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Commercial Farming Experience
Which statement best describes your farming experience up to this point?
I own/operate a commercial farm
I own/operate a homestead/hobby-scale farm
I have worked as a farm employee/apprentice
I have no prior agricultural experience
The term "new farmer" includes farmers with up to 10 years of farming experience. If you fall into this group we will bypass some of the introductory questions.
What type of production/farming experience have you had?
Mostly poultry/livestock for meat, milk, or fiber
Mostly tourism or education
Woodland based (maple, mushroom, etc.)
Mostly value-added foods
A diversified operation with 2 or more production types
Select the option where you have the most experience. You will have an oppotunity to expand or diversify your selections down the road.
What aspect(s) of your business would you like to change?
Operate more efficiently
Improved quality of life
Expand my labor force
Prior Business Experience
Do you have prior non-farm business experience that might help you in your farm management?
Yes, I have operated/managed my own business
Yes, but as an employee. I was not the owner.
Having prior business experience can be a significant asset in starting your farm. You will find that many of the skills will transfer to your new business. At the same time you should be aware that agriculture has some unique aspects that will require learning some new ways of managing.
Since you have some prior business management experience you should already be aware of where you will need extra help. In the meantime you will most likely want to spend your time and energy learning how to grow/produce a quality product at a commercial scale.
Do you have a written business plan for your farm business idea?
A business plan is your key to success. It will provide a place where you can try out ideas and play around with concepts in a relatively risk-free environment. When your business plan is complete it will inform others and it will also keep you on track. It may seem like a lot of work but when it's done -- you'll be so glad you did it.
Do you have cash, livestock, equipment or other assets to invest in this business?
Do you have practical business management skills that will help you succeed?
e.g. bookkeeping, marketing, human resource management
Are there aspects of your life that would limit the time you have available for professional development and training?
Giving yourself time to plan your business will increase your chance for success but it is also to be honest with yourself about the aspects of your life that limit the time you have available. We will suggest options based on your responses.
Would your current living arrangement allow you to work full or part time on a farm as a farm employee or apprentice?
Yes for a short period of time (1-2 weeks)
Yes, my schedule is relatively flexible
There are many ways to gain practical, hands-on farming experience but one of the most efficient is to work on a commercial farm in some capacity. Not only will you be able to learn some valuable skills, you will also have an opportunity to observe a commercial operation. This can give you some idea of what systems you would like to implement on your farm and what systems you might change on your own operation.
Which statement best describes your current level of commitment?
I am just exploring this idea casually right now
I am serious about the idea but need to explore the feasibility further
I am absolutely ready to move forward if I can find a way to do it
I am exploring possible modifications to my existing business
Which of the following statements reflects the current level of family support you have for this idea?
My partner/spouse and I have discussed this plan and are equally enthusiastic
My partner/spouse and I have discussed this plan but are not in complete agreement on how to proceed
I am entering this venture on my own
My partner/spouse is very uncomfortable with my plans
Well honestly, I haven't thought to mention this to anyone else
Which of the following statements most accurately reflects your income expectations for this farm?
I do not expect the farm to produce any of my family's income at this point AND I am able to subsidize the operating expenses for several years
I am not concerned about family income but the farm does need to pay its own expenses
At least half of my family income should come from the farm
All (100%) of my family income should come from the farm
It is really important that you think carefully about your expectations regarding what the business should be returning to you in the way of income. There are many farm owners that are quite happy earning a supplemental income from their farm endeavors. Others need to show enough income to support their family. There is no "right" or "wrong" answer but it is important to plan your business in way that will meet your expectations.
Do you currently have access to land that you intend to farm?
Yes, I have secure access to land that meets my needs
Yes, but I am going to have to relocate at some point
No, I do not have access to land at this time
Having land is important to most agricultural operations but keep in mind that buying land is not the only way to get started. There are many creative solutions to getting started in farming that do not require taking on a massive mortgage.
Are you renting/leasing this land?
Yes, I have a multi-year lease
Yes, but without a lease agreement
Leasing land is a very common way to get started in farming. You will want to make sure that you have a written lease agreement in place to protect all the parties from misunderstandings.
Is this land currently owned by a family member?
While family-owned land can be a great asset, it is very important to have the terms and conditions written out clearly in a lease agreement.
Does your current land arrangement work for your future business plans?
Moving a land-based business such as a farm can be a daunting experience. It is not impossible but it does require some planning.
Capital (Money and Credit)
Which statement best describes your needs with respect to financing your business?
I am willing and prepared to borrow money to cover startup and/or operating expenses
I am willing to invest personal savings in my business
I would be willing to explore some alternative financing models
All of the above
None of the above
There are a number of ways to finance your business. In most cases you will be looking at some combination of loans and personal investment.
Which statement best describes your current financial situation?
I/we have some savings and a strong credit history to invest in this business startup
I/we have no savings but our credit history is strong
My/our credit history is not strong at this time
New farmers are often understandably reluctant to borrow money. Debt can be frightening, especially when it used improperly. While many farms get started from the owner's savings and do not have any startup debt it can be challenging to grow your business to a point of profitability without some type of borrowed capital. The important thing to understand is that debt is a tool -- used properly it can be a huge benefit. Misused however debt can be a disaster.<
Do you know what you want to grow or produce?
Production skill is the heart of any farm business and there are a few considerations that you should be taking into account. First, in order to be competitive, you are going to have to learn how to raise/grow/produce your product(s) with great care to be sure that you can get a high-quality product to market at a cost that will appeal to the consumer and return some profit to you.
Are you willing to modify your production plans to meet your goals if necessary?
Flexibility is a key criteria in a sustainable business. Consumer preferences change, markets shift and new opportunities arise. Be careful not to be so focussed on your production that you fail to notice these changes.
Do you need to increase production in order to achieve your goals?
Many new farmers are surprised to learn that producing commercially is really quite different than raising the same crop/animal for your personal use. Perhaps the biggest shift will be that you will need to pay a lot of attention to your profit margin. Secondly you will need to become much more efficient and you might not have time for all extra care that you lavish on the home garden. Finally, pests, diseases and natural disasters such as floods, draught, late/early freezes will take on a much more urgent role. Any of these incidents can wipe out a significant portion of your income. You will need to become an expert in planning, managing, assessing your risk, and having a backup plan.
Are you planning to be certified by a third party? (organic, humanely raised, fair trade)
What is your preferred marketing outlet?
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Subscription
Have you completed any market research?
Market research will help you determine what the demand is for your product(s), who your target customer is and what your competition is currently offering.
Have you identified market niches, opportunities and gaps in your preferred geographic region?
Leave this field blank
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