By Rebecca Christman
Women attending the recent South Dakota Women in Ag conference had the following 10 pieces of advice for beginning farmers and ranchers:
1. Have a good banker! They will be essential to your success throughout your farming career.
2. Create your own panel of industry advisers. Be aware of what you don’t know and seek out people who have experience in those areas.
3. Be willing to move. Everyone wants to move back to their hometown, but if there aren’t opportunities there to get involved in agriculture, search elsewhere.
4. Show commitment and be driven. Show up early and stay late. Starting a farm won’t happen overnight.
5. Use your sweat equity. You may not have land or equipment, but you still have one important asset — yourself! Don’t be afraid to be a hired worker, drive truck or help on someone else’s farm. You’ll gain experience and connections in the agriculture industry.
6. Market yourself. Let people know your “brand.” How do you want to be seen? Hardworking, trustworthy, innovative? Make sure the people you work with know that. When they come across an opportunity for a young person in agriculture, you’ll be at the top of their list.
7. Get involved in your community. If you’re a farmer, you will probably be in the same community most of your life. After all, you can’t pick up the land and take it with you! Being involved in the community gives you a sense of pride for the area you live, and many other benefits as well. As a young farmer, you can be sure that at times you will need to ask for help. Maybe you’ll need an extra set of hands to work cattle, or you might need to borrow a neighbor’s equipment because you can’t quite afford your own. Getting involved in the community is a great way to make connections and give back to a community that will help you in your time of need.
8. Look for nontraditional opportunities. Even though you have your heart set on being a farmer, that may not happen right away. Look for jobs where you can still be involved in the industry. Help the local vet work cattle, get a job at the sale barn or unload trucks at the elevator. You’ll never regret having a variety of experiences, or expanding your knowledge of the agriculture industry.
9. Be politically involved. At a time when there is so much negativity toward politics, it would be easy to bury your head in the sand. Whether it’s on the local, state or national level there are decisions being made that will have an impact on your farm. This doesn’t mean you personally have to run for office, but make the effort to know where you stand on important issues. Then make sure to be informed, vote and write to your legislators about issues that impact you.
10. Be proactive instead of reactive about your future. Find out what you are able to do today and set goals for tomorrow.
Christman is Agriculture United For South Dakota’s outreach director.