If you have access to land and love growing plants and livestock, consider starting an organic farming business. With the increased focus on healthy living, there is a growing demand for foods grown organically. To minimize or lessen toxins in the body, people are buying organic food products even if these items are usually priced at a premium, selling for 20-100 percent more than non-organically produced foods.
Below is a graphic from the study of the Organic Trade Association showing how the demand for organic food has grown in recent years:
Organic farming has transformed from a cottage industry into a billion-dollar industry. The http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html Organic Trade Association reports that “U. S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $29.22 billion in 2011, up 9.4 percent from 2010.” Retail sales of organic products have increased steadily for the past ten years, growing at a compounded rate of 22.74% over that period.
An organic farmer grows fruits, vegetables and herbs without using pesticides or premixed chemical fertilizers. Some of the techniques used include crop rotations, use of composted animal manures and green manure crops, and other farming strategies that maintain biological diversity and replenish soil fertility.
Starting an Organic Farming Business
You need to have access to land for this business, although some are growing organic produce in their backyards, even basements for some plant varieties. You need to have the patience to trade short-term economic returns for longer “ecological” benefits. You also need to have extensive knowledge and skills in planting, growing patterns, types of pests, plant disease and other important aspects to enable you to produce crops of sufficient quality and quantity. Additionally you’ll need equipment to farm. Going for smaller, used equipment is suitable. For instance, smaller Kubota tractors are suitable for farmers starting out.
There are a number of ways to earn money from this business. You can sell your organically produced food products directly to consumers at farmer’s markets, swap meets or roadside produce stands in well-traveled areas. You can also sell wholesale to grocery stores, health food stores, restaurants and groceries. Or you can process your products and create edible and delicious condiments like jam, jelly, pickles, relish and many other things. You can then sell these items directly in your own retail store or online ecommerce store; or you can supply to other retailers. Remember that all organic products marketed in the United States are regulated by the National Organic Standards developed by the US Department of Agriculture.
One other source of revenue for this business is the sale of seeds from your organically grown plants to nurseries, garden supply stores, or through mail order. The Web and mail order are important distribution channels for this business, particularly if you are selling dried organic produce.
How to Raise Funds for Starting an Organic Farming Business
One possible source for funding an organic farming business is through microloans. The USDA Farm Loan Programs offer microloans up to $35,000 for initial start-up expenses, annual expenses such as seeds and fertilizers, purchase of livestock, among others.
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There are a number of grants available for organic farming. However, most of these grants are available for existing organic farms, and rarely for starting an organic farm. These grant funds typically focuses on funding research or education/outreach projects on agricultural production and policy-related topic of concern to organic farmers or ranchers. Some grants provide funding for crop breeding and organic seed quality.
Some resources to help you search for grants on organic farming are:
- Center for Rural Affairs
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
- Beginning Farmers
- North Carolina State University
- USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
- Some universities offer grants for small scale farmers to help improve farming operations and marketability of their products. For example, Kentucky State University’s College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems offer grants for Kentucky farmers.
- Some state governments also offer funding and grant programs, such as Virginia’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund
- Check out nonprofit organizations, such as the Organic Farming Research Foundation, which offer grants for organic seed quality and crops breeding projects. They also maintain a grants database for organic farmers./li>
Recommended Books on Starting an Organic Farming Business:
- The Organic Farming Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Certified Organic Farm
- Organic Farming: How to Raise, Certify, and Market Organic Crops and Livestock
- The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, 2nd Edition (A Gardener’s Supply Book)
- Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space
- Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre