If you want to have a successful homestead, one with healthy animals and vibrant crops, and you want to enjoy your time homesteading, you need to take off Saturday morning. This Saturday.
That is if there is a farmers market in season. If you’re reading this and it’s winter, well, look hard. Winter markets are getting more and more popular. If you can’t, mark on your calendar the first Saturday in April (or March in some areas), and plan on spending an hour at the farmers market.
We talked in the previous post in this series (Avoid the mistake that could cost you your homestead!) how important a good mentor is in this homesteading world.
I’m not talking about a website with nice pics, or a blogger with an ebook to sell (nothing against those, as I am one 🙂 but still…)
I’m talking about finding someone with years of experience farming successfully. And chances are if they are selling at the farmers market, they meet that criteria.
It’s like google.
How a farmer’s market is like Google.
When I’m not farming, fishing, hunting, or doing construction work, I spend time as a Internet Marketer, for a few Big Buisneses. These clients of mine really value a good Google ranking. Why? Because more people use Google than any other search engine.
Because Google has a super magic algorithm that allows its search results to push the cream of the crop best answers to the top, making it easy for the user to find what their looking for.
Google’s fancy algorithm makes sure that junk results are buried, and the best matches for what you want are on page one. So if you type in Aston Martin, you get the car company’s page first, as you are more likely to be looking for that, and not a guy named Aston Martin’s myspace page.
Google can tell how important your page is, how well established it is, how valuable it is to the user, and so it puts it front and center.
A farmer’s market works the same way.
You see, anyone can call themselves a farmer. They can buy some chickens, plant some squash, even sell a few eggs here and there. But just because someone calls themselves a farmer and has an Instagram account for their farm, dosnt mean that they have any real idea how to properly run a real farm. They may not have any clue about animals, breeds, care, vegetables, fruits, laws, cost, etc…
A farmer who has made it to the market is a different kind of farmer. He has learned not just to raise animals but to raise them in a cost effective manner. He does not just grow crops, he grows healthy ones, that look and taste great. He knows the laws of the town, region, and state (they can all be different…) that apply to farming. And he knows how to do enough on his farm to make it worth his time to spend every Saturday for the entire summer at a market selling his hard earned goods.
These farmers are located all around you. You could spend weeks driving around to find them, trying to pin them down for a time to meet and chat. And good luck trying to get them to stop working when they’re at the farm. Instead, take an hour on Saturday and visit the market.
The farmer’s market acts like Google, selectively serving up the best farmers in your area, in one central time and location, that is convenient for you.
Find your mentor… he is somewhere at the market!
Make your rounds. Chat with every farmer. Ask them about what their farm raises. It should be your goal to establish a good relationship with a farmer whom you can learn from. So target the kind of farmers who are involved in the kind of farming you are interested in.
Want to milk goats? Find a GOAT farmer, as a cow farmer has no idea what goat diaries are like. Want to raise pastured poultry for meat? Don’t settle for the egg farmer. Find the meat guy.
That said, try to talk to everyone, you never know what you may decide sound like a fun farm enterprise that you never thought of.
Walk up to each booth and introduce yourself with a smile. Don’t worry, farmers can be a bit quiet at times, push forward.
Mention you are interested in farming. (You will seem a little sneaky spy-ish if you ask a bunch of questions regarding goat teats without admitting that you hope to be a dairy farmer one day)
When you find a farmer who seems like a good fit, work on establishing a GOOD Relationship with them, and that starts by not being SELFISH!
Your goal should not be to learn every thing there is to learn about goats from them there at the market on that morning. Don’t setup an interrogation station at their booth. Remember, this is their one opportunity all week to make a little money for the hard work they do. Every minute you are talking with them is a minute someone else who wants to purchase something from them cant. AND THAT COSTS THEM MONEY… which in turn will make them not like you… which in turn will not lead to a very good mentor opportunity!
The goal is to breifly establish a relationship, that could lead to a mentor opportunity in the future.
So, spend a few minutes chatting, ask a few questions, then…
BUY SOMETHING! Not the cheapest item you can get away with, impress them with your interest in supporting local agriculture. This step is crucial toward developing a good relationship with them. (Remember, a good relationship is a give and take)
Dont stand at their booth, taking up their time and space, prying for knowledge, and then cheapen out on them.
After you have bought something, ask for their contact info, hand them a buisness card (people tell me all the time they want to come help at the farm, but inevitably I don’t write their numbers down, and so I can never reach them when the time has come) and offer your Labor FOR FREE at their farm.
Free Labor… The Secret to your future farms success
I know, your time is valuable. But the farmer your helping, his time is worth more. A farmer with experience who is willing to take time with you is worth his weight in gold.
We once offered a local farmer to help with pig castration. Yep. Do you want to decide whether or not to breed pigs? Attend a pig castratration first. It may influence your decision. That said… the hour after the cutting was done I got more tips about raising pig than I ever had previous. Well worth it.
Why offer Free Labor? Because, for one: he probably can’t afford to pay you what you would want to be paid, and two: a day or two spent helping a farmer out for free will lead to a lifetime of knowledge, guidance, and trailer borrowing in return.
Show that farmer that you are interested in him (or her) and really want to help.
Then, you will have established a mentor relationship that will last a lifetime and pay off in more ways than you could ever know.
So, you ready for the most important networking event of your life? Bring cash, some business cards, and a reusable shopping bag for that pork shoulder your going to purchase. and maybe print this bullet list to remind you of the day’s assignment!
How to find your future farming mentor!
- Look for a farmer who is selling the kind of product you’re interested in raising
- Introduce yourself, mention you are interested in farming.
- Ask them about their farm, what are their main enterprises and why
- BUY SOMETHING (And don’t buy the cheapest thing you can either. Remember, you want to establish a GOOD relationship here!)
- Ask for their contact info, leave a business card, and offer your FREE LABOR at their farm!
Already got the farming thing under control? don’t worry, next week were going to talk about the easiest way to find fish! Stay tuned.
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