Tuesday Book Review: “Making Your Small Farm Profitable” by Ron Macher

Is it possible to make a living on 40 hilly oak tree-filled acres? We had to make sure before we jumped. Farming is notorious for being a money pit. Even our future Italian olive tree vendor, Davero Sonoma Inc. (www.davero.com/trees) prints the old yarn about the farmer that won the lottery. The farmer was asked what he intended to do with all that money. “Farm ‘til it runs out,” he replied.

But my granddaddy did well farming in Texas, and Ray’s extended family is also doing well in Vernal, UT. The draw for us was so great; we wanted to learn what successful farmers do to make it work.

Ron Macher, a farmer for 34 years and publisher of “Small Farm Today”, calls successful farming “agripreneurship,” and says that success depends on a mental attitude (that provides strength and motivation) to do well. In his book he discusses 25 guiding principles of successful farms. He touches on what to expect as a farming family, and how to nourish the soil, but then goes deeper, explaining how to plan ahead, weigh resources (both monetary and skill-based), encouraging the farmer to network with neighbors and experts (often the same thing), and advising the farmer to seek a niche that is not served by Big Ag.

We especially appreciated the section describing 12 marketing techniques: participating in farmer’s markets, having people come to events on the farm, web-sites, CSAs, etc. The vital skill of marketing is the communication link that makes the sale possible.

Throughout the book Mr. Macher gives examples of farms that found something unusual to provide. As these farms offered early- or late-season fruits and vegetables, or delicate items that don’t lend themselves well to long-range shipping, or something with added value, like pie filling instead of just apples, these farms worked within the laws of economics to pull in more revenue. He reminds the reader that house bills are year-round, so the crops should be planned to come in year-round. And he reassures us that we can do well, even on a small patch, if we are willing to find and use the knowledge that is available all around us.

The book is an excellent resource, not a quick read because of all of the juicy details, but definitely light in tone, and rich in specifics.

This is the link for the book on Amazon. I believe it’s around 10 bucks:
“Making Your Small Farm Profitable” by Ron Macher

Full disclosure: We do get commissions for book sales.

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