SPEAKER 1: My wife and I had a long-term approach when we got married and started a family, that we were going to get in farming slow. We didn't want to bite off more than we could chew. And I wasn't quite sure if I was going to be a full time farmer or my family was going to be able to be happy on a full time farm.
SPEAKER 2: Do we want to really jump in with both feet and really do some serious farming, but purchasing equipment to turn over more land to plant more crops? But we realize it would be a little better for us, safer, and it's, for us, a more conservative approach if we just grew slowly and only procured those items that we could afford to pay for at the time without going into debt.
SPEAKER 3: As far as growing and financing the infrastructure for the business, we basically paid cash for most everything.
SPEAKER 4: My first year, I was saving money at the farm I was working. By the end of the season, I have $10,000 in cash. And that was my starting point.
SPEAKER 5: All together for everything, I definitely spent less than $10,000 for the first year.
SPEAKER 6: Before we moved into the farm house, we had a couple of tenants. And the income from their rent was part of what we used to start our farm.
SPEAKER 7: Well, we financed the startup of our business with Karen's retirement, really. She had worked in human resources. And I think she had like maybe 10, $15,000 in there. We took it out.
SPEAKER 8: In order to finance the dairy, we pretty much had to beg and borrow. We came up with a very complete business plan with the help of the people down at FarmNet. And we took that to a bank, who promptly rejected us, because we just didn't have the equity that they needed to loan a set amount of money.
SPEAKER 3: The only loan that we took out was to build the barn that's attached to this greenhouse. And I took a 10-year note through a Farm Credit. And they're very good to work with. And had that paid off in five years.
SPEAKER 1: Found the right piece of ground and the right location for us, borrowed money, took an agricultural loan at a agricultural lending institution, and then started adding to the farm bits and pieces.
SPEAKER 9: Since I had another career that had a reasonably good income, I was able to self finance. So I don't have any debt load other than to myself.
SPEAKER 10: I also tried not to get into a lot of debt. I started small. I started with $15,000. And I started with a very small cheese plant. And as I had cash flow, I would expand my infrastructure.
SPEAKER 3: The basic infrastructure you need to do the best that you can afford at the time, and go up from there.
SPEAKER 8: We had a dream. And we had a vision. And so we scraped together everything we could by refinancing our house, selling the vegetable equipment, borrowing money from family, putting a lot of money on credit cards, just crazy ways to make it happen.
SPEAKER 7: We're pretty conservative when it comes to money. And so we don't want to go over our head. So the idea of putting up a whole bunch of money, borrowed money, to do what we've done has not been what we wanted to do. Looking back on it, I think that was probably one slight mistake, because we didn't want to have any debt. If we had made a bigger investment and made larger plantings, it would have been more efficient.
SPEAKER 1: I guess the one thing if I could spin the clock back, I probably could have spent a little more money on making my life a little easier. Not always thinking about working hard, but maybe working a little smarter.
SPEAKER 3: There's a lot of things that would make life easier from the beginning. And starting with things, the bases, done properly-- the ventilation, good floors, the different things in your greenhouses can make a huge difference down the road. It's just, don't cut too many corners. Room to grow. Plan on room to grow.
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Funding is often the biggest hurdle to getting a farm started. Farmers offer inspiration and practical advice about financing and growing a farm start-up.
In the Voices of Experience series from the Beginning Farmers Resource Center, you'll find the kind of dirt-under-the-fingernails advice that can only come from someone who's been there.
The NY Beginning Farmer Project is led by a team of Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators in partnership with the Cornell Small Farms Program. The project, launched in 2006 in response to increasing interest in farm start-ups, aims to enhance the likelihood of success of new ag enterprises by making the best resources and training available to new and diversifying farmers.