Beginning Farmer & Rancher Toolkit

This Toolkit contains resources in the following categories. Note: Some resources appear in multiple categories.

Do you have a resource to add to this Toolkit? Please contact us!

Comprehensive Web Portals

Portals of information and practical tools, including resources on business planning, land access, crop planning, funding sources and farmer training programs.


Type: Reference
A go-to comprehensive database of resources on everything from farm financing, land access, and business planning, to agricultural production and food safety.


Type: Reference
A Cornell University project, offering online, self-led courses for prospective or existing farmers in business planning, and fruit, vegetable and livestock production; $200.


Type: Reference
A robust database with links to existing directories of available land, jobs, farmer training programs, policy updates that apply to young farmers, and a partner of the popular Farm Hack workshops.


Type: Reference
A national volunteer-led network that hosts regional beginning farmer events and a radio program, has a daily blog, and is a partner of the popular Farm Hack workshops.


Source: UCCE Placer & Nevada Counties | Type: Reference
One of the more user-friendly UCCE websites, with a wide variety of research, calculators, reports from UCCE farmers and researchers, workshops and a mentoring program.

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Starting a New Farm

Are you ready to start farming? Have you already begun, but need some help? Use these resources to assess your readiness, create a farm enterprise plan, and better secure financing.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Basics for those who have never considered or successfully applied for a farm loan: lender relationships, alternative funding sources, utilizing a good financial record, and doing your homework.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Full transcript from the workshop at the 2014 CA Small Farm Conference, where the three main farm microloan funds in CA (FSA, CA FarmLink and KivaZip) shared the in's and out's of accessing their funding, and two farmers who recently received microloans shared their experience and advice for other farmers.


Source: Northeast Beginning Farmers Project | Type: Checklist
Checklist to assess farm planning and business management skills that you and your partners bring to the business, and identify areas you need to improve to run a successful farm.


Source: Northeast Beginning Farmers Project | Type: Reference
Categorized questions to assess your readiness to start a farm business, including guided answers to help define farm goals and mission, assess available resources for business launch, and devise an enterprise budget.


Source: ATTRA | Type: Reference
Guide to help beginning farmers determine what to grow and to whom and how to sell it.  Order hardcopy - $3.00


Source: American Friends Service Community | Type: Reference
A comprehensive, step-by-step manual for beginning farmers with very little or no prior experience, including land selection, soil preparation, crop planning, marketing, season extensions, case studies, and more.


Source: ATTRA | Type: Checklist
Rules, regulations, tax liabilities, and insurance requirements to consider before starting a farm business.


Source: ATTRA | Type: Reference
Learn several financing options for starting a farm and the step-by-step process of applying for a loan.


Source: The Greenhorns | Type: Reference
A short, colorful, “zine” with images and farmer stories combined with practical information on farm business planning, farm life and finding available land.


Source: British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture | Type: Reference
A well-organized, comprehensive reference manual to the basics of a farm enterprise plan, assessing farmland production capacity and developing a marketing strategy.


Source: NCAT/ATTRA & CA FarmLink | Type: Reference
A well-organized, comprehensive guide for CA farmers to understand the federal and state laws pertaining to labor, apprentices and interns.

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About Farmland Access

Resources to better understand lease agreements and ownership options, as well as articulate questions, concerns and your vision of the farmland use.


Source: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project | Type: Reference
Guide to locating and securing farmland, including definitions and checklists on types of lease agreements, legal considerations, and negotiating strategies.


Source: ATTRA | Type: Reference
Overview of land leasing and ownership options, including a cash lease, long-term lease, and lease to buy.


Source: Land for Good | Type: Reference
A comprehensive, free online course providing a range of worksheets, case studies, activities and tools to help new famers build an action plan to secure farmland.


Source: Land for Good | Type: Reference
Strategies to increase land access to beginning farmers, such as encouraging private landowners, promoting government programs, and engaging private investors.


Source: Equity Trust | Type: Reference
Strategies to utilize your CSA members and community to help finance a farmland purchase.


Source: National Young Farmers Coalition | Type: Reference
Report outlining the need for more conservation easement funding and more thoughtful strategy to ensure protected farmland is affordable for farmers and kept in production. Based on survey of over 200 land conservation professionals.


Source: National Young Farmers Coalition | Type: Reference
Guide to purchasing farmland that has conservation easements, including easement basics, land search strategy, different types of easements and legal language, communicating and negotiating with land trusts, and common timelines.

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Finding Available Farmland

Use these tools to find farmland available for rent or purchase across the US.


Source: CA FarmLink | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms for sale, lease or available for other partnership agreements in CA; for farmers with 2+ years of experience.


Source: Moses Organic | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms and farmland for sale and lease across the US.


Type: Reference
Online database listing farms and farmland for sale, auction, lease, and foreclosed farms across the US.


Source: Land Stewardship Project | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms for sale, lease or available for other partnership agreements in the Upper Midwest.

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Part-time Training Programs - CA

Gain practical skills in crop/livestock production and business planning with these part-time training programs run by highly skilled teachers, technical advisors, mentors and local farmers.


Type: Reference
Grow Your Groceries Urban Farmer Training Program: a nine month, part-time program teaching crop production and business planning, including farm tours, field hours, a business planning workshop and one-on-one technical assistance. Starts in October and March; $650.


Type: Reference
A nine-month, part-time program teaching crop/livestock production and business planning, including an independent study and additional incubator program; $2,850.


Type: Reference
Offers two programs: a seven-month, part-time internship working on the diversified crop educational farm; and a year-long journeyman, full-time position running a small plot or LLAN farm site.  Compensation TBD.


Type: Reference
A nine-month, part-time, bilingual program teaching organic crop production and business planning; sliding scale cost.


Type: Reference
A nine-week, part-time program teaching crop/livestock production, business planning, and organic certification and permitting; $650.


Type: Reference
One-day to two-week residential courses on biodiversity, organic crop production, permaculture, seed saving, and school gardens; cost varies by course.


Type: Reference
Week-long residential courses in livestock production, integrated grazing and business planning; $1,700-$2,450.

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Full-time Training Programs - CA

Gain practical skills in crop/livestock production and business planning with these full-time training programs run by highly skilled teachers, technical advisors, mentors and local farmers.


Type: Reference
An eight-month to two-year, full-time, residential apprentice program, teaching organic crop/livestock production and business planning, community supported education and food access projects; live/work trade + compensation for additional work hours.


Type: Reference
One to two-year, full-time, residential biodynamic program teaching crop production combined with theoretical knowledge, lecture and independent study; live/work trade.


Type: Reference
Offers two programs: a seven-month, part-time internship working on the diversified crop educational farm; and a year-long journeyman, full-time position running a small plot or LLAN farm site.  Compensation TBD.


Type: Reference
A six-month, full-time, residential program teaching crop/livestock production and business planning at various farm scales; $6,000.


Source: National Young Farmers Coalition | Type: Reference
Online database of on-farm and online farmer training programs across the US and abroad.

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Volunteer/Intern/Employment Opportunities

Find short and long-term work opportunities on farms and with food and farming organizations in the US and abroad.


Type: Reference
Directory of farming volunteer opportunities in the US and abroad: no experience needed, two weeks to six months in duration, arrange your stay online, live/work trade.


Type: Reference
Directory of farming volunteer opportunities in the US and abroad: no experience needed, weekend to six months in duration, kids welcome, arrange your stay online, live/work trade.


Source: NCAT/ATTRA | Type: Directory
Robust directory of internship and apprenticeships in the US and Canada: required experience levels vary, three months to one year in duration, farm contact information provided, live/work trade and/or paid positions.


Type: Reference
Programs connect military veterans to former or beginning careers in food and agriculture through mentorship, job placement and a fellowship fund.


Source: Ecological Farming Association | Type: Reference
Get weekly email updates on agriculture jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities across the US.


Source: Back Door Jobs | Type: Reference
Database of agriculture-related jobs in the US, including apprenticeships, internships, farm management, and farm education.

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Funding Opportunities - Grants

Take advantage of the many grants, available through USDA and alternative funding sources.

This list is primarily based on the larger, more popular national grant programs; however, we recommend you also explore other funding sources, such as community banks and credit unions in your area, for beginning farmer/rancher lending opportunities.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Basics for those who have never considered or successfully applied for a farm loan: lender relationships, alternative funding sources, utilizing a good financial record, and doing your homework.


Source: SARE | Type: Reference
One to three-year grants, up to $25K, for agricultural producers, with support and guidance from a technical advisor, to conduct on-site experiments that can improve farm operations and the environment and can be shared with other producers.


Source: National Institute of Food & Agriculture | Type: Reference
Grants to non-profits and community-based organizations, up to $250K per year, to train, educate and provide outreach and technical assistance to beginning farmers on topics like production management, business development and marketing and legal strategies.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Reference chart of funds available through USDA, CDFA, SARE and others, including deadlines, program details, eligibility requirements, and contacts.

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Funding Opportunities - Loans

Take advantage of the many loans and microloans available through private lenders, banks, USDA, FSA and alternative funding sources.

This list is primarily based on the larger, more popular national loan programs; however, we recommend you also explore other funding sources, such as community banks and credit unions in your area, for beginning farmer/rancher lending opportunities.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Basics for those who have never considered or successfully applied for a farm loan: lender relationships, alternative funding sources, utilizing a good financial record, and doing your homework.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Full transcript from the workshop at the 2014 CA Small Farm Conference, where the three main farm microloan funds in CA (FSA, CA FarmLink and KivaZip) shared the in's and out's of accessing their funding, and two farmers who recently received microloans shared their experience and advice for other farmers.


Source: Farm Service Agency | Type: Reference
Operating loans up to $35K, requiring little paperwork, for expenses such as start-up costs, feed, farm equipment and farm improvements.


Source: Kiva Zip | Type: Reference
A platform to globally crowdsource loans up to 10k at 0% interest, with a 6-month grace period and a payback period of 6-36 months.


Source: CA FarmLink | Type: Reference
Provides direct loans, up to $100K, for production, equipment or infrastructure, referrals to CA banks or credit unions, and connections to alternative sources of funding.


Source: NRCS | Type: Reference
Loans and technical assistance, up to $20K per year, for producers through contracts up to ten years to plan and implement conservation practices around soil, water, air, plant or animals.


Source: USDA | Type: Reference
Robust database of funding opportunities across the US, including a unique personalized search tool by location, years farming and farmer type.


Source: The Greenhorns | Type: Reference
Links to a wide variety of organizations across the US working with farmers to help them secure a loan, grant, or source of alternative funding.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Reference chart of funds available through USDA, CDFA, SARE and others, including deadlines, program details, eligibility requirements, and contacts.

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