Interested in farming or thinking of starting a farm business? Been farming for a few years and considering something new or looking for more resources? The following websites, publications, and organizations may be able to answer some of the questions you have, whether you've already started or are still exploring the idea of farming. Also visit the calendar of upcoming workshops and events.


Beginning Farmer Resource Guides and Websites - Several organizations have created resource guides and wesbites for people looking to get started in farming. A selection of these comprehensive guides and resources (which may have been produced by other states but are adaptable for NJ) includes the following:


Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? "Exploring the Small Farm Dream" is a short course and a decision-making workbook that can help you decide if starting a new farm business is right for you. The course/workbook can help you identify and assess your values, goals, and ideas for a prospective new farm operation.

During the course, participants discuss current opportunities in small scale agriculture, explore objectives, assess personal and financial resources, conduct preliminary market research, and develop an action plan for pursuing their interests in food and farming. For more information on course offerings in NJ and PA, visit the the NOFA-NJ and Penn State websites. Also visit the New England Small Farm Institute website for background information on the course or to obtain a copy of the self-study workbook.

Tilling The Soil of Opportunity - This agricultural business planning course is available in New Jersey through NOFA-NJ.  "Tilling the Soil" is a NxLevel course for Agricultural Entrepreneurs that will provide new and experienced farmers with the tools to develop agricultural business plans to start or grow their businesses. Visit the NOFA-NJ website for more information.

Small/Beginning Farmer Workshop - Rutgers is hosting a Small and Beginning Farmer Workshop on February 7, 2012 at its Mercer County Cooperative Extension Office. The workshop's topics will include effective use of backpack sprayers; hand tools for weed control; observations from Rutgers trials of kaolin clay sprays on apples, potatoes, and eggplant; and crop insurance options for small and organic farmers. Registration for the workshop is $20 and includes lunch and pesticides credits.

Small/Beginning Farmer Equipment Demonstration and Field Day - Selecting the Proper Equipment For Your Small Farm - Rutgers University hosted a farm equipment field day on Monday, October 12, 2009 at its Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, Hunterdon County. The field day provided a practical and comprehensive review of the varierty of equipment used in today's successful small-scale operations, including demonstrations of the equipment under actual farming conditions. The program was designed to help small and beginning farmers make informed decisions about equipment selection, purchase, and use. The event focused on money, time, value, safety, and convenience for small farmers. For more information on this past event or future Rutgers field days like it, view the field day event flier and the detailed field day outline, or contact Rutgers at 908-730-9419. Registration for the field day was $45 (lunch included).

Farm Start - This program from Farm Credit East and CoBank is designed to assist beginning farmers and new cooperatives, providing working capital of up to $50,000 with repayment terms up to five years. Recipients will have the opportunity to develop a successful credit record as well as work with an advisor to learn effective cash flow management and other business skills. Farmers, forestry producers, fishermen, and farm-related businesses and cooperatives, generally in their first three years of business, are eligibly to apply.

Evaluating a Farming Enterprise - A short guide highlighting important areas to consider (and questions to ask) when starting a new farm business. These areas include evaluating your resources, assessing your finances, considering your experience and information, and researching marketing trends and strategies. The guide is available in either html or PDF formats and it is published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS), an organization which provides information and technical assistance to all members of the agricultural community. NSAIS' website has a number of a number of additional publications on specific topics such as horticultural crops, field crops, soils and compost, water management, pest management, organic farming, livestock, farm energy, education, and marketing, business, and risk management.

Directories of NJ Agricultural Organizations - Published by Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Salem County, The NJ Green Pages is a reference guide to New Jersey's agricultural programs, associations, service providers, and markets. It also has information on useful websites, books, periodicals, and other resources. The NJ Department of Agriculture also publishes a directory that lists the contact information (without annotations) for NJ's agricultural organizations, including the Department of Agriculture, County Boards of Agriculture, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, grower organizations, and lending agencies.

NJ Farm Link Program - A program of the NJ State Agriculture Development Committee - One of the program's functions is to help connect people who own farmland with farmers who are seeking access to land and farming opportunities.

Have additional questions about finding access to land? Visit the the New England Small Farm Institute website or read Access to Land, an article co-authored by GNF and the New England Small Farm Institute. The Spring 2004 edition of The Natural Farmer, a quarterly publication of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, also has a Special Supplement on 'Access to Land'. New farmers looking for land and farming opportunities in NJ can also look through the NJ Farmer Newspaper or NOFA-NJ classifieds, contact Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agents, and talk to local farmers and agricultural organizations.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension/NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) - Rutgers Cooperative Extension county offices are staffed by County Agricultural Agents who can help to answer your questions about agricultural marketing, production, business planning, and more. The following are some Rutgers related links for farmers:

Beginning Farmer Training - Rutgers has developed a Beginning Farmer Training course similar to the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course. This 5-session introductory course was offered for the first time in February and March 2006 and was designed for people with little or no farming experience who are interested in farming. Read the press release about the training, and contact Rutgers for more information on when they may be offering the course again.

Farm Credit East - Farm Credit East provides farm loans and a range of financial services for new and established farmers. Farm Credit East has two offices in NJ (Bridgeton and Flemington) and partners with farm business consultants who are available to work with beginning farmers on creating their business plans and managing risks (such as through crop insurance). In addition, Farm Credit East has its FarmStart program for beginning farmers and has published a farm profitability guide, Harvesting a Profit, which covers how to measure profitability in agriculture and is designed for students and farmers beginning a career in production agriculture who have had minimal exposure to financial analysis, marketing, and farm management economics.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) - A federal government agency with offices in each state - FSA coordinates various conservation and loan programs, including programs that provide farm-ownership and direct-operating loans to qualified beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers. Visit the FSA website and see the "Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans" overview for more information on the types of loans available, the need for a business plan, and how the loan application and servicing processes work.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - NRCS provides technical assistance to farmers regarding the conservation and management of their soil, water and other natural resources. Many farmers develop farm conservation plans for their farms with the help of NRCS. NRCS is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and as in other states, has several regional service centers and support offices throughout New Jersey.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) - NOFA-NJ is an organization that supports sustainable and organic agricultural pursuits in NJ. It offers the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course, Tilling the Soil of Opportunity business planning course, sponsors twilight farmer meetings, coordinates an annual winter conference, has a section of online classifieds, and may be of assistance with connecting farmers and farming opportunities.

Foodshed Alliance - The Foodshed Alliance is a grass-roots organization working to sustain the agricultural industry and a healthy, local food system in northwestern Jersey. The Foodshed Alliance works with farmers, consumers, and agricultural professionals to foster a "self-sustaining 'foodshed' that supports farmers, nourishes people, respects the land, and strengthens our communities."

NJ Department of Agriculture (NJDA) - The Department of Agriculture's Division of Marketing and Development provides agricultural economic development services, including assistance with business development; agricultural credit and finances; risk management; and farm building construction concerns. While NJDA does not have a loan program for purchasing farms or acquiring farm-operating capital, the department disseminates information and responds to questions on the availability of financing from federal, state, and commercial lending institutions for agricultural loans.

NJ Farm Bureau - The Farm Bureau is a membership-based organization that represents the agricultural industry in NJ and advocates on behalf of farmers.

The New Farmer Development Project (NFDP) works with immigrants in the New York City area who are interested in farming. The project's mission is to "identify, educate and support agriculturally experienced immigrants in the NYC region to establish economically and environmentally sound, small-scale farm operations." The NFDP website has a long list of resources for new farmers.

 

Marketing, Risk Management, and Business Planning Resources - Identifying markets, developing business plans, and assessing and managing risks are important for all farmers. Resources available in these areas include many of the ones listed on this page, such as the New England Small Farm Institute, Exploring the Small Farm Dream, the NJ Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit East, Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agents, and resources from other states. Additional resources include publications by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), such as "Reap New Profits: Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers" and "Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses". Another resource is the NxLevel Tilling the Soil of Opportunity course, a business planning class available through NOFA-NJ. Penn State also has a Beginning Farmers page with Agricultural Marketing resources.

Rodale Institute - The Rodale Institute has a resource section on new farmers, including online training production courses, an online farmer forum, an archive of new farmer success stories and journal entries by new farmers describing their farming and learning experiences, and a classified section for posting farming opportunities sought/desired and other events and services. The Rodale Institute's mission is to "inform, encourage, equip and inspire farmers with the support they need to take the important transition steps toward regenerative agriculture".

Northeast Small Farm Expo - The Small Farm Expo is an annual event that provides educational workshops, lectures, and demonstrations for people interested in farming and rural living. The programs offered include risk management for small farms, livestock management (sheep, horse, etc.), forest and natural resources conservation, commercial horticulture production, organic and traditional farming, and rural living. The Small Farm Expo is sponsored by a tri-state Cooperative Extension team with representation from NJ, NY, and PA.

Entering a Profitable Small Scale Farm Business This hands-on workshop covers farm management and operation skills such as using a tractor, preparing soil, mulching, seeding, and cultivation. The class is held at the Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, NJ and is split into 2-3 sessions. For more information on the course and when it may be offered again, contact Dr. John Grande at the Snyder Research Farm.

Food Innovation Center - The Food Innovation Center helps support the economic development of New Jersey's agricultural and food processing industries. The Center's mission is to transfer needed business and technology expertise directly to farmers, food business entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized food processors. Its services include assistance with business development, market development, product and process development, workforce development and training, regulations and manufacturing support, and quality assurance and food safety systems. Visit the Food Innovation Center's website and read about the Center's 23,000 sq ft food business incubator and processing facility.

Selected New Farmer Resources from Other States – Support for new farmers extends throughout the Northeast. In addition to what's available in NJ, many resources from other states may be used by beginning farmers in NJ. Such resources include beginning farmer workbooks, fact-sheets, workshops, profiles, articles, and more. Many of these resources may be found through different states' Farm Link Programs. A sampling of what is available includes the following:

Holding Ground: A Guide to Northeast Farmland Tenure and Stewardship - A publication that addresses farmland access, transfer, affordability, and stewardship issues. "Holding Ground" examines leases and other tenure arrangements, and it contains sample lease provisions with explanations, sample stewardship standards, worksheets, and case studies. Specific sections include: Principles and challenges of farmland tenure; Short-term leases; Long-term leases and other non-traditional tenure models; Paths to ownership; Farmland stewardship; and Negotiating, monitoring and enforcing agreements. Holding Ground is a publication of the Intervale Foundation (VT) and the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) (MA). Its eighteen authors include farmers, landowners, attorneys, and land use specialists. (162 pages)

The NJ Farm Link Program has a limited number of copies available specifically for NJ landowners and farmers ($20/copy - contact NJ Farm Link at 609-984-2504 to obtain one). For additional copies (at $30/copy), please visit the NESFI bookstore or call NESFI at 413-323-4531.

A Lease Agreement Guide for Landowners and Farmers - A concise guide that presents landowners and farmers with the basic elements to consider when discussing or structuring a lease agreement - Available online through the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Farm Centre - Farm Centre is an farm management resource website developed by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The website has a section devoted to new farmers.

Finding the Niche: Case Studies of Beginning Small-Scale Farmers - A collection of case studies about Wisconsin new farmers and the their successes, failures, and lessons learned as they started their farm businesses. This publication and others are available at the New England Small Farm Institute's Small Farm Library.

Farming Alternatives: A Guide to Evaluating the Feasibility of New Farm-Based Enterprises - A guide and workbook similar to "Exploring the Small Farm Dream", this guide can help you assess your values, resources, marketing plan, business ideas, and more as you consider the feasibility of starting a new farm business. This guide was first published in 1988 and is being updated for re-release in 2004.

Farming internships and apprenticeships - ATTRA-NSAIS and NEWOOF are two wesites that list postings of internships and apprenticeships in the Northeast, including NJ:

ATTRA-NSAIS - Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships

NEWOOF (Northeast Workers on Organic Farms) - Additional listings for the Northeast

If you have any questions, please contact the NJ Farm Link Program at 609-984-2504. 

 

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