Last Updated: 11/18/2021
Hi Ladies and Gents,
As I mentioned in the end of December-beginning of November Monthly Round Up, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving both fall in November! With the idea of Thanksgiving being feasting on the abundant harvest, I promised some tips on micro farming...and here is one of those micro farming posts as promised! Micro farming is a concept I delve into in a little more depth than just a few blog posts here on Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises. There is a dedicated micro farming page on the website (which I am still working to get back up and running after some tweaks), and a great interview with Elle Meager here. Elle is not so much a true “micro farmer” herself, as she owns and runs a rather large farmstead in Australia; but she discusses a lot about sustainability in farming in the interview, and there are definitely great articles about micro farming, or “urban farming,” as it is also sometimes called, on her site which is linked to in the interview. As with pretty much everything here on Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises, let me stress this first: if you are able to hit the right market and work it right, micro farming could have the potential to blossom into a lucrative full-time stand-alone venture for you; however, with that said, micro farming for most is likely going to be a side-gig...however, it all depends on what your customers want and what kind of operation you are willing and/or able to devote your time, energy, and capital into running!
As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. A little bit of research ahead of time can save you quite a bit of wasted time, effort, and money later on down the road. This advice definitely applies to micro farming as well. Here are four (4) key factors well worth considering before starting your micro farm project...and the first point also helps to answer the question of What is micro farming?, a question that some readers could very easily be asking at this point:
1. You must be willing to go into farming
While it does have the word “micro” in the name, micro farming is exactly that - farming. A micro farm differs from a “traditional” full-scale farm only in size, generally because it is undertaken in an area where space is at a premium – frequently in a town, city, or suburban type of setting. This means raising and cultivating living things on a much smaller scale than a 500-acre spread like your “traditional” full-scale farmer friend might be doing, but also on a much larger scale than just gardening for pleasure where you’d be happy with a handful of juicy ripe tomatoes at the end of the season, or tending to your four backyard chickens for a few fresh eggs. This means you’ll have to scale up your inputs from casual backyard gardening! Your inputs could range from fertilizer, to pest control, weed control, grow lights, cages and pens, greenhouses, inoculation logs for mushrooms, or what have you. Most of these specifics will largely depends on your unique operation. This shouldn’t feel intimidating, but the point is this can involve some heavy-duty stuff that should be thought through and planned out carefully on paper first.
Farming also involves longer term commitments than hobby gardening or raising those four backyard chickens we just mentioned. In many instances, to really get a positive return on investment (ROI) on the resources, time, and effort you put into your micro farming venture, you’ll have to stick with your endeavor for a longer time than a typical backyard hobby operation. And with that said...
2. Always keep ROI in mind
The decision of how you start and run your micro farm will have a definite impact on the return you get for all the time, effort, and money you put into your venture. This can be either negative or positive (of course, you want it to be positive!).
If you don’t use ROI as a guiding principle in your decisions, it is too easy for you to throw good money into a financial abyss, and before you know it, your micro farm has become a money pit. Worse yet, it also becomes a black hole as far as your personal time goes.
ROI must guide you on the following key decisions:
- what to plant
- when to plant
- where to plant
- how to plant
- irrigation options
- fertilizer options (if you are going this route)
- waste reclamation/recycling options
- where to sell your produce
and the same kinds of decision regarding livestock if your farm will involve raising animals of any kind.
3. Full automation is not a slam dunk
If you are thinking about getting serious with micro farming as opposed to full-scale “traditional farming,” chances are you live in a town, city, or some other kind of urban or suburban setting, as opposed to out in the countryside where full-scale “traditional farming” could more likely be possible. The point is, labor – including your own – is not exactly cheap in urban settings in our modern world. This could easily lead to the line of thinking of “I should automate as much as possible!” However, this option comes with its own set of challenges. A fully automated urban outfit can burn a hole through your bank account just as quick, if not quicker, than paying a crew of expensive laborers. This means taking a longer time to recoup your investment – assuming you can recoup it all.
Make sure you automate only to the point that it makes financial sense to do so. You don’t want to end up wasting money on expensive machinery that you don’t really need or that ends up pushing your price up too high without sound, logical justification.
4. Always keep local preferences and dynamics in mind
There are some specialty avenues you can go down with this idea that might reach beyond the walls of your immediate community, but in general micro farming is the classic “at home for the local community” business idea. In addition to figuring out which produce sells best in your local community, see if you can specialize or distinguish yourself from your competitors. Any little bit of distinction can mean a great deal when it comes to meeting your ROI targets.
For example, if most other local farmers sell non-organic produce, you might want to consider selling organic produce to gain a competitive advantage. Also, assuming you live in a fairly good-sized city, if ‘local’ farmers actually truck in their produce to your city, you might want to consider community farmers’ markets or outlets much closer to your actual micro farm location to sell your produce. That is to say if, for example, you are operating in a big (or big enough) town or city and your local grocery stores buy potatoes from local/regional area farms to stock their shelves, you might want to consider targeting just your own neighborhood community market/farmer’s market to sell your specialty technique “garbage can micro-farmed potatoes” – at least for starters. (By the way, I love this unique technique for growing potatoes!)
Keep these four key factors in mind as you plan out your micro farming venture. It’s one thing to get excited about micro farming, but pulling it off successfully is another story altogether! Until next Monday!
Better life, better business, better you!
Ideas, inspiration, opportunity,
Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises
Washington State Certified K-8 Educator, K-12 International Education Consultant, Professional Coach, Proofreader/Editor, Affiliate Marketer, Popsicle Stick Crafter, Print-on-Demand Products Designer, and Webmaster
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