Kate Haverkampf runs Tassinong Farms in Crested Butte, Colorado. Kate started her farm because she was dissatisfied with the amount of time she spent away from her family.
If she could farm with only 20 hours a week, however, she would have time to spend with her husband and three daughters. Her research into container farms told her this was possible.
What Kate forgot was there's a farm learning curve that takes several months to get past. New farmers and experienced farmers alike have shared that the farm learning curve is the biggest lesson they learned as new farmers.
The learning curve meant that Kate spent twice as long as planned in the farm during first several months of farming. Today, Kate is past the learning curve and has reached a steady state.
Kate hasn't forgotten the lesson, though. Now when she speaks with prospective farmers, she warns them not to forget about the initial learning phase of farming.
“It’s all about being more efficient and learning.”
So how do you get past the learning curve? First, you learn from your mistakes. Second, you learn to be more efficient with tasks and processes. And perhaps most important of all: you don't give up.
Until that day, mistakes will be made and stuff will happen. You'll forget to turn the lights on. You'll cause a zinc toxicity. Your seedlings will germinate poorly. Your A/C will go out. When that happens, fix the process and move on.
All of these things can (and will) decrease your yield, but eventually all of the wrinkles will be smoothed out and you'll be able to achieve the full potential of your farm.
The bottom line? Don't expect to be a farmer on day one.
A lot of farmers expect to have full yield a few weeks into farming. They plan on selling 100% with their first crop turn. While indoor farmers canachieve incredible numbers, they shouldn't expect to reach them immediately.
“[They’re] all great numbers on what’s possible,
but don’t expect it to be that way on day one."
Kate's advice? "Give yourself a cushion." If you can't give yourself a cushion, then it may not be time to start a farm. Think about securing funding to help with this time or waiting until you've got the money.
Learning to farm?
Trying to get ahead of the learning curve? Good for you! There's no better decision that you could make.
Trying to learn modern farming isn't always easy or affordable, however. We know that pain all too well!
We learned to farm when the only resources out there on techniques like hydroponic and aquaponics were piece-meal, unreliable, or too anecdotal to be useful.
It's a different story for today's farmers, however. Upstart University now exists to guide prospective farmers and new farmers like Kate to farm success. Upstart U offers a guided but self-paced learning experience through business planning, finding markets, managing a farm, and troubleshooting.