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