University of Florida

Beginning Farmers & Ranchers

The USDA estimates that about 20% of the 2.1 million farms in the United States can be classified as "beginning farms." These are farms with owners who have fewer than 10 years of experience operating their farm.

Beginning farmers have many challenges: rising farmland costs, lack of capital, lack of training in sustainable practices, and the need for experiential learning.

Luckily, various agencies and organizations have noticed the need to train and support the next generation of farmers. The Department of Labor gives the following outlook for new farmers:

"Small-scale, local farming, particularly horticulture and organic farming, offer the best opportunities for entering the occupation. With fewer people wanting to become farmers and a large number of farmers expected to retire or give up their farms in the next decade, there will be some opportunities to own or lease a farm."

Here are some resources for technical and financial assistance and training to help you on your path to operating a successful farm.

Financing

Beginning farmers are sometimes unable to receive financing from traditional commercial sources. Here are some other options for you to try.

The Farm Credit system is a national network established by Congress to provide a reliable credit source for farmers and ranchers:

The Farm Service Agency provides loans to beginning farmers who cannot get financing from commercial credit sources:

Business Management

Starting a farm is just like starting any other business. Your chance of success is better if you have a plan.

UF/IFAS Extension offers Annie's Project, a six-week course for women in farming and ranching. Women receive training in risk management, including financial, production, marketing, and legal resources:

Check with your local Extension office for updated class offerings.

The Food and Resource Economics Department keeps commodity budgets for Florida crops. These budgets can help you plan the expected costs of operation using standard production practices:

Part of planning your farm means spending time identifying your goals and choosing an enterprise based on your available resources:

For your business to succeed, you need customers. To make a profit, you need to consider how you will market your farm products:

Training & Education

UF/IFAS Extension is a source for agricultural information for all farmers, established or new. Find your county's Extension office, then contact the agricultural agent for help with your farm from start-up to soil testing and fertility to crop production and pest management. Many offices offer workshops, training opportunities, and field days for beginning farmers to further their knowledge.

The Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises website is another source of information for small and beginning farmers. This site addresses all parts of farming enterprises, from planning and management to aquaculture and organic production.

Extension's virtual field days offer videos on the various aspects of crop production and give introductory information on production practices, irrigation, pest and weed management, and more:

Other Listings

For more information on starting your own farm or ranch, visit these other sites that collect and list resources for beginning farmers.

Adapted and excerpted from:

"Innovations to Support Beginning Farmers and Ranchers," USDA Blog (8/2011).

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