Should you rent or buy a farm without prior hands-on experience with farming? What are the chances of success for a farmer with little experience? I assume that it is better to start as a tenant than a purchaser?
It depends on what you're hoping to do and the price of land in that area. Renting can be a great option, but expect there to be some rules, some of which you might not like. See if you'll be the only person using the land. I had a friend who rented. He was out plowing his field when he heard gunshots which worried him as he had a young family. The person who owned the land decided to go hunting on the property. It was quite a shock. In my area, land is cheap so it makes more sense to buy, then start slowly building things up from there.
I think it depends on what your goals are as well as how much you have to spend. If you buy land, I'd start small. That way, you can learn as you grow. Starting small will allow you to experiment and learn what works and what doesn't for you.
It's easier to rent, of course, because you aren't taking on quite the investment, but you might be limited by regulations your renter sets out for you.
Just me, but I'd actually start small (i.e. almost commercially viable gardening) more as a hobby that could be profitable with whatever land you may already have and grow from there.
In fact, since I've moved to Alabama for my current career several years ago that's kind of what I'm doing now even though I'm semi-familiar with farm operations from growing up in and around farming in central Minnesota.
There's a lot to learn about farming, and potentially re-learn if/when you move to a different area/climate. Combine that with the fact that most small farmers don't rely on the farm as their primary source of income (recommend doing research on that - if you're in the US both your state and the federal government keep a fair amount of statistics on farmers and farming operations),and it should help.
That's not to say you can't go big right off and be successful, but there's definitely some very real risks to consider and work to mitigate so you don't end up losing everything.
Look at it this way, what if you have enough capital right from the start? I wouldn't consider buying land from the onset. Depending on my goal, I would first rent but set aside some funds for speculation. Experience is the issue here, and it can be risky to embark on a big project then fail to manage it.
I agree with greg. Unless you are very determined, I don’t suggest buying land at an early stage. But it’s true that it comes with more flexibility if you purchase the land instead of renting. But again, you got to bear the risk.
As stated above, it really depends on what you are looking for. But also, what is available? It's hard to find farmland for lease, so many others are looking. I saw a new site a few weeks ago that is matching farmers and landowners for farm rentals - www.farmleasepro.com - maybe go on there and see if you can find anything