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What young farmers should know about running a farm like a business

You enjoy farming. You want to grow food not just for yourself but for the whole nation. You long to work with the soil and are ready for a life of intellectual challenges, physical toil and uncertain finances. Now, you’re planning on trading in your suit and tie for gum boots and a woven hat to become a young farmer.

Congratulations! Zambia needs you.

Here are seven things you need to know:

1. Be willing to assume risk

Risk can come in different forms: financial, occupational or reputational. Any time you take on a new challenge, you’re going to become more invested in the success and well-being of the operation. Be motivated and push the needle to accomplish your goals.

2. Ask questions

Before you go and do what someone else is doing, ask questions. Sometimes being the silent observer is fine, but don’t avoid asking why things are done the way they are. Not everything that glitters is gold.

3. Get your hands dirty

Don’t let farm workers do everything for you. Get your hands dirty and enjoy it. You’ll be proud of the experiences and lessons you’ll learn from the people you encounter and work with in the field. Who better to learn from than those already actively engaged and doing the work?

4. Marketing is more than a hashtag

Social media is a great way to connect with people who we would otherwise never meet yet alone interact with. It is an easy way to stay abreast of current events and industry news, and to share information and ideas. However, simply taking pretty pictures isn’t enough. Be mindful of the opportunities you may have to promote agriculture and be confident enough to do so.

5. Seemingly small things can yield major rewards

Change can be as drastic or subtle as you make it. With some research and different management techniques, you’ll be surprised to find that you can do better with little-to-no additional effort. Small improvements stack up quick and can quickly change the landscape and character of an agricultural venture.

6. Lead change and become involved

Agriculture has overcome many challenges and obstacles in the past, but I feel our greatest contest is yet to come. NGO’s and government organizations are the collective voice of our industry. It is imperative to not only become a member but also be actively engaged, and promote its creed and mission.

7. Don’t avoid admitting when you need help

Know your limits and when you need assistance. It is OK to admit you do not know something or your abilities aren’t as advanced as those around you. More importantly, be the helping hand when you are called upon by others.

With the above advice comes 5 rules for starting your own farm:

Rule #1: Avoid Debt!

Rule #2: Allow Yourself the Opportunity to Fail

Rule #3: Match the Land to Its Suited Use

Rule #4: Set Reasonable Goals

Rule #5: Don’t Worry About What Other People Think

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