April 18, 2014

Elyria
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63°F
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Once there’s land, much work lies ahead

A new program to match retiring farmers with aspiring farmers is helping prospective agriculturists get a start in the business, but finding the land is just the first step.
The Northeast Ohio FarmLink program, which started in February, is looking to link farmers who want to sell their land with men and women who want to start farming in an attempt to protect farmland from potential developers and to keep farms throughout the region operational.
“What they are doing is an excellent first step. Finding available farmland can be difficult,” Keith Diedrick, an education specialist with The Ohio State University Extension office, said. “The biggest issue that a young farmer would face, though, is getting the startup capital because land is not cheap — even if you’re renting.”
According to Diedrick, potential farmers need about $500,000 in starting capital to get a farm up and running.
The FarmLink program attempts to help farm-seekers with land that already is ready for use, with barns and equipment on site, and by helping them learn about financing options. But money will likely still be an issue for any young farmer.
Once the funding is obtained, however, a young farmer can then start the real work — which can be quite extensive.
“If you have detailed land reports from the former owner, that is really helpful, but you probably still are going to want to do some soil testing in the fall and make sure your soil is ready for planting the next spring,” Diedrick said.
The fall is also a good time to get some weeding done and to install any drainage tiles or other equipment the farm might need.
Once the soil is ready, one of the biggest challenges new farmers face is getting used to ever-changing weather conditions, according to Jim McConnell, who cultivates 2,200 acres of corn and soybeans in Pittsfield Township.
“It’s going to be a real experience for any newcomer trying to anticipate and adjust to weather changes because no two years are alike,” McConnell said. “If you knew what the weather was going to be, you could do things a certain way to take advantage of it, but since it’s a guessing game, you kind of have to rely on your experience. So those first few seasons could be tough.”
Selling off your crops is another difficult proposition, McConnell said, because you are often caught trying to sell your crops before they are harvested.
“The best prices for corn and other crops is often during the summer, so you are selling crops that you haven’t harvested yet,” McConnell said. “You have to make some guesses on what you will have available and try to sell it when the price is the best.”
The challenging part about farming, however, is that trying to get record yields and selling off tons of crops aren’t necessarily a good thing.
“You have to find a balance,” Diedrick said. “The highest yields rarely give you the highest profits because of all the money you had to spend to get that yield.”
Diedrick said farmers are often forced to stop farming small sections of land that don’t produce well, because they earn more money by not wasting it on fertilizing and cultivating bad spots.
Despite the difficulties, however, farmers said that if people are interested, they should definitely give it a shot.
“It’s a tricky business because there are so many things that are out of your control, but if you love it, you can always make it work,” McConnell said.
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or jmedici@chroniclet.com.