For New Farmers
Can I make enough money farming?
Income is by far the most common concern among new and beginning farmers. There is no doubt that farmers as a group are having a difficult time financially. However, there are farmers who run highly profitable operations, even on very small acreages.
- Determine your financial needs. You may want to develop a personal or family budget to determine how much income you require. See Exploring the Small Farm Dream or Tilling the Soil of Opportunity, listed below, for guidance.
- Develop or tighten up your farm business plan. Current economic pressures require that farmers pay more attention than ever to the business aspects of farming. Several courses and publications can help. Tilling the Soil of Opportunity is an excellent resource.
- Consider farming part-time, at least initially, or relying on an off-farm job for yourself or another family or farm team member. Remember that in any industry, new businesses are unlikely to turn a profit in the first few years. Nationally, more than half of all farm family income comes from off-farm sources.
- Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? Course and self-study workbook to help aspiring farmers decide if they want to farm as a business. Contains worksheets to help farmers determine their personal/family budget.
- Tilling the Soil of Opportunity is an agricultural business planning class and workbook. It is offered every winter in Massachusetts. Whether you are thinking about starting a farm business or need to increase the profitability of an existing one, the Tilling the Soil of Opportunity course is a great investment of your time. At the end of the course you will have a workable business plan to use in managing your business or seeking loans. To find out about upcoming classes, contact Rick Chandler of the Division of Agricultural Resources at (413) 577-0459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If Tilling the Soil of Opportunity is not available at a time or place convenient for you, contact you local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to find our about non-farm-specific classes in your area. To find your local SBDC, contact (413) 545-6301 or http://msbdc.som.umass.edu/ You may want to supplement these classes by reading Building a Sustainable Business (below).
- Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses. This is a self-study guide to farm business planning and is available from the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at (802) 656-0484 or viewable online at: http://www.misa.umn.edu/vd/bizplan.html.
- The National Agricultural Risk Assessment Library. This website features many publications on business planning and managing the financial risks of farming. http://www.agrisk.umn.edu/