Farm Business Planning

Business planning is key to beginning farmer success. It helps beginning farmers:

  • Plan for the economic sustainability of a new farm enterprise;
  • Obtain funding to purchase land, equipment and other resources from lending institutions, investors and/or grant making agencies; and
  • Articulate what their farm will look like.

On this page, we compiled free resources to help you understand what a formal business plan is, and how to start planning your farm business. Sections include:

  1. Developing a Farm Business Plan
  2. Enterprise Budgeting

Enterprise budget resources are included on this page because such tools are usually essential to develop your business plan. Even so, planning your farm business involves more than is outlined on this page alone. You’ll probably also be interested in funding (loans/grants), farm incorporation, and risk management. Our starting a farm page is worth visiting first and foremost. Also, you might find the following article helpful, because it touches on many farm business planning topics in one, tidy document: Farm Products, What to Charge: Marketing, Price, Calculating Costs, Strategy and Much More

1. Developing a Farm Business Plan

business plan is a decision making tool that takes the form of a formal document. It states your business goals, why you think you can achieve them, and lays out your plan for doing so. Business planning is also a process, not an end product. A farm business plan is a work in progress, which farm business owners or operators will want to revisit regularly. 

Do I need a Business Plan for my Farm? is a web resource from the New England Small Farm Institute. It’s a great place to get started.

AgPlan from the University of Minnesota helps rural business owners develop a business plan for free, while also offering sample business plans for ideas, and a way to print or download your plan.

Developing a Farm Business Plan includes several helpful resources from the USDA National Agricultural Library’s Rural Information Center.

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses is a web and print publication from the Minnesota institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA).

Building a Business Plan for Your Farm: Important First Steps is a 20 page publication that discusses the initial steps to help you move toward writing a formal business plan.

Organic Farm Business Planning Page from North Carolina State University features a number of publications and links related to financial planing for organic farmers.

Agricultural Business Planning Templates and Resources is an ATTRA publication most relevant to smaller-scale or alternative agricultural entrepreneurs.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Resources offers comprehensive resources on Bookkeeping and Other Basics; Cash Flow Budgeting and Managing Debt; Small Farm and Ranch Income Taxes, and more.

Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business has educational resources to explore, such as the New Ventures in Food and Agriculture in Indiana, which offers business planning assistance.

Purdue University Cooperative Extension offers strategic business planning tools for commercial farm producers.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University has a business plan page which we have linked to here, and many other business planning resources worth exploring on their site.

Starting an Ag-Business? A Pre-Planning Guide is a 60 page workbook produced by Steve Richards at Cornell University. It is intended to help agricultural business operators or future business operators decide which enterprise is best for them to pursue by working through a full-fledged business plan in a streamlined way.

Northeast Beginning Farmers Project New Farmer Hub at Cornell University has Business Plan Templates and Sample Business Plans.

Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences has many Business Planning tools and information.

Penn State Cooperative Extension has a Developing a Business Plan page.

National Crop Insurance Service has a powerpoint presentation the explains what farm business planning is and is not, and walks farmers through the process of business planning.

U.S. Small Business Administration works with local partners to counsel, mentor and train small businesses. It is worth getting to know their programs and connect with your local office.

2. Enterprise Budgets

Enterprise budgets project costs and returns for a particular farm production practice. You can use enterprise budgets to make smart business management decisions, and to help you develop a viable business plan.

Enterprise Budgeting is explained by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Enterprise Budgeting Tools of all sorts from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, including organic crop budgeting tools, many vegetable budgeting tools, the crop conversion tool for side-by-side crop comparisons, specialty crop and livestock budgets, hydroponics budgets, wind calculators, composting calculators, manure calculators, distillers grain budgets, biomass calculators and specialty foods calculators.

Using Enterprise Budgets in Farm Financial Planning (Oklahoma Cooperative Extension)

Making Decisions with Enterprise Budgets (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension)

Enterprise Budgeting Overview (Colorado State University Extension)

Budgets: Their Use in Farm Management describes the different types of budgets (including enterprise budgets) available to farm managers (Oklahoma Cooperative Extension)

Organic Specific Enterprise Budgets

More Enterprise Budget Pages and Information

The Martindale Center Reference Desk has an extensive compilation of links to calculators, applets, spreadsheets, courses, manuals, handbooks, simulations, animations, videos and more. Martindale’s Agriculture Center can be of great use to farmers making business plans.