Since 1995, UVM Extension has offered “Growing Places,” a course designed to help new farmers learn the nuts and bolts of successful farm business start-up: goal setting and decision-making; financial and business management, accessing capital and credit; marketing; basic farm business skills; and how to access to USDA program and services.

Beginning farmers (less than 10 years in operation) are a thriving sector of Vermont’s agricultural economy. These new entrepreneurs provide direct access to local food through farmers markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture) and farm stands, and are increasingly servicing wholesale and institutional markets.

These farms comprise ~28 percent of the total number in Vermont, have an aggregated market value of ~$129 million, and represent about 16 percent of Vermont’s agricultural economy. However, a key challenge is helping build viable, sustainable businesses.

At the center of Growing Places is development of a whole-life (holistic) goal statement. Participants identify their core values, the activities to which they devote their time, and what they hope to achieve in life. The process encourages discussion among all the business’s decision-makers so that everyone is on the same page early in the process, and ensures participants are building a business at a scale that suits their lifestyle and meets their needs.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2018 Extension Quarterly (PDF).


Beth S. Holtzman
Infographic showing that 28 percent of Vermont farms are less than 10 years old