To have a successful farm business, your chosen enterprise must rise from the intersection of 4 crucial factors: 1) market demand, 2) land compatibility, and 3) your passion, and 4) your skill. You can start with any one of these, but ultimately, you will have the greatest likelihood for success if you identify an enterprise that meets all four criteria.
It can be helpful to peruse lists of different types of agricultural crops and services to see which interest you. At this point, depending on where you are in your exploration, you can either think in generalities (“I think I’d like to grow veg crops”) or if you’ve been exploring for a while and already know the broad category of what you’d like to grow but haven’t decided your focus, you can get more specific (“I think I’d like to specialize in heirloom and baby vegetable varieties”).
If you already have land, it’s particularly important to have completed the earlier tutorials on the site. Once you have evaluated your soil, climate, and infrastructure resources, focus your brainstorming on enterprises that would work on your land. If you have limey (high pH) soils and are dreaming of a u-pick blueberry operation, you’ll have an uphill (and ultimately unprofitable) struggle. It’s best to brainstorm all the types of enterprises might work on your land, select one or two that really interest you from that list, and proceed from there with the next chapters in this unit.
If you don’t yet have access to land, you can brainstorm freely, adding any item that interests you to your list of potential enterprises. In proceeding through the remaining chapters of this unit, you’ll narrow down your selections. Then, armed with information about the land requirements of your chosen enterprise, you can search for a suitable site.
Here are some ideas for learning more about particular farming enterprises. University of Wisconsin offers a Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) website is also a good source of information as well.
As you go along and find enterprises you are interested in, write them down. Keep in mind when looking at different farm enterprises what is required to produce the crop or service. For example, how much land is required to raise 20 sheep? What buildings, if any, will be needed for housing beef cattle? You can usually get help with these questions from your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.