If you’ve always dreamed of owning rolling fields of golden wheat or corn that’s high by the Fourth of July—and if you’re willing to put in the hard work of a true farmer—starting your own farming business might be the right path for you. Becoming a crop farmer is by no means an easy job, but it’s an honest and fulfilling way to earn a living. No matter your reasons for taking on the responsibilities of agriculture, take these tips for starting your own crop farm into consideration before you buy a plot of land.

Get Experience First

Your decision to become a farmer shouldn’t be a rash one. Don’t jump headfirst into the job by immediately, recklessly purchasing or renting farmland. If you’re new to farming, your first step should be to work under another farmer—either as a job or an apprenticeship. You may also gain experience by attending school for farming, but the hands-on experience will be far more valuable to you than book learning.

Have a Checklist Ready When Buying Farmland

Buying your first plot of farmland is much like purchasing the perfect house—and may even include buying a house. While a plot of land may look beautiful on the outside, it’s what’s underneath that makes the property a worthwhile purchase.

As you consider buying land, take the following factors into account:

Accessibility of Quality Water

No water means no crops. Make sure the property has a suitable water source on its land or has access to municipal water. Your property might have a well or cistern that keeps water flowing; you may need to perform maintenance on the underground water storage before using it yourself. Line your water storage with tank liners, and learn how to maintain them to protect the unit from erosion.

Soil Quality

Because you intend to grow crops, having high-quality soil without pollutants is a necessity. Dry soil without nutrients or land near busy roads are red flags that the property would require a lot more work than you might expect. If the ground is too toxic, your plants may not grow or could harm those who purchase them.

Compatibility With Neighbors

An essential part of learning how to farm is learning how to work with your community of nearby farmers. If you know what you’re growing, make sure neighboring crops or animals don’t hinder your farm’s growth. Fertilizers and seeds from neighboring farms can negatively impact your crops—especially with strict local seed laws.

Know Your Target Markets

Don’t start your farm thinking that you’ll grow whatever you want for whomever wants it—you might run your business straight into the ground. Remember that farming will be your income and livelihood; if you don’t want it to be, you may want to consider renting land for a hobby farm instead. Evaluate local demand for crops, and set a travel budget for the distance you’d like to transport them. Sending crops across the country can get expensive! As a general tip for starting your own crop farm, start local before spreading your market outward.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.