Last Updated on March 22, 2021
Do you want to learn how to become a farmer with no previous farming experience? Look no further. In this article I’m going to show you the different options available to you along with recommending what I think is the best and easiest way to become a farmer.
Types of Farmers
Before we dig into how to become a farmer with no experience, you first need to learn about the different types of farmers. Below are main categories that most farmers fall into. These definitions should help you have a better understanding of the different types of farmers and the methods they use to farm their land.
What is a conventional farmer?
A conventional farmer, also known as an industrial agriculture farmer, is a type of farmer that typically grows crops in a monoculture row cropping system where the same type of plant is grown over a very large area until it is ready to be harvested. They typically utilize synthetic pesticides and genetically modified (GMOs) crops to increase yields.
For animal management, conventional farmers typically utilize concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to raise as many animals as possible in the smallest amount of space possible to increase production.
Both animals and crops are sold at wholesale market prices instead of retail or direct-to-consumer. Being a conventional farmer typically requires hundreds of acres, expensive equipment, and expensive infrastructure to get started and profit margins are typically very thin.
What is a sustainable farmer?
A sustainable farmer is a type of farmer that typically utilizes a polyculutre farming system where both plants and/or animals are managed in a way that, not only create an environmentally friendly farm, but also produce healthier farm products for the people that are being fed by it.
Plants are typically grown organically using crop rotation along with the process of pairing beneficial plants together to increase both yields and soil health.
Animals are not confined and are typically rotationally grazed throughout paddocks where a large portion of their diet is derived from the land they are grazing on while their waste naturally fertilizes the soil. These methods create better pastures and ultimately increases soil health.
Sustainable farmers typically sell their farm products direct-to-consumer utilizing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships or farmers markets. This type of farming typically requires less acreage, no expensive equipment, and a much smaller, less-expensive infrastructure to get started.
This is the type of farmer that I am and I highly recommend that you pursue this type of farming as well.
What is an organic farmer?
There are primary two types of organic farmers. There are conventional organic farmers and there are sustainable organic farmers.
Conventional organic farmers typically raise crops in a monoculture row cropping system but utilize non-synthetic USDA Certified Organic approved pesticides and non-genetically modified crops (non-GMOs).
Animals may be raised in a similar way to a conventional farm but may be given more space based on the USDA Certified Organic requirements and are fed USDA Certified Organic feed.
Just like their non-organic conventional counterparts, this type of farming typically requires hundreds of acres, expensive equipment, and expensive infrastructure.
On the contrary, Sustainable organic farmers and sustainable farmers are typically the same type of farmer.
In the US, the word “organic” is controlled by the USDA. Therefore, in order to call your farm products “organic” they must be USDA Certified Organic.
Because of this, most sustainable farmers use organic farming methods but aren’t considered USDA Certified Organic.
Sustainable farming is sometimes considered “beyond organic” because sustainable farmers approach farming with a more holistic approach instead of just following USDA guidelines. In other words, sustainable farming is better than organic farming.
What is a hobby farmer?
A hobby farmer is typically someone who doesn’t derive their primary source of income from a farm but rather farms on the side for themselves, as a side-business, or just for fun.
You will also find that hobby farmers utilize a wide variety of farming methods. Some of these would be considered sustainable, organic, or just plain conventional.
If you are considering becoming a hobby farmer, I highly recommend that you utilize sustainable farming methods on your farm. It will be better for your overall farm health and the items you produce on your farm will be better for you and the people that are fed by it.
How to Learn to Become a Farmer
By far the cheapest and easiest way to learn how to become a farmer is by self-education. This can be done by reading books, taking an online course, and even practicing some small scale farming techniques in your own backyard.
I highly recommend reading Joel Salatin’s books on farming. He offers no-nonsense, practical advice on how to start farming for someone with no previous farming experience.
I have also written a pretty extensive guide on how to start a farm completely from scratch that I recommend you read.
Farming magazines are also a great place to learn how to become a farmer. Check out this guide on the best farming magazines for a small farm to learn about the good ones. I have personally learned a lot of new farming techniques just from farming magazines.
Also, don’t discredit older farming books, especially as you are searching for more sustainable ways to farm. Check out this free book called The Book of The Farm which consists of three volumes on how to farm in the 1800s. Some of the ideas and information in these books can still be useful today.
Study the history of farming, especially as you seek to understand what has changed in farming practices over the past several hundred years. For example, here’s a crazy story about how tobacco saved Jamestown to give you a better idea on how agriculture has had an impact on the founding of the US.
How to Become a Farm Intern
Another great way to learn how to become a farmer is to become an intern or volunteer your time on a farm. I personally did this when I wanted to gain hands-on experience with sustainable agriculture.
I interned for free for 1 year on a local sustainable farm that raised both plants and animals and sold their products directly to consumer. The experience changed my life.
If you are interested in doing this, I highly recommend searching for local farms in your area using LocalHarvest.org. Reach out and ask them if they would be willing to take you on as an intern. Share your availability with them and tell them that you are wanting to gain hands-on experience.
I highly recommend volunteering for free or simply working for food that is produced from the farm if you are able to. You’ll find a lot more farmers that will be open to letting you learn from them if you take this approach.
How to Go to College to Become a Farmer
Did you know that you can get a college degree in agriculture? The downside is that most of these degrees do not offer a lot of hands-on experience with farming.
However, at colleges like the University of Kentucky, you can get a degree in Sustainable Agriculture that does offer hands-on experience. I know someone personally who went through this program and had a good experience.
Also, some local community colleges and technical schools offer two year degrees is agriculture. Typically, these types of schools offer more hands-on experience than some universities do.
While I don’t think it’s necessary to get a college degree in farming to learn how to become a farmer, you could consider this option if you don’t feel confident that you can learn how to farm through self-education or by interning on a farm.
How to Have Fun as a Farmer
Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about how much fun it can be being a farmer.
Like an artist, your farm can be your canvas. You can mold it and shape it in a way that works best for what you want out of it.
You are the keeper of the land and it’s up to you to take care of it. The better you are at this then the better your painting will be.
Some of my greatest experiences in life have come from being a farmer. Farms are not mechanical and, in my opinion, should never be treated that way. Instead, they are made up of living organisms.
Because of this, things don’t always go as planned. But some of your greatest learning experiences will come from these unplanned situations.
Sometimes, it’s good to counter these hard experiences with humor. That’s why I created this article with all of the best farming memes to help you laugh because sometimes that’s all you can do.
I wish I could spend all of my day working on the farm. Instead, I have to spend time on the computer as well. Here are the best farm background wallpapers for your computer so you can at least have something nice to look at while you do the same.
Also, if you have kids, involve them in the farm. They can make it a lot more fun, especially if you are forced to work at their pace. And you will be giving them hands-on experience that will be very valuable later in their life, especially as they continually help you more and more on the farm as they grow older.
Also, my kids love LEGOs and enjoy playing with LEGO farm sets. Here are the best LEGO Farm Sets if you think your kids would be interested in them too. With them, they can start farming at a very young age.
And last but not least, if you or your kids just want to look like a farmer and not actually become one, check out the best farmer costume for Halloween or any other party.
Learning how to become a farmer, in some ways, is a never ending experience. I am constantly learning new things that I enjoy putting into practice on my own farm and I hope you will do the same.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please post them in the comments section below.