Interested in farming and looking to get started? Been farming for a few years and thinking of starting your own farm business? Looking for more resources? The following websites, publications, and organizations may be able to help answer your questions, whether you are exploring the idea of farming or have already started.


Getting started in farming

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 - "Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You?" 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 information on course offerings in New Jersey, contact NOFA-NJ. For background information on the course or to obtain the self-study workbook, visit the New England Small Farm Institute website.

How to Begin Your Small Farm Dream - This plain language guide was developed by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (MA) for people who want to start a small farm business. This guide is designed to help you think about the benefits and challenges of owning a farm before you begin, and it introduces topics such as the skills you will need, resources for investing in your farm, making a farm business plan, and marketing your products.

RU Ready to Farm - Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) has held several "RU Ready to Farm" courses for new farmers. For more information on these courses, see the links below and contact RCE Middlesex County Agricultural Agent, Bill Hlubik.

  • RU Ready to Farm - Module One: The Basics of Getting Started - This course covers the basics of getting started in farming. Topics covered include traditional and organic farming, land opportunities, agricultural organizations, a business planning and record keeping overview, crop selection, regulations, and training opportunities. The course was first offered in Fall 2016.
  • RU Ready to Farm: Specialty Crops - This course is designed for beginning farmers interested in vegetable production. Topics discussed include crop production systems, management practices, basic plant science, disease identification, soil heath, controlled environment/greenhouse production, and more. The course was first offered in Spring 2017. 

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Business planning

Planning and Funding Your Farm Business - This Cornell Small Farms Program resource includes includes Q&A, discusses the need for a business plan, provides business planning templates, worksheets, and sample plans, and considers funding, finance, and other planning questions.

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses - This Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) publication provides an overview of the business planning process and includes sample plans and blank worksheets for farmers to use as the develop their own business plans. 

Farm Business Planning – This guide from the University of Maryland goes over business planning basics and includes worksheets that can be used to create a farm business plan.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Resources

  • Beginning Farmer Business Planning – Rutgers’ Ultra-Niche Crops Project has a series of brief videos that highlight business planning basics, including developing a marketing plan and financial plan. 
  • Annie’s Project– This Rutgers risk-management education program for women farmers includes resources on developing business and marketing plans. Two Annie's Project presentations addressed the questions of why should you have a business plan for your farm and what should the plan include. Presentation one; presentation two.
  • County Agricultural Agents – 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.

Farm Credit East – Farm Credit East has farm business consultants available to help farmers create business plans and evaluate their operations. Farm Credit East also provides financial services and has a profitability guide, Harvesting a Profit, which covers how to measure profitability in agriculture and is designed for farmers beginning a career in production agriculture who have minimal exposure to financial analysis, farm management, marketing, and economics. 

AgPlan - AgPlan is a free online tool farmers can use to create a business plan. The website has template plans for different types of farm operations, and each template includes an outline, links to additional resources, samples, and tips and questions to help farmers develop each section of the plan.

New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) - New Jersey has a network of 12 Small Business Development Centers around the state. SBDCs have consultants and programs that can help beginning farmers develop business plans and other business management skills. The SBDC website has a basic business plan outline.

Small Business Administration (SBA) – The Small Business Administration provides resources for starting or growing a business, including information on business plans and a free online tool for creating a plan.

Tilling The Soil of Opportunity - This agricultural business planning course has been offered in New Jersey through NOFA-NJ.  "Tilling the Soil" is a NxLevel course for Agricultural Entrepreneurs that provides new and experienced farmers with the tools to develop agricultural business plans to start or grow their business. Contact NOFA-NJ for more information.



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Agricultural credit and finance

Farm Service Agency (FSA) - A federal government agency with offices in each state, FSA coordinates various loan and conservation 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 following guides for more information on the types of loans available, the need for a business plan, and how the loan application and servicing processes work:

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 New Jersey, in Bridgeton and Flemington, and partners with farm business consultants who are available to work with beginning farmers on creating business plans and managing risks, such as through crop insurance. Farm Credit East also 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 Start - This program from Farm Credit East is designed to help beginning farmers access working capital for their farm businesses and develop a successful credit history. Farmers, generally in their first three years of business, are eligible to apply for working capital loans of up to $75,000 with minimal interest and repayment terms of up to five years. A business plan is required, and each beginning farmer has the opportunity to work with an adviser, develop their credit record, and learn the discipline of effective cash flow management.

NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) - NJEDA is a state agency with a few loan programs that beginning farmers and others may be able to access. NJEDA's support for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses includes a Small Business Fund (loans for business that have been in operation at least one full year), loan programs tied to creating full time jobs, and loans to local lenders (these local lenders can then offer loans to small businesses that do not qualify for traditional bank financing).


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Site evaluation

There are many resources available to help with understanding and assessing the soil, water, and other natural resources and land characteristics of a property you own or may be interested in farming. The following are some resources that may be of assistance with evaluating farm properties.

Organizations that may be of assistance

Lease Planning Worksheets - The SADC in collaboration with NOFA-NJ developed two leasing worksheets as companions to the "Leasing Farmland in New Jersey" guidebook. The worksheets are designed to help landowners and famers clarify their goals and needs, evaluate potential opportunities and properties, and plan for a lease.

Site Evaluation Worksheet - NOFA-NJ developed a worksheet to help landowners and beginning farmers make informed decisions about the suitability of land for different types of farming operations.

Web Soil Survey - Web Soil Survey is an online tool provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that provides soil data and information on farms throughout New Jersey and the rest of the country. Farmers and landowners can use the website to identify a farm property’s soil types, perform soil mapping for the property, and access detailed information about soil types and their suitability for different uses.

NJ Map - Conservation Blueprint - Beginning farmers can use this mapping tool to learn more about specific land parcels, including preservation status, wetlands, parcel records, and more. The online tool is a collaboration of conservation non-profits, government agencies, and Rowan University.

Evaluating a Farming Enterprise - This short guide highlights areas to consider and questions to ask when starting a new farm business, such as evaluating your resources, assessing your finances, considering your experience, and researching marketing strategies. The guide is published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS), which provides information and technical assistance to all members of the agricultural community. Additional publications on crops, soils, water management, and marketing, business, and risk management and more are also available on the NSAIS website.



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Access to land / Leasing resources

NJ Land Link - Online Listings – NJ Land Link is designed to help connect farmers who are seeking access to land and farming opportunities, with farm owners who have farmland or business opportunities available. Beginning farmers can create free online listings through the site to post the farming opportunities they are seeking (lease, purchase, partnership, farm manager, apprenticeship and other opportunities), and they can contact farm owners who have created listings describing the land and farming opportunities they have available.

Farming internships and apprenticeships – The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is annother website that also often has postings of sustainable farming internships and apprenticeships.

Opportunities on college farms – Some colleges have opportunities for students and others to take commercial farm-related classes and/or work on a college farm.

NJ Farmland Leasing Guidebook – This guidebook is designed to help answer the questions that farmers and landowners may have when considering leasing. How long should the lease term be? What provisions should it include? How much should the rental rate be? What are the motivations and interests of the other party. "Leasing Farmland in New Jersey: A Guide for Landowners and Farmers" includes sections on getting started, creating and maintaining your lease, sample leases, leasing profiles, and additional resources. For an electronic copy, click the link above. For a hard copy, email the SADC at, and we'll send you a copy in the mail.

Access to land resources – For more information on access to land, see this page of resources from the NJ Farm Link Program.

Leasing resources – For more information on leasing farmland, see this page of resources from the NJ Farm Link Program.


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Agricultural organizations in New Jersey

There are many agricultural organizations in New Jersey available to help beginning and established farmers. See below for more information on some of these 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:

New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) – NJDA promotes and protects the state’s agricultural industry. It is responsible for a variety of agricultural product, farm regulatory, plant and animal health, and food assistance programs. NJDA’s website has a general reference page, “Topics A to Z,” that farmers and others may find helpful when looking for more information on agriculture in New Jersey.

State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) – The SADC is the state agency that leads in the preservation of New Jersey’s farmland and works to help maintain a viable agricultural industry in New Jersey. The SADC coordinates the Farmland Preservation and Right to Farm Programs in partnership with local County Agriculture Development Boards (CADBs). The SADC also administers the Agricultural Mediation and Farm Link Programs.

County Agriculture Development Boards (CADBs) – CADBs are county government entities and the SADC’s primary local partners in the Farmland Preservation and Right to Farm Programs. For Right to Farm questions and issues, CADBs are the primary local contact for farmers, residents, and municipal officials.

County Boards of Agriculture – County Boards of Agriculture are local, non-government affiliated organizations comprised primarily of farmers that typically meet monthly to discuss agricultural issues of interest. Farmers can visit a County Board of Agriculture’s monthly meeting to discuss issues they may be having and to obtain feedback and support. For more information on when a county board meets, contact your Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agricultural agent.

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

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, and financial assistance may be available for the implementation of conservation practices. See "Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farm Programs" for more information on conservation cost-share programs through NRCS. NRCS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and has several service centers and support offices throughout New Jersey.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) - NOFA-NJ is a membership-based organization that supports sustainable agricultural efforts in New Jersey. To assist new and established farmers and landowners, NOFA-NJ offers the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course and the Tilling the Soil of Opportunity business planning course, sponsors twilight farmer meetings, and coordinates a winter conference and Beginning Farmer Program. NOFA-NJ staff also offers farm business and natural resource consultation, and consultation on land suitability for organic production.

Food Innovation Center – The Food Innovation Center is a food business incubator and economic development program of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). The Center provides business expertise to startup and established food/value-added agriculture businesses in New Jersey. This includes providing customized assistance to its admitted clients under a Business and Technical Mentoring Agreement, including assistance with business development, market research, product development, regulations support, and food safety. The Center operates a 23,000 sq. ft. food business incubator facility.


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Additional resources outside New Jersey

Support for beginning farmers extends throughout the Northeast and rest of the country. The following resources, some of which are also noted above, may be of assistance to beginning farmers in New Jersey.

GrowNYC Beginning Farmer Program - Coordinated by the nonprofit GrowNYC, this program is designed for a wide range of participants looking to start farm businesses, including immigrant farmers with agricultural experience, NYC urban farmers looking to scale-up, second-career farm entrepreneurs, and landowners looking to develop farm enterprises on their land. The program focuses on goal setting, financial management, marketing development, and accessing appropriate land resources.

Cornell Small Farms Program - The Cornell Small Farms Program provides a range of resources for aspiring, new, and beginning farmers. Resources include online courses led by experienced educators and farmers, online tutorials to help you plan a new farm, and farming resource guides and worksheets.

Rodale Institute - The Rodale Institute, a nonprofit in PA dedicated to organic farming research, education, and outreach, offers beginning farmer training programs in organic agriculture and provides related resources.

New Farmers - This beginning farmer website from USDA includes resources organized by topic, in sections for new farmers, women in agriculture, young farmers, veterans, and farms in transition.


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Resources for military veterans

The following websites, programs, and organizations may be of additional assistance if you are a military veteran and are considering getting started in farming.

Cornell Small Farms Program - Farm Ops Initiative - The Cornell Small Farms Program provides a range of resources for aspiring, new, and beginning farmers, including online courses, farming resource guides, worksheets, tutorials, and FAQs. The Cornell Small Farms Program offers partial scholarships for veterans for the online courses, as part of its Farm Ops Initiative.

Rodale Institute - Veteran Farmer Program - The Rodale Institute helps veterans transition into careers in the agricultural industry through a few programs: a Veteran Farmer Training Program (a 2-4 month introductory program for those who considering a career change into agriculture), and an Organic Farming Certificate Program (a one-year, 36-credit certificate program at Delaware Valley University that includes classroom and on-farm learning). The Rodale Institute also has volunteer opportunities involving short-term training opportunities.

Farmer Veteran Coalition - The Farmer Veteran Coalition supports military veterans who are farming or interested in getting involved in farming. This includes the Homegrown By Heroes veteran branding program, a Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund to help with accessing equipment, training, and other support, and links to additional farming resources.

USDA New Farmers Website - Veteran Resources - This beginning farmer website from USDA includes resources to help military veterans get connected to training opportunities as well as program and career resources.

Homegrown By Heroes - Jersey Fresh - Homegrown By Heroes is a marketing/branding program that provides farmer veterans a distinctive label they may affix on their agricultural products to be displayed to the consumer at the point of sale. The label informs consumers that the product was produced in the United States by a veteran who served the country in the military. New Jersey is an official state partner in the Homegrown by Heroes program and promotes the label as part of the Jersey Fresh program. 


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Helping with farm stress

Running, managing, or working on a farm isn't always easy. Production issues, the weather, and personal, financial, legal and other circumstances can lead to stress. There are resources that can help during difficult times though. See below for some of these resources.

Farm Aid

National Young Farmer Coalition - Mental Health Resources - This page has links to several resources from around the country, including organizations and hotlines.

New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline - 1-855-654-6735 - The NJ Hopeline provides 24/7 support and is ready to help. You can reach out by phone, by chat, by text, or by email.

NJ MentalHealthCares - 866-202-HELP (4357) - NJ MentalHealthCares provides information and referral service for NJ residents. Their staff of specialists use their experience and understanding of the health system to provide emotional support for mental health related issues.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - The Lifeline provides 24/7 support that is free and confidential. You can also chat online.

Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network - Northeast - FRSAN-NE aims to improve behavioral health awareness, literacy, access, and outcomes for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers in the Northeast. Visit the network website for a list of resources, including hotlines, organizations, and farmer podcast episodes discussing farm stress and mental health.

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Programs and events

For more information on programs and events, including winter agricultural meetings, that may be of interest to beginning farmers, see also this basic calendar page.

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