Farm Beginnings® is a yearlong program for aspiring and beginning farmers that is designed to help participants launch or grow their farm business. The course is led by Vermont-based service providers and farmers and is focused on sustainable agriculture.
The course starts in the fall with a series of in-depth business-planning modules taught by farmers and service providers who will offer first-hand knowledge on topics such as goal-setting, land access, farm financing, recordkeeping, and marketing.* Participants will increase their knowledge on all aspects of farm management, improve their decision-making ability, and develop a business plan for their farm or future farm. The course is also designed to build connection and relationship among the aspiring and beginning farmers in each cohort.
In the summer, participants will transition from the classroom into the fields to work one-on-one with an experienced farmer mentor and attend a series of on-farm workshops (in accordance with state regulations on in-person gathering).
Farm Beginnings is a great option for both aspiring farmers who have farm experience and a goal of starting their own farm business and beginning farmers who are in their first few years of running their own business and looking to enhance their skill sets. Participation in Farm Beginnings is a first step toward participation in the NOFA-VT Journey Farmers program.
In this course, you will:
- Establish quality of life goals and identify your farm values, vision, and goals
- Assess your resources, skills, and markets and how these fit into a profitable farm business
- Write a farm business plan, including a financial and marketing plan
- Learn critical farm management and record-keeping skills
- Meet and learn from innovative, local farming practitioners in class and at on-farm workshops
- Develop your farm business and production skills by working one-on-one with a farmer mentor
- Learn how to access resources and programs at NOFA-VT and throughout Vermont that can help bring your farm vision to fruition
*Please note: Due to safety protocols related to COVID-19, this year we will offer a new format for the Farm Beginnings Program. Full details will be available in September. This year you can expect a virtual program. The current plan will include video lectures, asynchronous assignments and activities, and abbreviated virtual meetings on a selection of Sundays between October and March. We are committed to providing the full educational value of the program through this adapted format, including opportunities to connect with other farmers in your cohort, Farm Service Providers and established farmers in Vermont. In-person components of the course will be added if possible, in accordance to Vermont state guidelines. We welcome any questions or concerns you have at this point, and will post full details in September.
History of Farm Beginnings®
The curriculum for Farm Beginnings was developed in 1996 by the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project and a group of farmers who recognized the need for more cohort-based learning opportunities that would support beginning farmers in developing their core skills. A Farm Beginnings Collaborative evolved so that the curriculum could be shared widely and create opportunities for shared learning among service providers. It is now a nationally recognized curriculum that helps create new strong farm businesses. NOFA-VT is the fourteenth organization to join the collaborative.
Hundreds of farmers have participated in Farm Beginnings classes with 80% of graduates still farming. In addition, 61% of graduates increased the amount of land they had in sustainable production, 82% of graduates sold more than eighty percent of their production within a 200-mile radius of their farm, and 51% of graduates met or exceeded their goals for family income from products produced on their farm.
This program is made possible by generous support from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust & USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588.