Farmers

Calling all beginning farmers and ranchers! America’s farmers and ranchers are aging, and it is prime time for a new generation. It can be hard for new farmers to get started, but there’s help. Check out our resources for ways to take advantage of exciting new opportunities.

Anyone with interest can become a new farmerthere is no age limit on pursuing an interest in farming or ranching. At the Center for Rural Affairs, we have resources to help new farmers become successful and profitable while they carry on the proud tradition of family farms and vibrant rural communities.

Learn more about opportunities and challenges for beginning farmers, including special programs for veterans and women getting started in farming. Keep reading below, then check out the rest of our beginning farmer pages.

Learn about the Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) in our 2017 report, “Pathways to Land Access.” We examine implementation and participation in the program in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Programs and resources for beginning farmers

Federal Programs for Beginning Farmers

Conservation Reserve Program Transition

For beginning or socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

  • Applies to land currently in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a land set-aside program where landowners are paid to establish soil conserving and enriching plant mixes, but are not allowed to harvest or graze, but returning to production.
  • Offers a special incentive of two years extra CRP rental payments to owners of land who rent or sell the land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Land Contract Guarantee Program

  • Encourages retiring landowners to sell to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through private, contractual agreements
  • Provides a government backed guarantee to these landowners

Conservation Funding with Incentives for Beginners

Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Organic Initiative

  • Administered by the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who are transitioning to organic systems and those already conducting organic practices and want to add acres and/or livestock, or just improve their conservation.
  • Higher payment rates for beginners

Conservation Stewardship Program

  • Working lands conservation program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for maintaining high standards of environmental stewardship
  • Higher payment rates for beginners

Rural Energy for America Program

  • Provides grants and guaranteed loans to help farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

Resources

General information

Business and financial support

Conservation, local food, and high value markets

Books, guides, and courses

  • Holistic Management: Resources (including free downloads) and courses to help farmers and ranchers manage land in an economically and environmentally sustainable way
  • Land Stewardship Project - Farm Beginnings: A range of opportunities to learn firsthand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming; courses may be available in your area
  • New England Small Farm Institute Publications: Books and courses available for purchase on topics for small farmers, especially “Exploring the Small Farm Dream”
  • Northeast Beginning Farmers: Online courses and publications to help build new farm businesses, geared to the Northeast, especially New York State
  • Guide to Farming in NY: Series of continually updated fact sheets on topics small farmers deal with, not limited to NY; also links to other useful resources.
  • Tilling the Soil of Opportunity: The Cadillac of courses for farm entrepreneurship, a 10+ week course that goes in depth about financial planning and marketing, primarily for an add-on farm enterprise
  • Integrated Farm and Resource Management (IFARM) Plan: Comprehensive guide for farm and resource planning, designed especially with beginning farmers in mind, integrating environmental protection with economic and community goals as well as family and personal goals. IFARM addresses marketing, production, financial planning, and assessment. If interested, please email Wyatt Fraas at wyattf@cfra.org.