Starting a new farm

Couple sitting on hay bales discuss starting a new farmThe rapidly growing market for B.C.’s 200 agricultural commodities provides an exciting career opportunity in farming. Advances in technology have opened up new possibilities in agriculture, allowing for highly efficient use of smaller lots, increased crop production and more efficient pest management. Furthermore, B.C.’s diverse demographic provides niche markets for both large and small scale businesses.

Farming offers a rewarding lifestyle and with the right skills and knowledge, growing food sustainably can provide a viable business opportunity. A wide range of activities are involved in being a farmer, from hands-on work in the field, barn or greenhouse, to repairing equipment, solving problems, analyzing production and sales data and more. Innovative use of technology and science is often part of daily operations, offering new farmers an opportunity to use their creativity to maximize production sustainably or add value to their products through post-production processing.

If you are interested in exploring the idea of starting a new farm, there are many questions to answer. How will you gain the right knowledge? Where will you find affordable farm land? How will you finance your new farm start-up? The following information, guides and workbooks will help you assess your skills and interests, and ask the right questions to turn your ideas into a plan for success.

Many programs and services are available to assist new farmers in starting their business venture, including advisory services, workshops, seminars and analytical tools. Check back periodically for new or updated programs and services or contact AgriService BC for more information.

Organizations for new farmers

Local organizations may offer support and networking for new farmers. They can be a source of inspiration and practical help to get started. Some examples include:

New farm start-up guide

The New Farm Start-up Guide helps prospective new farmers explore the passion, interest and skills they bring to a new farm operation. To be successful the passion and interest must be guided by modern business practices and a comprehensive farm business management plan. The guide will help pose the relevant questions when building a farm business management plan.

The New Farm Start-up Guide provides information on:

  • Adapting a farm to your needs and interests
  • Identifying worthwhile local market opportunities
  • Determining the best products to sell
  • Creating a profitable farm operation
  • Establishing a farm enterprise plan

Learn more:

Taking stock

The Taking Stock: Self Assessment tool helps you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your operation in nine farm business management areas. Taking Stock is one of five steps in the Farm Business Advisory Services program. Completing this self-assessment and the subsequent Farm Action Plan is intended to prepare you to make the most efficient use of the Farm Business Advisory Services program funding and the first step to identifying your management system, knowledge and skills so that you can prioritize and meet future goals for your farm business.

Researching market opportunities

For farmers to grow their businesses, they must be aware of emerging market opportunities and the required skills to be successful. Doing extensive research before starting a new farm business venture can help mitigate risk. Services are available to inform and prepare new farmers to take advantage of existing and emerging market opportunities.

Managing a farm business

The production fundamentals of farming are relatively simple compared to the management skills needed to keep a farm profitable and sustainable. With the demands of raising livestock or growing crops, many new farmers struggle to manage their business. Devoting time to the business aspect of a farm can keep it running smoothly.

Innovative thinking

New innovations in science and technology spell opportunity for creative entrepreneurs. Innovative thinking can increase the profitability of emerging farmers and provide a competitive edge by adopting emerging high-tech methods, collaborating with others on new technologies and processes or researching and developing their own ideas. Examples of innovative success stories include: better science-based management of pests and diseases, processes for turning waste into high value products, and value added products that meet niche-market trends. Funding and support programs are available to help innovative entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition.

Developing farming skills

It is advisable to develop farming skills before starting a new farming business venture, particularly if you have no prior farming experience. Studying agriculture at a post-secondary institution, taking on an internship and volunteering on a farm are some ways to develop farming skills. Taking on an internship or volunteer opportunity can also help determine if farming is the right career path for you.

Learn about some agricultural post-secondary education programs in B.C.:

Accessing farmland

Finding land to purchase or lease is an important step in starting a new farm but can be difficult, particularly in the lower mainland region of B.C. It is also important to acquire land appropriate for the farm activity you are proposing. The B.C. Land Matching Program (BCLMP) provides land matching and business support services to new farmers looking for land to farm as well as landowners interested in finding someone to farm their land.

A land leasing workbook is available to guide potential lessors and lessees in developing a lease agreement. The B.C. Government also hosts workshops about accessing and leasing farmland, please contact AgriService BC for more details.

Learn more:

Accessing start-up capital

Financial management is the backbone of any successful business. It starts with the development of a suitable financial information system. This will allow you to analyze the information and establish financial goals, which are required to set future performance benchmarks.  To obtain funding to finance a farm contact local banks, credit unions or Farm Credit Canada.  Government funding may be available through a variety of programs.

Learn more:

See how other B.C. farmers got started

Rise & Shine on Alderlea Farm

John and Katy Ehrlich share their story of starting up a biodynamic farm in the Cowichan Valley region of British Columbia.

Rise & Shine on Windhover Farm

John and Andrea Burch of Windhover Farm, Courtenay, B.C. share their experience of starting up a mixed farming operation on Vancouver Island.