Startup costs for a small farm?
February 15, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Organic Farming Startup: any guide to capital costs out there? Starting an organic farm in North Florida...

Specifically, we have already land and and a tractor. Things I'm trying to price are:

Soil amendments/composting system

Farming attachments for tractor

Other misc. required implements


Irrigation for 1-5 acres (starting small)



Anything else we'll need.

There seems to be a lot out there, esp. in book form, about what to do...but I've been having a harder time pricing things out. Obviously one solution is to simply shop for each of the above items, but financial backers would like ballpark figures for each before giving the go ahead to get started. Any comprehensive resource would be greatly appreciated, as would any advice as to how to proceed from here.

Thanks, hivemind!
posted by gnomicPerfect to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you already looked at Eliot Coleman's book on equipment?
posted by mneekadon at 5:42 PM on February 15, 2010

What are you going to grow?
posted by fshgrl at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2010

I have some construction experience from an earlier job, although not agricultural, and we always costed things out by calling some contractors and getting estimates. Granted, we were installing equipment on established sites, so they already had experience with electricians or excavators or concrete companies, but perhaps you could ask your neighbors?

Your county extension service may also be able to help you make estimates, or find out where to get the appropriate information.
posted by tellumo at 7:56 PM on February 15, 2010

I recommend you speak with your county's UF-IFAS extension agent and local high school FFA sponsor. FFAs do a lot of projects of various scales, and own a lot of equipment and know what all of it is worth (you wouldn't believe how often land labs get vandalized), so I bet they'd be a good resource for you.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:59 PM on February 15, 2010

There are so many specifics based on what you are starting with and what you are growing. Have you done a soil test so you know exactly what amendments you need to buy? What sort of crops will you be growing, and how often will you be replenishing soil amendments based on the specific plant usage over the season? How big a greenhouse? What are you growing- annual crops, perennial, or orchard crops? That's going to substantially change what you require for irrigation as well. Irrigation is also complicated by your water source and volume. Will you need pumps to move water around? How many valves will your system require? Are you pricing irrigation for one acre, or five? Will your greenhouse have automatic irrigation, or will you be watering by hand?

Because of this, I think you're going to have to cost everything out. I agree that your local ag extension is likely to be able to point you to more specific resources, but I still think you're not going to be able to find any sort of one size fits all farm start up costs.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:35 PM on February 15, 2010

Seconding calling contractors or suppliers. For construction estimates, we have software with a cost database, but we check them by calling contractors and asking for specific estimates. They're also usually willing to tell you whether what you're proposing is reasonable or not.
posted by electroboy at 6:00 AM on February 16, 2010

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