Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer – Four Years Later

In About Me by James1 Comment

I started this blog (journey) a little over four years ago. This post is my annual update, although I’m a little over a month late with it. Each year this post recaps the prior year’s highlights and provides a preview for the upcoming year. Last year was a big step in turning my dream into reality as my wife Anna and I left Korea to head to the US to become apprentices at a pastured livestock ranch in East Texas. I wrote about that experience here. This year is by far the biggest year of the journey. This is the year I become a farmer. My wife Anna and I are starting an urban farm in Denver, Colorado. We’ve named it “City Yard Farms.” We’ll be growing a variety of vegetables and using a micro farm or spin farm model for our business and production. As of now we’ll have about 4,500 sq ft of space in production. If you do the math you’ll quickly realize this is not a lot of growing space. However, it’s enough to get started and gross nearly $60,000 in a 30-week growing season if managed properly. Most of the knowledge I acquired for this farming model comes from Curtis Stone, aka “The Urban Farmer” and his book The Urban Farmer , his course Profitable Urban Farming, and the endless content he posts on his YouTube Channel. Part of our model is to be as transparent as Curtis and share our journey so please follow us at www.cityyardfarms.com and watch our videos at City Yard Farms Youtube – we’re still building both so sorry if they look empty at the moment.

Where We Came From

As you know, if you’ve been following this blog, the journey began four years ago in Seoul, South Korea. I was teaching English and wanted something different for the future. It began with an examination of values. What do I want? Why do I want it? Then, start the journey – side note: values can and are likely to change along the way. The first year I was volunteering as a WWOOFer on the weekends. The next year my wife and I were in Australia doing a short internship on a Holistically Managed cattle ranch.  The third year I was leading a year-long project with my farming mentor in Korea, and ended the year with a farm stay trip in China with my good friend Kota and his wife Sachi. The fourth year my wife and I were doing an 8-month apprenticeship in East Texas. Now, we’re about to operate our own farm.  Now, we are farming – the dream has become reality.

Where We’re Going

We’re going to fail. At least that’s what the statistics say. 95% of small businesses fail in the first year, then 95% of those that survive fail after another five years.  Basically, we have very little chance of making it – statistically speaking.  You’re probably thinking those are terrifying statistics. They are, depending on your mindset.  There is no data on the mindset of business owners that make it versus those that fail, but I’m going to guess that the ones that make it have a completely different mindset than the ones that fail – for the most part.  There’s a huge difference between acknowledging the odds and believing where you will end up among the statistics. Belief is a powerful thing, at the end of the day execution is what gets things done, but if you don’t’ have the belief that you can and will execute you will not – you’re done before you even begin. I think this is the thing that separates successful entrepreneurs from the ones that fail. They have an unfaltering belief that they will succeed.  There are no other options for them. This is what I’m talking about when I talk about mindset and the critical role it plays in nearly everything we do in life.  The encouraging thing is, it’s not fixed at birth, it’s something you can build over time with focus and dedication, much like a muscle. I think, and we’re about to find out, if you put the work in – educate yourself , work hard (harder than you realize you’re able to), believe (like a fanatic), and get lucky (luck is a variable, but I believe you largely set yourself up for it with the systems you implement), you can make it. I know we’re going to struggle this first year in a lot of ways, but I also know we’re going to have victories, and we’re going to build upon both.  Where we’re ultimately going to end up I don’t’ know, but I believe wherever it is it will be a good place because we’re going to go about it the right way and live by our values.

Big Lessons 

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my farming journey is that if things don’t turn out the way you planned it’s not necessarily a failure. For anyone who has followed my journey you will know that all my energy in the farming world was directed towards becoming a pastured meat farmer. When I became a farmer I was supposed to be living on multiple acres in the country and moving electric fencing and poly wire for my pasture raised animals. Living in the city and raising plants was not a part of the plan. But here I am. What happened? Experience happened. I lived in the country and moved electric fence for pastured animals for eight months. And although I enjoyed that lifestyle, the context of my life circumstances in combination with revelations of my highest values did not allow for me to pursue that.  When you live outside your comfort zone you begin to learn things about yourself. The biggest take away I had from my experience on that ranch was that what was driving me into the farming lifestyle was my desire to be independent.  Call it the entrepreneurial spirit or drive to madness, but whatever the fever was I had it and have it. I did walk away from opportunity, but infinite opportunity is all around us every day, the key is finding the opportunity that will get you to tap dance out of bed every morning as Joel Salatin says. My desire to own, operate, create my own business and make the big decisions for better or worse far outweighed my desire to live in the country on a pastured livestock ranch. I’m also aware that one day if I succeed at urban farming I will have enough capital to start something of my own out in the country that involves moving electric fencing if I want to do that.

How Does This Apply to You?

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before on this blog I’m a big believer in mindset and mental rehearsal. If you envision yourself doing it before you do it, then when the moment comes you’ll have already been there and that’s an edge.  I’m big believer in creating edges for yourself in life – that’s the essence of the systems approach. This blog, for example, is multi-functional, and one aspect of it when I decided to do it was to create a kind of living resume for the time I’d need some credibility such as when I applied for the apprenticeship.  That’s an edge. It was the reason we got the apprenticeship. Now that we’re running our own business I’d like this blog to function as inspiration to aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs. There’s no one way to go about it, but by learning about all the different ways people have gone about it, the aspiring entrepreneur can piece together a plan that will work for him within his own context. I’ve had endless help along the way, and I know I will continue to get help, so it’s my duty to help out the people who are behind me in their journey. At least that’s how I feel anyway. Thanks for reading, and until next time, enjoy the journey.

Comments

  1. Addye Thole

    Here’s to great farming mojo always being with you and Anna!! May all those green delicious products turn over a great green profit—always!!!

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