"As your vision becomes your passion, dreams will give place to reality."-Joel Salatin
1.) What do you want? Have you thought about what scale you want to manage?
-Hobby Farm: A little of this and a little of that. Are you, like me, an animal lover and want to have a little of everything? Look into all of the details required for the amount and variety of animals you want to have. Can you afford this? Do you have the time to commit to caring for them every day (even when you are sick, tired and just don't wanna!?)
-Production Farm: Do you want to raise animals for profit? On what scale? Do you have experience? If not, plan to start on a more conservative level and see #3!
-Somewhere in-between: and what does that mean to YOU?
2.) Are you willing, and able, to WORK?
Let's face it: even though we have a deep love for animals, it is still work. There are always things that aren't pleasant with farm life that someone (aka: YOU) still needs to take care of---every day. If you don't want to work hard, face the fact that this may not be the best choice for you. If you are not as physically capable, find someone to partner with that matches your goals and that can provide the physical labor.
"Really, accomplishing your dream is not so much about mechanics and opportunity as it is about character qualities: self-denial, perseverance, commitment, focus."-Joel Salatin in "You Can Farm"
3.) Look Around and DO IT!
While you have visions of farm dreams and chicken fairies dancing in your head, what could you be doing right where you are? Could you turn your back (and front) yard into a vegetable garden and mini orchard? What about adding a few chickens? There really is a lot that you can do from where you are to start learning and growing, even if it's starting with an herb garden indoors, or vegetable pots on your apartment balcony. It's better for you to start learning BEFORE you get your land anyway. The land itself is not a necessary element to becoming a successful homesteader. Learn how to become more self sufficient and to 'farm' what you can from where you are right now. Could you grow some extra produce and take your eggs to a local farmers market on a small scale business level? Come up with a marketing plan BEFORE you plant the seeds or buy those cute peeping chicks. If you can get started doing this right now, from where you are, you will gain invaluable experience and learn a lot along the way about how you want to manage things. Think about how far that will take you when you finally DO acquire some land and you can do this on a larger scale!
We are using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace in order to get completely out of debt so we aren't starting out in a hole. It's all about setting yourself up for success in every way possible. This means that we will grow our farm business slowly, but I'm OK with that because it means that we won't be overextending ourselves before we have money coming in to support the initial operation costs (plus, we will no doubt still be working 'regular' jobs).
As mentioned in #3 above, there are a LOT of things you can do to start 'farming' that don't require much space OR much capital. You can easily raise broiler chickens in your backyard with a portable chicken tractor, or even on some rented land (or borrowed yards) nearby. Or raise several great laying hens in your backyard and you can sell eggs to neighbors, coworkers or at the farmers market. It doesn't HAVE to be complicated....but we can sure make it that way without trying very hard, can't we! If you have a Farm Dream that starts at the base of your soul and works it's way out into every other sentence you speak, God has given you something called a CLUE! And you don't have to wait until you can buy that chunk of land, etc, etc. You can start acting on your dream on whatever scale you can in whatever environment you are in now. Don't listen to the naysayers or give in to the fear of success or failure; if God has given you this desire, listen to where He is guiding you and GO FOR IT!
Now, get out there and get some dirt under your nails and chicken poop on your shoes!
Here's some great books to get you started and keep you motivated:
YOU CAN FARM, by Joel Salatin
PASTURED POULTRY PROFITS, by Joel Salatin
FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL, by Joel Salatin
VERTICAL VEGETABLE GARDENING, by Chris McLaughlin
BACKYARD FARMING ON AN ACRE (MORE OR LESS), by Angela England
BACKYARD MARKET GARDENING, by Andy Lee
FRESH EGGS DAILY, by Lisa Steele
THE PERMACULTURE HANDBOOK, by Peter Bane
PERMACULTURE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE, by Bill Mollison