There are a lot of families moving to the country and trying to start farms. There are websites and magazines devoted to providing these families with info on milking goats, raising chickens, making your own bread, etc.. However, the real challenge in efficient farming is not the animals or the food. It’s arrangement and construction. When you really get down to it, you’re going to need a barn, wells, fences, etc.. and they’re going to have to be put in the right places. That is the most difficult part of starting a farm. Fortunately, I have some projects to work on over the next year or two and I’m going to provide some practical details that you won’t find elsewhere–and they will be very helpful.
First, our new dairy barn.
We have an old pole barn on our property that will provide space for feeding and shelter for beef cows, a quarter horse and goats. We need a new dairy barn and will be building one just beside my house on the back half of the property. My challenge has been to design and build a barn that agrees with the devout and dignified self-sufficiency we seek–and I realize that such a plan is offered nowhere in available literature. We are not interested in the ghetto-like shacks built by many to “save money”. They only lose money by their buildings and show a lack of prudence in designing something better and still affordable. Nor are we interested in the vain hobby barns built by those who don’t understand the true virtue of county life. A mortgaged barn will soon be for sale.
I have been working on a method by which a small-scale farmer could plan, fund and build a barn that would be immediately affordable and sufficient, yet able to grow as the farm grows. Most farmers build as needs arise–as though they could not have been predicted and they start adding small pieces and buildings all over the place. Ultimately, the result is an inefficient, underachieving zoo and no true farm.
The first and immediate need is animal shelter. The animals need shelter from winds and precipitation (not cold air as many falsely think). Many farmers build simple run-in shelters out in the pasture to provide shelter, but such a structure will cost around $700.00 in materials (if decently built, of course) to shelter a few cows (say 10′ X 16′ ). My question: Why not invest that in a good barn instead?
The next need is a place to feed animals and store supplies/equipment. Again, instead of spending money on “good enough” projects to meet individual needs, why not invest that money in a good barn?
Ultimately, animals will need to be brought into a stall for care. It may be time for feet to be trimmed, for medicines to be administered, babies to be delivered and cared for, for milking, etc… Sooner or later a farmer is going to need a barn. The problem will be finances. How will a small-scale farmer finance the building of a barn that will serve his needs, but also provide for future growth and be affordable at the time of construction–without requiring the farmer to go into debt?! Sounds impossible, but I’ve developed a way to do it.
The goal is to accomplish each immediate goal in developing the farm’s bulidings and equipment is a way that ultimately produces a fantastic final product. Not a small building here, another there, etc…that is ultimately more expensive and terrible to look at. What we must do is build a barn piece by piece, while always maintain a focus on the final project–and always leaving opportunity for continued growth.
To be continued…