Interested in farming or thinking of starting a farm business? Been farming for a few years and considering something new or looking for more resources? The following websites, publications, and organizations may be able to answer some of the questions you have, whether you've already started or are still exploring the idea of farming. Some workshops and events are also posted on this calendar.

Getting started in farming

Beginning Farmer Resource Guides and Websites - Several organizations have created resource guides and wesbites for people looking to get started in farming. A selection of these comprehensive guides and resources (which may have been produced by other states but are adaptable for NJ) includes the following:

Exploring the Small Farm Dream - "Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You?" is a short course and a decision-making workbook that can help you decide if starting a new farm business is right for you. The course/workbook can help you identify and assess your values, goals, and ideas for a prospective new farm operation. During the course, participants discuss current opportunities in small scale agriculture, explore objectives, assess personal and financial resources, conduct preliminary market research, and develop an action plan for pursuing their interests in food and farming. For more information on course offerings in NJ, visit the the NOFA-NJ website. Also visit the New England Small Farm Institute website for background information on the course or to obtain a copy of the self-study workbook.

Business planning

Tilling The Soil of Opportunity - This agricultural business planning course is available in New Jersey through NOFA-NJ.  "Tilling the Soil" is a NxLevel course for Agricultural Entrepreneurs that will provide new and experienced farmers with the tools to develop agricultural business plans to start or grow their businesses. Visit the NOFA-NJ website for more information.

Marketing, Risk Management, and Business Planning Resources - Identifying markets, developing business plans, and assessing and managing risks are important for all farmers. Resources available in these areas include many of the ones listed on this page, such as the New England Small Farm Institute, Exploring the Small Farm Dream, the NJ Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit East, Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agents, and resources from other states. Additional resources include publications by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), such as "Reap New Profits: Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers" and "Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses". Penn State also has a Beginning Farmers page with Agricultural Marketing resources.

Agricultural credit and finance

Farm Service Agency (FSA) - A federal government agency with offices in each state - FSA coordinates various conservation and loan programs, including programs that provide farm-ownership and direct-operating loans to qualified beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers. Visit the FSA website and see the "Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans" overview for more information on the types of loans available, the need for a business plan, and how the loan application and servicing processes work.

Farm Credit East - Farm Credit East provides farm loans and a range of financial services for new and established farmers. Farm Credit East has two offices in NJ (Bridgeton and Flemington) and partners with farm business consultants who are available to work with beginning farmers on creating their business plans and managing risks (such as through crop insurance). In addition, Farm Credit East has its FarmStart program for beginning farmers and has published a farm profitability guide, Harvesting a Profit, which covers how to measure profitability in agriculture and is designed for students and farmers beginning a career in production agriculture who have had minimal exposure to financial analysis, marketing, and farm management economics.

Farm Start - This program from Farm Credit East and CoBank is designed to assist beginning farmers and new cooperatives, providing working capital of up to $50,000 with repayment terms up to five years. Recipients will have the opportunity to develop a successful credit record as well as work with an advisor to learn effective cash flow management and other business skills. Farmers, forestry producers, fishermen, and farm-related businesses and cooperatives, generally in their first three years of business, are eligibly to apply.

Site evaluation

There are many resources available to help with understanding and assessing the soil, water, and other natural resources and land characteristics of a property you own or may be interested in farming. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) are a few organizations that may be of assistance.  

Lease Planning Worksheets - The SADC, in collaboration with NOFA-NJ, developed two leasing worksheets as companions to the "Leasing Farmland in New Jersey" guidebook. The worksheets are designed to help landowners and famers clarify their goals and needs, evaluate potential opportunities and properties, and plan for a lease.

Site Evaluation Workshops - NOFA-NJ has sponsored a few site evaluation workshops recently in conjunction with NRCS. The purpose of this workshop and a companion worksheet is to help landowners and beginning farmers make informed decisions about the suitability of land for different types of farming operations.

Evaluating a Farming Enterprise - A short guide highlighting important areas to consider (and questions to ask) when starting a new farm business. These areas include evaluating your resources, assessing your finances, considering your experience and information, and researching marketing trends and strategies. The guide is available in either html or PDF formats and it is published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS), an organization which provides information and technical assistance to all members of the agricultural community. NSAIS' website has a number of a number of additional publications on specific topics such as horticultural crops, field crops, soils and compost, water management, pest management, organic farming, livestock, farm energy, education, and marketing, business, and risk management.

Access to land / Leasing resources

NJ Farm Link Program - A program of the NJ State Agriculture Development Committee - One of the program's functions is to help connect people who own farmland with farmers who are seeking access to land and farming opportunities.

Have additional questions about finding access to land? Visit the the New England Small Farm Institute website or read Access to Land, an article co-authored by GNF and the New England Small Farm Institute. The Spring 2004 edition of The Natural Farmer, a quarterly publication of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, also has a Special Supplement on 'Access to Land'. New farmers looking for land and farming opportunities in NJ can also look through the NJ Farmer Newspaper or NOFA-NJ classifieds, contact Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agents, and talk to local farmers and agricultural organizations.

Farming internships and apprenticeships - ATTRA-NSAIS and NEWOOF are two wesites that list postings of internships and apprenticeships in the Northeast, including NJ:

ATTRA-NSAIS - Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships

NEWOOF (Northeast Workers on Organic Farms) - Additional listings for the Northeast

Agricultural organizations serving New Jersey farmers

Directories of NJ Agricultural Organizations - Published by Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Salem County, The NJ Green Pages is a reference guide to New Jersey's agricultural programs, associations, service providers, and markets. It also has information on useful websites, books, periodicals, and other resources. The NJ Department of Agriculture also publishes a directory that lists the contact information (without annotations) for NJ's agricultural organizations, including the Department of Agriculture, County Boards of Agriculture, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, grower organizations, and lending agencies.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension/NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) - Rutgers Cooperative Extension county offices are staffed by County Agricultural Agents who can help to answer your questions about agricultural marketing, production, business planning, and more. The following are some Rutgers related links for farmers:

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - NRCS provides technical assistance to farmers regarding the conservation and management of their soil, water and other natural resources. Many farmers develop farm conservation plans for their farms with the help of NRCS. NRCS is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and as in other states, has several regional service centers and support offices throughout New Jersey.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) - NOFA-NJ is an organization that supports sustainable and organic agricultural pursuits in NJ. It offers the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course, Tilling the Soil of Opportunity business planning course, sponsors twilight farmer meetings, coordinates an annual winter conference, has a section of online classifieds, and may be of assistance with connecting farmers and farming opportunities.

NJ Department of Agriculture (NJDA) - The Department of Agriculture's Division of Marketing and Development provides agricultural economic development services, including assistance with business development; agricultural credit and finances; risk management; and farm building construction concerns. While NJDA does not have a loan program for purchasing farms or acquiring farm-operating capital, the department disseminates information and responds to questions on the availability of financing from federal, state, and commercial lending institutions for agricultural loans.

NJ Farm Bureau - The Farm Bureau is a membership-based organization that represents the agricultural industry in NJ and advocates on behalf of farmers.

Foodshed Alliance - The Foodshed Alliance is a grass-roots organization working to sustain the agricultural industry and a healthy, local food system in northwestern Jersey. The Foodshed Alliance works with farmers, consumers, and agricultural professionals to foster a "self-sustaining 'foodshed' that supports farmers, nourishes people, respects the land, and strengthens our communities."

Food Innovation Center - The Food Innovation Center helps support the economic development of New Jersey's agricultural and food processing industries. The Center's mission is to transfer needed business and technology expertise directly to farmers, food business entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized food processors. Its services include assistance with business development, market development, product and process development, workforce development and training, regulations and manufacturing support, and quality assurance and food safety systems. Visit the Food Innovation Center's website and read about the Center's 23,000 sq ft food business incubator and processing facility.

The New Farmer Development Project (NFDP) works with immigrants in the New York City area who are interested in farming. The project's mission is to "identify, educate and support agriculturally experienced immigrants in the NYC region to establish economically and environmentally sound, small-scale farm operations." The NFDP website has a long list of resources for new farmers.

Selected New Farmer Resources from Other States

Support for new farmers extends throughout the Northeast. In addition to what's available in NJ, many resources from other states may be used by beginning farmers in NJ. Such resources include beginning farmer workbooks, fact-sheets, workshops, profiles, articles, and more. Many of these resources may be found through different states' Farm Link Programs. A sampling of what is available includes the following:

Rodale Institute - The Rodale Institute has a resource section on new farmers, including online training production courses, an online farmer forum, an archive of new farmer success stories and journal entries by new farmers describing their farming and learning experiences, and a classified section for posting farming opportunities sought/desired and other events and services. The Rodale Institute's mission is to "inform, encourage, equip and inspire farmers with the support they need to take the important transition steps toward regenerative agriculture".

Farm Centre - Farm Centre is an farm management resource website developed by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The website has a section devoted to new farmers.

Finding the Niche: Case Studies of Beginning Small-Scale Farmers - A collection of case studies about Wisconsin new farmers and the their successes, failures, and lessons learned as they started their farm businesses. This publication and others are available at the New England Small Farm Institute's Small Farm Library.

Farming Alternatives: A Guide to Evaluating the Feasibility of New Farm-Based Enterprises - A guide and workbook similar to "Exploring the Small Farm Dream", this guide can help you assess your values, resources, marketing plan, business ideas, and more as you consider the feasibility of starting a new farm business. This guide was first published in 1988 and is being updated for re-release in 2004.

If you have any questions, please contact the NJ Farm Link Program at 609-984-2504. 


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