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Business Planning

Start planning your farm business today! In addition to the resources below, visit to see what online courses are currently offered through the Northeast Beginning Farmers Project.

ATTRA Evaluating a Farming Enterprise

Determining what to grow and how to sell it are the first steps in starting a farm-based business. This publication will help the reader take these important first steps. Download PDF or view online for $2; print copy is $5.

NOFA Whole Farm Planning Book

This manual by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) takes the desire to make a living farming and shows how to turn it into reality through a workbook approach that is both personal and planetary.  Worksheets and exercises coax out the often-downplayed dreams and desires, priorities and objectives that point the way to work that feeds rather than exhausts.

SARE: Building a Sustainable Business Book

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses brings the business planning process alive to help today’s alternative and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs transform farm-grown inspiration into profitable enterprises. Worksheets lend a practical perspective and illustrate how real farm families set goals, research processing alternatives, determine potential markets, and evaluate financing options. A print copy is $17, but the online version is free.

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook by Richard Wiswall shares practical tools for increasing profitability without increasing labor hours, what Wiswall calls “farming smarter, not harder.” In this handbook, he addresses production efficiency, labor management, novel marketing strategies, and planning for retirement, just to name a few topics. Price is $32 and includes materials such as crop budgets, payroll calculator, and more.

Growing Local: A Community Guide to Planning for Agriculture and Food Systems

Growing Local was written to help communities remove barriers and advance solutions to sustain local agriculture and strengthen community food systems. It draws upon extensive research of local governments from across the country which have successfully improved farm viability and protected farmland, facilitated infrastructure development and increased access to healthy and affordable food. The Guide provides a history of food system planning, offers principles and practices and a comprehensive toolbox of programs and policies to advance planning, policy development and public investment.

Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business

Farms with a Future by Rebecca Thistlethwaite  introduces readers to some of the country’s most innovative farmers who are embracing their “inner entrepreneur” through innovative strategies for marketing, cost savings, and equity financing rather than loans, environmental stewardship, and labor management. Farms with a Future will help guide farmers to manage for long-term sustainability and build a triple-bottom-line farming business focused on economic viability, social justice, and ecological soundness. The book is available for $30:

Free One-on-One Business Guidance for New York State Entrepreneurs

Through a network of 24 regional centers, the New York Small Business Development Center delivers high quality business counseling and training to New Yorkers who want to start a business or improve the performance of an existing business. The Center also hosts programs designed specifically for veterans, women, and minorities.

Fearless Farm Finances: Farm Financial Management Demystified

A MOSES (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services) project, this 264 page publication was funded by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and is a one-of-a-kind resource packed with instructions, tips and tools for setting up and managing a farm’s financial system, including real-life examples from successful farmers. Cost is $19.95.

Creative Financing for Farmers Presentation

Farmer and author Rebecca Thistlethwaite outlines some unique ways farmers can build financial and social capital to start, build, or maintain their business. The material in the presentation is a companion to the book Farms with a Future.

Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm

Thinking about alternative financing methods for your farm? This University of Vermont New Farmer Project Guide outlines the legal, accounting, environmental, and social effects of alternative funding. The guide includes four farmer case studies.

Sustainable Vegetable Production From Start-Up to Market

Author Vernon P. Grubinger addresses the principles and practices essential to planning, launching, and managing a vegetable production business and the practical implications of sustainability. Thirty-two profiles detail the experiences of individual vegetable growers and provide enterprise budgets for a number of crops. Price varies.

ATTRA’s Toolkit Can Help You Make Those Tough Farm Decisions

The “Farm Transitions Toolkit” was developed through a collaborative project involving LSP, MISA, Farmers’ Legal Action Group and ATTRA. This “Toolkit” contains resources, links to services, and practical calculation tables to help landowners establish a commonsense plan for transitioning a farm to the next generation. It also features user-friendly resources on the economic, legal, governmental, agronomic, ecological and even social issues that must be considered, and is rounded out with thought-provoking profiles of farmers who are in various stages of transitioning. An online version of the “Toolkit” is available at Paper versions can be purchased by calling 800-909-MISA (6472).

Toolkit for Planning Shared-Use Kitchens

Shared-use kitchens offer a safer venue for food entrepreneurs to launch new enterprises and participate in the economic development of a community by creating jobs and markets for local products, and retaining money within the community. A new resource from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is designed to help community and organization leaders make informed decisions about starting shared-used kitchens. The Shared-use Kitchen Planning Toolkit is a 44-page guide that discusses what should be included in a feasibility study, business planning and other key considerations, licensing and insurance regulations in Iowa, and sample rental agreements. View the guide at

Come & Get It! What You Need to Know to Serve Food on Your Farm

Adding any form of on-farm food service to your farm business mix requires a well-thought-out and strategic planning process to bring you to long-term success. Come & Get It! is a publication from the University of Minnesota that will tell you what you need to know to serve food on your farm. Topics covered include assessing if on-farm food service is right for you, marketing, financing, and farm profiles. Access the guide online at

Guide on Matched Savings Accounts for Beginning Farmers

A collaborative of 16 organizations has recently published a new step-by-step manual, A Guide to Developing and Operating an Agricultural Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. Readers will learn the basics of IDAs and find a comprehensive collection of resources that cover many aspects of IDA program development. The Guide is a resource for organizations interested in starting their own IDA programs. The 164-page guide is online at

Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching

During the past decade, major federal conservation programs that help farmers and ranchers maintain and enhance sustainable practices have increased dramatically. Access to these resources can open new opportunities to preserve agricultural lands, develop sustainable practices, and open new markets. A new ATTRA publication, “Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching,” is an overview of those programs and acts as a guide for navigating the often complex and difficult application process. Download the PDF free at

Beef Farm Account Book

The Cornell Beef Farm Account Book is once again available. The accounting record book is designed specifically for beef producers. A complete and accurate set of financial records helps producers develop accurate tax returns but as important gives them the data to analyze their business. This allows for better decision making to increase farm profitability. To purchase a copy of the Cornell Beef Farm Account Book, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension Livestock Educator at or Tom Gallagher, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Albany County,, 518-765-3500.

On-Farm Skills Development Guide

This On-Farm Skills Development Guide is a tool for farmers and mentors to use with employees, beginning farmers or anyone they are teaching to develop a hands-on farm-based learning plan. Beginning farmers also can use it as a self-assessment tool to determine current strengths and weaknesses, and to identify critical learning needs. Click here to view an online version of the guide or here to download an Excel version of the guide.

Purdue Extension: Online budgeting tools for small-scale livestock producers

Purdue Extension has developed a pair of Web-based, interactive resources to help new producers and anyone thinking about starting a small-scale livestock operation to make critical budgeting decisions. The Purdue Comparative Decision Support matrix (PCDS) includes a spreadsheet tool that allows users to create an operating budget based on their own fixed and variable costs, cash flow and expected revenue. The PCDS2 profit/loss analysis function uses cost and price information to calculate potential earnings. Both tools are available online.

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