Change is continuous in farming. Prices, farm programs, trade policies, technology, markets, and consumer preferences all change continuously. Many farmers search for alternative enterprises and opportunities to help diversify their farm operations. Some farm enterprises benefit from these changes and some are harmed, so the search for profitable alternatives is a continuous challenge.
There are seven important questions that should guide the search for alternative enterprises. Answering each one of these is important to achieving success.
• Why are you interested in alternative enterprises?
• What are consumers interested in buying and who will be your customers?
• What are you planning to sell and how will you sell it?
• Will your product require processing, and if so, how will you sell it?
• What business and legal issues apply?
• What resources will you need?
• Will it be financially feasible and worthwhile?
On Feb. 7, there will be a Regional Small Production Workshop at the Bladen County Extension Center in Elizabethtown. Extension Specialists from NCA&T State University will conduct the workshop. Growers will have an opportunity to learn a number of production innovations and alternative systems such as utilizing plastic and drip irrigation, economics of farming high-tunnel production, silvopasture and good agricultural practices.
Realize that enterprise selection is a complicated and demanding process. It should be considered no different than evaluating any other business opportunity. The amount of time and energy spent in research should be directly related to the amount of capital at risk and the potential rewards. All of this takes a lot of work, but it is well worth taking time to make sure the ideas you are considering will work and to avoid problems or disappointments down the road.
For more information, please contact James Hartsfield, Extension Area Farm Management Agent, with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Sampson County Center at 592-7161.
James Hartsfield is an area extension agent specializing in farm management serving Sampson and Duplin counties.