I have been in farming activities of food crops, timber trees, fish , rabbits, piggery , poultry , dairy cattle and bees among other things for a number of years without making sustainable income. I have come to the conclusion that farming is not as easy as most people tend to think. I have faced so many challenges in farming including crop failure, lack of trained farm labour, poor farming methods, high prices of manure, lack of quality seed, theft of farm produce and poor prices of farm produce among others. I have had to lose money for a number of years in order to learn my lessons in farming.
At one time I abandoned my farm and even cut down about eight acres of bananas because of thieves. I thought I would frustrate the thieves by cutting down the banana plantation. After about five years I came back to my senses and realised my action of abandoning the farm was not the best way forward. I was in the end the net loser as the challenges I ran away from followed in my next business venture. I came to a conclusion that for one to succeed in farming or in any other business venture has to be prepared to overcome challenges. Running away from challenges made my situation worse as they followed wherever I went.
I have always asked myself a question of why I did not make money in farming. I have come to realise that I did not make money in farming because I had not made up my mind to do so. People are in farming to achieve different goals. For example I ventured in farming because I took farming as my hobby. A number of people are in farming activities for subsistence reasons. They just produced food for home consumption and sale any little surplus in order to raise money for other necessities of life. Some of my friends and colleagues are in farming as a fashion. They are in farming because their friends and business associates are also in farming.
I do not engage in any farming activities that do not have the potential for making money. I am no longer involved in farming activities because others are doing. I am involved in viable farming activities that others are not doing well. In the process I have discovered 5 key factors that a potential commercial farmer should consider before venturing into farming activities. These include the following;
- Positive attitude towards farming
Your views or feelings about farming do matter a lot. Some people think farming is not a white collar activity for the educated to engage in. They feel there is no way they can practice what they learnt in colleges and universities in farming. Some believe they went to school to qualify for good employment and not to return to the farm. To some people farming is for school drop outs. Others believe farming is for the rural people. Therefore you cannot successful venture into farming if you have a negative attitude towards it. You must have a positive attitude towards farming in case you plan to venture into it.
- Interest in farming
There are so many money making activities that you may be interested. They are all not equally interesting to you. Therefore put the activities in order of interest to determine the ranking of the activities. Those activities you are interested in most will rank high on your list. Your chances of succeeding are high if you engage in activities that you are most interested in. You can only choose commercial farming as your goal in life if it ranks high. You cannot therefore make money in any business activity you are not interested in.
- Ability to plan
Before you engage in a farming activity, you must have a plan that will guide you in your farming journey. Without a plan you are most likely to be swayed by other people’s opinions. When I first ventured into farming I planted anything that could be planted. Remember mine was a hobby. I planted a type of hot pepper that did not have a market at all. Remember it is extremely risky to rely on other people’s opinions as their mission or goals are different from yours.
- Practical knowledge in farming
Farming requires a lot of experience and practical knowledge. The farm workers just wait to be guided on how to carry on with different activities on the farm. On many occasions you may have to show or demonstrate how certain activities are carried out. For example I have been showing a young man of how to feed fish the right ration and on time but with a lot of difficulties. If you are not patient you end up giving up.
- Hardworking and challenging circumstances
Farming requires a lot of hardwork often under difficult conditions away from the comfort you are used to. During the planting season, you will work under rainy and muddy conditions. During the harvesting period working under the hot sun is the order of the day. Many farmers get discouraged from farming when the conditions in the farm are not conducive. You cannot avoid getting yourself soiled up when you are working on the farm.
- Do not depend on rain fall
The most devastating challenge on the farm for both animals and plants is lack of adequate rainfall. The rainfall is either too much in a short time or too little for the crops to grow. The rainfall is not evenly spread over the growing period of the crops. The weather patterns are continuously changing resulting from destruction of grass and forest cover for developmental purposes by man. I have found it difficult to rely on rainfall for farming activities. I have therefore been forced to create water reserves for irrigation during the dry season. With irrigation you are able to produce crops during a time when their market prices are favourable. You are better off to rely more on irrigation than rainfall to support your farming activities. Therefore your land for commercial farm should have a permanent source of water.