Small farm owners grow crops and raise animals for local markets. They
farm independently on relatively small patches of land rather than work for
large corporate farms that cover thousands of acres.
Small farm owners grow herbs, fruit and vegetables, or raise animals such
as sheep and cattle. They often specialize in organic products sought by health-conscious
Many people prefer locally grown and raised produce and meat because they
believe it's healthier and tastier. They also like having a closer connection
to the farmer who provides them with their food.
"If you eat something that was picked today and you eat it tonight, there's
a lot more nutrition in that vegetable," says Barbara Moore. She's the executive
director of Harvest Mountain Farm Gardens in Lakewood, Colorado. "It hasn't
traveled for two weeks to get here."
Farming requires a lot of specialized knowledge. For example, farmers who
grow crops must know about soil amendments, which are materials added to a
soil to improve its physical properties.
Farmers also need to know about seed selection, crop production, and everything
else necessary to run a farm. Farmers that raise animals have their own long
list of topics they must know about, including dietary requirements, breeding
Farmers also need to be good business managers. This includes financial
"For self-employed farming, you'd certainly need some business skills,
especially starting up," says small farm owner Daniel Chappell.
"If somebody's family already owned a farm, it's quite a different thing.
But to start a farm, to buy land, to support your family as well as your business,
it takes quite a bit of business planning and financial planning, good budgeting,
that kind of thing."
Small farm owners work long hours. Farming is best suited for people who
don't mind long days and lots of physical labor.
"First of all, you have to really like hard work," says Moore. "You have
to be self-motivated and like hard work because the vegetables or the animals
are kind of like your babies. It can be every day. It can be like no time
off. So you have to be sort of sold to it."
"Winter slows down a bit," says Chappell, whose farm produces herbs, vegetables,
grains and poultry. "On really, really cold days I'm able to just do my animal
chores and then mostly take the rest of the day off if I choose. But especially
in the summer, it's not unheard of for me to work a 16-hour day, [though]
not too often.
"I'm basically working long days, seven days a week," Chappell adds. "I
guess it depends on the kind of farm. Grain and crop farms, and vegetable
farms, you can take a day off more easily than you can with livestock. I don't
find [crops] as rewarding -- I find the animals much more rewarding. They're
worth putting that much effort into, but it certainly ties you down, for sure."
Being tied to the responsibilities of a farm means that long trips away
from home are difficult to arrange. The work on a farm never stops.
"We're now set up where I can get enough done that we can leave for 24
to 36 hours, but anything longer than that I have to find somebody competent
who can look after the farm," says Chappell.
Chappell believes there is growing demand for locally grown farm products.
"It does seem like it's an ongoing trend, and I don't really see it going
away," says Chappell. "I think part of it is a lot of the North American lifestyle
has become pretty unhealthy, like fast food. Eating foods that are not whole
has taken a huge toll on our health, and people are starting to notice that.
"And the shift has started to go away from trying to medicate our problems
away toward trying to live healthier lifestyles," says Chappell. "Which is
I think is the only way, actually, to make ourselves healthy in the long term."
"I think that it's more than a trend," says Moore.
"[With small farms] it's much more of a nurturing [relationship] with what
you're producing," she says. "You're more in relationship with what you're
producing than when it's 1,000 acres of a mono-crop."
Craig Rogers is the owner of Border Springs Farm in Virginia. He sells
lamb to many of the best chefs on the East Coast. While Rogers sees growing
demand for small farm products, he emphasizes that the demand is for high-quality
"Although there's a lot of interest, and although there's a lot of demand,
the demand is for the very good," says Rogers. "And with the influx of new
people who don't have farming experience or knowledge, we're finding that
there's also an awful lot of mediocre product out there."