Starting Your Small Farm from Scratch

The First Steps in Becoming a Small Farmer

Where do you begin when you are a small farmer who has never owned a farm before? Perhaps you live in the city and you want to buy land and start a farm business. Or maybe you know it's going to take some time for you to find the farm of your dreams, but in the meantime, you'd like to do some homesteading in your suburban backyard. These are the overarching steps that you will take as you make your small farm dream a reality.

  • 01 of 05

    Learn About Farming

    Farm owners planting vegetables
    Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

    One thing you can do right now is learn. Read up on everything farming-related, from choosing land to raising sheep. See if you can find an on-farm job or internship to learn the basics of farming first-hand. Immerse yourself in the language and practices of farming by visiting farms and talking to small farmers who are doing what you'd like to do. Learn all you can from other farmers.

  • 02 of 05

    Decide What Kind of Farm You Want

    A homesteader holding beets.

    Small farm business, hobby farm, or homestead? The choice is yours. If you want to make a living farming, starting a proper small farm and looking at running it as a business is your plan. If you're retired or have other income and just want to farm on the side, for fun, you want a hobby farm. Homesteaders usually have a goal of self-sufficiency, but sometimes can run small businesses from their homesteads as well.

  • 03 of 05

    Design and Plan Your Farm

    Farm field lettuce
    Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

    Keep a notebook or computer file with notes and ideas as you read and talk to people about farming. What strikes your fancy? Do goats seem appealing as a potential farm animal? Do you like the idea of having a diversified farm, where you do a little bit of everything, or do you think you want to specialize in one item, perhaps an alternative crop or enterprise that's a bit off the beaten path? Allow yourself to dream.

  • 04 of 05

    Plan Your Small Farm Business

    Farmer harvesting carrots
    Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

    Starting a small farm might mean growing food for your own consumption, or just giving extra vegetables and eggs to family and friends. But it's likely that you will want to sell your farm products, whether at a farmers market, to restaurants, to local stores or regional distributors, to specialty food shops, or directly to consumers on the farm. There are many aspects to getting the business part of your small farm off the ground. Take it one step at a time.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Start Your Small Farm Business

    Couple buying produce at farmers market
    Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee / Getty Images

     Once you've considered and planned, it's time to get rolling with your small farm business. Here are some more resources to help you as you develop your small farm business and get it off the ground.