Interested in farming and exploring how to get started? Been farming for a few years and thinking of starting your own farm business? Looking for more resources? The following websites, publications, and organizations may be able to answer some of the questions you have, whether you are exploring the idea of farming or have already started.

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 information on course offerings in New Jersey, visit the the NOFA-NJ website. For background information on the course or to obtain the self-study workbook, visit the New England Small Farm Institute website.

How to Begin Your Small Farm Dream - This plain language guide was developed by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (MA) for people who want to start a small farm business. This guide is designed to help you think about the benefits and challenges of owning a farm before you begin, and it introduces topics such as the skills you will need, resources for investing in your farm, making a farm business plan, and marketing your products.

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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.

Planning and Funding Your Farm Business - The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project looks at the need for a business plan, provides business planning worksheets and templates, and considers funding, finance, and other planning questions.

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses - This Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) publication provides an overview of the business planning process and includes sample and blank worksheets for farmers to use as the develop their own business plans. 

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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 New Jersey, in Bridgeton and Flemington, and partners with farm business consultants who are available to work with beginning farmers on creating business plans and managing risks, such as through crop insurance. Farm Credit East also has also 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 is designed to help beginning farmers access working capital for their farm businesses and develop a successful credit history. Farmers, generally in their first three years of business, are eligible to apply for working capital loans of up to $50,000 with minimal interest and repayment terms of up to five years. A business plan is required, and each beginning farmer has the opportunity to work with an adviser, develop their credit record, and learn the discipline of effective cash flow management.

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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. The following are a few organizations that may be of assistance with evaluating farm properties:

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 periodically sponsors site evaluation workshops in conjunction with NRCS. The purpose of the workshops and a companion companion worksheet is to help landowners and beginning farmers make informed decisions about the suitability of land for different types of farming operations.

Web Soil Survey - Web Soil Survey is an online tool provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that provides soil data and information on farms throughout New Jersey and the rest of the country. Farmers and landowners can use the website to identify a farm property’s soil types, perform soil mapping for the property, and access detailed information about soil types and their suitability for different uses.

Evaluating a Farming Enterprise - This short guide highlights areas to consider and questions to ask when starting a new farm business, such as evaluating your resources, assessing your finances, considering your experience, and researching marketing strategies. The guide is published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS), which provides information and technical assistance to all members of the agricultural community. Additional publications on crops, soils, water management, and marketing, business, and risk management and more are also availalbe on the NSAIS website.

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Access to land / Leasing resources

NJ Land Link - Online Listings – NJ Land Link is designed to help connect farmers who are seeking access to land and farming opportunities, with farm owners who have farmland or business opportunities available. Beginning farmers can create free online listings through the site to post the farming opportunities they are seeking (lease, purchase, partnership, farm manager, apprenticeship and other opportunities), and they can contact farm owners who have created listings describing the land and farming opportunities they have available.

Farming internships and apprenticeships – The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is annother website that also often has postings of sustainable farming internships and apprenticeships.

NOFA-NJ Incubator Farm - The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) Incubator Farm is a land leasing arrangement for beginning farmers who have farming experience and a business idea, but do not have access to land. It is a low-risk environment for launching a new farm business, with access to multiple acres of deer-fenced, irrigated land, equipment, barn space, and business planning and marketing support. The farm is located in Hillsborough, NJ at Duke Farms. For more information or to apply, contact NOFA-NJ.

Opportunities on college farms – Some colleges have opportunities for students and others to take commercial farm-related classes and/or work on a college farm.

NJ Farmland Leasing Guidebook – This guidebook is designed to help answer the questions that farmers and landowners may have when considering leasing. How long should the lease term be? What provisions should it include? How much should the rental rate be? What are the motivations and interests of the other party. "Leasing Farmland in New Jersey: A Guide for Landowners and Farmers" includes sections on getting started, creating and maintaining your lease, sample leases, leasing profiles, and additional resources. For an electronic copy, click the link above. For a hard copy, email the SADC at sadc@ag.state.nj.us, and we'll send you a copy in the mail.

Access to land resources – For more information on access to land, see this page of resources from the NJ Farm Link Program.

Leasing resources – For more information on leasing farmland, see this page of resources from the NJ Farm Link Program.

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Agricultural organizations in New Jersey

There are many agricultural organizations in New Jersey available to help beginning and established farmers. See below for more information on some of these organizations.

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:

New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) – NJDA promotes and protects the state’s agricultural industry. It is responsible for a variety of agricultural product, farm regulatory, plant and animal health, and food assistance programs. NJDA’s website has a general reference page, “Topics A to Z,” that farmers and others may find helpful when looking for more information on agriculture in New Jersey.

State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) – The SADC is the state agency that leads in the preservation of New Jersey’s farmland and works to help maintain a viable agricultural industry in New Jersey. The SADC coordinates the Farmland Preservation and Right to Farm Programs in partnership with local County Agriculture Development Boards (CADBs). The SADC also administers the Agricultural Mediation and Farm Link Programs.

County Agriculture Development Boards (CADBs) – CADBs are county government entities and the SADC’s primary local partners in the Farmland Preservation and Right to Farm Programs. For Right to Farm questions and issues, CADBs are the primary local contact for farmers, residents, and municipal officials.

County Boards of Agriculture – County Boards of Agriculture are local, non-government affiliated organizations comprised primarily of farmers that typically meet monthly to discuss agricultural issues of interest. Farmers can visit a County Board of Agriculture’s monthly meeting to discuss issues they may be having and to obtain feedback and support. For more information on when a county board meets, contact your Rutgers Cooperative Extension county agricultural agent or see the contact information in the NJDA directory.

New Jersey Farm Bureau - The Farm Bureau is a membership-based organization that represents the agricultural industry in New Jersey and advocates on behalf of 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, and financial assistance may be available for the implementation of conservation practices. NRCS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and has several service centers and support offices throughout New Jersey.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) - NOFA-NJ is a membership-based organization that supports sustainable agricultural efforts in New Jersey. To assist new and established farmers and landowners, NOFA-NJ offers the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course and the Tilling the Soil of Opportunity business planning course, sponsors twilight farmer meetings, and coordinates a winter conference, a Beginning Farmer Program, and a farm incubator program. NOFA-NJ staff also offers farm business and natural resource consultation, and consultation on land suitability for organic production.

Food Innovation Center – The Food Innovation Center is a food business incubator and economic development program of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). The Center provides business expertise to startup and established food/value-added agriculture businesses in New Jersey. This includes providing customized assistance to its admitted clients under a Business and Technical Mentoring Agreement, including assistance with business development, market research, product development, regulations support, and food safety. The Center operates a 23,000 sq. ft. food business incubator facility.

Contact Information For NJ Agricultural Organizations – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension have each published a directory of New Jersey agricultural organizations. Searching these directories and the internet may be able provide you with the contact information you are looking for. 

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Additional resources outside New Jersey

Support for beginning farmers extends throughout the Northeast and rest of the country. The following resources, some of which are also noted above, may be of assistance to beginning farmers in New Jersey.

GrowNYC New Farmer Development - Coordinated by the nonprofit GrowNYC, this program helps aspiring farmers who have agricultural experience establish their own sustainable farm businesses in the NYC region. The program includes a farm planning course (Farm Beginnings) as well as technical assistance with identifying farmland, access to capital, marketing support, and other farm business details.

Rodale Institute - The Rodale Institute, a nonprofit in PA dedicated to organic farming research, education, and outreach, offers beginning farmer training programs in organic agriculture and provides related resources.

Northeast Beginning Farmers Project - The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project provides a range of resources for aspiring, new, and beginning farmers. Resources include online courses led by experienced educators and farmers, farming resource guides, and worksheets, tutorials, and FAQs for helping farmers develop written farm plans. The project is coordinated by Cornell University.

Start2Farm - The Start2Farm website is designed to be a clearinghouse of programs and resources for new and aspiring farmers. People who are thinking about farming, as well as those who are already farming, can search for resources by topic. The site organizes its beginning farmer resource links by topics such as: learning how to run a farm business (farm planning); finding financing; locating services and technical assistance; and connecting with others and building relationships. The website is a service of the USDA National Agricultural Library.

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Programs and events

For more information on programs and events, including winter agricultural meetings, that may be of interest to beginning farmers, see also this basic calendar page.

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