Before you set up your farm, it is important to make a clear business proposal, indicating the mission, vision and objectives of setting up the farm. Sources of capital and available resources must be clearly spelt out.
Discuss the choice of enterprise and why you think it is the best. Make sure your plan tackles issues such as quality of products and proximity to the market.
Consider sources of farm inputs, for example, if you are going to keep goats, find out the source of the goats and different breeds that suit your objectives.
To further gather knowledge, join farm-related associations, which will help you learn from peers. This will also give you an opportunity to attend farm-related events such as exhibitions and tours organised by the associations.
It is under this planning that you discuss the size of the enterprise. For example, if you are opting for zero grazing, how many animals do you start with? How will you feed them? Sources of feeds? What is the acreage of your coffee, bananas etc?
While you draw a long-term plan it is best that one starts small and then expand as they learn the dynamics of the enterprise. Big starters have been frustrated by losses due to lack of experience.
For example, zero grazers should not start with more than five heifers. Farmers opting for piggery should not start with more than five sows, in poultry one should not start with more than 1,000. If it is crops one to three acres is okay for beginners.
The beginning includes things such as setting up the shelters for the livestock. It is important that you draw a floor plan for the farm structures, carry out a cost assessment. Even if you are planning large, do not construct all of the structures at once. Carry out construction gradually as you expand.
Continue the learning process by carrying out farm tours, reading material both in the media and Internet so that you are not left behind in new technologies.
Engage experts, starting from government extension workers now deployed at each sub-county plus private agriculture consultants.
Basis for decision
- Natural resources: If for example, the farm is located near a natural water source, then the farmer must plan to use that. He should, therefore, plan how to manage the transfer of water from the source to the farm. If there is no natural water source, it is advisable to set up an artificial one, by digging a deep well or dam.
- A farmer with 100 acres of land must plan differently from one with 10 acres. A larger farmer can plan for extensive practices where he plants crops or keeps animals on a large scale, while a smaller farmer can plan to practise intensive farming where he keeps enterprises on a small scale, but uses a lot of production multipliers such as fertilisers in crops or feed concentrates in animals to maximise yields.
- Again as you plan, consider the topography of the farm. Hilly areas need different approaches in crop production compared to flat areas. For example, you may need to adopt a contour system of farming in hilly areas, which is not the case with flat areas.
- If you are going for crops, determine whether you are opting for short-term crops such as vegetables or long-term ones such as coffee, oranges, mangoes or commercial trees.
This decision can be taken depending on the size of land and the farmers’ objectives. That is, if he wants to earn some fast money, he can go for some fast growers like broilers or vegetables.
He can also do dairy production in cattle, since if one buys a mature heifer, it almost starts producing milk immediately. These can sustain the long term objective of the enterprises.