For New Farmers
I would like to start farming. Where do I begin?
Great! There are lots of people who want to farm in the Northeastern United States. Despite the challenges, it's possible to make farming a successful part of your life. To meet your own goals for success, it is most important to "line your ducks up" before you make any major decisions or investments.
Here are some things to think about:
- Begin by asking lots of questions and gathering information. Look for sources of support -- family, friends, farming groups, agricultural service providers such as state university Extension Educators and farm-related organizations.
- Do a thorough assessment of your personal, family and business goals. Start by asking yourself why and how you want to farm. Where do you want or need to live? What do you want to produce? How do you want to market your products? How do you want to balance farming and other personal, family and business pursuits?
- There are some good workbooks and/or classes available to help you do this (see below). Be realistic - farming is not a 9 to 5 job!
- Attend new farmer classes, field days, and meetings of agriculture industry groups (for example, the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association).
- To answer your farming questions, you may need more information and tools. This website is a good start for your search.
- There are many local, state and regional agriculture service agencies and farming support organizations to help you. There are also numerous publications and websites full of valuable information.
Here is a sample of resources:
Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? Order this as a self-study guide or take a class in your area.
Developing a Long Range Business Plan and Getting Started in Farming, published by Midwest Plan Service/NRAES.
Finding the Niche: Case Studies of Beginning Small-Scale Farmers, (see left) from the University of Wisconsin, Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems.
You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterpise, by Joel Salatin; published by Chelsea Green Publishing.
The Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service (NRAES) offers numerous publications, including Managing the Overall Business; Acquiring and Managing Resources for the Farm Business; and Farming Alternatives: A Guide to Evaluating the Feasibility of New Farm-Based Enterprises.
The Rodale Institute hosts a website and email newsletter geared toward new farmers.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences has a huge catalog of fact sheets and resources on the full gamut of agricultural topics, including start-up questions.
Other web resources for beginning farmers include the Agricultural Network Information Center; The Center for Rural Affairs; USDA Small Farms Database on beginning farmers; Women's Agricultural Network; and Successful Farming Magazine.