So You Want to Start a Farm?
As someone who has started their own farm and was once responsible for the info account at the National Young Farmers Coalition, I have been asked many times about how to start a farm. Here are some good places to start.
1. Work on other people's farms. It is super helpful see how different farms do things up close, especially when you're just starting out. I worked on more than five different farms before starting my own. Some of them I apprenticed on, some were part-time, some I just worked the farmers' market and for one I got to be very involved in the planning. This helped me figure out what farm enterprises I was excited about and which ones I was not excited about. I also got to see other people's marketing strategies play out.
2. Take a farm business class. I took Farm Beginnings in the Hudson Valley, but this class or similar classes are offered all over the country. It was really helpful for me to focus my farming plans and get specific about what I wanted.
3. Make connections in your community. NYFC has 30 chapters in 26 states and if there isn't one near you - start one! This is a great way meet other young farmers in the area and learn more about what resources are available to you locally. If you're moving to a new place to start a farm make sure you're taking the time to participate your new community - Make friends, go to events.
4. Find Land. A good place to start is looking for local land trusts and farm link programs. Or just start talking to your neighbors if you live in a rural area. Make sure you have a lease - there are a lot of templates available to help you get started. Here's some great resources.
5. Find Money. There aren't really grants out there to help you start a farm, unless there are some local ones that I don't about. (there are grants available for research or certain projects for already established farms). I have used the FSA microloan program and Farm Credit East's Farm Start Program. This is a list of your options.
6. Pace yourself. If you're starting from square one (or even if you're not) it will take a while to get your farm going. Most American farmers work off of the farm in some capacity - it's a lot. Take breaks, drink water and make sure you make time to leave the farm.
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Leanna at Four Legs Farm