Farming is a skill, which takes a lot of time to refine. Getting into farming can be a big challenge, especially if you haven’t worked with plants in the past. There are however a lot of great ways to start your farming journey and begin learning about growing your own crops.
There are a lot of great and unique ways out there to get into Farming. Going to a Farming school, learning from other farms on YouTube, reading books and blogs are just some ways to learn more about this amazing hobby. Going directly to a farm and volunteer for a whole season might be the most detailed picture you can get for little to no money at all. Alternatively, you can also look for a mentor and just start your own small garden to learn the basics until you feel comfortable enough to scale up your project.
The most important thing to learn farming is just to get started. Farming itself is not that hard to pick up, even if you did not have the luxury of a garden in your childhood. Sometimes just using a small space on your or a friends property to grow a couple veggies can give you a good insight into farming. So what are the best ways to get into farming in my opinion? How do I approach farming, if I absolutely know nothing about it?
Where to begin
The first step often turns out to be the hardest one and that’s not different for farming. If you dream about starting your own small-scale farm or a hobby farm and grow your own food, then go for it! It’s to do, what you want to do even if farming is hard work and requires a lot of patience and time to improve your farming knowledge.
In my opinion, the first step should always be to build a good base on which you can build later on. This also gives you the opportunity to see which type of farming works best for you and build knowledge, which can help you to succeed building up your own farm or participating in an internship on someone else’s.
So how do you do it?
Building a good base
Just getting some basic information about farming and gardening is a good first step towards growing your own food.
One option to start building a foundation would be with books, magazines and statistics or fact sheets. You will not get any practical experience this way but you can get a basic picture about farming and learn a lot of things, which are required to grow basic crops. Books will also over you a lot of different perspectives on farming in general and the types of farming out there, you will need to decide which kind of farming works best for you, so you can expand your knowledge further into this specific direction.
YouTube and Webinars, as well as a lot of online farming courses offered by people working in this field for a long time, is another way to get a lot of information. You have a good picture of the basics, once you spend some time looking into farming.
If you want to see which books and other information sources I recommend just check out my resource page. It will help you get started and also shows you a lot about different books, videos and other products, what they offer and if it is worth to buy them.
So now it’s time to go to the next step, get some practical experience
Getting some practical experince
Getting your hands dirty is the best way of learning how to farm. I personally did a couple internships after finishing school and afterward continued to work on 3 different farms during a year of work and travel. This helped me to collect a lot of experience within a short amount of time and even quite some money, well at least the farms I worked for during my year aboard.
In my opinion doing a workshop or an Internship on a farm is a great experience. You will learn a lot of things, which might seem obvious at first but just need some time to actually get a good feeling for them. Staying a whole season on one farm will show you pretty much anything you need to know before starting your own small-scale (hobby) farm.
Choosing to do an Internship also has the advantage of the low cost, as you will work for accommodation and food. Essentially giving you free knowledge. So where is the catch?
Sadly there is one, in a lot of states in the US and Canada unpaid internships are not legal. This makes it very hard to arrange this free exchange of information for work. While these laws are in place to protect students from being ripped off, it also prevents people like you and me, who want to learn about farming from being able to work for a farm unpaid.
This is not a topic I can get into too much so I’ll link you another article here, which does a great job in explaining this law. But you don’t have to give up quite yet, there are some ways to work around this issue, in a more or less legal way. Try to contact a local farm and inform yourself about the specific case you are facing as most farmers do know quite a bit about this problem.
Another way would be to do a year aboard and work on farms in another country. There are no limitations in working for free in most other countries, but there are some which generally dislike the idea, as long as it’s not illegal you can still do it, though.
Start your own Project
Another way to get practical experience, if there are no farms around you or you just want to learn gardening at your own pace is to create a mini-garden project. Getting your hands on a small piece of land is not very hard and once you have a place to grow crops you can just get started.
One good thing about a “test-garden” is the capability to learn first-hand what you have to watch out for and get a good feeling and understanding of gardening. Sadly you will not get all that knowledge immediately and it takes a long time to figure out how to improve the results of your growing project. Failure is another part of this approach, as you most likely will not succeed in growing perfect crops without any practical experience.
The thing I enjoy the most about this approach is the way you learn about a lot of issues, by figuring them out yourself. This will help you to get a good connection with growing food and prevent you from just copying what someone else is doing.
I do not recommend this way of learning farming without at least some prior farming experience and a lot of motivation on your side, as the first couple tries are not
Can you start a farm without experience? Yes you can, but it is not an easy path to go. Staring a farm requires a lot of knowledge and experience to succeed going into farming without either will put you through some rough times and will demand of you more than 100% commitment. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, I just wouldn’t recommend going into farming completely blind.
Where can I get most experience in the shortest amount of time? Working for a farmer will give you the most knowledge in the shortest amount of time plus a lot of practical experience. The best thing about it: It’s mostly free, just offer your work in exchange for accommodation and food, so
Is it important to have experience before starting a farm? Yes, a lack of proper understanding can lead to a lot of avoidable mistakes, making your farm project go down before it really got started. There are a lot of great ways to get experience, so no reason to skip the learning phase just to save up a little time and risk the failure of your project.