CREATE A PLAN
Did you make it through Steps 1-3 of a 5 Step System to a Farm Master Plan? If not now is the time to go back and get those done. Trust me, it will make Steps 4 & 5 much easier.
Step 4 Sketch it.
Remember that wish list? I promised we would come back to it. Gather it and your map from step 3. Take a minute and review your wish list and then study your map. You should start seeing patterns and areas of use developing from your notes. Now overlay your map with trace or parchment paper (or just run several copies).
With your wish list in mind start drawing in your wants using what you know about your property to guide you. For example: prevailing north winds, probably best not to put the orchard on that side of any structure. However, an orchard might do great on the south side. Obnoxious neighbors to the east, you may not want your new kidding pen over there. See where I’m going with this?
I know I said draw but you don’t have to be Rembrandt to do this, just pull out your kindergarten coloring skills and go to town. This is for you. You don’t have to show the world and no one is going to judge your artistic ability. If you don’t like crayons, try using computer drafting software or pencils and graph paper.
The best part of this entire step is that you can make as many sketches as you want. This is your brainstorming session. Go wild, try things you wouldn’t normally consider, like adding an apiary or a vineyard. Just see what works. You don’t have to make this plan perfect and this is a great opportunity to weed through all those ideas you’ve had. I occasionally print myself one out and draw the farm I would have if I ever won the lottery. Not all that likely to happen, but it’s fun to wish and make plans.
Don’t try to get extremely detailed or specific. You don’t need to draw each individual fruit tree in this step. You just want to block out general areas and run quickly through several ideas.
Check out our farm plan below. I saved ya’ll a clean version, the ones I keep in my notebook are full of notes, sketches, and magazine clippings. To create the plan below I used an online photo editor but you can use whatever you are most comfortable with.
Step 5 Dial it in.
Great! Now you have a ton of awesome ideas at your fingertips, but how do you get those to a plan that can be implemented?
This is the time to get serious. Consider your budget, your schedule, your abilities, free time and any covenants or restrictions. If you are including gardens in your master plan consider quantities and types of plants. Do you need a quarter acre or just a couple of rows? Don’t forget to include things like compost piles and equipment storage. I like to keep a notebook and jot down lists and ideas. I tuck my master plan in the front and refer to it as I brainstorm or detail my various projects.
When deciding when or how to go ahead with your master plan, don’t try to take it all on at once. Choose the projects that make the most sense for you, either in terms of need, budget, resource availability, labor, whatever.
Create a plan for a specific area or a specific project and use that to guide your next steps. In our master plan sketch I organized major areas and general concepts. But in this phase I focused my attention around the barn because that is what needed the most work now. The next round of work may focus on the east pasture, orchard or the shed. My sketch for the barn area is below.
If a sketch like this doesn’t work for you, enlarge an area of your master plan and add notes, lists or even magazine clippings.
You probably can’t accomplish everything on your plan at once. It seems like there are always limiting factors. For me it almost always comes down to a time or money restriction, often it’s both. That’s okay though. I take my grand scheme, my master plan (not the lottery one, that one is really going to take millions) and I use that to guide me as I start making changes. Decide what is most important and what you can do without a little longer. As an example, my master plan located the chicken coop right at the intersection of four paddocks. We were in desperate need of a chicken coop, they had outgrown their pen. And I really did not want to just throw something together for a coop. I wanted a nice coop. With the budget I had set, I could either make my paddock changes in that area or I could build a nice coop, but I wouldn’t have enough left in the budget to make the pasture changes.
It would have been easy to get discouraged at that point. But I had my master plan. Hubs and I reviewed it and figured out what portions of the fence I could build that would allow me to get some of my paddock wish list items and my coop. It’s the best of both worlds!
I know this last step seems like a big one. It is, but don’t worry, you can always take it one piece at a time. The important thing is to just start getting your ideas out on paper.
Don’t get stuck.
Remember that any master plan is intended as a guide. It is there to show you the big picture and to give you a workable plan for progress. But just like your farms it should be able to grow and flex as your needs change. Ultimately it is your plan and your farm and your decision. You don’t want to handcuff yourself to something that doesn’t work for you just because you drew it one time.
Now get out there and start planning, Good Luck!