Friday, 12 September 2014

Farms With A Future - A Book Review

I recently came across this book Farms With A Future - Creating and growing a Sustainable Farm Business by Rebecca Thistlethwaite and I was immediately intrigued.  One of the thoughts we have had for our land in New Zealand when we move there is to grow food for sale so I thought I would start to get some more knowledge under my belt about farming as a business.

Right off the bat I want to say that this book is a fantastic read, and even if you have no interest in farming as a business yourself, but are interested in learning how farms can be run in a sustainable manner and sharing personal stories about innovative farmers making a difference in their communities, then this is a book you should look out for or request at your local library.

This book does not focus on agricultural side of managing and running a farm but instead focuses on the specifics of running a farm as a business.  Rebecca has been a farmer herself and in this book she shares all of the wisdom she has learnt over the years through trial and error and the knowledge she has gained for the many books, websites and other farmers she has met along the way.

The book is set out in the order you need to be doing things as you consider setting up you farming business. Each chapter provides detailed information about the things you need to be considering, plans you need to making and considerations before moving on to the next phase in the businesses evolution.  There are plenty of tips, creative solutions and plenty of excellent advice.
The chapters are concluded with take home messages of the key points covered in the chapter which makes for easy reference if you want to go back and check anything.  Linking back to the topic in each chapter as a case study is also a personal story from a farmer who shares their advice, key tips for success and shows how it all gets put into practice.

The farmers interviewed throughout the book run a variety of businesses including orchards, dairy cows, goats, poultry, market gardens and everything in between.  There are big farms, small farms, people who have farmed on land they owned, leased or borrowed.  All of these farmers are innovative and constantly looking for efficiency in both their production models and finances while not causing degradation to the land on which they depend for their livelihoods.

The chapters are titles as follows:

  1. For the Beginner
  2. Identifying Your Market Niche
  3. Finding and Securing Land
  4. Financing the Dream
  5. Farm Planning for Success
  6. Equipment and Infrastructure
  7. Soil and Water Management
  8. Harvest and Processing
  9. Marketing and Relationship Building
  10. Record-Keeping and Regulatory Compliance
  11. Accounting and Financial Management
  12. Human resources and Family
  13. Add-On Enterprises and Value-Added Products
  14. References and Resources

This book is written and based in America, so there are a few things discussed (such as tax forms) that will not apply to farms in other parts of the world, but this is such a small part that I would still encourage anyone contemplating a farming enterprise to read this book.
There were so many things that I took away from this book that I think I would apply to a farming business. I feel that it really arms the new farmer and the farmer who wants to to make some changes, with practical steps they need to take and consider to turn their farming dreams into a successful and sustainable reality.

Overall I think this is one of the best books I have read related to the practical considerations of running any sort of farming enterprise and would recommend it as a great read to any one looking to farm them selves or be inspired by farmers doing a great job or running their business while caring for the land.


  1. Sounds like a great book, so many books about farming focus on the practical aspect of farming but not on the business side. It doesn't matter how good you are at being a farmer if you can not make any money from it.

  2. Have you given thought as to what you would like to produce and sell. I imagine it would have to be something you are passionate about as well as viable. Goodness, those lucky people in NZ have some great preserves and recipes coming their way. I always enjoy reading this type of book even though i have no plans to have a property (unless i win tatts - but i think to you have to buy a ticket for that) .

    1. Lynda I think you would still enjoy the book and the stories about the different farmers and how they approach farming. We have not thought too specifically about what we will grow but we will start with getting the soil as healthy and take it from there.

  3. Great post and great review Fiona. We're mostly about homesteading, i.e. not necessarily making a business of it, but for both of us to be able to be here full time and make our living from the land would truly be a dream come true. Sounds like a helpful book.

    1. Hi Leigh I really found it helpful and it gave me a lot to think about that I had not considered. It would be worth seeking the book out at you library.


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