Help! Where do I start with our new farm?

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

All my dreams have come true. We bought an 80 acre farm and moved to it. The land is hilly and rocky and woody and beautiful. We have 15 acres in Brome. We have plenty of water - a large acre+ pond that is spring fed and 3 smaller ponds for stock.
This used to be a dairy farm - it was neglected for quite some time. I know there is a ton of stuff to do, and I'm a bit lost. My DH travels a fair amount, so I need to do most of this myself.

We have some horses in the pasture and I have 6 chickens and 10 Guineas. I'm interested in raising critters for wool, like Angora Goats and rabbits and maybe an Alpacca or two.
We have tons of pasture, lots of woods, lots of rock.
I want to grow something I can sell at the farmers market in town. Maybe berries? Herbs? Heirloom veggies?

I lost my job right after we bought this piece of heaven, so I need to do something to make some kind of income (doesn't have to be huge) so I feel like I'm helping out. Our son is grown up, so it is just my husband and me. I would so appreciate any suggestions, ideas or advice any of you can give me.

I have spoken to our County Extension Agent, and he is new and is not terribly helpful.

Most of the other farms in our area are dairy and cattle farms, and almost everyone is growing corn because of the prices. I don't want to grow corn!

Thanks so much!

Beth Donovan

Thumbnail by beth_donovan
Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Congratulations on moving to your dream place. Where to start?

If you are wanting to raise some other types of livestock, you will need better fences that what is often used for horses, especially if you want sheep or goats. Good fences are a must, both to keep the farm animals in and to keep unwanted dogs, coyotes or other preditory animals out.

You will want a good sized garden spot, one of the old cattle pens would be well fertilized but make sure you have enough sun and a handy source of water. If there is a farmers market in a town near you, it might be a good sorce of income from a garden. You will need to ask a lot of questions of the local people, and possibly try to grow something that is in short supply. Did you visit the farmers market and get to know some of the vendors? You might be able to get some help from a more experienced extension agent in a nearby county, especially if you are a bit vague about exactly where your farm is located.

We have a market gardeners forum here on DG, go over there and ask a lot of questions. Some crops are very labor intensive, and others less so. For instance, strawberries fall into the labor intensive category, especially if you are picking and packaging the berries for sale. Been there, done that, didn't make a lot on it. Oh the other hand, having everbearing berries gave me berries to sell when there were none available in the grocery stores.

Wool and fiber from colored sheep, angora goats, llamas, etc could also produce some income if you can get into a niche market. Hand spinners would be the people to ask about what they want and what they would be willing to pay. Start with a small number of animals and see how it goes.

You have some time to read, ask, study and plan. It's best not to have your eggs all in one basket, but too many baskets isn't good either. Speaking of eggs, you could get a few more hens and sell fresh eggs. Pretty rooster you have there.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)


In addition to Mary's suggestion about our Market Grower's Forum, you might pick up some tips from a few threads on the Sustainability Forum, like the thread on eating stuff grown within 100 miles which is becoming quite popular with the increase in gas prices.

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

I'd look into grass feed beef your close enough to KC to have a good market for most anything you would grow also think about meat goats KC has a large ethnic population that will eat goat and anything you can sell off the farm will make better money

Fayette, MO(Zone 6a)

Goats are certainly good animals to utilize a rocky terrain, but like Mary said you will need excellent fence for them. They are not such expensive animals to get started with. I started with sheep and goats. Would sell their offspring and used the money to buy cattle.

I have heard that alpacas are good money makers, but it would be quite an investment to get into.. The foundation animals would cost you quite a bit , I think.

Market gardening might work well. I think I would check out what is already being marketed in the area, so that you don't try to sell into an already saturated market.

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

So, what constitutes a "good fence"? Electric? Barbed wire? Mesh?

Fayette, MO(Zone 6a)

I could talk a long time on fence. And I think the fence may depend on what type of animals you are trying to keep in.

I have mostly woven wire fence. Some of it is old . If the goats wanted through it and there was one little hole, say 2 inches square , they would keep pushing through it until they made the hole bigger. They can also climb up brace posts or if a limb falls from a tree , they is fair game..And that's not because the goats are hungry, they just like to explore. I think cows are lots easier to keep in than goats..

Usually a good woven wire fence around here has one strand of barbed wire run along the top of the fence.

Our cousins, have had fairly good luck repairing old woven wire fence. The wire was in pretty good shape still. They pulled it up and straightened up the t posts. I am always shocked when I start pricing fencing materials..

There are some neat high tensil fencing going up in the area for cattle. I don't think it would keep a goat in at all. Are you getting the idea yet that I had a heck of a time keeping my goats in? :) Two strands of electric seems a good idea. If you plan on going in that direction. That way if you get a short in one strand you still have a back up.

Camilla, GA(Zone 8a)

So, what constitutes a "good fence"? Electric? Barbed wire? Mesh?

I have found that a combination of all works well.. We have problems with wild dogs and coyotes, bobcats and the such..I have goats.. Chicken pens are fenced with a good grade chicken wire, sides and top..Wire buried around all sides so predators can't dig in.


Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Horse high, bull strong and pig tight. That about covers it. It really does depend on what you need to keep in, and what you need to keep out.

Prophetstown, IL(Zone 5a)

congratulations! Your new homestead sounds wonderful. Lots of good advice from all the previous posters.

Thought I'd suggest that you might want to consider herbs in your rocky soil....not as a sole source of income but perhaps you could consider fresh market herbs and plants as part of your farm marketing plan. One of the local smaller greenhouses here started out with heirloom and less common annuals on a seasonal basis - they did well and now have a year -round garden center destination. Your nearness to KC could make your place a nice country destination.

As for goats, KathyJo, MaryE and others are sure right about fences....I have just 3 and they can scale 6ft, dig under fortified chain link and run like the wind...laughing at you the whole time, lol.

good luck!


Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

You can make some good money selling veggies at a Farmers Market. Don't try to do all heirlooms. They don't sell good at all. I had heirloom tomatoes alongside my hybrids & had to actually give them away. People stood in line to buy the hybrids at $3 per pound!
We have about 5 acres & 5 greenhouses to keep a good supply going. Remember it is a lot of work though.
The secret is to start small, we had about 30 dozen eggs & a box of "way to big" beets at our first market. (Didn't know anything!)
The first years I only had a small home garden, maybe acre.
Lots of good info on the Market Garden forum. Also lots of good people there.

Best to you!

Thumbnail by CountryGardens
Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

Hmm, goats run like the wind? I didn't know! LOL! Maybe goats are not a good idea - any chance they would hang out with the horses and not feel the need to escape?

I guess I should get my soil tested in the various areas I'm thinking of making a garden, that might help me decide what to plant, too.

Thanks all of you, great suggestions and ideas to work on!

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

I run goats with electric fence 5 wire three hot and 2 ground and it seems to do better than any other I kept reading and every one said electric so I finally tried it Can you say hard head it took awhile I just couldn't see it but it works :) there is a hot wire on top of all my woven wire the goats go over that if it isn't there

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

Thanks, Dave,
I drove around the county a bit today and noticed that most of the goats were in 5 wire fences! I'm so cautious about the electric stuff, but it makes sense. I wonder how hard it is to put together?

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Its easy goolge electric fence and there several sites that give good details on how to build it the biggest thing is to have a good big fence charger I'm running a parmack that will power 50 miles of fence

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

We found that out, too. You can't get by with a cheap fencer. We fence the deer out of or carrot & beet field. My fencer is good for 80 miles. In 2 years deer have never set foot in the field. We use 2 wires, one at 15" & one at 30" from the ground.
Deer are about same size as goats?

Brewers, KY(Zone 6b)

Hi Beth,
My Nubian goats are really big, the size of deer.I've had them for years. I keep them in with a electric wire that runs about 3 ft. off the ground. Behind the wire is a regular 4 ft high wire fencing. I haven't had any problems yet with escaping goats. I keep them well fed,(as you can see, probably too much) goats are not grazers, but browsers.

I bought my electric stuff at Lowes and it wasn't that expensive. If you get one be sure to check how many miles it will cover.

I also did our Farmers Market when we lived in Louisiana to supplement our income. I made goats milk cheese, that was my biggest seller. Another goat keeper came in and made goats milk soap, he also did very well with that product.

Thumbnail by justmeLisa
Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

Lisa, thanks for the info - your goats are beautiful! I didn't know that Lowes carried that kind of thing!

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Nubian goats are pretty well behaved when it comes to fencing...but watch out if you add any pygmies!

Moberly, MO

Oh how exciting! I'm sincerly happy for you. Hmm.. I think it's great that you don't want to raise corn, sounds like that market is pretty much cornered.
How about organic wheat?
Organic sunflowers? What crop doesn't mind rocky soil?
Maybe a pick your own business? Is there a small town that you could draw people out of nearby, or you out in the middle of nowhere? Berries, trees....
Goats for meat is a booming business, I hear. Will they eat brome grass? Angora goats could be fun, there are plenty of websites of businesses that buy homespun wool. Ah, the advantages of the internet and UPS, amazing.
If you have woods you could start some wild-simluted gingseng, although you can't harvest that till like 5-10 years from now.
I dunno. Pick something you are interested in though, that won't become a drudgery.

Moberly, MO

here's a great link I use for brainstorming:

My advice is to choose a plant/animal well suited to your enviroment, so you don't have to invest to much to help it adapt.

OH! Buffalo would be interesting. You might need help for that I guess...

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

Thanks, for the good suggestions! So far, I have joined the Leavenworth Farmers Market, and I'm starting seeds. A couple of people who have been involved with the market for a long time are giving me good advice.

I have chickens for eggs, so far, only 4 hens and 2 roostpart of ers, but I have ordered another 25 chickens, as everyone seems to want farm fresh eggs. I love the chickens, they are so funny!

I found a farm about 25 miles away that will have some baby angora goats available this spring, so I plan to buy 2 or three of those.

We have had a real winter this year, lots of snow and ice, so I've not been able to do much in the way of ground prep for my vegetable garden. I'm going to try to grow some flowers for market too - apparently, cut flowers are very popular, and they get about $1 a stem for them.

I'm meeting great people!

Also, I'm told that my woods have morels that grow in May, maybe I can find them, too! I discovered that part of the land had been used as a large vegetable garden some years ago, and it is close enough to the spring-fed pond that I can set up a small irrigation system of sorts, but it is overgrown with weeds.

As I have explored our acreage, I am finding all sorts of trash! I swear, there is an entire truck buried (very, very old truck) in a woody part of the pasture, and I have found a bunch of buried tires and an old kirby vacuum cleaner. It seems the old farmer who owned the land before us would just toss any trash he could not burn over in the pasture. So, as soon as the weather is better, we are going to collect all the metal trash and we are going to take it to the recyclers and get money for it all. With the money, we can get some new gates and fencing for some other areas.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

lol about your trash. I don't let anyone go bare foot here. It seems that if a bit of crockery broke, they simply tossed it out the window. I've found some neat little pieces of old dishes, lots of not so neat glass, an entire salt cellar, oh, cut nails and a horse shoe! Stan says other select hardware of the indistinguishable variety. And that's just in the yard around the house!

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I'm still finding items that date back to the late1800s around here. Handmade square nails the old house was put together with, etc. Also junk that was just dumped. So much glass beside the garage where old windshields, etc. were parked. I covered the ground with plastic after picking up as much a I could and put several old washer & dryer tubs there that I use for raising mints, artichokes, etc. just to keep the guys from starting another dumping place. Now the trash is in a more visable place and I can get to it more easily with the van and trailer to be hauled off.

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

I'm so glad I'm not alone!

Leaflady, I didn't know we can grow artichokes in this part of the country - is there a special type?

There was once an old shack on the property, about 130 years ago, and we found the old foundation, I've not spent any time searching around there, but it is kinda fun to explore the stuff, though it will be a pain to get rid of all the things that could injure critters!!!

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

The only ones I have are the Jerusalem Artichokes which aren't really Artichokes. But I think you can raise the real thing in your garden as an annual.

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

You may want to try some ducks-khaki campbells are great layers! You can market their eggs-great for baking! I think Alton Brown from food tv actually talked about their great use in baking! I have 8 females and the least I have gotten a day is one egg a day(about 9-10 a week) for about 6-7 weeks. Now I'm back up to 5 eggs a day-this is with no extra lighting. During the summer I get 4 1/2 dozen a week. My neighbor sells at the farmer's market and she found out that I have the ducks. Now she wants to buy my duck eggs to bring with her to the market, she sells chicken eggs and several people asked her last summer about the duck eggs. Looks like I'm going to be buying more ducks!! Hope this helps!

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I recomment the K.C. for laying too. Ducks are so much hardier than chickens. The eggs of ducks are fabulous. So are goose eggs. But I like banty chickens. They don't do so much damage to flower beds and garden areas as the standard size chickens. Only drawback seems to be that they don't realize that late fall and winter isn't the right time to hatch baby chicks. I have 6 of them in a cage in the kitchen now.

This message was edited Feb 21, 2008 6:48 AM

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Must be nice when entering the kitchen for your morning coffee to see those baby chicks, though! Hope they are doing well.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

Not always. There is a sour odor that seems to permeate from that area that I find disagreeable most of the time. It seems to go with the territory. But I do enjoy them coming to me when I open the door. This bunch is so friendly. So is mama cluck.

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

I still have my polish rooster, Satchmo, in the heated garage next to the kitchen! Rocky, my other rooster, does not like him, so as soon as the ground thaws enough, I'm going to build Satchy his own run and coop and then try to find some lady hens for him. I'm not sure what will happen when I let them out in the mornings, but I figure he has a better chance of getting away from Rocky when he is free ranging.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Beth, here's a site that should interest you since you have a pond...

Easton, KS(Zone 5b)

Oh, darn, Darius! I've been working on fighting the NAIS thing, and now I find out about this! Thanks! I'll be calling my congresswoman's office about this.

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

I know what you mean on trash piles
we just bought some acreag in woods and i m finding tires !!! so i guess my kids will have the horse tire swing and lots of other tire swings hahah one is the size of a car ! yikes
then i think there is a sink and a friderator
we have a nursery that has a car that they grow flowers on ! its really cool. Maybe you could try and do that with your old dumped one on your property
have to wait until spring to get you a pic :)
congratulations on you new home yeah

Waddy, KY

You may check with your local extension offices and see if they have tire amnesty days. Down here we can't put them in the landfills and the countys will collect them occasionally. When we bought our place the previous owner never threw away anything. We hauled off four 2 ton truckloads of metal, balers, grain beds, bicycles, refrigerators....and about 90 old tires. There's still an old metal wheeled corn planter, another fridge and truck racks out in the field and an old silage wagon down in the hollow. There was a reason he was one inspection off being degraded when he loaded up the cows and left!


Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Everybody here is hauling off old stuff for scrap because the price is way up. Might be enough there to buy yourself a cow.

Speaking of cows. You may want to look into some of the smaller breeds to begin with. I would think there would be a good market for them for several reasons. 1) They don't take as much room and people do tend to live on smaller parcels these days. 2) They would be cheaper to feed. 3) They give less milk than a big milker so you wouldn't have so many extra gallons to deal with.

If you only wanted a milk cow, you could have her bred via AI with a smaller beef breed. That way you would have her freshen and milk and you could raise a beef for the freezer. I think that would make more sense than feeding a bull year round. Unless you raise a herd with the idea of selling cattle.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I don't know how you feel about old tires and gardens but they do make good raised beds at times. Fill them with good soil, plant with flowers, shrubs, veggies, etc. They can be painted to suit your taste.

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

Leaf i did see a tire painted like a lady bug it was really cute. I wonder what kind of paint one would use ?
That is alot of junk he had there janet. YIkes .
There is a thread for the horse tire swing. :)
might give it a try.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I am going to plant my potatoes in tires come spring.

Camilla, GA(Zone 8a)

I use some of our huge tires from some of our 4440 John Deere's..I have strawberries in one, radishes and lettuce in another and another also full of onions and radishes..Once they are filled up good it sure makes for a good raised bed,..Last year had tomatoes and peppers in them, will also later on this year..when other stuff is gone.I used to hate tires planted, but reaching 52 years old makes it look and feel pretty darn good, lol..


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