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5 Steps To Start Farming  

Mbali Nwoko - 19th May 2020 - 39 comments

Despite agriculture being one of the least favourable career sectors to pursue, it’s fascinating to see a high level of interest from people wanting to start farming and the most common question people ask me is: how do I start farming? Listed below are the most important factors to consider when venturing into farming and they will serve as a guideline if you have no idea where to begin.

1. Research, Research and Research 

If you want to know something about anything, you have to do significant research. Acquaint yourself about the industry by understanding the different role players across the agricultural value chain, farming organisations, learning the different terminologies, challenges and opportunities. Read up on various farmer stories and their journeys, as you can derive great value from those that have walked the path before you. By doing your research you will have some idea of where to begin but most importantly, know if this is something you want to pursue. 

2. Look for land

I think we are fortunate in Africa to have vast untapped and arable land. You cannot farm without land and the best places to go to is online property sites or drive around farming communities where you can look for land to purchase or lease, depending on what your budget is. You really don’t have to start big, but you can start farming on a small plot (5ha or less) so that it’s easier to manage and you can grow from there. 

3. Water and Soil 

Once you have found land the next step is to do your soil and water tests. Let me add by saying that you cannot farm without water. You need to ensure that the land has either a borehole or is located near a river or dam and that you have rights (water license) to use that water. The water analysis will determine the pH of the water and also identify if the water is contaminated or not, and is safe to use on your crops or feed your livestock. If you have a borehole, you need to test that borehole to determine the water capacity per hour that the borehole can deliver. Soil tests are equally important as they help you determine if there are any soil-borne diseases that you may need to rectify before you start planting. It’s always best to know what you are working with to avoid any surprises in future. 

4. Capital 

Farming is extremely capital intensive and you cannot farm without having some cash in the bank. Therefore, if you have done your research properly, you will have a rough estimation of how much capital is needed to start farming your desired commodity. The capital required will go towards the following: employee salaries, input costs, tools and equipment as well as farm infrastructure i.e: fencing, irrigation, etc. Have a budget and once you start generating revenue, redirect those funds back into your business by improving your farm and its operations. 

5. Find Customers 

No business exists without clients/customers, therefore if you want to farm, you need to ensure that there is a demand for your product. Going back to research, identify and speak to potential clients, understand their needs, who they are currently procuring from and at what price. Differentiate yourself from the next farmer to ensure that you always have customers. 

Good luck and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

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  1. Tebogo

    I have cattle’s goats an sheep’s my ideal goal is to start a black owned feedlot but getting a loan is a huge problem. Why are young black farmers like me not considered

    • Mbali Nwoko

      speak to your financier and ask them why they are not approving you, and work on their recommendations.
      otherwise try raising capital from other farming activities and reinvest those funds into your feedlot business.

  2. Mbali this is great, informative and a great guide to someone like me.

    Thank you!

  3. Hi

    Thank you so much for the encouragement and knowledge
    My question is is the anywhere I can bulk seed with reasonable price around Johannesburg

  4. Mmathomo Moila

    Yes, for some because it gets costly to aquire. Things like water licencing takes months before you can get one and most financial institutions like land bank wont process your application until you have one but you have land to work on. Its been two years and waiting for water licencing.

  5. Thanda

    Very insi, thank t.,


    Mbali you are spot on, I am a farmer to be and i am in a research stage at the moment

  7. Eddie Mkhatshwa

    Very useful insight. You have just outlined the key components in agric. I have taken notes of what you have outlined and if I have more questions I will DM you.

  8. Martha Mabunda

    Thank you for the blog,I love farming

  9. Martha Mabunda

    I loved your blog,I am an aspiring farmer looking to buy a small land ,i know it wont be easy since I’m a full time employee at the moment .thank you

  10. Madumetja Teffo

    I like this guidelines. I started some few years ago but I was not running it like business, with the stock of 15 cows three years ago, I shud hv done better. But this guidelines have motivated me to do it differently.

  11. Lerato Ntshingila

    It’s very helpful to establish a starting point!

    I started pig farming about a year ago and my experience has not been the most successful.
    I skipped a few logical stages because I assumed some things would happen naturally so I agree with all 5 points and find them very insightful.

    *Research – My father was a farmer and I thought that looking at how he did things was enough for me to start. I also had a mentor. Sadly,both my father and my mentor passed away in just months after each other. If I had done more extensive research on my own,I would have been more prepared to take over where they left off. But lesson learnt!

    *Customers – I also did not prepare myself for change. My father had introduced me to an auction house where pigs are sold and I assumed I did not have to look for customers and just months after I started there were issues at the auction house and the sale of pigs was put on hold.

    *Capital – I did not secure funding, I assumed I didn’t need too much money because I have my own land. Food and water for pigs was more than I thought it would be and it would have helped me if I had done more planning with regard to that.

    Thanks so much for sharing! Really put things in perspective!


    • Mbali Nwoko

      Hi Lerato, thank you for sharing your journey with me and the readers. My condolences to the loss of your father and mentor.
      Im glad that the above points put things into perspective for you. The good thing about mistakes is that we can always learn from them.
      Wishing you all the best with your piggery operation.


        Very informative and eye opening. One thing we as emerging farmers should take heed is the variable cost of running the farm, different characters you encounter when working with people, the inter-relationships you need to establish and maintain with fellow farmers and clients involved in the commodity of your choice. It’s very sad when you realize how overwhelming circumstances may become when you new in this industry and no one is there to guide and assist with unforeseen situationships you encounter. Great information for starters and very enlightening. Big ups.

    • Pontsho Modiba

      Hey Mbalu, I have passion for farming, how do I test the soil, I have a vacant land at my village, and I would like to start my farming there. Thanks

      • Mbali Nwoko

        You can contact testing companies close to your village or contact the likes of Intertek, SGS, Agri cooperatives, ARC in Pretoria. Whichever you prefer.

  12. Munesu

    Thanks Mbali for this advice. I am a journalist who has so much passion for farming. I always read your articles and they have been really helpful. I have been doing some research on piggery. I would like to start a pig farm in the meantime, before I go into the crop business. What sort of farming are you into yourself? Maybe I can learn one or two things from you if you don’t mind. Thanks once again for the wisdom.

    • Mbali Nwoko

      Im a vegetable farmer hence most of my content is about crops however I also touch on the business of farming.
      I have a YouTube channel as well, where I share more info related to farming.
      Make sure you also subscribe to my newsletter to get more information directly to your inbox.

  13. I really appreciate your advice, am following you, want to learn more.

  14. Nompumelelo

    Thank you so much for the information ?

  15. Senamile

    Been following you on LinkedIn and your YouTube channel. All the content you share is very informative. Expecially the Instagram LIVE you did with Andile, I was in awe- it was truly jam packed with knowledge. I have number 2 (1 hectare) and currently busy with number 1, as I learn I do something. I am taking it one day at a time using what I have. I am self funded so decided to draw up monthly targets to get the necessary tools, equipment and farming infrastructure- this was highly inspired by your youtube post titled Just Start. Thank you for sharing the knowledge. It is highly appreciated

    • Mbali Nwoko

      Hi Senamile, your comment just made my day. I’m glad that you decided to start and that you are taking it at your own pace.
      Best of luck to you and remember to learn and enjoy the process. It will be worth it.

  16. Mocheko Alfred Thoka

    My name is Alfred Thoka from Limpopo province (Mokumuru) but working in the Eastern Cape. I am working for the Department of Agriculture ,Land Reform & Rural Development.Currently we are doing crop farming, we plant Bambara nuts (Ditloo) & there is a huge market for them. There is a market for Bambara nuts. We have more Land. We also plant maize as well. We use communal land. It’s a family business, it’s me, my brother & mother. I want to leave my job & focus on farming full time. Currently we do have two tractors & implements. Will not spent much to start farming, we are busy clearing trees on lands that we are going to use. We will also do livestock farming & there is a family farm that we will use to keep our livestock.

    • Mbali Nwoko

      Hi Alfred, thank you for leaving your comment. I’m excited for you on this venture, and wishing you all the best as the transition from working fulltime to being self-employed is not always easy, however, I trust that you have a solid plan in place and will succeed.

  17. Philani

    Hi Thank you for sharing I keep on trying the funding organisations but its a real hustle and I guess we can’t rely on them but I keep pushing with my livestock and the AgriGroup ,for us we got our livestock but we in need of land only and the rest shall fall into place.I am inspired by your work .

    • Mbali Nwoko

      Hi Philani, indeed its not easy as some funding companines have a specific mandate. Getting capital to start or grow a business is not always a walk in the park.

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