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NC State Extension

Business Planning and Development

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Fresh produce available at the North Carolina State Farmers' Market on a fall day.

Writing up a business plan may not be the first thing you think of when you think about starting a farm, but it is a critical step in the process. 

First of all, a written business plan is required for receiving farm loans. However, even if you don’t need to borrow money to start a farm, developing a business plan will help clarify your goals and lay out how to achieve them. This can help you make decisions in a way that will best fit yourself and your business. If you come across actions that take too much energy and don’t align with your mission, you can redirect your energy.

A good business plan should include:

  1. A resume or similar supporting evidence of your relevant experience
  2. Your business vision and a mission statement
  3. Information on your legal structure 
  4. A current list of assets and expenses 
  5. Production plans
  6. Marketing plans
  7. Projected balance sheet (using information from #4, 5, and 6 above)
  8. Start up costs (what you want from a prospective lender)

Source: Guy Ames, National Center for Appropriate Technology, formerly of Ames Nursery and Orchard, 1980-2000.

North Carolina Resources & Programs

NC Farm School: NC Farm School is a unique entrepreneurial program for new and transitioning farmers with the mission of increasing the number of successful farmers in North Carolina. This program includes classroom instruction to help farmers develop a written business plan and on-farm excursions for experiential learning. This program has small-scale enterprise templates available online to help farmers develop budgets for their enterprises.

Growing Small Farms: This Extension website lists templates and resources for farm business planning and record keeping.

NC FarmLink :This program of NC State Extension connects farmers, landowners, and service providers across North Carolina, helping to grow the state’s agriculture industry. NC FarmLink maintains databases of available farmland and farmers looking for land, and works with landowners and farmers to ensure an appropriate and lasting match is made.

Getting Into Farming: A Workbook for Beginner Farmers in North Carolina: Resource workbook developed in 2013 by the Bringing New Farmers to the Table Project. Authors: Branan, Andrew, Lee Miller, Marisa Alcorta, Tammy Howard, Hanna Lewis. This resource helps new farmers create a vision and financial plan for their business.

NC New Farmer Toolbox: Toolbox of resources for beginning farmers on the business of farming, including NC focused resources on business planning, accessing capital and credit, land access, marketing and more.

The Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit: Rural Advancement Foundation International. This guide is aimed at helping farmers get ready to ask a lender for the financing needed in new and innovative ventures. When used as part of an overall enterprise development strategy, it can help farmers and lenders achieve mutually beneficial results when they sit down to do business.

North Carolina Small Business Center Network- Confidential Business Counseling: Small Business Centers are located across the state. These Centers have a wealth of information, resources, and expertise to help small businesses. Each Center offers confidential business counseling to help answer your specific questions.

Building a Sustainable Business: A PDF of this SARE publication is available for free online to assist farms and rural businesses develop detailed business plans.