Beginning Farming and Ranching

April 30th, 2017 by

I began my Extension career in Arkansas on 17 October 1988. Soon after, I was in a meeting and asked an “old” farmer how many years of experience he had in agriculture. I will never forget his reply, “Just one.” As he turned away, he finished his comment, “About forty times!”

I would say that after 28 years in agriculture, we’re all beginners to some degree or another. Each year brings different challenges and we’re all still learning how to make our operations better – from 2 acres to 20,000 acres! Over the past year, I’ve tried to pull together some of the more common questions that I receive from those that are new to (and yes, even the old hands) agriculture.

We will be offering a 4 part, Beginning Farming and Ranching educational series on May 9-18, 2017, starting promptly at 6:30 pm at the Joseph A. Carroll Building located at 401 W Hickory, Suite 115, Denton, Texas. The cost is $10.00 per class or you can pay $25.00 at the first meeting to attend all four classes. Pre-registration is required. Contact Robin Hill at 940-349-2894 to sign up today! Refreshments will be provided.

The schedule and topics of the classes will be:

Tuesday, May 9– Feral Hogs/Wild Pigs
Introduction to Pond/Wildlife Issues
Thursday, May 11– Forage Stocking Rates
Livestock 101
Tuesday, May 16– Production/Financial Recordkeeping
Ag Tax Deferment
Thursday, May 18– Basics of Viticulture (Grape Production)

Equipment for Your Agriculture Operation

Our speakers will be from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and the Denton Central Appraisal District. We look forward to seeing you there – no matter if you’ve been in agriculture for a year or a year, many times!

So You’re Thinking about Buying a Farm or Ranch?

A common mistake that we see is that the property owner has a “Field of Dreams” approach – “if you build it, they will come.” Just because you have property, does not necessarily mean that it will be well suited for your agricultural enterprise! You need to become educated on agriculture. The person best suited to assist you is your county extension agent. We can help you set achievable goals that are best suited for your property.

Now that I’ve told you where to start, how do you find what will grow on your property? One of the first websites that I’ll send you to will be the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service’s, Web Soil Survey ( This is wonderful site will allow you to enter the address of the property and draw a box around your property lines. It can provide you information on the expected soil types, vegetative productivity, drainage, suitability for roads and buildings and much, much more! If you do not know the history of production for a piece of land, this is a wonderful starting point. Did I mention it was free?

Next, I suggest that you determine your 2 years, 5 year and 10-year goals for your property. Like any business, I always recommend that as you are planning for these goals, you also develop possible exit strategies as well. (What happens if you must move, the kids are not interested in the land, or you are not able to work the property? Conduct your “due diligence” and educate yourself on your livestock, vegetable, pasture, fruit tree, pecan, etc. production practices. Attend educational meetings and do not be afraid of asking questions.

I’ve provided just a couple of the first steps. I will recommend that you visit in-depth with your county extension agent. AgriLife Extension provides non-biased, research-based answers to your questions. For example, many times a month, I receive questions about how many acres of Bermuda grass are needed to provide a year’s worth of grazing to a cow, goat, sheep or a horse. I can’t give a one-size-fits-all answer. (Answer: it depends on the weight of the animal(s), quality of the pasture, the fertilizer applied and how many weeds are present.) Let us look at your property and provide some direction for you. You’ll be glad you did!