How to Quit Your Day Job and Become a Farmer: 6-Step Plan from Joel Salatin

Does the daily grind of your office job leave you dreaming of the farming life? Do you find yourself gazing out the window wishing you could trade your cubicle for open pastures and fresh air?

You’re not alone.

Many people today are seeking a simpler life connected to the land. The good news is you can make that dream a reality, even without an agricultural background or money to buy a turnkey farm. Here’s how to quit your day job and become a farmer, with inspiration and know-how from Joel Salatin, the master of alternative farming himself.

1. Get Out of Debt & Save Up

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Image Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.

The first step is getting your personal finances in order so you have a solid foundation. Pay off credit cards, cars, student loans – any debt you have. This gives you a clean slate so you don’t carry obligations into your new farming life.

Once you become debt-free, start stockpiling cash. You need to build up savings that can sustain you for at least two years while you establish your farm. This is your cushion in case farm revenue is sporadic at first.

Take on extra side jobs or pick up some overtime at your current job to quickly build your savings. Drive for a rideshare service, sell crafts online, bartend on weekends – anything to generate additional income you can put in the bank. Be disciplined about cutting costs in your lifestyle too so you can save as much as possible.

Also make sure your spouse or family is on the same page if you have one. Sit down together and make a budget to see how modestly you can get by. Having full support makes this type of lifestyle change much easier.

2. Start Small

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Image Credit: Mariia Boiko/Shutterstock.

Once you have some savings built up, you can start your farm even if you don’t have enough money to buy a full-sized farm upfront. Look for opportunities to start small, such as leasing just a few acres of land from a neighbor, church or other local source. Some innovative farmers even strike deals bartering their labor on someone else’s farm in exchange for the ability to use a section of land.

Many people begin by raising chickens on a small scale since they require less upfront investment. All you really need is a basic chicken coop and a small pasture area to get started. Make your operation as efficient and mobile as possible by constructing portable infrastructure like chicken tractors that can be easily moved around to fresh pasture.

Or start farming from your backyard if you have one. You’d be amazed how many vegetables you can grow in raised beds or containers. You can also raise small livestock like rabbits. Starting this way allows you to gain experience without taking on much risk.

3. Embrace Mobility

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Image Credit: Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.

Speaking of risk, one of the keys to making farming financially viable is having mobility built into your operations from the very beginning. When you’re able to pick up and move your infrastructure, you can take advantage of opportunities to lease inexpensive land in different areas. You also aren’t tied down or trapped by debt from expensive permanent infrastructure.

Salatin started out raising his first chickens in a basic homemade brooder in his garage, then easily moved them out to pasture when they were ready. Consider living in temporary or inexpensive housing like an RV, trailer or yurt yourself in the early years so you can be flexible. Some innovative farmers even convert old shipping containers into modular housing!

4. Direct Market at First

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Image Credit: AYA images/Shutterstock.

Once you have your first livestock or produce ready for sale, start by direct marketing to people you already know through your existing networks. Sell directly to family, friends, colleagues, people from your church or other community groups. Get feedback from these initial customers, as they will be very supportive. This helps you build and refine your product before taking it to public markets.

After that, you can start selling at farmers markets, farm stands and other direct-to-consumer channels where you can meet customers face-to-face. Avoid high-cost wholesale channels at first. Only take your products into grocery stores, restaurants and food service operations once you have perfected your packaging, pricing, volumes and production workflow.

5. Reinvest Earnings

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Image Credit: keeweeboy/DepositPhotos.

In the early years of your farming operation, you need to put all money the business earns back into growth and expansion. Even if you need income to live on, find other creative ways to get by without taking profits from the farm. Why? Because any cash you pull out slows the growth and development of your farm.

Be extremely frugal in both your personal and business spending so you can maximize reinvestment. Patch holes in old clothing, eat rice and beans every night, bargain shop for deals on used equipment – whatever it takes. Living very lean in the short term lets you build a thriving farm that can support your family later.

6. Start Now Part-Time

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Image Credit: AYA images/Shutterstock.

Here’s one of the best tips – you don’t have to quit your day job to start your new farming life! In fact, starting small with a part-time operation while keeping your regular job can be an ideal transition.

Many people find farming so enjoyable and fulfilling that they naturally start shifting their energy and priorities away from the office life. The farm business can be built up over evenings, weekends and days off. Eventually as your farm expands, you’ll reach a tipping point where you’re ready to switch over and farm full-time.

The bottom line is don’t wait for the perfect conditions. Start growing food or raising livestock now in whatever capacity you can. If farming is your dream, take steps to embark on that journey today. The pastoral life you’ve always imagined could become your new reality!

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Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.