How to Start Your Own Farm
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as of 2012, roughly 30 percent of principal, second, or third level farm operators in the United States were women. Of that number, the USDA indicated that 14 percent of those women were the principal operators, meaning that they are primarily responsible for the day-to-day operation of the farm. USDA statistics from 2017 suggest that the number of women running their own farms is on the rise—and more significantly, that they out-earn their male counterparts.
We spoke with three female farmers to find out what it takes to takes to start—and run—your own farm, and here's what they had to share.
Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers
When Erin Benzakein and her husband, Chris, decided they wanted to be able to raise their children surrounded by nature, they uprooted their family from bustling Seattle to a rural farm in Washington's Skagit Valley, where they began growing vegetables and sweet peas, in honor of her late great grandmother. "When the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, I shared much of the garden's bounty with friends, family, and anyone who crossed my path," she says. "Soon, word got around and someone ordered some flowers for a friend. When I delivered that first bouquet, the recipient teared up as she buried her face in the flowers. Witnessing the impact those sweet peas had on her and so many others who received our flowers was tremendous. I knew I had found my calling. I've been growing flowers ever since."
Today, the Benzakein family farm has evolved into a full-fledged flower business, Floret Flowers, where they host gardening workshops and sell everything from Black-Eyed Susan seeds to tulip bulbs to florist tools. "We conduct extensive trials to find the very best cut flower varieties, coveted for their scent, stem length, and ephemeral qualities," Benzakein says. "We source these varieties from our own fields in addition to local seed growers, breeders, and the best seed houses in the world and make them available to the home gardener."
Kacie Lynn of Fiber Farm
After studying apparel design, merchandising, and production management in college during the height of the fast-fashion craze five years ago, Kacie Lynn decided to move and work on a small farm in Tracy City, Tennessee. "Many of the class curriculums were geared toward overseas production, cheap materials, and quick turnaround times," she recalls. "There seemed to be a huge disconnect between the fashion world and the harm it created around the world, so I sought to live a life that didn't create any further harm to the environment."
Now, Lynn spends her days tending to a small herd of alpacas and sheep that she shears annually to create hand-spun products for her company Fiber Farm, including yarn, dryer balls, scarves, and plant holders. "Other than purchasing some supplemental hay and feed, the entire soil to skin process occurs here on the farm," she says. "From the growing of the fiber to the harvesting, processing, and dyeing, all steps are completed by yours truly, with the help of a few key unsung heroes that help during shearing season. Most days I am a one-woman operation."
Emma Jagoz of Moon Valley Farm
Emma Jagoz first started growing vegetables when she was pregnant with her first child, after reading that arugula helped baby brain development. "My vegetable garden grew and grew over the next two years and in 2011, I decided to take the leap and start my own farm at age 25 with two babies under the age of two," she says. "Without owning land and with very limited financial resources, I decided to barter land from my neighbors and did a lot of DIY projects to bootstrap the operation."
Located in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland (where Jagoz grew up), Moon Valley Farm now grows for a 250-person Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) and sells year-round to the best chefs in Baltimore and Washington, DC. "I love everything about farming," she says, "from driving tractors, to walking the fields, to identifying insects, to sharing food and recipe ideas with my community members. My favorite moments are showing kids how to harvest and eat vegetables straight from the field, like watching them pull up a fresh carrot and proudly studying it with wonder and joy before taking a big bite."