-term
loans for up to 40 years. It requires a borrower to buy
stock equal in value to 5 percent of the loan. Usually you
will find an office in the county seat.
Prod uctio n cred it association s--farm er-ow ned
cooperatives--make short-term and intermediate-term
Ioans. They, too, require a borrower to buy stock equal
to 5 percent of the loan. Generally they have head-
quarters in the county seat.
In 1981, the Farm Credit Administration proposed that
Federal land bank associations and production credit
associations develop special services for people want-
ing to begin farming on a small scale.
Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service
(ASCS).--Sometimes your county ASCS office
representatives can arrange for you to get Commodity
Credit Corporation (CCC) loans on certain crops--such
as corn, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, or cotton--if you
informative signs like the above. (USDA photo,
One way to find a small farm is to decide on the
State you like best, then drive around to ask
people what's for sale. Sometimes you'II find
sign up and participate in the regular farm commodity
program. Small-scale operators often do not participate,
hence aren't eligible.
CCC loans usually are "nonrecourse"-meaning that
if you do not repay them by a certain "call date" set by
USDA, the CCC will take title to your crop as security or
collateral. ACSC officials will tell you when you must
deliver the crop to a specified location. Until then, the
crop is under your protection and, if damaged, may cost
you a penalty payment. You must keep close watch to
make sure it develops no mold or insects.
ASCS also sometimes has limited funds to help small-
farm operators solve conservation and pollution abate-
Ban ks probably willI be your ch ief sou rce of private
Commercial banks.--Your local banker also may be one
of your primary advisers, with much influence on your
decision making. Banks make short-, intermediate-, and
long-term, loans that have interest rates competitive
with loans from other sources. Real estate loans usually
are for only 15 to 20 years, less time than allowed by
some other lenders. Not all banks encourage farm
loans; look for one that de.
The private banks provide a wide range of financial
services, including consumer loans for such things as
automobiles. Banks prefer to make shorter term loans
than those for real estate so as to increase the number
of people they serve with the same amount of basic
capital. Terms usually are competitive with other
Saving banks.-Some make real estate loans, usually
for not more than 20 years.
Insurance companies.-Sometimes they make real
estate loans, with repayment terms up to 40 years or
more. They are interested mainly in loans of more than
$100,000. Some charge penalties for paying off loans in
advance. Security is by first mortgage.
Finance companies.--Finance companies are not
significant sources of farm credit and have interest
rates higher than most banks. Loans from these com-
panies usually are smaller than those from other loan
Individuals.--An estimated 35 percent of the farm real
estate debt load nationally is carried by private in-
dividuals and other lenders not reporting to the Federal
Government under laws and regulations governing in-
Sometimes, for example, the seller of a farm will take
a fi rst or second mortgage loan at a slig htly lower rate
than that charged by a commercial loan company to
help make the sale.
If you borrow from a private lender, be sure you and
the lender have adequate legal documents. If the lender
should die without them, his or her estate might de-
mand immediate full payment on the loan when you
were least able to pay. To avoid such difficulties, make
sure loan terms are well documented and properly
Many farm equipment dealers and merchants will pro-
vide credit--which really are loans--for the purchase of
major items. Some also provide open account credit for
smaller items. The dealer usually will grant a period of
grace for the bill to be paid after you get the supplies.
Dealers generally charge no interest or service
charge--if the bill is paid by a specified date following
billi ng. For exam ple, if the billIi ng date is the fi rst of the
next month, a grace period of 10-15 days may be al-
Iowed. If you don't pay by the end of that period, an in-
terest charge may be assessed of 1.5 percent or more
per month on the unpaid balance. At 1.5 percent a
month, the annual interest rate would be 18 percent,
which may be higher than operating loans from an in-
stitution or private lender.
"How big a debt load can we handle? How much can we
afford to borrow from lenders?"'
Those are questions with different answers for each
farm family. You will want enough resources to operate
with a profit, ordinarily. Most farmers can't operate a
business of the size they want without using some
credit. Neither the farm family nor the lender want loans
which do not contribute to the farm business or which
will be difficult to repay.
Fluctuating changes in farm prices and crop yields in
high-interest times have increased both farmers' and
lenders' awareness of and concern with risk and debt
Partly as a result of such risks and uncertainties,
farmers are in an occupation noted for great amounts of
stress problems. To help control stress in farm families,
some human relations experts advise farmers to
evaluate carefully the debt their families should carry
and the kinds of problems they can cope with. To an-
ticipate and prepare for potential farm stress, you need
Your family's managerial ability;
The best advice available on the economic future,
Absolute size of your debt ($1,000 vs. $1,000,000);
Use of funds--income variability and cash flow;
Specific loan arrangements;
Personal characteristics of yourself and family.
For example, assume you could manage to obtain
$9,000 a year for interest and principal payments. You
could handle a debt load of $15,210, if your repayment
period were 2 years, assuming interest at 12 percent.
If your loan repayment period were 10 years, you
could manage a debt load of $50,853. And with a 20-year
loan, you could handle $67,224. Finally, if the 12 percent
loan were for 25 years, you could handle interest and
principal payments on a $70,588 Ioan, using your $9,000
per year for interest and principal payments.
Thus, extending the loan period can increase the debt
load you can carry, while reducing the loan period
reduces the debt loan you can manage. Your own lend-
ing agents can explain this in detail.
For some farming, the debt structure is a combination
of different loans for operating and other expenses. You
might negotiate a short-term loan to buy feeder pigs, an
intermediate-term loan to buy equipment to feed them,
and a long-term loan to buy buildings and land.
But remember, once you establish repayment
schedules you can manage, you may have little flexibil-
ity in increasing your debt load, or meeting emergency
To try to finance any additional loan, then, you would
want to borrow only when the loan (1) increased net in-
come; (2) increased financial and operational efficiency,
which would cut costs, increase volume, or bring about
higher prices; or (3) reduced nonfarm expenditures.
Sometimes, if you have build up some equity or pay-
off value in real estate, you can pay off high-interest
short-term loans by renegotiating longer term loans or
second mortgages at lower rates. This can reduce your
cash outflow needed to meet other short-term
These are the kinds of things you should talk over
carefully with potential lenders. That way, both you and
they can be confident that you are planning your moves
skillfully, with the least risk and stress possible under
uncertain circumstances so often involved in farming.
Keeping Track of Your Business and
If possible, for convenience and accuracy, set aside a
room or portion of a room for your "business center."
There you can keep records without their being dis-
turbed or lost. If you have many dealings with people,
the room should have an outside entrance and be
situated so it is closed off from traffic from the rest of
the house. That arrangement provides a businesslike
setting for business transactions and gives other
business people a feeling that you know precisely what
you are doing.
Types of Records
Keep both financial and nonfinancial record books and
files in your office. You should keep nonfinancial
records on matters such as livestock and crop produc-
tion schedules; livestock health, breeding, and feeding,
and important coming events.
You can obtain good farm account books at most
county Extension Service offices. Most farmers use a
"cash accounting" system, with "single entry" pro-
cedures considered easiest for farming needs.
Your records should help you keep track of:
(1) Financial affairs--bills paid, income received, ac-
counts payable, accounts receivable, inventory control,
and status of such ag reements as leases or contracts
for use of migrant workers.
(2) Legal and institutional obligations--such as in-
come tax filing, social security accounting, historical
records for estate purposes, cost basis of real property,
and insurance coverage and claims papers.
(3) Business activities-evaluations of profits and
losses, detection of strong and weak points in your
organizing and managing, and your net worth. On a
balance sheet, your assets minus your liabilities equal
your net worth. A net worth statement shows your finan-
cial position at a given time.
(4) Budget details and future planning--so-called
To carry out such functions, your records should have
these separate categories:
(1) Asset and liability account (balance sheet, or net
worth statement). This lists your resources and assets,
including their value, and claims or I~abilities against
them. You might wish to keep track of your "accounts
receivable"--debts owed to you--here, along with
loans and accounts payable, interest and principal
payments, and unpaid principal balances owed.
(2) Receipt and expense account (income state-
ment). This document also makes up part of your cash
flow account, but is kept separate too.
(3) Cash flow account. This account combines
receipts and expenses with principal and interest
payments plus new loans and cash purchases for the
(4) Production and statistical records.These records
help you analyze performance and budget production
and management changes.
(5) Farm business analysis. By studying your
records, you can get ideas for future management deci-
sions. You can compare financial worth and production
efficiency over the years as your records accumulate.
(6) Farm operation or "enterprise" accounts and
records. If you have more than one type of crop, or a
combination of crops and livestock, you may want to
separate each for purposes of your analyses.
If you move out of the small-scale category, you may
be able to afford a professional accountant to keep your
records and give you financial advice.
Until then, you're mainly on your own, although you
may be able to get help not only from your county Ex-
tension agent but from leaders of one of the farm
organizations having local active members.
For tax records, you should know about various ways of
accounting for depreciation for tax purposes. Deprecia-
tion procedures help you extend over several years the
cost of certain capital items that you own and use. When
you depreciate an item, you count part of it as an ex-
pense in each year of its "depreciable life."
Check out the IRS' "'Farmer's Tax Guide,"' No. 225, to
determine how tax depreciation regulations apply to
land, poultry, machinery, and equipment; to dairy,
breeding, and d raft ani mals that are boug ht rather than
raised from a mother animal that you own, and to
storage facilities, buildings, fences, paved areas, cer-
tain kinds of timber, drain tiles, wells, and established
The method of depreciation may affect the type of
general farm accounting you use. There are regulatory
limits on how rapidly you can depreciate various items
on the farm.
The common methods of depreciation are usually ex-
plained and illustrated in detail in IRS' "'Farmer's Tax
Guide," published annually and available from your
district IRS office.
Your tax adviser can explain to you which of various
depreciation methods might be most beneficial to you.
You may be able to get advice and help from your Ex-
tension agent or from a farm organization's tax expert.
If you are young and expect to have more taxable in-
come as you get older, you may benefit from slow
recovery of investment through depreciation. Rapid
recovery may be best when you expect less taxable in-
come in the future, as when you have retired. Then you
may be able to used deferred tax dollars to make new
investments or sell the property before the end of its
usef ul lif e." '
You may find it necessary for tax purposes to
designate and allocate the total farm purchase price
among the various parts of real and personal prop-
erty-stored crops, growing crops, livestock (market
and breeding), equipment, farm improvements
(buildings, fences, tiles), residence, and land.
Ask a taxation expert about how the latest tax laws af-
Tax Reporting Methods
In reporting your income to IRS, you generally may
choose between the cash or accrual methods, using
either a calendar-year or fiscal-year reporting period, if
you are just starting your farm business. However, if
you have filed a tax return previously, whether for a
calendar year or a fiscal year, you must continue to use
the same reporting period unless you get IRS permis-
sion to change. If you are adding to an already
established farm business, you do not have the option
to change your reporting method or reporting period
without obtaining IRS permission.
IRS permission to change from an accrual to a cash
method of reporting income is not easy, but not im-
possible, to obtain. Both methods have advantages and
disadvantages. Discuss the matter with your Extension
agent and other tax advisers to get their opinions.
The method you selected could be crucial. As an ex-
ample, if you held one year's crop, such as corn or dry
beans, i nto the next year and fou nd you rself selli ng 2
year's crops later the same year--that might increase
your income that year and put you in a higher tax
Unlike crops, sales of dairy or breeding livestock are
based on capital gain. These are not easy matters to
handle, so ask your tax advisers lots of questions until
you feel you understand what's best for you.
Most farmers file tax reports on a calendar-year basis.
That simplifies keeping up with information on rule
changes and getting tax forms.
On the other hand, choosing a fiscal year beginning
March 1 or April l might more clearly show the normal
cycle of your farm business. You might also find a pro-
fessional tax consultant available more easily after the
first quarter peak tax-return season.
Preparing for the Future
You may want to think what you will do in the future,
such as selling or willing the farm after you have farmed
awhile and want to turn to something else--such as
retirement off the farm. Or, what if you become disabled
and unable to farm?
Selling the Farm
Before you make a move, consult at least one tax ex-
pert. Unless the tax laws have changed recently,
remember that in the event you can sell your farm for
more than you paid for it, you may be subject to the
capital gain income tax for any profit. However, if you
trade in your farm for a second piece of property, you
may not be subject to the tax until you sell the second
place. You had best check it out with IRS.
If your personal dwelling is part of the farm you sell,
any gain from its sale must be postponed for tax pur-
poses if you buy another dwelling within a certain
period and the new dwelling costs as much or more
than your sale proceeds from the old dwelling.
Expert tax planning may save you thousands of
dollars when you dispose of your farm. You may well
need professional advice some time ahead of the sale
to make proper arrangements.
Some farms have been in a family for decades. During
this period, land values have increased rapidly. Conse-
quently, a farmer may find a sizeable amount of taxable
gain to report on the sale of real estate. As the current
dollar value of farm businesses increases, the gain
resulting from such a sale becomes more of a burden.
Tax planning thus becomes especially important.
Timing of the sale usually is flexible, and that may
make a big difference in your tax rate. It might be ad-
vantageous not to sell in a year when you made large
sums of other taxable income. Selling on an installment
plan might also be useful.
Willing the Farm
In case you consider willing your farm to your children
or someone else, there are a number of questions to
ask about such an inheritance, such as:
(1) If two or more children are involved, could they
manage the farm compatibly?
(2) What role would you want in decision making or
management, if any, after setting up a trust designating
how your estate would be handled?
(3) Can you provide estate-tax planning so as to
minimize indebtedness at the time of inheritance and
still efficiently transfer farm assets to the desired heirs?
The inheritance tax laws' complexity may encourage
you to employ an estate lawyer or tax accountant to
work out estate-tax planning. You should begin to carry
out your plans at almost the same time you acquire your
farm. Otherwise, you may not have enough time to
make desired and necessary arrangements in your
estate planning. The consultant's fees may pay for
themselves in savings and peace of mind.
If you look back to figure 2 in the early pages, you will
note some of the estate planning decisions facing you
over the years as you acquire and then dispose of your
farm, including the question of whether you sell or will it.
You might feel that your heirs could benefit more by
your selling the farm and investing the proceeds in
some high-interest bearing securities. To give you
some ideas about that, check with your tax consultants.
Knowledge is said to be power, so the more
knowledge you have about any of the matters discussed
in this booklet, the better will be your power to make
good decisions. But whatever your decisions, in farm-
ing you will need good luck, too.
Guide for Appraising Your Resources
The form below, developed by John S. Huddleston of the Northern Extension District of the Virginia Extension Ser-
vice, may be useful as a guide in appraising available resources associated with your farming on a small scale.
Its completion will provide the necessary background information needed by Extension agents or other farm
management consulItants i n develop ng recommendations for you r present or prospective farm ing.
The form should be com pleted and taken to the Extension agent or consu ltant on you r fi rst visit. Provide as much in-
formation as possible, including your likes and dislikes. The more information you provide, the more worthwhile your
visit should be.
I. Location of Farm
A. Area of county:
B. Road number or number:
C. Distanne from major landmark*
D. Do you plan to buy or have you already bought the land?
II. Size of Farm
A. Total acres: acres
B. Present pasture: acres
C. Present cropland: acres
D. Present woods: acres
III. Cropland (check appropriate items)
A. Rolling Level Steep Rocky
B. Was land in crops last year? Yes No
C. I ast erops raised-
D. Soil types, if known (The local Soil Conservation Service representative may be able to assist you to iden-
tify soil type. Ask for a soils survey map of your area )
VI. Describe buildings (size, condition, and interior layout; electricity available, etc.)
VII. Describe water supply (springs, rivers, city water, etc.)
VIII. What are the zoning or housing restrictions in your area that might affect your selection of enterprises?
IX. List types of livestock with which you have had experience. Give a brief description of work.
I ist the livestock yun wasuri like to eonnirier.
IV. Pastureland (check appropriate items)
A. Rolling Level Steep Rocky
B. Check present crop and its condition
a. Very weedy b. Not very weedy
c. Some legume d. Little legume
a. Very weedy b. Not very weedy
c. Some legume d. Little legume
a. Very weedy b. Not very weedy
c. Some legume d. Little legume
4. Mixed grasses
a. Very weedy b. Not very weedy
c. Some legume d. Little legume
C. When was pastureland fertilized and limed last?
1. Analysis of fertilizer:
2. Amount per acre:
D. Soil types of pastureland, if known
V. nescribe fenrms (mapped Inention and connrition)
I isi the livestock you presently own.
X. List types of crops with which you have had experience. Describe work.
List crops you would I~ke to consider.
XI. List custom services available for any of the farm machine operations you may need.
XII. What farm machinery do you presently have available?
XIII. How much labor do you have available to care for crops or livestock? (Be specific--hours per day, winter and
summer, number and experience of people. What happens during vacation?)
XIV. How much do you want to spend on fixed resources such as buildings and fences?
XV. How much do you want to invest in farm machinery?
XVI. How much net income do you wish to earn from your farm operation?
None Some Considerable
XVII. How long range are your plans?
Fewer than 5 years 5 years 10 years 20 years
A. Distance and direction to nearest three neighbors.
B. Enterprises they have, if any.
C. Their likes and dislikes relative to your farm, if known.
XIX. Your Extension agent is a professional farm management adviser, so note any other information below you
feel would help him help you.
Additional Reading Sources
A number of U SDA publications contai n information that may be of interest to persons planning to get into farming on
a small scale. Those that follow are free, as long as the supply lasts. On general requests, not more than one copy
each of 10 publications is allowed. Justification is required if more are requested.
When you are listing the publications you want, group them by name with identifying letter in alphabetical order and
numerically, as shown here:
Should You Try Farming?. ................... ................................,,.............. AS 1-
Beef Cattle Breeds ................... ................................,.................. F28
Growing Apricots For Home Use............................ ..........,., ...........,.. ....... G0
Wild Turkeys On Southeastern Farms and Woodlands .............. ................... ........ L 526
A Dairy Goat For Home Milk Production ............................,................,........ L 538
Write your name and address plai nly on your order. Please include YOU R ZIP CODE to i nsu re delivery of pu blications.
Postal regulations require USDA to use zip codes. Send orders for free publications to the Office of Governmental and
Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.
The following are publications currently available.
Know The Soil You Build On ................... ................... ................... ............ A 2
Windbreaks For Conservation ................... ................... ................... ............ B3
Assistance Available From The Soil Conservation Service ................... ................... ....... AB 345
Growing Fruits And Nuts........................ ................... ................... ........AB0
Canning, Freezing, Storing Garden Produce. ................... ................... ................... AB 410
Should You Try Farming?. ................... ................... ................... .............. AS--
Solving Moisture Problems With Vapor Barriers And Ventilation. ................... ................... AFS 2-3-4
Landscaping To Cut Fuel Costs ................... ................... ................... ........... AS--
Home Management Tips To Cut Heating And Cooling Costs ................... ................... ..... AFS2-3-9
Strawberry Culture: Eastern United States .............,......................................... .. F1028
Establishing And Maintaining Young Apple Orchards. ................... ................... ........... F1897
Farm Beef Herd ............ .,............,.,.........,......,............................ 22
Lightning Protection For The Farm ................... ..... ... .............. ........... ......... 23
Your Farm Lease Agreement ................... .........................._.................... F26
Growing Cherries East Of The Rocky Mountains .............. ..................................... F2185
Farm Poultry Management ....................................... ........... ... ............. F29
Use Of Concrete On The Farm ............. ............,._............,.,.................... F20
Plumbing For The Home And Farmstead .................................... ................... ..... F 2213
Raising Ducks ................... .................................... .................... F21
Raising Livestock On Small Farms ......................................... .........,............. F24
Beef Cattle Breeds ............ .,............. ............... ................... .........F28
Water Supply Sources For The Farmstead And Rural Home ................. .......... ... ...... ...... F 2237
Fences For The Farm And Rural Home ................... ............................,............ F24
Trout Ponds For Recreation ................... .................................... ............. 24
Small Poultry Flocks .......................................... .................... .........F26
Pork Slaughtering, Cutting, Preserving And Cooking On The Farm .................. .. ............. F 2265
Rearing Lambs On Milk Replacer Diets........................... ............,.,.........,..,........F27
Standby Electric Power Equipment For The Farm And Home .................. ....... ... ........ ..... F 2273
Home Freezing Of Fruits And Vegetables. ................... ................... ................... ... G 10
Storing Vegetables And Fruits In Basements, Cellars, Outbuildings, Pits ................... ........... G 119
How To Buy Meat For Your Freezer ................... ........._............... .._.... .......... 16
House Construction--How To Reduce Costs ........................................ .......... G 168
Growing Apricots For Home Use. ................... ................... .... ..... ......... ......... 0
Thornless Blackberries For The Home Garden ............................._._................,...... G 207
Drainage Around Your Home ................... ................... .........,.._.. ............ 1
Control Of Insects On Fruit And Nut Trees--Without Pesticides ................. ..... ... ........... .. G 211
Dwarf Fruit Trees: Selection And Care. ................... ........._._...............,.... ..........L0
Planting Black Walnut For Timber ................... ........................._.................. 8
Wild Turkeys On Southeastern Farms And Woodlands .............,................................ L 526
A Dairy Goat For Home Milk Production ................... ........._._..............._.............. L3
Using Honey Bees To Pollinate Crops. ............ .,............. ............................ ...... L54
Trout Farming: Could It Be Profitable For You?. ................... ................... ............... L 552
Firewood For Your Fireplace, Selection, Purchase, Use .............,............................... L 559
Is Public Land Available?
Below are some questions and answers from the U.S.
Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Manage-
ment (BLM) dealing with availability of public land for
homesteading, sale, or rent. This does not refer to na-
tional parks or forests, or to lands owned or adminis-
tered by State, county, or municipal government.
Q. How accurate are the "Pubilc Land for Sale"
advertising claims of private promoters?
A. Many claims of these promoters, some of whom
use letterheads giving the impression that they are
Government agencies, are misleading, to say the least.
Yet each year, innocent citizens pay thousands of
dollars for questionable services and information about
public land on the dubious assumption that they are get-
ting inside information. The Bureau of Land Manage-
ment is the only official source of authentic information
about land it sells. Official information is readily
available at no charge from BLM addresses listed on a
following page. Before answering misleading ads pro-
moting the sale of bargain basement public land, per-
sons interested in buying public land should contact
There are never any public Federal lands for sale in
these States: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii,
Illinois, iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachu-
setts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New
York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia,
and West Virginia.
Q. Where is most of the BLM land located?
A. Almost all of it is in the western States of Alaska,
Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada,
New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
Q. What about public Federal lands in the East or
A. Small amounts of public lands still remain in
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana,
Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South
Dakota, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin*
Q. Is free public land available for homesteading?
A. Not at this time. The Homestead Act, which waS
passed in 1862 to encourage settlement of the Nation,
was repealed for all States except Alaska by the Federal
Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. In Alaska, the
Homestead Act will remain in force until 1986; however,
no homesteading can occur on Federal lands in that
State until after the public lands have been apportioned
among the Alaska Natives, the State, and various
Federal agencies in accordance with the Alaska Native
Claims Settlement Act. If permitted at all, homesteading
on Federal lands in Alaska won't occur for several
Q. Is public Federal land ever sold to private in-
A. Yes, but not very often. The Federal Land Policy
and Management Act of 1976 provided that public landS
remain with the Federal Government unless disposal is
in the national interest. The Act specifies that the public
lands be used for purposes that will benefit all
Americans; for example, for recreation, livestock graz-
ing, mining, and wildlife habitat, among other uses.
Q. How much land is sold each year?
A. Sales of public lands have declined sharply in re-
cent years, although BLM now and then sells relatively
small tracts of land for which there are no anticipated
Federal or local public needs. Only 1,900 acres were
sold in fiscal year 1980.
O. How is public land sold?
A. By public auction sale through competitive oral
and/or sealed bidding.
Q. Where are the sales held?
A. In the State offices of BLM listed below.
Q. If I want to buy some public land, what should I
A. Your best bet is to write to those BLM State offices
listed below which have jurisdiction over areas in which
you may wish to bid on available land. A State office can
tell you about any sales that may be scheduled at the
time you write. All public land sold by BLM must be paid
for in full at the time of the sale. Farming opportunities
are very slim on such land. Some parcels are suitable
for grazing. In a few cases, a parcel is advertised as hav-
ing "'some agricultural potential."' Many such parcels
lack access, being completely surrounded by private
holdings. The Government does not guarantee access.
Q. Can I lease public land rather than buy it?
A. BLM leases rights for livestock grazing or mineral
development but does not normally lease land for home
sites or for agricultural purposes.
The following are the BLM state offices:
U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
701 C Street P.O. Box 13
Anchorage, AK 99513
2400 Valley Bank Center
Phoenix, AZ 85073
Federal Building, Room E-2841
2800 Cottage Way
Sacramento, CA 95825
Clr do State Bank Building
Denver, CO 80202
STATES EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, PLUS
IOWA, MINN ESOTA, M ISSOU RI, ARKANSAS and
E5 tr acett Streto
Alexandria, VA 22304
Federal Building, Room 398
550 west Fort street
P.O. Box 042
soise, ID 83724
MONTANA, NORTH DAKOTA AND
222 N. 32nd Street
P O. Bo 30159710
NEdVADI Building, Room 3008
300 Booth Street
NEW MEX1CO, OKLAHOMA AND TEXAS:
U.S. Post Office and Federal Building
;onta xi, N87501
OREGON AND WASHINGTON:
729 N.E. Oregon Street
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97028
University Club Building
136 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
WYOMING, KANSAS AND NEBRASKA:
2515 Warren Ave.
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Other Land Disposals by
General Services Administration
Disposes of surplus Federal real property for public and private
use. For i information, write Reg ional Commissioner, General
Services Administration, Public Buildings Service, at the
BOSTON, MA O2109 ............. ...... ........ John W. McCormack
NEW YORK, NY10007 .............. .............. 26 Federal Plaza
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106 ............. ...... ........ 600 Arch Street
WASHINGTON, DC 20407. ................ ......... 7th & D Streets sw
ATLANTA, GA 30309. ................ .......... 1776 Peachtree St. NW
OASSCT, MO6 11 ........... 15 OEA. DbaitoerrnR
FORT WORTH,TX 76102 ............... ............... 819 Taylor St.
HOUSTON, TX 77002 .............. ............. 515 Rusk St.
DENVER, CO 80225. ........................... Denver Federal Center
LOS ANGELES, CA 90012 ................ ......... 300 N. Los Angeles
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105 ............. ..... ........ 525 Market St.
SEATTLE, WA 98104 .............. .... ........... 915 2nd Avenue
U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development
Disposes of residential properties acquired by mortgage
foreclosures through an Urban Homesteading Program. For in-
formation, write the Director, Urban Homesteading Program,
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
Washington D.C. 20410, or the Regional Administrator at a
BOSTON, MA O2203 ......... John F. Kennedy
NEW YORK, NY 10007 ............. ..... .......... 26 Federal Bldg-
and Post Office
PHI-LADELPHIA, PA.............. ........ -1 1 Itheaa tWealu St
CHICAGO, IL 60606 .............. .. ............ 300 S. Wacker Dr.
DALLAS, TX 75202 ........ .............. Federal Office Bldg.
KANSAS CITY, MO 64106 ................... ..... Federal Office Bldg.
DENVER, CO 80202 ............. ............... Exec~utiv r s r
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102 ............. ........... .. 2450 Golden
P.O. Box 3377
SEATTLE, WA 98101 ................. .... ........... 1321 2d Ave.
Where You Can Get Information About
Energy and Tax Credits
Several executive departments of the the Federal
Government offer assistance in developing new energy
SOUrces and in conserving energy on the farm. Follow-
ing is a listing of places you may write or telephone for
Tax incentives: Write or call the U.S. Department of
the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, for IRS Publica-
tion 903, "Energy Credits for Individuals."' IRS also has
the "'Farmer's Tax Guide,"' No. 225, which may be
helpful. Address: IRS, 111 Constitution Avenue NW.,
Washington, D.C. 20224.
Solar loan programs: Contact the Federal Housing
Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, 451 Seventh Street SW., Washington,
D.C. 20410. FHA can refer you to appropriate regional or
Getting Help From USDA and Related
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1981 began a
new project to help part-time and beginning farmers and
ranchers with (1)advice from local representatives of
the public and private sectors and (2) technical
aSsistance from USDA professional employees in
several USDA agencies.
Initially, the project began in 81 pilot counties scat-
tered through 10 States. In each county, Family Farmer
and Rancher Development Committees were formed.
Some members are persons serving on committees or
boards of local operations of such USDA agencies as:
Agricultural Cooperative Service, Agricultural Stabiliza-
tion and Conservation Service, Cooperative Extension
Service, Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), Federal
Crop Insurance Corporation, Forest Service, Soil Con-
servation Service, and any others in the county.
Other committee members include representatives of
farm organizations, farm supply and marketing
cooperatives, farm lending institutions, or vocational
agricultural programs. Others are retired expert farmers
or others willing to serve as volunteer advisers.
The committee members and USDA technical experts
review applications from farming candidates for special
advice and help, and assist candidates prepare annual
and long-range plans. Candidate participants unable to
get suitable financing from conventional sources to
carry out their plans are referred to FmHA for possible
loans. With guidance, participants may be ready to
rnove on to the Farm Credit System or other commercial
credit within a few years.
The first States selected for pilot projects were Illi-
nois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska,
North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
and Texas. If you are interested, check local USDA of-
fices to learn names of counties and additional States
which may have begun participating after 1981.
Below are descriptions of some of the services pro-
vided to farm people through USDA agencies, which
usually are listed under the name of either the U.S.
Government or your county in the telephone book.
*The Cooperative Extension Service has an office in
nearly every county in the Nation, with its telephone
number listed under the name of the county. Usually
the staff consists of the county Extension agent, a home
economist, 4-H agent, and sometimes a community
development agent. Their office is a branch of your
State's Cooperative Extension Service and the State
Iand-grant university. It has USDA and State publica-
tions, educational materials, research information, and
lists of contacts with other resources, including private
as well as public agencies, that may help families on
*Agricultural Cooperative Service (ACS) helps
small-farm operators organize cooperative marketing
and purchasing associations. Contact any office of the
USDA for location of the ACS field office nearest you.
*Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service
(ASCS) handles several USDA farm programs, such as
the Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP), under
which the Federal Government provides limited cost-
sharing or matching funds to help selected farm
operators build dams, terraces, waterways, or other
modifications of the ground's surface to increase soil
and water conservation, limit erosion, and reduce pollu-
tion. Also available is the Emergency Conservation Pro-
gram (ECP). It provides matching funds to rehabilitate
farmlands damaged by wind erosion, floods, hur-
ricanes, droughts, and other natural disasters.
ASCS also has a Rural Clean Water Program (RCWP)
that provides some fu nds to help clean up and protect
water resou rces, and a Water Bank Prog ram which con-
tracts with farmers to maintain important migratory
waterfowl nesting and breeding areas in specified
wetlands, mainly along migratory waterfowl flyways
over the Mississippi River valley,
The Forestry Incentives Prog ram (RIP), which pro-
vides cost-sharing for tree planting and timber stand im-
provement, is another source of aid for small-scale
Technical assistance for such programs often comes
from officials of the Cooperative Extension Service, the
Forest Service, and the Soil Conservation Service,
ASCS and SCS offices are in every rural county, usually
in county seats. The telephone is listed under U.S.
Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
*Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) is the USDA
agency which makes operation and landownership
Ioans to eligible farmers with small or limited resources.
FmHA also makes loans to eligible farm and nonfarm
families in rural areas, including towns, for housing,
farming, and certain community facilities. Its telephone
listing is usually u nder U.S. Department of Ag riculItu re.
Its activities are discussed in some detail under finan-
cial sections of this booklet.
FmHA also disposes of farm properties and rural
housing acquired by mortgage foreclosures or other
authorized means. A FmHA office is found in the county
seat of most rural counties, but some off ices serve two
*Federal Crop insurance Corporation (FCIC) does
what its name suggests and has been around since
1938. Congress changed it considerably in the Federal
Crop insurance Act of September 1980. For example,
now a Federal subsidy of up to 30 percent on premium
payments helps make it more affordable to more farmers.
Beginning with crop year 1982, crop insurance
became available for 28 major crops in nearly 3,000
counties. Crops insured by FCIC that formerly were pro-
vided for u nder the ASCS disaster payments prog ram
are corn, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, and
barley. At least 99 percent of soybean acreage will be
eligible by 1983.
Crop insurance has been made flexible and may be
custom tailored for eligible farmers. It protects against
loss caused by natural perils such as drought, excess
moisture, insects, disease, and hail. Crop insurance is
sold through the private insurance industry. More
details on FCIC and a list of agents handling Federal
Crop Insurance may be obtained from county ASCS of-
*Forest Service (FS), through a variety of
cooperative forestry programs, assists and works with
State foresters and the Cooperative Extension Service.
Their assistance includes woodiot management, low-
cost tree seedlings for forest and windbreak plantings,
rural fire control, and forest pest control. State service
foresters, on behalf of States and USDA's Forest Ser-
vice, assist farmers participating in the Forestry Incen-
tives Prog ram. The Forest Service also works with
USDA's Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC)
under the 1980 authorization to extend crop insurance
to forest crops. Most States have foresters assigned for
each county that has significant forestry resources.
Contact the Extension Service, ASCS, or the State
forester to find the public forester for your area.
*Rural Electrification Administration (REA) has a
new Energy Resource Conservation loan program that
allows rural electric cooperatives to make low-interest
loans to farmers they service with electricity. Loans
cover farm weatherizing of existing homes and
buildings; they can be used to cover cost of labor and
materials for caulking; weatherstripping; insulating ceil-
ings, walls, floors, ducts, pipes, and water heaters; and
installing thermal windows and doors, clock thermo-
stats, and attic ventilation fans.
*Soil Conservation Service (SCS) provides technical
advice to help small farmers find solutions to problems
of soil erosion, clean water, and barren land that has
been surface mined. SCS also provides soil surveys to
aid in planning farming and conservation actions. SCS
has an office in most counties, and is listed under U.S.
*Office of Governmental and Public Affairs (GPA)
has a publishing section which produces fact sheets,
farm and home publications, and bulletins such as this
one. Some are listed in appendix ii. Your county agent
should have a current list of publications that are free or
available for a small charge, or you can contact: GPA,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
20250. Telephone: (202) 447-2791. Because many
people phone that number throughout the day, you may
save time by writing.
Back Cover Photo
This farmer, visible on the dock tending his
boat, uses his pond both for fishing and for
watering a few head of cattle. Located in Idaho,
he doesn't need it for irrigation, as would
farmers in the Southwest. Farming a few acres,
his main crop is alsike seed. (USDA-SCS
photo, No. IDA-174.)