Small farms are vital to the future of our food systems. If you have a passion for locally produced food and for farming, you may have considered starting your own small farm. It is possible to start your own small farm business with careful planning, research, and hard work. Research and dedication are most important as you begin your small farm. Understand the market, gain the necessary skills, and create your own niche within the market. The local food movement is growing; why not be a part of it?
Develop a business plan that will help you stay focused and secure financing. Research your market and your competition. Write a detailed business plan and include a mission statement, description of your business, analysis of the market and competition, strategies for competing, a marketing plan, current financial information and financial projections.
Establish your small farm as a legal entity. File for all of the necessary forms with your local, state, and federal authorities, including business registration, permits, and licenses specific to agriculture and farming. Consult your local cooperative extension office with questions or concerns. You may wish to consult a lawyer as well.
Set up an accounting system. Use a computer program or a traditional ledger book system. Consult an accountant for assistance or your small business administration.
Locate farm land to lease or purchase. Base your decision on your business model from your business plan. Start off small with just an acre or two, and make sure you have room to grow. Purchase used tilling, planting, watering, and harvesting equipment to save money. Based on the scale of your farm, you may only need hand tools and a small greenhouse. Consider how you will preserve your products and purchase an appropriately-sized refrigeration unit.
Seek out a farm internship or participate in a local community agriculture program to gain skills and knowledge if you lack these assets.
Based on your business plan, seek out ways to sell your produce. Sell your products directly to customers through farmers' markets, community sponsored agriculture (CSA) programs, roadside markets, and pick-your-own plots. Sell wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores and markets.
Market your farm by producing brochures. Highlight your assets. Are your veggies organic? Say so. Design a basic website and post updates regularly on the progress of your farm. Grow a community on your website alongside your growing crops. Host farm tours and volunteer work days to get customers and CSA members involved.
Start a CSA program for your small farm. Local customers pay a flat fee and then receive produce weekly throughout the growing season. The advantage to this is that you will have money in hand and a group of customers who are invested in your farm.
Start off small to avoid suffering losses. Be adaptable and realise that you will not have success with every crop. Weather conditions and plant diseases can destroy an entire crop.
Tips and warnings
- Start a CSA program for your small farm. Local customers pay a flat fee and then receive produce weekly throughout the growing season. The advantage to this is that you will have money in hand and a group of customers who are invested in your farm.
- Start off small to avoid suffering losses. Be adaptable and realise that you will not have success with every crop. Weather conditions and plant diseases can destroy an entire crop.
Things you need
- Business plan
- Legal documents
- Farm land
- Farm equipment
- Seeds, compost, and other organic materials
- Accounting software or ledger
- Marketing materials