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How to Write a Business Plan

Business Planning Resources

Writing a business plan can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you get started:

  •     The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) New Farmer’s Website offers a wealth of information and resources on how to start a farm, make a business plan, find land and money, risk management, taxes, safety and more. Every state has a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator who can help you get started on your farm business. 
  •       Cornell University’s Starting an Ag-Business?  A Pre-Planning Guide leads a farmer through through the whole planning process from start to finish. Parts of the guide focuses on New York, however, the information can still help a farmer think through crops and livestock in North Dakota. Sections on business goals, sales potential, growing, harvesting, costs, and next steps all help the future farmer. 
  •      The Environmental Protectin Agency’s (EPA) Partnership for Sustainable Communities – Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook provides worksheets and questions for urban farmers to develop or revise their business plans. Most of the tools in this handbook can be easily used to a rural business plan, too. 
  •       Building a Sustainable Business:  A Guide to Developing a Businesses Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses, USDA’s National Agricultural Library’s Farm Business Planning section links to even more business planning resources. Scroll to the Library’s Small Farm Funding Resources page to find resources to help with financial and planning, funding and program assistance and disaster assistance. 
  •      The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) offers resources to help start farms. The Farm Start Up Business Planning features self-guided courses and case studies and specific information such as horticulture crops where information on fruits, greenhouse production, herbs and flowers and vegetables is available. 
  •      FarmAnswers is a resource available through the University of Minnesota. FarmAnswers’ Planning the Farm library covers business planning, enterprise selection, equipment, farmland planning, risk management and strategic planning. The Production Type library covers local foods and organic farming topics. Information comes in the form of online courses, presentations and videos, website links and written materials.  
  •      FarmsReach has a giant business and financial planning toolkit that includes software tools, fact-sheets, and online workshops.
  •      FARRMS is devoted to enhancing farm and ranch sustainability in North Dakota. Programs like Farm Dreams help an aspiring farmer explore their dreams in the agricultural industry whereas Farm Beginnings is a topic specific hands on training course for new and beginning farmers, focused on building a successful venture.  FARRMS also has mentorship and intern programs. 
  •      The Oregon State University Extension Service has created a Whole Farm Management Planning Book that includes worksheets to develop operations, plan marketing strategies, and manage finances.
  •      The National Agricultural Law Center  provides electronic resources for agricultural law topics. Links to regulations, research articles, government publications and other resources are organized by topic. Topic examples include agricultural leases, animal feeding operations, animal welfare, check off and commodity programs, crop/disaster insurance, and Country of Origin labeling.   
  • North Dakota Small Business Development Center business advisors can provide technical assistance with agricultural business. Here is a direct link to the business advisor at North Central Planning Council’s SBD.

How to Get Funding for Your Farm

  • The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education SARE Program provides technical support and grant funding for research and education projects in sustainable agriculture. A SARE resource usually offers technical support. Farmers can use grants for making their farms more sustainable and less wasteful. The website hosts a database of past funded projects.  These reports are helpful to farmers who want to learn from other projects or get ideas for new projects.
  • The Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program (FMPP) and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offer grants that can be used during planning or growing local food businesses. Activities can include market research, studies that show if a project is possible, and business plans.
  • Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) is an insurance plan that provides a risk management safety net for all commodities on the farm. 
  • The Community Development Loan Fund may provide gap financing (a loan that a property owner borrows against their current property to buy new property) for projects that help people get local and fresh foods. Souris Basin Planning Council also has a Revolving Loan Fund  and Gap Financing Fund  for start-up and growing businesses. 
  • North Central Planning Council also offers a Revolving Loan and Community Development Loan to support value-added agricultural businesses.  Specialty farms may be eligible.
  • The Bank of North Dakota ‘s First Time Farmer Finance Program helps first time farmers in North Dakota to buy agricultural property at low interest rates.  Other resources at the Bank of North Dakota include the Beginning Farmer Chattel Loan, which helps beginning ranchers with purchase of equipment and livestock and the Beginning Farmer Real Estate Loan which helps a farmer or rancher buy farm land.  Click here to find information on all of the Ag Loans from the Bank of North Dakota. 
  • Your community, county or bank may also have resources that help rural development. Ask your local community and county economic development (sometimes known as jobs development) agencies about incentives like low interest loans, interest buydown programs, gap financing and grants.  Ask your bank if they have any programs that help farm businesses start or grow.
Close up hand of young woman with pen writing on notebook at riverside in the evening.
A young, handsome, black, african business man standing on a farmland using his laptop.