If you are considering a career in farming, the resources below will provide you with a general overview of how to get started, where to gain experience, and who can help you along the way.
Updated Spring 2016.
GENERAL RESOURCES FOR GETTING STARTED
Take a look at The Greenhorns’ Guidebook for Beginning Farmers [PDF link] for an all-in-one list of resources, advice and support services for beginning farmers. Visit BeginningFarmers.org for an extensive array of resources, publications, events, forums and other tools for beginning farmers. Tour Newfarmers.usda.gov to explore what it takes to start farming and to find resources, particularly within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help get you on your way.
INTERNSHIPS, APPRENTICESHIPS AND OTHER TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
Hands-on, experiential learning is essential for gaining skills and knowledge. For people interested in entering farming as a career, apprenticeships and internships provide essential opportunities to learn about production, marketing and business management. In addition, the relationships developed between mentor farmers and mentees can continue to help beginning farmers throughout their careers.
Search by state to find farm apprenticeship opportunities in your area with the ATTRA Sustainable Internship and Apprenticeship Database.
Other places to find jobs on farms and with food and farming organizations include: Orion Grassroots Network, Good Food Jobs, and Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. Farms may also post job opportunities on Craigslist, local farm bulletins, and in farming publications.
Farming listservs can also be great resources for jobs, ideas and more. See if there is one in your area by tapping into the local CRAFT group.
The Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings program is an innovative farmer-training course that emphasizes whole farm planning and sustainable farming methods. Check out their list of similar programs across the country.
Beginning farmers and ranchers can find in-person and online training courses in holistic farm management practices through Holistic Management International.
Women can connect with the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, which offers programs and resources geared specifically towards women farmers.
Want to combine academics and agriculture? There are a variety of student farms across the country from small, private colleges to large, public universities. Check out the student farm directories from Sustainable Agriculture Education Association and Rodale Institute.
Farm Incubator Programs offer great opportunities to receive training, guidance and experience through a structured program that often includes business and financial planning, technical assistance and cooperative marketing. ALBA, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Intervale Center, Cultivate Kansas City, and the Minnesota Food Association are just a few of the many programs available.
ADVOCACY AND ORGANIZING
Learn more about how you can advocate for change on a national level! Some organizations that work on federal policy issues affecting beginning farmers are the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska, Dakota Rural Action in South Dakota, Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington D.C.
THE BIG PICTURE: FARMING AS A LIVELIHOOD, A CAREER, AND A MOVEMENT
It can be helpful to have a broad perspective about the food and farming system. For history lessons, inspiration and reality checks about what it means to be a farmer turn to these thought-leaders and change makers. The following resources can help you develop a deeper understanding of agrarian philosophy, agricultural history and the Good Food Movement, including who holds power, shapes policy and makes change happen.
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America
Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Eliot Coleman, Four Season Harvest
Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Forrest Pritchard, Gaining Ground
Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament
Not finding what you need? Request one-on-one assistance from our Farmer Services team, by filling out our Online Request for Assistance form or by calling 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). Farm Aid staff are happy to listen and help you however we can.