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Do I need a business plan for my farm?

If you care about the financial impact of your farm business on your personal and family economy, or will ever need to borrow money, you need a business plan. You can get help to prepare a plan from technical assistance providers, from courses and workshops, and from "self-help" books and workbooks. There are also people and programs to help you with farm business management such as record-keeping and accounting.

Here are some things to think about:

  • A business plan typically consists of a summary of your business concept, background information and history, description of products (and services), management structure and organization, marketing plan, and financial plan with income statement, cash flow analysis and balance sheet.
  • There are various tools and resources to help you prepare a business plan. Some are generally applicable to all small businesses, not specifically farm businesses.
  • Some classes and tools are specifically tailored to agricultural businesses. A few resources are specially targeted to farm "start-ups".
  • If you are not yet farming, it might be more appropriate to develop a "business concept." Ask yourself how your farm will differ from others you see around you: better marketing? Higher quality product? Lower price? Identify a specific niche that needs to be filled.
  • After the planning part, you will need to manage the farm business-activities such as record keeping, reporting, bookkeeping and accounting.

Here is a sample of resources:

NxLevel is a business planning course for existing and start-up farm businesses.

Look into generic business planning resources, including online resources like,,, and

The Small Business Administration has start-up materials for businesses.

Penn State Agricultural Alternatives offers Enterprise Budget analysis worksheets.

A Rural Business Planner is available through the Canadian Farm Business Management Council.

The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries offers business planning guides for many agricultural enterprises and lots of other great resources.

Making Your Small Farm Profitable, by Ron Macher, is published by Storey Books.

Market Farm Forms: Spreadsheet Templates for Planning and Organizing Information on Diversified Market Farms, available from Back 40 Books.

Accounting and Financial Record Keeping Software for Farmers is available from Ag Executive magazine. They're not online, but you can reach them at (309) 772-2168.


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