Start Your Farm
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Overview

Whether you’re looking to study agriculture formally or seeking out some hands-on experience in the field, there are many resources available to help you gain experience and develop a plan for starting your own farm.

Training & Apprenticeships

For those looking for formal training, there are many college agricultural programs in New York State, including those at Alfred State, Cornell University, Morrisville State College, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Plattsburgh, and more. The number of these programs is increasing all the time, as more and more schools are developing programs to meet growing interest in the agricultural fields.

There are also many apprenticeship programs in all corners of New York State, as well as programs that offer employment opportunities for new and beginning farmers. We’ve put a partial list of programs below. Contact us to find the programs nearest you that can help you get started.

Plan Your Farm

Many organizations that host training and apprentice programs offer a lot of support in terms of farm planning, as does your local Cornell Cooperative Extension agency. We’ve highlighted a few useful tools to support your farm planning here:

  • Cornell Small Farms has developed a useful handbook to farming in New York State.
  • The USDA has also created a useful discovery tool to help you find the right resources for you and your farm. 
  • ATTRA Beginning Farmer resources are particularly helpful for farmers committed to sustainability. 

Licensing Requirements

Farmers who sell whole, unprocessed farm products do not need a license to sell such items. But once you begin slicing, drying, pickling, or any other form of processing, you’ll need a food processing license from our Department.

  • Read about the 20C Food Processors License and some of our other kinds of licenses.
  • Some baked goods and other food items for commercial sale can be produced right in your home kitchen. Learn more about the Home Processors Registration.

Additionally, slaughter and processing of animals requires special licensing and permitting. Read more about that from some of our partner agencies:

 
Chickens, Poultry, and Other Meats

Cornell put together a good overview of what's required for chickens and poultry and other meats and what activities might be exempt from licensing. 

 
Fish & Seafood

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation oversees licensing for commercial fishing. If you begin to process fish in any way, you’ll need a 20C license from us as well.

Access Land

Finding and accessing affordable farm land can be one of the biggest challenges that new farmers face. While many farmers start out leasing land, owning can become important when thinking about the long-term viability of their farm business. See below for a partial list of organizations working hard to connect new farmers to agricultural land in New York State.

Finance Your Farm

When starting out, each farm finds its own mix of appropriate financing depending on what the aim of the operation is, where it’s located, and how much upfront a farmer may have to put down.  Generally, farmers have a better time gaining access to capital by working with specialized agricultural lenders, like Farm Credit or the USDA Farms Services Agency.

Expand Your Farm

As you start your farm business, you’ll also want to think about insurance and more. Find out about some of those resource and others that can help grow your business.

Learn more