5 Guides for Beginning Farmers

Photo © Patty O'Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

If you’re thinking about starting a farm, there are many groups who do work with beginning farmers. Some have published free guides that provide lots of information that will be useful as you get started. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. The Greenhorns’ Guide for Beginning Farmers is designed to help young people develop careers in agriculture. It highlights helpful readings and resources about land access, financing farm businesses, and building technical skills.
  2. Penn State Extension’s Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business walks you through all the steps of starting a business, from analyzing business opportunities to getting off the ground.
  3. The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project at Cornell has a Getting Started guide that focuses on identifying your goals, skills, and resources to build an enterprise.
  4. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s guide on How to Begin Your Small Farm Dream is a plain language guide that provides a clear overview of the benefits and challenges of owning a farm, as well as the resources to realize those benefits.
  5. ATTRA’s Start a Farm in the City Guide walks you through starting an urban farm, touching on soil testing, finding markets, and resources specifically for urban farmers.

To find beginning farmer guides specific to your region, use our search tool to find an organization that provides the specific assistance and resources you need. Our online directory contains more than 750 organizations all over the United States that work directly with farmers on a variety of issues.

New resources for farmers transitioning to organic production

Transition to Organic Network (TON) listserv
TON is an online community of farmers, processors, handlers, buyers, agricultural service providers, and other food system stakeholders that share a common interest in transitional and organic agriculture. TON members connect with each other via the listserv to:

  • Exchange questions and resources related to transitional and organic agriculture and certification,

  • Stay informed about educational opportunities and programs for transitioning and organic producers and buyers, and

  • Network and develop relationships with other actors in the transitional and organic community.

Click Here to Subscribe to the Transition to Organic Network Listerv.

Making the Transition to Organic: Ten Farm Profiles

This publication features livestock, field crop, and vegetable producers who, during 2012-2015, were in the process of transitioning or who had been recently certified organic. Each profile addresses organic transition strategies (full transition, gradual transition, immediate transition, and split transition), challenges encountered, and outcomes deemed “most satisfying.” Click here to download a PDF version of this report.


Organic Transition: A Business Planner for Farmers, Ranchers and Food Entrepreneurs 
This publication is a decision-making tool designed to assist with the development of actionable production, marketing, human resource and finance strategies when considering the switch to organic. The Organic Transition Planner includes worksheets as well as three business plans developed by transitioning dairy, row crop, and vegetable farmers. Click here to download a PDF version of this report.

Resource Partners Event Roundup

Center for Rural Affairs

April: The Center for Rural Affairs (CFA) has two events this month. In partnership with The Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, CFA is hosting the WI Farmer Veterans Tour and Workshop on April 12.  Veterans and family members interested in farming careers are invited to attend this event at Growing Power Farms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A tour of the farm and its composting and aquaponics system will be followed by workshops at the farm. Admission is free and seating is limited so register here to reserve your spot!

Also on the 12th is the Farm Dreams Workshop. Women interested in farming and ranching will be able to participate in a four-hour workshop to get a feel for the professions and learn how to take the first steps to enter the field. The workshop takes place at the Syracuse Public Library in Syracuse, Nebraska and costs $5. Participants must register in advance and can contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134.

May: On May 10 the Farm Business Financing Workshop for Women will take place at the Lewis and Clark Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The event is an intensive business planning and farm-financing course to help women farmers and ranchers design a business plan and access financing for agricultural operations. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance. The event costs $5 and lunch is included.

June: For those thinking about venturing into the farmers market business, the June 7 event Selling at Farmers Markets gives tips and tricks to find the best location, customer base, product, presentation and price to maximize success. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, this event costs $5 and includes lunch. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register.

On June 21, Selling Through a CSA will teach women getting started in gardening, farming, and ranching about the advantages of selling through a community supported agriculture system. The workshop will take place at the Webermeier Public Library in Milford, Nebraska. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance 

National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA)

April: On April 25 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA) will host Entering the Institutional Food Market. Montana farmers, ranchers and processors will be provided information and technical assistance.  Register for this $10 event here by April 20 to reserve a spot.

June: With Montana adopting a new energy code requiring blower door and duct tightness testing for all new homes, there are emerging business opportunities in residential energy efficiency. On June 2, the Home Energy Rater and Energy Star Training in Missoula, Montana will provide comprehensive energy auditor training with an emphasis on new residential construction and the Home Energy Raters rating process. Participants will be prepared to take the tests required to become a certified Home Energy Rater, a Northwest Energy Star Homes Verifier and a Northwest Energy Star Homes Performance Tester. Register online and click here for more details 

Rodale Institute

April: Interested in having your own chickens? On April 26 the Rodale Institute is hosting the Backyard Chickens event to educate those looking to learn how to make chickens a part of their family and get fresh eggs everyday. Participants will learn about cost, breeding, housing, feeding, protecting and handling chickens, as well as leave with a list of recommended books and resources on how to complete this project efficiently. Register ahead of time here.

The Greenhorns

 April: . The future of farmland is unclear. In the next 20 years an expected 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. On April 26 and 27 Our Land: A Symposium on Farmland Access in the 21st Century at UC Berkeley will delve into the historical context, long-term implications and economic impact and stewardship potential of this impending transition.

May: On May 3 The Greenhorns is hosting Farmland Seekers to provide technical assistance around land and capital access and transition. Attendees will learn essential tools for building and navigating relationships with lenders, investors, landowners, partners, boards, conservation organizations, neighbors and more!

Click here to find out more about our Resource Partners! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more news about upcoming events and conferences!

Farmer Veteran Coalition’s 2nd annual conference for women veterans

The Farmer Veteran Coalition will host “Empowering Women Veterans: Success in Agriculture Business and Well-Being” in Louisville, Kentucky on November 14-17. This is the FVC’s 2nd annual national conference dedicated to women veterans in agriculture. The FVC invites all women veterans, active duty and women farming with veterans to the free event at the Hyatt Regency. The conference will bring together over 100 women from around the nation to build community while learning business skills needed to achieve entrepreneurial goals.

Click here for more information. Click here to register for free and reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency hotel, or email events@farmvetco.org for more information.

Winter Workshop Series on Financial Management

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) is offering a workshop series in western Massachusetts on financial management and business decision-making for farmers. The seven-workshop series will run through March, and is aimed at helping farmers become more finance-savvy and prepared to make decisions about new markets and major investments.

Click here for more information on the individual workshops and dates.

The cost for the whole series is $60 for members and $75 for non-members. Register for individual workshops online or by contacting Devon at 413-665-7100 x22 or devon@buylocalfood.org.