It’s an unfortunate reality in agriculture today: Not every hard-working, enthusiastic person who wants to farm is able to, often because of high start-up costs or lack of available land.

A trio of panelists at the 2019 Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting last week in Des Moines explained how they started their farms “from scratch” through non-traditional farming. They stressed that it is possible if you’re willing to do your research, take risks and look beyond commodity crop and livestock production.

Steven Howe, a Farm Bureau member from Fremont County, has raised antibiotic-free hogs for Niman Ranch, an all-natural meat company, for the past 14 years.

Howe told annual meeting attendees that he always wanted to farm, but his parents’ farm wasn’t big enough to support his growing family.

“I grew up with pigs. I wanted to raise pigs, but I...