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Home > Local and Regional Food Systems > Beginning Farmer

Beginning Farmer



Man in field, courtesy of ClipArt.com

The term "beginning farmer"—defined by USDA as those who have been operating a farm or ranch for less than 10 years—includes people who are merely considering farming as a career, those in the early years of farming, and growers who are fine-tuning a well-established farm business. Regardless of where you fall along this continuum, you've come to the right place. The publications, success stories, and links on this page will help you find an internship program, learn practical farming skills, evaluate farmland, choose a farming enterprise or business structure, develop a marketing plan, write a business plan, and get the financing you need.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.



⇒ ATTRA Resources for Beginning Farmers


internship directory icon

Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships

A directory of on-the-job learning opportunities in sustainable and organic agriculture in the U.S. (and some in Canada) has been published since 1989 as a tool to help farmers and apprentices connect with each other.
Anyone can browse the listings for free. As a subscriber, you can build a personalized listing to connect with internship seekers. The listed farms are primarily seeking interns/apprentices from North America. Go »

 

Self-Instruction Courses

 

Farm Business Planning & Marketing for Beginners
This introductory-level course will help you develop a basic business and marketing plan to meet your farm goals and includes information about small livestock production. Most lessons are provided in English and Spanish.

Getting Started in Farming: an Introductory Course in Farm Business Planning
A more advanced course for those who have already decided to start farming, this course helps you anticipate personal and financial challenges and create a written business plan.

University of Arkansas—Division of Agriculture Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program
A modular learning program with separate lessons on poultry, small livestock, agroforestry, business development, and farm safety.

Agricultural Risk Management - English and Spanish Curriculum
User-friendly and non-traditional training in risk management, including lessons on identifying goals, marketing, managing money, planning for multiple markets, and contracts and regulations. The trainer's manual is in English while the participant's manual is offered in both Spanish and English.




Beginning Farmer Case Studies


Abanitu Organics ~ Roxboro, North Carolina - 14:08
Ayrshire Farm ~ Pittsboro, North Carolina - 6:02
Edible Earthscapes ~ Moncure, North Carolina - 8:37
Fickle Creek Farm ~ Efland, North Carolina - 12:28
Root Down Farm ~ Orange County, North Carolina - 9:25
Tumbling Shoals Farm ~ Millers Creek, North Carolina - 12:08




Videos

  Managing Risks on an Urban Farm
  Urban Farms: Commercial Farms or Socially Minded Operations?
  Boehm Farm Tour
  Hinebauch Farm Tour


 

ATTRA Publications


An Illustrated Guide to Growing Safe Produce on Your Farm - IP382

PDF Price: $3.95 for non-members

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Basic Accounting: Guidance for Beginning Farmers - IP443

PDF Price: $1.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $1.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy
Bringing Local Food to Local Institutions - IP242

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
California Guide to Labor Laws for Small Farms - IP467

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Case Studies and Fact Sheets for Labor Laws on California Small Farms - IP469

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Direct Marketing Lamb: A Pathway - IP518

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Farm Business Start-Up Checksheet - IP452

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Financing Your Farm: Guidance for Beginning Farmers - IP420

PDF Price: $1.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $1.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy
Finding Land to Farm: Six Ways to Secure Farmland - IP349

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Getting Into Farming - A Workbook for Beginning Farmers in North Carolina - IP462

 • Summary • Buy Print Copy
Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide - IP195

PDF Price: $2.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $2.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy
Moving Beyond Conventional Cash Cropping - IP201

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Positive Practices in Farm Labor Management - IP324

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Start a Farm in the City - IP350

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Sustainable Agriculture: An Introduction - IP043

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Sustainable Weed Management for Small and Medium-Scale Farms - IP490

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Tipsheet: Assessing the Soil Resource for Beginning Organic Farmers - IP509

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Tipsheet: Manure in Organic Production Systems - IP502

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Understanding Organic Pricing and Costs of Production - IP441

PDF Price: FREE

 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now

ATTRA offers many other publications with production and marketing information useful to beginning farmers. Consult ATTRA's Master Publication List for titles related to your interests and specialization.

 

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⇒ Selected Non-ATTRA Resources


USDA Programs:
USDA's Start Farming portal offers a personalized discovery tool to help beginning farmers access support and resources. It offers step-by-step assistance for beginning farmers, as well as links to other sources of information.

Largely through funding provided by USDA's Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program, there are hundreds of new support programs for beginning farmers around the country. These projects are active in at least 46 states, and they are exploring a wide range of approaches to land access, financial and business training, mentoring, leadership training, and other topics. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program has made available a clearinghouse of information for new and beginning farmers, FarmAnswers.org.

USDA Farm Service Agency targets a portion of its loan funds to small and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Many different loan programs exist, including farm ownership and operation loans, microloans, emergency loans, and guaranteed farm loans.

General Resources:
National Young Farmers Coalition supports practices and policies that will sustain young, independent, and prosperous farmers now and in the future. NYFC represents, mobilizes, and engages young farmers to ensure their success.

Beginning Farmers.org is a comprehensive compilation of information resources on farm financing, finding land, business planning, agricultural production and marketing, with a constantly updated blog providing the latest information and news on farm policy, farming jobs and internships, agricultural research, and the changing face of American agriculture.

The Greenhorns is a non-traditional grassroots non-profit organizationthat seeks to recruit, promote, and support the new generation of young farmers.

FARMDATA Open Source Records Management System for Produce Farmers. (FARMDATA Manual)

A Few Outstanding Training Programs:
Land Stewardship Project sponsors Farm Beginnings classes each fall in Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. In the winter participants learn goal setting, financial planning, marketing, and sustainable farming techniques from established farmers and other professionals. In spring and summer participants work with specific farmers and attend farm field days.

The Intervale Center of Burlington, Vermont, offers two programs for new farmers. The Intervale Farms Program leases land and facilities to small organic enterprises and provides technical support with other more experienced farmers. Success on Farms works one-on-one with state farmers to strengthen their businesses.

Agriculture and Land-Based Training Program (ALBA) offers bilingual farmer training, business incubation on organic farmland, and collaborative marketing opportunities.

Northeast Beginning Farmers Project operates an informational website and has developed resources, online courses, and how-to videos on production-oriented topics for new farmers.

The California Farm Academy runs a 7 month beginning farmer training program that teaches production, marketing and business planning. Located at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA, this intensive program combines classroom time, farm visits, and field work on their 1-acre plot. Classes are held in the evenings twice a week to accommodate working individuals, and two Saturdays per month. Graduates are given the opportunity to enter into the incubator program, in which they can lease land for up to 3 years and have the Center's support starting their own farm business.

Farm Incubator Programs:
Farm incubators are educational farms where where people are given temporary, exclusive, and affordable access to small parcels of land, for the purpose of learning farming skills and launching farm businesses.

The National Incubator Farm Training Initiative is a comprehensive source of information and tools for starting and operating a land-based beginning farmer training program, offering sample curricula, webinars, list serves, checklists, resources, case studies, and more.

Finding Land:
International Farm Transition Network supports programs that foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Links to network participants are available by state.

Land for Good helps farm seekers acquire farms and farmland, farm families transfer farms from one generation or owner to another, and landowners make land available for farming. Land for Good focuses on six New England states.

Women Starting Out in Farming:
Empowering Women in Agriculture is a Beginning Farmers & Ranchers Program project of Holistic Management International in the Northeast and in Texas. The objective of this program is to educate and empower these newcomers so they are positioned to apply Holistic Management principles and practices in order to build successful businesses.

Women, Food and Agriculture Network, based in Iowa, is a national network of women involved in sustainable agriculture. WFAN exists so that women can give each other the information, connections, and encouragement they need to be effective practitioners and supporters of sustainable agriculture and healthy localized food systems.

Growing Places, from the Vermont Women's Agriculture Network, is a non-credit course designed for people who are considering starting an agricultural or natural-resource-based business.

The Pennsylvania Women's Ag Network Farmer-to-Farmer Online Information Sharing is an educational program for farm women designed to enhance peer learning, mentoring, and networking.

Immigrant Beginning Farm Programs:
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project helps immigrants and others with agricultural backgrounds to begin commercial agricultural enterprises in Massachusetts.

New Farmer Development Project educates and supports immigrants in New York City with agricultural experience to become local producers and establish small farms in the region.

Minnesota Food Association's New Immigrant Farmer Project provides training for new immigrants and aspiring farmers in gardening, micro-farming, production farming, marketing, and land use planning.

RAPP: Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program listserv shares tips, success stories, and more information about agricultural projects with, for and by refugees.

Programs for Veterans:
Farmer Veteran Coalition aspires to lead the national effort connecting veterans to agriculture.

 

Arrow Icon For an extended list of local food resources, please visit ATTRA's Local Food Resources Section.

 

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This page was last updated on: March 16, 2017