As he launched Fieldstone Farm, Ken Krause chose Booker T. Whatley to guide him. Whatley, a professor from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, contended that farmers could make a good living by getting smarter, not bigger. He was an early advocate for U-pick operations, community supported agriculture, diversification, drip irrigation, and farm bed and breakfasts.
“I say let the big boys grow soybeans, cotton, hay, peanuts and beef cattle. The plan I'm talking about takes the small farmer out of the big guys' ballpark,” Whatley said in a 1982 interview with Mother Earth News.
His handbook – How To Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres – served as Ken’s primary resource in establishing his farm. Ken grew up in the city and wasn’t trained in agriculture, but from what he’d experienced in the business world, he knew Whatley was right. “He got me excited about what I had,” Ken says.
“I get excited when I think about making money,” he adds. And, from a businessman’s standpoint, Whatley’s approach made sense. “You have to sell direct market. The key is finding what people want and selling for a profit, Marketing 101.”
Whatley, who died in 2005 at age 89, retains admirers today. Market gardener George DeVault, who writes for Grit and NewFarm.org, among other publications, says, “For our money, Whatley’s ideas on diversification, year-round cash flow and direct marketing of high-value crops are still the most sensible, practical – and profitable – advice to come from a university scientist since George Washington Carver.”
DeVault goes on to offer his own bit of advice for those who dream of farming: “Before you make the plunge, get all of the production – and marketing – experience and information you can. Eliminate or at least minimize your debt. Save as much money as possible. Internships or apprenticeships can help you earn while you learn. … The idea is to make your new farm dreams come true, not turn them into nightmares.”
(Whatley’s book, published in 1987 by the Regenerative Agriculture Association, is out of print. Copies remain available, however from several Internet sources.)