ONTARIO — Like any small business, small farms require long hours, long-term commitment and stamina, as well as a risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit.
“The whole family needs to be in on the dream,” said Gary Stephenson, Oregon State University Extension Small Farm Program, adding that some family members might not enjoy having to wake up at 4 a.m. for some chore.
The initial message to those people attending a small farm seminar Thursday was that if they have not started, they need to be aware of the demands that a farm will have on their time and lives, as well as the reward.
Most of the people attending Thursday’s seminar were there to look at the possibilities of a small farm. Stephenson painted a clear picture of the challenges and the opportunities during his presentation at Treasure Valley Community College, sponsored by Oregon Rural Action and OSU.
Noting the trends in farming, Stephenson said there is more interest in small farms in the eastern part of the state, that the average age of farmers is 58 and there will be a major transfer of land expected, which could mean a loss of land to development or farms getting much larger.
“There is demand for additional farmers and young people are interested in going to farming,” he said.
When people are deciding whether to go into farming, Stephenson said they should consider what their goals are for the farm, the physical resources of their land such as the soils, family resources and skills and the type of farm enterprise and type of crops produced.
But if it is a family farm, with parents at home, there is a possible savings of $12,000 a year, for example, in not having to send children to daycare, he said, pointing out one of the benefits. The ability to produce their own food its another.
“What do you know how to do,” Stephenson said, noting that that is one question potential farmers need to ask themselves. “Farming requires a lot of skills. What do you do well?”
Farmers need to have mechanical skills, financial skills, management skills and people skills, among a whole host of others.
There are a number of opportunities for small farmers. such as making and selling cheese for goat farmers, specialty grains for artisan breads and all kinds of meats, in addition of fruits and vegetables, he said. “Restaurants are driving the food demand,” he said.