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5.1 A Young Farmers Story | 5.2 On the Way | 5.3 Access to Funding | 5.4 Alternative Funding | 5.5 Business Management | 5.6 Business Skills | 5.7 Farmer Education Opportunities | 5.8 Resources & Tools for Farmers | 5.9 Resources for Farm Educators |

5.1 A Young Farmer’s Story

by Kelly Nichols

Caitlin Arnold and Holly Mills of Sidewalk’s End Farm, Oregon

Sidewalk’s End Farm is located in the city of Portland, Oregon. We farm five city plots and one large rural one, focusing on northwestern hardy, late season, and storage crops. The farm was started by four people–Holly, Jud, Rachel, and Tom–who lived and gardened together for three years until we decided to make our large gardens pay for themselves by selling CSA shares. Things grew quickly, and now, in our second season, we are growing for a 20-member CSA and two farmers’ markets, as well as cultivating barter and work-trade relationships. We borrow backyards and empty lots and trade produce to our generous land-lenders.

What difficulties have you had, or are you overcoming, and how?

In our first season the major challenge was figuring out how to operate as a small business. Even though we all had extensive agricultural experience, the business end of things was a serious seat-of-the-pants endeavor and major learning experience. Our other primary obstacle–both for getting by and being good farmers–is trying to run a small, economically viable farm in the city, where we pay city rent and cannot live on our land, have city water rates, have limited access to land, and are compromised by jobs, transportation, and the logistics of keeping multiple plots with different conditions and crops in mind.

What advice do you have for other young farmers who are just starting out?

Work for and learn as much as you can from other people. Do apprenticeships and internships for at least a few years to make sure you actually like it. Educate yourself about the realities of farming, national and local farm policy, and what people in your area want and need. Learn where you live and farm and try to figure out what will make the most sense for where you are. Figure that you might have to start, quit, start over, try something different before you really get your farm going.

How do you see your work as a farmer fitting into the larger movement for social change from the ground up?

Our food economy alone has a long way to go. As farmers we get our hands dirty every day with these questions, and maybe by continuing to farm we can figure out some answers. Since we’re in the city, I think we can play an interesting part in building stronger bridges between urban and rural areas. We are also really excited about the possibilities of extending our farm beyond agricultural and food-related concerns, which is part of our long-term vision.

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5.2 On the Way

So you are on your way to becoming farmer! Congratulations and welcome to a rewarding career and delicious healthy lifestyle. It is important to understand farming is a business, and the farmer is an entrepreneur, especially as you begin to imagine the shape and products of your very own farm.

Getting Started

Owning a stable and sustainable farm business isn’t just about growing and harvesting great crops, it’s also about developing day-to-day business skills. These skills are are easily learned through research, asking the right questions, and using common sense. You can avoid many typical small business start-up issues by using advice and expertise of your neighbors, farmer mentors, extension professionals, beginning farmer educators,= libraries, online resources, and classes. In this section we offer basic guidance on accessing land, finding funding, purchasing insurance and developing your own business management style. Before you begin searching for your dream farm, consider the following:

1. Don’t assume that you have to buy land to get started farming. You do, however, need to know how to farm before getting in too deep. One useful strategy is to move to the region you want to settle in, and spend some time as a renter on an existing farm or leased land. Short term renting and leasing are both valid options to testing a location’s soil, crops and market potential before committing to a business.

2. Start small and make sure you have a business plan. Most professional consultants – Extension Agents, bankers, lawyers – will ask to see your business plan before offering counsel as it proves you have put time, thought and effort into how you will achieve your dream.

3. There is no such thing as free money. If access to funding for start up is a big issue, there are options like gifts, loans, and grants.

Land Access

If you want to farm, you’ll probably need land, and good farmland can get expensive. Purchasing the right piece of land takes time, patience, and a team of realtors, bankers, and lawyers to help you complete your sale. Finding the land to rent, lease, or borrow can be intimidating even for those who have the potential to inherit a working farm or plan on joining a family farm business.

Evaluating Land & Construction Needs

You’ve got your paperwork all in order, and you’re ready to find land to farm. Before you start looking for land, draw up a list of your needs and wants.

  • What kind of farming do you want to do?
  • How much land you want?
  • What types of buildings will you need?
  • Do you need electricity, water, paved roads, fencing, houses, ponds?
  • Do you need to be close to a particular mentor, farmer’s market, or distribution hub?

Creative Land Access Strategies

Young farmers have managed to get access to land in a lot of different ways.

  • Working for a non-profit organization as farm manager/educational coordinator
  • Renting/leasing land from a land trust
  • Renting/leasing land from wealthy (or not so wealthy) non-farming landowners who get an “agricultural tax assessment”
  • Farming land owned by another in return for a share of the profits (sharecropping)
  • Renting part of a working farm and sharing equipment
  • Farming community land owned by an institution i.e. school, retirement home, retreat center, historic farm museum, land trust
  • Collaborative land purchase (siblings, friends, associations)
  • Farming for a private developer in a planned development
  • Starting on a small homestead (home with a large lot) in town while earning money for a later farm purchase in a more rural area with more land access
  • Land inheritance from your family
  • Joining an existing family farm and purchasing the farm over time
  • Slowly taking over a farm operation from a nonrelated retiring farmer
  • Rooftop or urban farming for a business (i.e. restaurant, hotel, apartment complex)
  • Renting or leasing empty urban land parcels from the city
  • Borrowing a neighbor’s underutilized land in exchange for upkeep or produce
  • Farming community land in a business or farm incubator program

Lease Agreements

Lease agreements are the conditions you and the landowner agree upon when you rent or borrow land and buildings.* It’s important that you have a good lease agreement with your landlord, especially if your business requires infrastructure, crops or livestock that are difficult to remove or harvest on short notice. Many start-up farms and land lease arrangements are built upon a handshake agreement, but do be aware that conditions can change—leaving you and your business vulnerable.

As a lessee, you’ll want to protect yourself and your business from too rapid changes in conditions and make clear whether you are interested in the land for a short or long term. You may want to ask:

  • Will this land suit my business needs?
  • Is this a temporary condition, or do I intend to stay in this space for many years?
  • Does my business require building infrastructure (irrigation wells, barns, roads) that I will have to remove or lose when my lease ends?
  • Would I like to have the option of first right of refusal or right of first offer?
  • What work am I willing to do in return for a lower lease price?
  • Can I legally grow my business on this property/neighborhood?
  • What price per acre are other farmers paying for leased land in this area?
  • What limitations does the landowner want to impose?
  • How quickly can I exit my lease if I decide I don’t want to farm/I don’t want this land?

Ask your farmer mentors, friends, and partners to give you feedback on your requirements list, they may help you identify needs or wants you didn’t even realize you had. When shopping for your farm you may want to talk to the following experts:

Extension Agents can help you define what you want to sell, where your potential markets are located, and help you review soil qualities, building and equipment needs. Extension consultants may also know of lands available for rent, lease, or borrowing, and businesses available for purchase or succession.

Real Estate Agents will help you find available parcels, arrange tours, and work with you to complete the sale. Real estate agents typically work for a percentage commission on the final purchase price of your property.

Banker Your local bank can help you determine how much money you have available to finance your potential farm. A bank representative will help you review your assets and liabilities, and will determine how much financing you are eligible to receive.

Lawyer You will need to solicit the services of a lawyer to help you review the legal documents for setting up your farm, purchasing land or equipment, or drawing up succession paperwork (in the case of inheritance, joining or purchasing a family business). Lawyers typically will assist you for an hourly rate. You don’t have a lawyer? Ask your relatives, realtor, bank, or friends for recommendations—you want to hire someone who is trustworthy, accurate, and most of all familiar with farming!

Family Counselor/Dispute Mediator can assist you in communicating your desire to join or purchase a family business, and can help resolve any issues that arise during your succession. It’s better to see them before an issue arises than to wait until your family is in an uproar over the changes you’ve made to the old family farm.

Mentor Farmer Walking the land with your former boss, or a local farming mentor can prove invaluable as you plan your farm, layout, improvements etc.

Chamber of Commerce is a local/regional business group, and can often help point you in the direction of farmers who are looking to retire, available business opportunities, open market niches, and valuable networking contacts.

Neighbors are always great for telling you the real details the property you’re interested in purchasing. They know the details of property improvements, areas of flooding or standing water, overall neighborhood attitude about farmers and farming noise/smells, and whether or not you and your business will fit in with the community.

Last but not least, be open minded. Your dream farm may end up looking very different than you originally planned. It might take a lot of legwork and a few attempts to find the right spot for your business, but your dream farm is out there waiting for you!

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5.3 Access to Funding

Here are a few ideas of how to grow:

  • Grow an existing family garden into a small farm by selling to neighbors and friends
  • Expand an existing project (FFA, 4H) into a formal small business
  • Fundraising through special events, donors, or investors
  • Save money for a future farm while working a non-farm job or working for another farmer
  • Work part time on your farm business while maintaining a full time job off-farm
  • Start small, grow as you gain profits by reinvesting in your business

Starting a farm requires money for equipment, materials, and land. You can manage your need to borrow money to run your new business by limiting what you buy (frugality), developing new opportunities to make money over time (economy),

A Farm Business Plan

Start your search for funding by developing a business plan. A business plan is an outline of your mission (why are you a farmer?), your goals (what do you want to do?) and your plans on how to achieve them. Most plans have a list of expected costs, and a preliminary calculation of how much money you might make from the sale of your goods. Also list skills you have, and any needs you have before you achieve your farm (education, equipment, land, housing, labor, family support). Your farm business plan is the first document you should show to anyone you are asking to give you money—it provides a framework where you can justify your request for funding, explain your skills and assets, and promote your farm business idea.

A farm business plan should be a work in progress; once you’re on your way, you will find your ideals, crops, costs, and profits changing from year to year. Your plan should reflect where you are right now, as well as a brief summary of how your farm began, how it has changed/grown over time, and what your goals are for the future.


You may be fortunate enough to have family and friends who will assist you in starting your business if you ask nicely. There are limitations on the total amount of gift money you may receive without taxation from family members, so do your research before submitting your annual taxes.

Funding Your Dreams

There are many ways to begin your new farm. Starting your farm business may be as easy as stepping out into your garden and harvesting extra produce to sell at the end of your driveway. If you have a more complex business planned, finding funding will usually involve work on your part to increase your personal cash flow to a level where you can afford to fund your start-up costs.

Loans from Banks

Loans can be acquired by local credit unions, banks and the USDA. Loans have interest rates, which means you will pay more than the original amount taken out over time depending upon your credit score and the amount of money you are asking to borrow. Banks will look at your business plan, experience level, liabilities and assets in order to determine how much money you are eligible to borrow. Most banks have a commercial lending department to handle business loans, but few banks have an agricultural lending department prepared to work with farm-related business. Check with your bank to see if they write agricultural loans (most will if you have a Farm Service Agency or Small Business Administration guarantee).

Check out: Farm Credit –, NBT Bank – or Community Bank, NA –

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides direct and guaranteed loans to beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources. ( 315-477-6300)


Grants are typically available for established farms, and usually require participants to engage in research or educational outreach in return for financial aid.

*Agricultural Mediation Service (in New York) and community dispute mediators are great resources to assist you in drawing up the documentation you need, and resolving any disputes in a way which supports your longterm family health.

Catherine Winters at Roots & Wisdom

“I know that its always great to just search for grants and apply for as many as you can because the more you apply for the more likely you’ll get one. And find people within the community that are interested in what you’re doing. Hopefully they’ll be able to support you- if they can’t with money they can support you by helping you plant seedlings and putting up tents for workers so they can get a shade break or installing water thickets or help start planting or tilling the soil. The biggest thing is just to reach out to people for as many resources as you can”

Loans from Family

You may also be lucky enough to be able borrow money from family or friends, or through startup “Angel” donors, but you are still required to pay everyone back! Create realistic expectations together and put your agreement in writing! All loans should be documented, even those with family members, to ensure all participants agree on how much money is being given, when it is expected to be returned, and any other conditions that are attached to the loan. Be brutally honest, and make sure to make it clear what happens if either party is not happy with the deal.

Other Options

Online crowd-source funding options are also an option and, and credibles all make loans to startup farm and food businesses. Kickstarter are not loans, they are just investments (a gift) to get your idea off the ground.

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5.4 Alternative Funding

Many young farmers spend the winter searching the Internet for grants and other programs. There is no such thing as free money, but there are foundations, marketing groups, and local government projects with interest in helping you make your farm more humane, useful as habitat, or accessible to children. Grants for research, education, and sustainability will come to you only after your farm is established, and you’ll need to develop relationships with scientists and researchers to be eligible for these funds. Don’t count on grants as a strategy for developing your farm.

Farm Credit’s FarmStart Program

First Pioneer Farm Credit has launched a program called FarmStart, with the mission to provide investments to farm businesses and farmer cooperatives. The program can make loans to beginning farmers who don’t meet credit standards. (

There are also other grant programs offered by private and public groups. A good way to make connections is by going to conferences and doing the research—sometimes $5,000 of deer fencing is just 30 minutes of paperwork away.

Microenterprise Loan Funds or Revolving Loan Funds for Small Business

Some county governments have micro-enterprise loan funds with great interest rates and repayment options. Check with your county Planning and Economic Development Agency/Dept. to find out if they have micro-enterprise loans funds. The Carrot Project ( is piloting programs for small farmers in New England, with plans to expand to serve farmers in NY!


With the concept of “Slow Money” ( gaining popularity, investor circles nationwide are forming to fund local food systems. Depending on your location and farm plans, you may be able to attract investors to fund start-up or expansion of your farm. Many CSA farmers have used the strategy of fundraising from their membership to secure their land or build new facilities. This usually offers repayment and interest in the form of farm products. Search online for “slow money,” “local investing opportunity networks,” and “small farm angel investors” to learn more about the possibilities for your farm.

Resources for Farming

  • Aubrey, Sarah. Starting and Running Your Own Small Farm Business. Storey Publishing, 2008.
  • Butterfield, Jody, Sam Bingham, and Allan Savory. Holistic Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits. Island Press, 2006.
  • Davis, Poppy. Beginning Farmer and Rancher Resources: Basic Bookkeeping, Budgeting, Tax Recordkeeping, Other Stuff. 2008:
  • Holistic Management International. Improving Whole Farm Planning Through Better Decision-Making.
  • Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. Small Business/Self-Employed Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop.,,id=97726,00.html
  • Macher, Ron. Making Your Small Farm Profitable: Apply 25 Guiding Principles, Develop New Crops & New Markets, Maximize Net Profits per Acre. Storey Publishing, 1999.
  • Salatin, Joel. You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise. Polyface, 1998.
  • Sustainable Agriculture Network. Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, 2003:

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5.5 Business Management

Becoming Official

When will you officially own a farm and be a farmer? You will need to have a business name selected before you fill out any forms. The best names are those that reflect you, your location, or your product in a clear fashion without being too hard to say or spell.


A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. A partnership is formed between one or more businesses in which partners (owners) co-labor to achieve and share profits and losses.

Partnerships present the involved parties with special challenges that must be navigated unto agreement. Overarching goals, levels of give-and-take, areas of responsibility, lines of authority and succession, how success is evaluated and distributed, and often a variety of other factors must all be negotiated. Once agreement is reached, the partnership is typically enforceable by civil law, especially if well documented. Government recognized partnerships may enjoy special benefits in tax policies. Enforcement of the laws, however, is often widely variable.

The next step to getting “official” recognition for your farm is as easy as filing a DBA (“Doing Business As”) form with your County Clerk’s office. The transaction usually costs around $25, and it serves to protect your farm name within your county. You will then take the copy of the DBA form to your bank and use it to open a business account. Businesses need to declare whether they are are sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability corporation (LLC).

Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietorship is a business entity owned and run by one individual and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner receives all profits (subject to taxation specific to the business) and has unlimited responsibility for all losses and debts. Every asset of the business is owned by the proprietor and all debts of the business are the proprietor’s.

These businesses have the ability to raise capital either publicly or privately, to limit the personal liability of the officers and managers, and to limit risk to investors. They also have the least government rules and regulations affecting it. This means they are also difficult to formalize—other types of business entities have more documentation.

One of the main disadvantages of sole proprietors is that the owner’s personal assets can be taken away. Another disadvantage is a lack of continuity—the business may be crippled or terminated if the owner becomes ill.

Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)

Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) – is a flexible form of enterprise that blends elements of partnership and corporate structures. It is a legal form of company that provides limited liability to its owners in the vast majority of US jurisdictions. LLCs do not need to be organized for profit.

LLCs have are desirable because they have a choice of tax regime. For example, a limited liability company with multiple members that elects to be taxed as partnership may specially allocate the members’ distributive share of income, gain, loss, deduction, or credit via the company operating agreement. There is much less administrative paperwork and record keeping than a corporation. Further, LLCs in most states are treated as entities separate from their members

On the other hand, most states do not dictate detailed governance and protective provisions for the members of a limited liability company. It may be more difficult to raise money for an LLC as investors may be more comfortable investing funds in the better-understood corporate form.

Each business type has pros and cons, and you should review your goals and needs before you decide how to categorize your farm. Farms with a specifically charitable or educational purpose need to apply to the IRS for 501(c)3 status.

Your next step is to take a copy of the DBA form to your bank and use it to open a business account. You will need this account for depositing your profits, paying business bills, and saving for your state and local tax payments. All businesses must file their taxes, no matter the age of the owner or whether or not they made a profit. It is easier to put aside your expected tax payment (usually a percentage of total sales) into a dedicated savings account as you sell your products than it is to wing it and run the chance of not having the money to pay the tax man next April. You may need to apply for an employer identification number or EIN (a free and easy process available online) if your business will hire employees, otherwise you will use your social security number to identify your business when filing your taxes.

Once your farm has made $1000 in sales in a calendar year, the IRS will officially recognize you as a farm. You can now qualify to be exempt from paying sales tax on most farm purchases (you’ll need to fill out a special form from the State Dept. of Taxation). At this point you will need to file a Schedule F with your federal taxes (the IRS publishes a Farmers Tax Guide that explains everything you need to know about the Schedule F).

Farm taxes can be intimidating for those just beginning. For assistance please see the resource guide at the end of this book, or consult with an accountant with farm tax filing expertise. It is well worth starting your taxes early the first few years to give yourself the time you need to research any questions.

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5.6 Business Skills

For your business to be a long term success, you need to learn basic business management skills. Farmers are small business owners, and should take the effort to learn how to manage their business before getting in too deep.

  • All farmers need a place to organize and store bills, legal documents and spreadsheets. This can be a small filing cabinet or a dedicated office space, what is important is that you have a safe location to store the documents you need to support your business.
  • Learn how to keep track of your farm’s income and expenses using basic. accounting software or ledgers. If you don’t have a farm yet, practice tracking your personal finances.
  • Read up on labor laws before hiring any employees, and make sure you are up to date on safety practices.
  • Brush up on your basic organizing skills by drafting a crop schedule, work calendar, or volunteer day flyer.
  • Explore tax documents well before your tax deadline.
  • Ask questions! Your fellow farmers, neighbors, local government leaders, and beginning farmer educators are excited to help you succeed, but you need to take the first step.

Where can you improve your business skills? Many communities offer adult education classes in business through a community center, small business development center or SBDC, local college, or Chamber of Commerce. There are also many online resources and courses available to help you develop and improve your business skills for free or low cost (check the resource section at the back of this book to start). Farm business planning assistance is also available through your local Extension or Farm Bureau office.


When operating a farm business, you should consider purchasing additional coverage (usually added to your property owner’s policy) specific to your business and activities. Most general farm insurance plans cover property damage and personal liability coverage for claims against the farm. This insurance is only available through private insurance brokers and you’ll want to shop around as prices vary widely.

Supplemental Comprehensive Coverage and/or Product Liability Insurance

If you have any form of public visitors coming to your farm, you may want to consider increasing your farm’s comprehensive personal liability insurance in case someone gets hurt on your property. If you sell products for human consumption, you run the risk of people getting sick from your products. Make sure your general comprehensive insurance policy covers product risks or purchase product liability insurance.

If your business involves processing food in a kitchen, selling dairy products, processing meat, making wine, or selling nursery plants, you may need to apply for a special license.

Insurance questions should be directed at your agent as policy coverages vary by company, and regulations state by state. Most insurance agents are very happy to sit down with you and answer questions, however it is often best to send them your questions beforehand via letter or email so they have the time to research technical details. Farm insurance coverage is often available through the same carrier as your home and auto insurance, however these agents may not be as familiar with farm policy limitations as agencies specializing in farm insurance coverage. If you are unsure about whether or not you are covered in a given situation, it is best to ask first! You do not want to find out your activities were uncovered after suffering an accident or issue.

Licensing, Inspections and Zoning Limitations

Some forms of farming may require special materials handling licenses or inspections. Examples include: commercial kitchens, butchering, pesticide application, food service, dairy farms, hog farms, and industrial animal agriculture.

Before starting your farm, it is a good idea to consult with an Extension Agent and a community small business contact to review any license requirements you may need to fulfill.

Zoning is a term for how your community allows development to proceed. Each community is different, and may impose a variety of ‘rules’ about where, and what, activities may occur on a given piece of land.

Before purchasing land, you should discuss your intended land use with your real estate agent to make sure it is allowed by law. Zoning restrictions and building codes are developed to maintain community safety, prevent conflict, and ensure long-term property values. Restrictions applicable for beginning farmers may involve agricultural limitations in city environments, limits on numbers of animals, farm structures, or types of farming, and even time limits on when you may use noisy farm equipment on public roads.

Violating zoning laws and building codes can result in fines, demolition/removal of structures, or even imprisonment. Zoning and code enforcement officers welcome phone calls and consultations – they would\ prefer to help you identify issues and limitations before you get into trouble, and can be very helpful in assisting you in finding alternatives and options to ensure you are in compliance.

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5.7 Farmer Education Opportunities

Project Partners

  • The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project
  • The Greenhorns
  • NY Farm Viability Institute
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture
  • NY FarmNet


New Farmer Development Project in NYC

Hawthorne Valley Farm

CRAFT Farmers

Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

Vermont New Farmer Project

Stone Barns Center

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Journeyperson Program

Just Food

Farming Apprenticeships

  • ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service:
  • Organic Volunteers – find on the-job learning opportunities in sustainable agriculture:
  • Backdoor Jobs:
  • Stewards of Irreplaceable Land– links Canadian farmers willing to take on and train apprentices with folks wanting to work and learn on an organic farm using sustainable practices:
  • World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) – become a member and access an extensive international list of organic farms that welcome volunteer help (anywhere from a few days to years) in exchange for room and board:
  • Educational and Training Opportunities in Sustainable Agriculture – a comprehensive list and description of university programs:
  • Farming for Credit Directory– lists hands-on and classroom-based sustainable agriculture education opportunities side by side:
  • Biodynamic Training and Apprenticeship Opportunities Compiled by the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.
  • North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program – a structured educational and training program in biodynamics. In the course of the 24 months, an apprentice may work on one, two or more farms; at least one year must be spent on a biodynamic farm.
  • Herb Pharm 9 month apprenticeship at the Organic Herb Pharm, where they grow and produce herbal tinctures in Oregon.
  • Livestock- Grassfed Interns – a community coalition of pasture-based livestock producers in NY provide an opportunity to work on a successful pasture-based farm, deal with every aspect of small-scale livestock production from pasture and livestock management, to meat cutting and sales…and how to cook it. Plus, participate in a series of on-farm workshops, geared toward teaching you everything we might forget to teach you in the field.
  • Farm Internship Handbook is designed to be used by individual farmers during the course of the workweek. Ideally, a farmer will use the In-Field curriculum when he or she is demonstrating a new task to interns.
  • Commercial Urban Agriculture Training Program: Growing Power – is modeled on many successful years of urban agriculture production. It is designed for individuals who have made the decision to farm commercially in the city.
  • World Hunger Relief Farm provides programming and training for individuals and families interested in working with communities in developing sustainable farming techniques – while educating those with economic abundance how to share and conserve resources. Located in the Heart of Texas.
  • Farm to Pharmacy at Goldthread Herbal Apothecary 7-month internships and 5-day intensive-immersions that expose students to the full spectrum of herbal medicine.


  • Farm Beginnings is a Land Stewardship Project initiative that provides opportunities for beginning and transitioning farmers to learn firsthand about values clarification and goal setting, whole farm planning, business plan development, and low-cost, sustainable farming methods. It is a year-long training & support effort for a broad spectrum of farming enterprises. The course is offered in Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, the Lake-Superior Region, northwest Wisconsin, and the Hudson Valley of New York.
  • Farmer-Veteran Coalition – finds employment, training, and places to heal on America’s farms for returning veterans.
  • Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Journeyperson Program was created to fill the continuing education gap between apprentice and independent farmer, and to provide the resources and opportunities for prospective new farmers who have completed an apprenticeship to further develop the skills they need to farm independently and successfully.
  • MOSES Organic Farming Mentoring Program Pairs an organic farmer with one or two transitioning-to-organic farmers, to help these new to organic farmers negotiate the various USDA regulations on organic and modify their operations to meet organic standards. Mentors share practical information on day-to-day chores and activities on the farm, which are somewhat different for an organic farmer than a conventional farmer.
  • Georgia Organics’ Farmer Mentoring & Marketing Program
  • Montana FoodCorps Grow Montana is now accepting applications for FoodCorps, a team of five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA’s helping schools and colleges across Montana to buy more locally-grown foods.

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5.8 Resources & Tools for Farmers

Fix it!

Learning to invent, repair, and customize your farm to suit your needs is not only fun, but can save you money and time. Here are some fantastic resources for the farmer who likes to tinker!

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that enables fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Make: Projects is a structured wiki for DIY projects. It’s a great source for farmers looking to who like to make things and also those who need to learn how to build basic equipment or make modifications.

Sustainable Agriculture Tool Lending Library Ten small farmers (Lil’ Farm, and Bluebird Meadows Farm) in North Carolina have cooperated to establish a Sustainable Agriculture Tool Lending Library. They put up money to purchase tools that no single farm needed on a daily or weekly basis, and created a place for people to share them.

FarmHack FarmHack offers farmers new opportunities to work together on tools and innovations that will make our farms more sustainable and efficient. http://farmhack.ent

Seed Suppliers

Abundant Life Seed Company Cottage Grove, OR 100% certified organic

Amishland Heirloom Seeds Reamstown, PA Heirloom, heritage, exotic and foreign organically raised seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Mansfield, MO

Fedco Seeds Waterville, ME

High Mowing Organic Seeds Wolcott, VT

Johnny’s Seeds Winslow, ME An employee-owned company

Kitazawa Seed Co. Oakland, CA The oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Grass Valley, CA Organic gardening supplies

Seed Savers Exchange Heirloom seeds

Pinetree Garden Seeds New Gloucester, ME

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Territorial Seed Company Cottage Grove, OR

Turtle Tree Seeds Copake, NY Biodynamic Seed Initiative.

Baker Creek Seeds

How-To Books

  • Hoop-House How To From The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Step-by-step photos & illustrations on building a low-cost hoop house.
  • Books on Greenhouse Management From the Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service (NRAES)
  • Part of a USDA-sponsored project to test and promote high tunnel systems in the Central Great Plains. Useful articles for growers.
  • ATTRA: Greenhouse & Hydroponic Vegetable Production Resources on the Internet

Livestock & Draft Animals

Getting good quality animals can be difficult at first, but often you can get a few and start your own herd slowly, gently, and carefully. State fairs are good places to meet other small-scale producers, as are auctions, conferences, extension workshops, and slaughterhouses. Your vet/feed merchant will also know of folks nearby. Nearby breeders and breed associations may have an Internet presence.

  • Niche meat marketing guide, buyers guide from Iowa State Ag Extension:
  • SARE:
  • Books on Livestock From Storey Publishing – comprehensive and accessible guidebooks:
  • New England Animal Powered Field days
  • Small Farm Journal
  • Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma State University:
  • American Livestock Breeds Conservancy


Kubik, Rick. How to Use Implements on Your Small- Scale Farm. Motorbooks Workshop, 2005.

Quick, Graeme R. The Compact Tractor Bible. Voyageur Press, 2006.

Steel in the Field


To learn about the soil types on your property, check out the USDA-NRCS Soil Survey that has soil maps, apps for your phone and descriptions of soil characteristics. You can find a copy of the Soil Survey at county offices of USDA-NRCS, Soil and Water District, or Cornell Cooperative Extension. Maps can also be viewed online at:

Regional Assistance in Marketing

Many states (ie. Grown in Detroit, Long Island Grown, Made in Maine) have marketing groups with brochures/farm maps pointing consumers to your farmstand or product. You can usually find out about them from the state agriculture department.

  • AgMap (Pennsylvania) Online listing of Pennsylvania agriculture businesses.
  • Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Helps create and expand local food markets.
  • Grocers Buy Local (Wisconsin) official website and database of Wisconsin grocers interested in purchasing locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese and more from local farmers, growers, producers and manufacturers. Developed to help sellers match up with local grocery or corporate buyers to facilitate the sale of products in their area or across the state of Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota Grown Directory
  • Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership, University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth Work to create local demand for locally-grown products. Also provides business & technical assistance.
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (California)
  • Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (Wisconsin) Online local food guide.

Farmers Markets

  • Some thoughts on selling at farmers’ markets by Nina Planck, founder of the Regional Food Council
  • ATTRA – Farmers’ Markets: Marketing and Business Guide:
  • ATTRA – Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide Gives an overview of issues when considering market gardening
  • ATTRA – Direct Marketing Emphasizes niche, specialty, and value-added crops
  • SARE – Farmers Markets
  • SARE – The New Farmers’ Market: Farm-Fresh Ideas for Producers, Managers and Communities
  • Farm to Market, North Dakota’s Guide to Selling Local Food
  • Farmers Market Search Compiled by the AMS, USDA
  • Market Farming E-mail Discussion Group
  • North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association
  • Farmers Market Coalition

CSA Resources

Just Food connects local farmers to direct marketing opportunities in New York City through three programs: CSA in NYC, The City Farms Markets, and Fresh Food for All.

Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability The UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems designed this publication as a resource for educators

Resources compiled by the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center

Prairieland Community Supported Agriculture E-Mail List Network on Community Supported Agriculture

Member Assembler Online CSA sign-up and management tools from Small Farm Central”

CSA Farm Directories

CSAs are becoming more popular as conscious eaters actively seek them out in their area. Get listed in one of these directories specifically for CSA farms.

  • Biodynamic Farm and Gardening Association
  • Future Harvest-CASA , Chesapeake Region
  • Madison Area Community Supported Agricultural Coalition, Farm List
  • Maine Organic Farm and Gardening Association, CSA Directory
  • Robyn Van En Center at Wilson College
  • Twin Cities Region, CSA Farm Directory

Value-Added Products

ATTRA – Adding Value to Farm Products:

National Center for Home Food Preservation A great starting place for small-scale food preservation techniques, including food safety tips. Make something marketable with the “non-commercial” produce left in your fields.

Farm Made: A Guide to On-Farm Processing for Organic Producers An Overview and Four Example Enterprises: Sorghum Syrup, Packaged Fresh Salad Greens, James, Jellies, and Spreads, and Table Eggs. By George Kuepper, Holly Born & Anne Fanatico


  • Cooperative Grocer Find a local food co-op near you
  • Selling Directly to Restaurants & Retailers From UC SAREP. Learn how to effectively market and sell to restaurants and retailers.


  • USDA Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School Lots of resources, policy info, and grant opportunities.
  • Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.
  • What Can USDA Do? This document is a ten-point roadmap for national coordination between government at all levels and partners promoting Farm to School and sustainable procurement practices developed by the National Farm to School Network, Community Food Security Coalition, and School Food FOCUS.
  • Farm to School Minnesota Toolkit for Food Service This toolkit is based on materials developed in the Willmar, MN School District during a 3-year pilot project funded in part by the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.
  • Oklahoma Farm to School This group aims at getting Oklahoma-grown food on the cafeteria trays of school children. Check out their Farm to School Tips, Tools & Guidelines for Food Distribution and Food Safety. It includes a distribution cost template (true cost of delivery) and a produce calculator (cost per serving of produce to work with school nutrition program).
  • Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation: Agritourism Guides
  • ATTRA: Entertainment Farming & Agri-tourism Business Management Guide


  • Organic Price Index From the Rodale Institute. Updated about monthly.
  • USDA: Fruit & Vegetable Market News Run custom reports of prices for fruits and vegetables, including ornamentals and organic.
  • USDA: Livestock & Grain Market News Daily and weekly reports for livestock, meat, grain, and even ethanol.

Organizations & Resources

  • Farm Service Agency Beginning Farmer Loan Program:
  • The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs – provides an easy-to-navigate directory of state loan programs:
  • Farm Credit Services of America – Young and Beginning Program:
  • Whole Foods:
  • Community Land Trust:
  • Rudolf Steiner Finance and other Social Finance Firms:
  • KIVA – Microlending:
  • Farm Link Program Directory – state-run programs which facilitate the transition of land between generations of farmers and ranchers, and can provide a degree of mentorship, business planning and banking advice:
  • Incubator Farms – usually support new farmers by offering access to land, equipment, infrastructure, mentorships, and sometimes paid work until farmers feel confident that they have enough experience to get along on their own two feet and have the means to acquire their own land. Here’s a great example:
  • Farm On – a program helping to preserve family farm businesses by matching beginning farmers who do not own land with retiring farmers who do not have heirs: extension. bfc/programs.html
  • Farmland Information Center – a clearinghouse for information about farmland protection and stewardship. Browseable by state: NCAT Guide – how to find and secure land to farm:

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5.9 Resources for Farm Educators

Project Ideas

Farmer Career Day: Invite farmers, homesteaders, ranchers, grocers, chefs and other involved with the food system to talk about their careers.. Ask participants to prepare mini-activities, bring tools to pass around and make the day an interactive and engaging opportunity for teachers, students and families in the school community. End the day with a potluck meal hosted in the school cafeteria, and allow time for authentic relationships to form over a good meal.

Homestead Web-TV: Homesteading is the art of making do with basic tools, local resources and ancient know-how to accomplish practical tasks. Homesteading activities range from canning fruits and vegetables to building your own structures and furniture, to growing your own food. To learn more homestead practical skills, launch a web-TV series dedicated to homesteading activities in your classroom. Students can choose something to learn each month, record the process of making and doing, and then edit in the media lab with iMovie or simple video editing applications. For inspiration check out How-to Homestead an organization that makes short films dedicated to 21st century homesteading ( Some episodes available online include:

  • Starting an Egg Coop
  • Self Watering Container
  • Apartment Vermicomposting
  • Milk Crate Planter Bed
  • Dandelion Tea
  • Canning Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Making Bread

Greenhorns Radio

Get out there and record the sounds of the farm, ask questions about where food comes from and how to get involved in farming. For teachers, this is a great language arts and communication standards tie-in. Students can research local farms, reach out to someone for an interview, develop their own questions, conduct the interview at the school or farm, and then transcribe into a little zine or visual essay to display in the school. You can also setup your own Radio Station and upload each recording as a podcast. Free online tools like Shoutcast make it pretty easy: For inspiration listen to interviews conducted by Greenhorns members and organizers on the Heritage Radio Network:

Intern & Service Learning: Internships and service learning opportunities are great ways to work with students who learn best through experience. You can easily get involved with a local farm by doing some research on programs in your area, and just talking to local farmers. Work with your principal or career counselor to make the internship opportunities sustainable each year, and offer credit to students in subject areas like science and social studies. A list of opportunities has been compiled by folks at the USDA:

Partner Up: Partnering with a local business, organization or non-profit can launch an amazing collaborative project that involves students, teachers and the local neighborhood. In the Bay Area of California, High School students have been working with a farm on the San Mateo Coastline called Pie Ranch. The program brings students to the farm to help grow and harvest ingredients that are used to make pies at a local shop in San Francisco’s Mission District. Students get a direct connection to the land through farming and then get to eat the fruits of their labor, literally, at a local pie shop. What a dream!

Film Festival – Host a film festival at your school that features films related to food, young farmers and the environment. The film festival could be a great opportunity for students to make a mini-documentary of their own based on local farms and issues in your community. Some film suggestions include:

  • The Greenhorns
  • Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)
  • King Corn (2007)
  • The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived
  • Peak Oil (2006)
  • Our Daily Bread (2006)
  • Super Size Me (2004)
  • Food, Inc. (2009)
  • Rural Thrift
  • Small Farm Rising
  • Farm to Trailer
  • Brookford Almanac

Seed Library – Start a seed library at your school! Invite students and their families to share seeds from their own backyards, from local farmers and gardens. You can use test tubes or vials from the science lab, and create your own custom packaging. Host a seed swap to get local farmers to meet up with communities around the school and learn together about what’s going on in the region.

Join the Food Corps and build that resume while helping to bring local food to communities that need it:

Teacher in Residence – Just like artists in residence, teachers in residence take time to develop their learning and teaching methods in collaboration with others. A great example is Slide Ranch. Founded in 1970, this nonprofit teaching farm is located at a historic coastal dairy perched above the ocean in the Marin Headlands within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Organic gardens, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks, along with numerous coastal trails, tidepools and pocket beaches, provide an ideal outdoor venue for teaching about healthy foods, healthy living and environmental awareness.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSA’s are a popular system of bringing local farm goods to communities around the country. Making your local school a drop-off point can provide a necessary way for farmers to connect with students and their families, and maybe get some of the CSA share leftovers into the school lunch!

Grow a Garden – Make your schoolyard edible by starting a small garden with plans to expand into something that could provide food for the cafeteria once a week or once a month. To get started, make the creation of the garden a school-wide initiative. Get support from teachers, community members, families and students. Make a list of what you’d like to grow and a map of where, test the soil, get the right materials and ask volunteers to help setup the necessary arrangement. Develop a plan to deal with summer time, and ask teachers to helped integrate the garden’s operation into math, science and language arts requirements.

Farm to School – The National Farm to School Network started in the early 1990’s now provides resources that connect K-12 schools with local farms, helps setup local procurement contracts and educational programs in schools.

Cook it Up! Start a culinary club or partner with a restaurant to learn how to cook with local and seasonal foods. The project can be framed as a cooking web-TV show, led by you and broadcast online. Students can also create the lunch menu of their dreams using local food as inspiration.

Art & Design Projects

  • Edible Estates Edible Estates is an ongoing initiative to create gardens that replace front lawns with places for families to grow their own food. The eight gardens planted thus far, have been established in cities across the United States and England.
  • FRUIT Network The FRUIT network was an art project led by a group called Future Farmers, that helped connect people to where their food comes from. People could use mobile devices to tag the location of a fruit, and add these locations to an interactive map.
  • Victory Gardens The Victory Garden project draws from the historical model of the 1940’s American Victory Garden program, encouraging San Francisco residents to reclaim their backyards as places to grow food for thier communities.
  • Not a Cornfield The Not A Cornfield project, was the transformation of a 32-acre industrial brownfield in the historic center of Los Angeles into a cornfield for one agricultural cycle. The temporary project was located just North of Chinatown and South of Lincoln Heights on a large stretch of land well known as “The Cornfield.” After the project ended, participants and founders of the project created, Farm Lab as a think tank, art production studio, and cultural performance space, exploring what lessons raised and learned from the project with local communities.
  • Fallen Fruit Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration that began with creating maps of public fruit: the fruit trees growing on or over public property in Los Angeles. Over time their interests have expanded from mapping public fruit to include Public Fruit Jams in which citizens bring homegrown or public fruit and join in communal jam-making.


  • Farm Internship Handbook:
  • UC Santa Cruz Ecological Horticulture Class Curriculum:
  • Beginning Farming 101– an online course:
  • Organic Transition Course (Rodale Institute) – free and online:
  • Pittenger, Dennis R., ed. California Master Gardeners Handbook. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, 2002 – a great, straightforward textbook
  • Teaching Organic Farming & Gardening UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems has a free, downloadable curriculum that it uses to teach its Ecological Horticulture Class. Why not print it off and go through the work pages.
  • What’s On Your Plate?

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