Exploring the Small Farm Dream

The purpose of Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? is to help aspiring farmers answer that question.  The aim is to help those thinking about small-scale commercial farming (farming as a business with intent to make a profit, rather than as a hobby or pastime), learn what it will take to start and manage a farm business, and decide whether that is something they really want to pursue.  Recognizing that many "Explorers" will choose not to farm commercially, Exploring the Small Farm Dream also looks at other possibilities that can satisfy their interest in agriculture.

Originally developed by the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI), the concept for the class was born in 1999.  After offering several business planning courses for small farm start-ups, it became clear that many of the attendees were still in the "pre-venture" stage of business development.  A prequel of sorts - a decision-making workbook and short course - was needed.  After gathering feedback from course participants, partnering with several other organizations, and multiple pilot courses, Exploring the Small Farm Dream was created in 2003.  The course has been offered in Massachusetts each year since, and other organizations serving the beginning farmer constituency, such as Countryside, have joined the growing network of service providers that offer the course nationwide.

During the 4-week course, you will:
  • Describe your small farm dream (pre-exploration ideas) including:
    • Your motivations and what you hope to gain personally from the venture
    • What enterprises you expect to pursue
    • How you hope to sell your products/services and to whom
    • How an ag business will be integrated with the rest of your life pursuits
    • An estimated timeline for starting your venture
  • Assess Yourself
    • Do you want to be a business owner?
    • Risks and rewards of ag business ownership
    • Personal traits assessment
    • Knowledge and skills assessment
    • Quality of life considerations
    • Financial considerations
  • Research the Landscape
    • Conduct farmer interviews
    • Identify opportunities and challenges in the landscape
    • Identify products, customers, and marketing options
    • Research market and revenue potential of your operation
  • Assess Your Resources
    • What you have and what you will need to begin your agricultural business
      • Physical resources inventory
      • Financial resources inventory
  • Make Decisions
    • Review your research
    • Decide if starting a farm business is right for you
    • Reevaluate your small farm dream, post-exploration
    • Plan next steps

For more information, contact Tracy Emrick at temrick@cvcountryside.org.  Exploring the Small Farm Dream takes place each Spring & Fall. Our next session begins in October 2016. Join our mailing list to be kept informed of class dates and visit our Classes and Events page for the current list of offerings.