Man leading farm tour outside of green house
Programs and Resources for Beginning Farmers

Programs and Resources for Beginning Farmers

Business and Financial Support

Risk Management Assistance and Education

The role of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is to help producers manage their business risks through effective, market-based risk management solutions. RMA’s mission is to promote, support, and regulate sound risk management solutions to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America’s agricultural producers. As part of this mission, RMA operates and manages the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). This page will offer you access to a wide variety of resources that are available through RMA’s work around the country.

What kind of help is available to me?

It is inevitable that someday, the farm must be passed on to the next farmer. But how to transfer one’s life work is a process that requires a plan. There are considerations of retirement income, long-term care payments, interests of heirs and tax consequences. This can be a nightmare to manage on your own.

To address the issue, the Center for Rural Affairs and the North Central Risk Management Education Center teamed up to inform farmers and ranchers of their options for retiring or beginning in agriculture. The results were a number of reports and fact sheets and are shared through a website.

How does it work?

The Risk Management Agency assists farmers and ranchers in assessing their risks while taking advantage of new and arising opportunities in agriculture. By offering grants to smaller agencies and non-profits to do the “leg work,” farmers and ranchers can have access to a plethora of knowledge, data and education. Education includes a focus not only on traditional risk management products (crop insurance, futures, options, forward contracts, etc.) but also on crop and enterprise diversification, natural resource and environment planning, accessing new and value-added markets, debt reduction and asset-building strategies, as well as many other methods to manage risk.


Find a Risk Management Center to help you:

  • The Northeast Center for Risk Management Education at University of Delaware Cooperative Extension serving West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and the District of Columbia.
  • Southern Region Risk Management Education Center at University of Arkansas serving Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Western Center for Risk Management Education at Washington State University Cooperative Extension serving Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.
  • North Central Risk Management Education Center at University of Nebraska serving Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Farm Risk PlanningExplore your risk management options.

Introduction to Risk ManagementUnderstanding agricultural risks, USDA Risk Management Agency. This handbook is a tool for producers to us to improve their risk management skills.

The Digital Center for Risk Management Education at University of Minnesota Extension

  • Includes the Ag Risk Education Library which allows the reader to browse a collection of documents submitted from all over the country, and search by type of risk – Production, Price, Financial, Legal, Human, and General.


Pasture monitoring tips and resources

Raising and marketing grassfed meats provides beginning farmers and ranchers a relatively inexpensive and profitable entry into entrepreneurial farming. Monitoring pastures and rangeland is critical for planning, evaluating plant and animal health and making informed decisions on your farm or ranch. Monitoring can and should be performed by all sizes and styles of animal grazers.

Why Should You Monitor?

It’s hard to measure change without monitoring. Monitoring can be used to evaluate if rangeland health is being maintained or improved and to guide producers toward making decisions that add profitability and positively impact environmental health.

A record of monitoring data is also helpful when applying for assistance from many Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service programs.

Producers who work to improve the quality of their pastures will benefit from higher profitability, and increase the long-term sustainability of their agriculture enterprises and their land.

How does it work?

Getting Started in Pasture Monitoring

Keep grazing records on all livestock activity for each pasture. Herd type, number of animals, in date, out date, grazing intensity level and rainfall need to be included in the record.

Take pictures of all pastures before and after you graze them – remember to label the picture with the date and location.

Talk to an expertyour location NRCS office will have guidelines to help you get started. The Society for Range Management can help you locate a consultant near you.

Buy one or several rain gauges (depending on the size of your spread) and place them around your farm or ranch. Keep running records of precipitation levels.

Place portable grazing exclosures in pastures so you can compare ungrazed areas to grazed areas. If you rotationally graze your pastures you will need one grazing exclosure for each pasture.

Entrepreneurship opportunities

The market for grassfed and pastured meats continues to expand, providing entrepreneurial farmers and ranchers an excellent opportunity to raise and market livestock grown on healthy (and well monitored) pastures. In the past five years, more than 1,000 U.S. ranchers have converted their animals to an all grass diet. Pasture-raised beef makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. supply, but sales reached $120 million last year and are expected to increase more than 20 percent a year over the next decade.

Keep grazing records on all livestock activity for each pasture. Herd type, number of animals, in date, out date, grazing intensity level and rainfall need to be included in the record.

Take pictures of all pastures before and after you graze themremember to label the picture with the date and location.

Talk to an expertyour location NRCS office will have guidelines to help you get started. The Society for Range Management can help you locate a consultant near you.


Grass Fed Resources:

Local Food

Growing Markets: Tapping Your Community’s Market Potential

For businesses in small towns, one key to success is a loyal customer base within your community. If members of your community support your business, you’ll be better able to withstand any unforeseen hurdles or economic downturns along the way.

But how do you build your customer base within your community? Keep reading to find out.

Community involvement

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to involve members of your community in your business. Community involvement builds loyalty and ensures that customers make a conscious choice to buy from you and not the big-box store down the road.

While small businesses can be passively involved the community by sponsoring sports teams or a float in the local parade, active community involvement will help your customers feel like an important part of the success of your business.

  • ASKAre your hours convenient? Do you stock the items your customers want? Is your store too cold or dark? There may be easy, low-cost ways to make your customers happy and your business more attractive, but you have to ask them.
  • SmileA friendly, helpful business owner that knows her customers builds a base faster than one who stays in her office and doesn’t interact.
  • Welcome criticismOffer an easy, friendly and non-confrontational way for people to offer suggestions. Then act on the suggestions to make your business better.
  • Add valueSmall businesses can offer the personal service and knowledge that big box stores lack. If you can’t compete on price, compete on customer service or something else your customers will value.
  • CooperationWhen 17-year-old Nick reopened a grocery store in Truman, Minnesota, members of his community volunteered to stock shelves. While not appropriate for all businesses, a business model that includes asking for occasional help will make your customers feel important and needed.
  • Communicate with your customersSurveys, news flyers or other communication help people feel involved. Use them to check the pulse of your customers.
  • Community financingSelling shares in your business to finance an expansion that serves the community will turn your customers into investors, increasing their loyalty.
  • Community meeting spaceDedicate a portion of your business space to community meetings or social space. Host events and actively encourage people to use the space.
  • Discounts for good gradesContact local school principals to offer incentives or rewards to students who achieve high grades.

Examples of local marketing success

Buy Fresh Buy Local campaigns

Buy Fresh Buy Local is a nationally recognized brand with chapters across the U.S. These campaigns are connecting consumers in communities throughout the country to locally grown and locally produced foods. Through outreach events, local food guides, and educational materials, Buy Fresh, Buy Local makes it easy for consumers to find and connect with local food from farmers they can know and trust.

One way this campaign works is by having a national group coordinating local chapters. If you’re a food producer looking to tap local markets, click here to see if there’s a Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter near you. If not, consider starting one.

Common Future

Common Future is a growing network of socially responsible businesses whose purpose is to show that independent, locally-owned businesses can go beyond traditional measures of success.

There are networks in 30 states in the U.S. and Canada, and they represent 22,000 locally-owned businesses focused on sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green building, local zero-waste manufacturing, and community capital.

Common Future encourages communities to think locally, and provides ideas and resources to make it happen in your community.

Local Foods Programs

There are some government programs to help build markets for local foods.

News and Resources

Farmers Market Promotion Program

The Farmers Market Promotion Program funds marketing proposals for community-supported agriculture programs, farmers markets, roadside stands and other direct market strategies.


1. In 2009, the Center for Rural Affairs received $84,123 from the Farmers Market Promotion Program to increase the number of Hispanic/Latino farmers in Iowa and Nebraska. The goals were to:

  • Establish a community garden training site.
  • Lead hands-on training on production techniques, and farm business management.
  • Provide legal and financial counseling.
  • Provide access to farmers markets and individual technical assistance.

2. In 2009, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont received $94,789 to strengthen farmers markets, community supported agriculture outlets, and farm stands in Vermont by:

  • Enhancing professional development opportunities for market managers, board members, and farmers.
  • Increasing access to direct marketing outlets in Vermont through the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer Programs.

How Does it Work?

Who Can Apply:

  • Groups of farmers/ranchers
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Agricultural cooperatives
  • Local governments
  • Economic development corporations
  • Regional farmers’ market authorities
  • Public benefit corporations
  • Tribal governments

Specific Grant Uses:

  • Developing relevant financial and marketing information
  • Business planning
  • Improving market access and education for consumers
  • Organizing markets and direct marketing networks
  • Training and educational programs for new farmers/ranchers
  • Programs for professional development of farmers market managers, vendors and organizations
  • Agritourism activities
  • Electronic benefit transfer for federal nutrition programs at farmers markets and community supported agriculture enterprises

Ready to apply?

Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 202.720.8317


United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service

Farmers Market Coalition

Value Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG)

The Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) is a competitive grants program administered by the Rural Business Cooperative Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help producers expand markets for, and increase their profitability through value-added agricultural enterprises.

The program makes small and mid-size family farmers and ranchers, as well as beginners, a priority for funding by giving those applicants extra points in the ranking process. Eligible applicants for the VAPG, include independent farmers or ranchers, farmer owned cooperatives and producer groups.


Building Community and Providing Economic Opportunity

St. James Marketplace, located in a historical, old schoolhouse in St. James, Nebraska, received a VAPG planning grant to develop a business plan, feasibility study, and to pay for legal expenses associated with forming the market.

Five women formed a non-stock cooperative and created the St. James Marketplace to preserve their farm community after learning the Omaha Diocese was closing their Catholic Church.

The Marketplace is a retail outlet for more than 60 producers in northeastern Nebraska. It includes a farmers market, home-made crafts and many other products. There is a tea room and a history room. The women licensed the kitchen and host many dinner events as well as make products, such as jams, jellies, and pastries.

St. James, located one-quarter mile off scenic Nebraska Highway 12, was at one point removed from the map. The women of St. James Marketplace wondered how anyone would find them if they could not find their community on the map. So while they were forming the Marketplace, they made their case to the Nebraska State Legislature and literally got themselves on the map.

The VAPG grant has made this Marketplace a dream a reality and helped them rebuild and even broaden their community.

How Does It Work?

The VAPG offers two types of grantsbusiness planning and working capital grants to help farmers and ranchers create and move into value added agriculture. Grants are for a maximum of three years.

  • You can apply for one or the other but not both in the same year. If applying for a working capital grant, applicants must have conducted a business plan and a feasibility study, as well as demonstrate that they are currently in a position to market the subject value-added product and carry out the activities in accord with the work plan and budget timeline.

Eligible Planning Grant Activities ($75,000 maximum grant):

  • obtain legal advice and assistance related to the proposed venture
  • work with a third party to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed venture to determine its potential marketing success
  • develop a business plan that provides comprehensive details of the management, planning, and other operational aspects of the proposed venture
  • develop a marketing plan for the venture, including identification of a market window, potential buyers, a description of the distribution system, and possible promotional campaigns

Eligible Working Capital Grant Activities ($200,000 maximum grant):

  • design or purchase an accounting system for the venture
  • pay for salaries, utilities and rental of office space
  • purchase inventory, office equipment and supplies
  • conduct a marketing campaign for the value added product

What is an eligible Value-Added Project?

There are five eligible value added methods (listed below in the chart). The proposed project must include one of these methods and result in an expansion of customer base AND an increase in revenue returns to the applicant agricultural producer(s).

Types of Valued-Added Projects Eligible for Grants

Five Methods for Adding Value Under the VAPG Program Definition Example
1) Commodity Processing Increasing value by changing commodity’s physical state wine, flour, cheese, jam, biodiesel
2) Market Differentiation or non-standard production method Increasing value by marketing the commodity’s special identity or character organic, grass-fed, humane, state branding
3) Commodity Segregation Increasing value by keeping the commodity physically apart in production and distribution GMO-free, no-rBGH, Varietal purity
4) On-Farm Renewable Energy Realizing value by transforming natural resources into energy on the farmstead wind, solar, geothermal, on-farm biodiesel
5) Local Food Increasing value by aggregating and marketing food for local markets – must be within 400 mile radius. buy local - buy fresh, community based food enterprises, supplying local procurement preferences

How Much Funding is Available?

  • Approximately $18 million annually
  • 10 percent of funds are reserved for applications submitted by beginning farmers or ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
  • 10 percent of funds are reserved to fund Mid-Tier Value Chain/Local and Regional Supply Network projects
  • Matching funds are required and must equal the amount of the grant requested. However, matching funds may also come from in-kind contributions but there are limits to what qualifies for in-kind match.

Important Definitions

  • Family Farm: Produces agricultural commodities for sale in sufficient quantity to be recognized as a farm and not a rural residence, owners are primarily responsible for daily physical labor and management, hired help only supplements family labor, owners are related by blood or marriage.
  • Mid-Tier Value Chain/Local and Regional Supply Network: Interconnected food-related business enterprises through which food products move from production through consumption in a local or regional area of the USA.
  • Medium-Sized Farm or Ranch: Three year average of between $250,001 and $700,000 in annual gross sales of agricultural products.
  • Small Farm or Ranch: Three year average of $250,000 or less in annual gross sales of agricultural product.
  • Beginning Farmer: (1) Have operated a farm or a ranch for not more than 10 years; (2) materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch; and (3) provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch. Applicants must currently own and produce more than 50 percent of the agricultural commodity to which value will be added.
  • Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher: (1) A person that is directly engaged in farming or ranching, or an entity solely owned by individuals who are directly engaged in farming or ranching that; (2) as a farmer or rancher person or entity, is a member of a socially disadvantaged group, whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, w/o regard to their individual qualities; and (3) in the event that there are multiple farmer or rancher owners of the applicant organization, at least 51% of the owners are members of said socially disadvantaged group.

How are Grants Awarded?

Reviewers award points based on established criteria as presented in each funding announcement.


The Nebraska Food Processing Center provides grant assistance and they have a very useful template on their website for the VAPG program.

USDA's Know Your Farmer Know Your Food website includes information about the VAPG program, as well as other programs that can work together to create local and regional market opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

High-Value Markets

Beginning Organics

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program defines organic as follows:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations… Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Price premiums for organic products are continuing to hold in most sectors. The demand for organic products is outpacing production, so there's plenty of room for growth. The USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that only 0.5 percent of our national cropland is currently in organic production. But the economic benefits of organic production go deeper than that. By its nature, organic farming is a diversified production system. With a wider variety of products being grown, including livestock on some farms, the risks of market fluctuations and weather are minimized. Dependence on costly outside inputs is dramatically reduced. And because organic farmers generally think about building relationships, identifying new markets and working directly with consumers, they're generally open to new, value-added opportunities. They may also be more open to working cooperatively with other farmers to market and add value to their products. (Source: Organic Trade Association)


Organic Certification Cost Share

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers as well as organic product handlers to help defray the costs of organic certification.  This program provides up to 75 percent of the annual certification costs up to a maximum payment of $750 per year.

Handlers in all states, and farmers and ranchers in every state except the 12 northeast states plus HI, NV, UT, and WY, are eligible to receive cost share assistance under this program.  A separate but nearly identical program called the Agricultural Management Assistance Program provides cost share assistance to farmers or ranchers in the 12 northeast states plus HI, NV, UT, and WY.

In either case, the assistance is made available to farmers, ranchers and organic product handlers through the State departments of agriculture.  Recipients must be certified by a USDA accredited certifying agent under the National Organic Program.

How Do I Start?

Farmers, ranchers and organic product handlers should inquire and apply with the State Department of Agriculture. The Agricultural Marketing Service directs the funding through State Departments of Agriculture.  The organic certifier you are working with will be able to assist you in applying for the cost-share.

The Organic Trade Association is also a good resource.


The National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Organic Initiative 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. See next topic on this page for more information.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) provides farmers and agricultural professionals with resources, trainings, and information about organic and sustainable farming.

The Rodale Institute recently launched a new membership organization for organic farmers.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Organic Initiative

Administered by the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative 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.


Organic Systems: Providing Conservation Results and Opportunities for Family Farmers and Ranchers

West Blue Farm near Milford, Nebraska, is owned by Dave and Deb Welsch. Under the EQIP Organic Initiative contract, they will install cover crops, nutrient management, and pest management practices. 

They grow a lot of alfalfa and through soil tests have discovered they need to apply some lime.

Their pest management practices will involve some field scouting.  They are looking forward to what they can learn from this and to see if it leads to any changes in their management decisions.
Dave and Deb also began integrating a beginning farmer into their operation a few years ago and he also applied for EQIP Organic Initiative to put in the same practices described above. He has also applied for the regular EQIP program for some cost share on a water line to help with his intensive grazing program and the Welsches plan to do the same later this year.

How Does it Work?

EQIP Organic Initiative is a provision under EQIP. It is a continuous sign-up program with periodic ranking dates. There is typically $50 million available each year that is allocated to the states based on their share of land in agriculture production.

The assistance from NRCS through the EQIP Organic Initiative helps producers plan and implement conservation practices to allow their organic operations to be environmentally sustainable. EQIP is primarily used to provide financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices to address soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. The EQIP Organic Initiative targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production. Basic things to remember are:

  • Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production.
  • Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period.
  • Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan or carry out practices consistent with an Organic System Plan.
  • Producers must be pursing an organic certification or in compliance with their organic certification.

EQIP Organic Initiative supports several conservation practices and focuses on the ones that align with the National Organic Program. Each state created a payment schedule so you can see what the payment rates for the conservation practices would be under this organic initiative. That information should be posted on your state NRCS website.

EQIP Organic Initiative also contains a special set-aside for beginning farmers and ranchers. NRCS sets aside 5 percent of the total funds specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers so those applicants are only competing against each other.


As noted above, eligible farmers and ranchers include the following:

  • Farmers and ranchers transitioning to organic for the first time;
  • Existing certified organic farmers and ranchers who are transitioning additional acres and/or livestock to their organic system;
  • Farmers and ranchers who are already 100 percent organic but want to add new conservation practices to their system to fully address particular natural resource and environmental concerns;
  • and existing certified organic farmers who want to both transition additional production and adopt additional conservation measures on existing certified organic ground (a combination of the third and fourth bullet point)

Existing Organic Farmers

Applicants that are existing organic farmers will have to submit a copy of the current Organic System Plan with their application. NRCS will use the Organic System Plan to verify compliance with provisions in the statute and as the basis for the EQIP Plan of Operations.

The applicant must also provide the name and contact information of the USDA-accredited certifying agent for the operation.

Farmers transitioning to Organic Production Systems

Applicants who are transitioning to organic production will have to submit a “self-certification” letter that includes a statement that the applicant “agrees to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an organic system plan” and the name of the USDA-accredited certifying agent contacted to begin the certification process.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities

People are willing to pay more for food grown in an environmentally friendly manner such as organically. Many people today are also concerned about their health and the health of their families and believe it is important to at least limit, if not eliminate, their exposure to chemicals.

As a result, demand for organic products continues to increase, providing a market for farmers and ranchers willing to go the extra mile to establish themselves as organic.

This transition program is a huge step in helping those farmers make it through that three year transition period, which is often times the most challenging part, as well as provide additional support for adding even more conservation.

Ready to apply?

To apply for the program, farmers and ranchers must go to their local NRCS field office (Click on your state and then on your county to find the contact information.) and speak with a staff person there.


NRCS website includes program specific information here.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

Since 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program.

How Does it Work?

To advance such knowledge nationwide, SARE administers a competitive grants program first funded by Congress in 1988. Grants are offered through four regions -- North Central, Northeast, South, and Westunder the direction of councils that include farmers and ranchers along with representatives from universities, government, agribusiness and nonprofit organizations. The diversity in membership of the regional administrative councils reflects SARE's commitment to serve the whole spectrum of the agricultural community. SARE's broad representation remains largely unique in federal grant funding for agriculture.

Grant Options

SARE is a competitive grants program providing grants to researchers, agricultural educators, farmers and ranchers, and students in the United States.

Research and Education Grants: Ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 or more, these grants fund projects that usually involve scientists, producers, and others in an interdisciplinary approach.

Professional Development Grants: To spread the knowledge about sustainable concepts and practices, these projects educate Cooperative Extension Service staff and other ag professionals.

Producer Grants: Producers apply for grants that typically run between $1,000 and $15,000 to conduct research, marketing and demonstration projects and share the results with other farmers and ranchers.

On Farm Research/Partnership: Supports on-farm research by Extension, NRCS, and/or nonprofit organizations. Northeast, Southern and Western regions.

Sustainable Community Innovation: Forges connections between sustainable agriculture and rural community development. Northeast and Southern regions.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities

The grants from SARE are available in a variety of formats and can lead to intriguing opportunities for all kinds of rural residents. With the assortment of programs there is incredible opportunity to expand the entrepreneurism in eligible areas. The grants supply money to research ways to improve the life of rural residents. By studying sustainable agriculture SARE improves the vitality and future for rural communities. With more sustainable practices rural communities are able to look at the long term and plan for extended growth and renewed investments in themselves.

Available grants


Interested in expanding your agriculturally-based operation by bringing visitors to your farm or ranch? There are many options available to you! It’s best to base your agritourism operation on the existing strengths of your enterprise; if you have acres in the Conservation Reserve Program with many upland game birds, you might consider hosting hunters. Have existing grapevines on your place? How about teaching guests to make wine?


Making agritourism work for you

Nebraska Sandhills RanchCalamus Outfitters is located on the Switzer Ranch, a fourth-generation cow/calf operation in the north central Nebraska Sandhills. The ranch offers a variety of activities including upland bird hunting, deer hunting, turkey hunting, bird watching, horseback riding, and adventures on the Calamus River.

Southwestern Wisconsin Bed and BreakfastInn Serendipity is completely powered by the wind and sun, features seasonal vegetarian breakfasts mostly prepared with ingredients from the Inn’s organic gardens. The Inn also features workshops on food preservation, gardening, and starting your own small business.

How Does it Work?

Using Conservation Reserve Program Land in Your Agritourism Operation

What is the Conservation Reserve Program? CRP is a land set-aside program where landowners are paid to establish soil conserving and enriching plant mixes. Landowners are not allowed to harvest or graze the CRP acres except under emergency conditions. Establishment of CRP acres has led to human depopulation in some rural Midwest and Western counties.

CRP and agritourism - Using CRP land for hunting and wildlife viewing positively impacts rural communities by increasing tourism and economic activity in your area. Hunting and recreational activities (hiking, horseback riding) are allowed on CRP land. You can even mow trails in your CRP to make walking and riding easier, just make sure to wait until ground-nesting birds are finished nesting before you mow.


Agritourism World: Get ideas for your own enterprise by browsing others’ agritourism operations.

University of California’s Small Farm Program: Excellent resources on planning and operating your own agritourism enterprise.

Entertainment Farming and Agri-Tourism Business Management Guide: Tools for planning and managing your enterprise from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Insurance requirements for agritourism activities – state tourism offices