Starting a farm can be overwhelming since farming is quite the complex operation. There are many needs such as land, farm equipment, livestock etc. The easiest way to start is to write a business plan. The business plan is the vision of the farm on paper. It needs to be clearly defined so that others can understand it. If one needs advice and support the USDA is there to help. In the beginning stages of farming it is important to build the proper skills, set up the legal business and figure out how to finance the business.
Learning to Farm
There are several different ways one can learn how to farm. One popular way is to enroll in a learn-to-farm-program. Many are full-time, residential immersion programs where one will learn both the theory of farming and hands-on work.
If one doesn’t want to spend a full year immersed on a farm, there are also plenty of colleges that offer students to enroll in their agricultural programs such as farm management. Internship and apprenticeship opportunities are also available when it comes to farming. They can be valuable because one can get to learn through on-the-job training, working with a more experienced farmer.
There are numerous lists online for apprenticeships and internships programs, one of the more popular ones is ATTRA Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships List.
Financing a Farm
Starting a farm can be quite expensive, but there are a variety of entities that can help with financing. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Farm Loan Program with a variety of loans, for example a beginning farmer loan.
Many local banks participate with agencies to provide financing for beginner farmers. One can look into private contracts. Many property owners are willing to contract directly with a beginning farmer for sale of land, machinery, livestock etc.
The Farm Credit Services has a young and beginning program loan for people under 35 years old or with less than 10 years of experience in agriculture. There are also Aggie Bond Program which is a tax-free bond program to assist beginner farmers acquire resources such as farmland, buildings etc. Many states, but not all, participate in these programs.
ARE YOU A VETERAN? THERE ARE ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR YOU
Renting or Leasing a Farm
If one doesn’t want to start by buying a farm, it is possible to rent or lease farm land. It can be a cheaper way to start than to outright buy the farm, but it is usually seen as more of a short-term solution than a long-term goal. Farm leases can be paid for by cash, flex rent or crop share, the prices and payment arrangement can be negotiated with the landlord.
For a beginner, renting is an affordable way of getting into farming, and if one is lucky the landlord can offer insight and management advice. On the other hand, as a renter one has less decision-making abilities on the land and the landlord can decide to not renew contracts.