woman presenting to class

No matter what stage your farm business is in, UVM Extension offers educational opportunities to help you reach your full potential. 

Classes and Courses for Aspiring and Beginning Farmers

Read on for information on courses offered by the New Farmer Project and other UVM Extension programs which are specifically designed to meet the needs of aspiring and beginning farmers. Check our Calendar for a regional list of events such as field days, workshops, classes and webinars which may be of interest but do not necessarily specifically target beginning farmers.

Not sure which one is the right class for you? Click on each class to learn more.

Growing Places

For aspiring farmers and start-ups

Get your enterprise off to the right start. Participants define goals, explore and evaluate opportunities and resources, and become familiar with state and federal agriculture programs. Offered online and in person. Co-sponsored by the Women's Agricultural Network.

Upcoming Sessions


Module I: Mission Statement and Goal Setting
This introductory session will begin by allowing you to explore your values, needs, and preferences and how these all relate to your business plan. You will examine how your business decisions affect your family and those individuals within your circle. Determining current levels of satisfaction and hopes for the future for yourself and those around you is a critical piece to the successful planning of any business. Once you have established a set of values, you will work on developing a "mission statement" or "goal"; a statement that captures the essence of what you really want to have when you are finished. This mission statement plays a critical role by focusing you on the most important aspects of your business and honoring these as you make business decisions.

Module II: Decision Making
Our days our full of small decisions and choices that we must make, and while choosing badly may result in a little discomfort, these usually don't affect the "big picture." However, we do face major decisions — complicated and consequential choices that result in long-term impact, significant level of risk, increased level of stress and the need for some careful research and exploration. In this session, you will learn a system that will help you arrive at the best possible choice for the situation you are confronted with. You will learn how to use your mission or goal statement in the decision making process, and how this process will allow you to make important decisions with confidence and with significantly less conflict and stress.

Module III: Resource Evaluation
Resources are the building blocks of profitable small businesses. Successful small business owners tend to be excellent resource managers, knowing how to combine different products, ensure a higher quality product, add value, and/or change direction quickly. As a small business owner you are endowed with flexibility large businesses don't have — the essence of resource management is learning how to use this flexibility to your best advantage. In this session, the task will be to define what resources are, identify what resources you have, examine their availability, and then, with the help from others, identify some potential combinations of businesses that would best use the resources you have available.

Module IV: Financials
This session is a very basic introduction to financial management. You will begin to learn the language and concepts with the understanding that more learning will be necessary in order to become completely competent in financial management. Some time will also be spent discussing borrowing money and credit in general.

Module V: Marketing
Using your preferred enterprise idea, you will explore the market for this product/service. Who will buy? How to sell to these buyers? How much are they likely to purchase? How much are they willing to pay? Who is the competition? In addition, you will complete a product/service definition as well as explore market research techniques and develop a personal market research plan.

Module VI: Next Steps
During this last session, you will reflect on what you have accomplished and come up with a plan for future action that will move you toward meeting your personal goals. You will develop a timeline — what you would like to get done, how you would like to do it, and when. You will also learn more about all the various agencies and programs in place to support agriculture.

More Growing Places course information

Growing Places is designed for individuals who are considering starting an agriculture or natural resource based business, but who aren't sure where to start. It is designed to help:

  • develop a comprehensive goal statement, to support and streamline the business planning process;
  • explore and evaluate opportunities and resources;
  • become familiar with state and federal agriculture programs.

Man with computer teaching a class Growing Places is organized into six modules, each addressing a different aspect of business development. Each module includes a presentation, hands-on exercises and virtual “farm visits” that bring practical perspectives on each topic. For online classes, the online discussion board provides a platform for peer discussion and connection that make for a rich learning environment.

The course is open to anyone with access to an Internet connection. The format allows participants to work through each week’s content when it fits their schedule. Each week, we will offer a short (30- to 45-minute) live session using the Zoom webinar platform. These sessions are not required, but they are recorded so that participants who are unable to make the live session can view the recording at their convenience.

Building a Sustainable Business

UVM Extension ag business educators provide coaching and consultations related to farm business development.

More information:

Pandemic Response and Recovery Assistance

UVM Ext Ag Business Educators are available for individual consultations related to business issues associated with COVID-19. Coaching sessions are available via phone or video meeting for farm, forest and/or maple businesses. Educators can help with critical business decision-making, assessing changes to markets, financial planning and other issues facing enterprises.  To make an appointment, contact any of the educators below by email or by leaving a voicemail:

Mark Cannella (Farm and Maple Business): 802-656-4822 or mark.cannella@uvm.edu
Beth Holtzman (Early Stage/Homestead Farms): 802-656-4826 or beth.holtzman@uvm.edu
Chris Lindgren (Forest and Maple Business): 802-656-7583 or christopher.lindgren@uvm.edu
Mary Peabody (Farm Labor Issues): 802-656-7232 or mary.peabody@uvm.edu
Zac Smith (Farm Business/Ag Business Marketing): 802-656-7624 or zachary.m.smith@uvm.edu

Farm Viability and Forest Business Plan Development
Technical assistance is available for farm and forest product business owners interested in working more in depth enterprise analysis and cash flow planning, business planning and transfer planning. Participants are enrolled via an application process. Visit the Farm Viability or Forest Business pages for more information and to download the application materials. For more information, please email Mark Cannella.

Farm Financial Management Education & Assistance

The Building a Sustainable Business course guides participants through developing a farm business plan. Open to people who have completed Growing Places or by instructor's permission for people who have at least one year's commercial farm operation experience and production/financial records of their own.

More Building a Sustainable Business information

Based on a business planning guide developed by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) and co-published with the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, this course will assist today's alternative and traditional business owners with the creation of a holistic business plan rooted firmly in personal, community, economic and environmental values. Review the Building A Sustainable Business course outline for more details about the content for each session.

Students will be asked to complete a simple marketing or preliminary business plan. This will be an asynchronous online course, which means participants can study and work on the curriculum when it is convenient for them. Participants will have access to the instructor and fellow participants, and there will be at least one live webinar featuring a guest speaker. This course requires a significant time investment so participants should consider whether they are able to apply 3 to 6 hours a week to work on their business plan and class assignments.

Upcoming Sessions to be announced

Taking Stock

Taking Stock is designed for farmers with at least five years of commercial production experience and who are considering changes to the scale, scope and/or design of their farm business.

More information

Taking Stock is designed for farmers with 5 or more years of production experience.

At some point every farmer has to acknowledge that the business has undergone some unexpected changes. Those changes may be the result of new learning, family obligations, changes in land tenure, emerging market opportunities or increased competition. Whatever the catalyst, the business will likely need some reframing and re-strategizing to get back in sync with life. Taking Stock leads participants through a process of re-envisioning the business —looking back and planning forward. This class will prepare participants for the challenges of the next phase of business development.

Topics covered will include:

  • Does your farm business vision still fit your life
  • The role of policies and procedures in the maturing business
  • Approaches to cash management and what the numbers reflect
  • Incorporating employees into the farm business

Participants will be encouraged to select a project that will help them achieve a goal within their business to work on during the course.

What Taking Stock graduates say:

"It forced me to really slow down and look into the different parts of my business as they had developed over the years and begin to evaluate how they contributed to the overall picture."

"It helped me break things down... into goals, tasks to meet those goals, and ways to measure success — that I would never take the time to do on my own. I have found that every time I have done that... we have met those goals."

Next session: TBA