Beginning Farmer/Rancher Resources
The information in this section is for those who want to become a commercial farmer or are in the process of training to become a farmer.
Hands on and classroom commercial farming education:
Whidbey Island Organic Farm School: Large spectrum of learning in the field and classroom over 9 months Whidbey Island Organic Farm School
VIVA/SAgE: Hands on and classroom education in Skagit and King Counties https://sagestudentfarm.weebly.com/farmer-incubator.html
SAgE (Seattle Central Community College): SAgE (Seattle Central Community College)
Highline Urban Ag program: Hands on and classroom urban farming education Highline Urban Ag program
Pierce County Farmer training: Hands on and classroom farming education Pierce County Farmer training
– Also look under the “Apprenticeships and Incubators” category below –
For home gardeners/homesteaders/farm hobbyist:
Answers to all kinds of gardening questions, plus info on sharing garden space can be found here.
Statewide conservation districts offer workshops, farm tours and talks of farm, rural and urban land.
To find out about other conservation districts throughout the state check out this map!
Food system jobs
Access to Capital & Financial Planning
Washington State Housing Finance Commission and Northwest Farm Credit Services: Tax exempt bond program designed to assist beginning farmers and ranchers acquire property at low interest rates. Loans for property, equipment, construction, and livestock, with additional funding available for other projects. Program information, contacts, and downloadable forms are available here
Northwest Farm Credit Services: Traditional farmland loans, financing for equipment, and lines of credit. Information on lending, online financial tools, and links to a number of publications that address business planning, agricultural financial statements, and related industry publications can be found here
AgVision: Program available to young, beginning and small producers to help with financing and loan fee reductions. Information about the program can be found here.
Country Home & Lot Loans: Financing options for country home and rural property owners with no acreage restrictions, agricultural and residentially-zoned properties, income-producing properties, and additional allowances. More information here.
Washington State Small Business Development Center: Offers information on funding available to small business owners along with information on training, advising, research, and a long list of resources including business plans, taxes/licensing, start up guides, and much more. Visit their site here.
US Small Business Administration (SBA): Nation-wide offices that offer a number of business-related services including financing. Visit them here.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA): Offers federal agriculture financing programs, research, and information on a wide variety of related subjects including energy management, conservation, and financial planning. FSA offers a wide range of financing programs including loans for farm operations, minority and beginning farmer/ranchers. Complete list of programs available here.
To find an FSA office by location in Washington State, click on the USDA service centers link at here.
Service Loan Guide offers a comprehensive guide to financing options and information on the loan process here.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: Offers financial assistance to encourage sustainable management of natural resources. Details about the various programs can be found here.
Washington Farm Agency Services (FSA): Offers state contacts and information about programs offered. For a list of contacts at the Washington FSA offices view this document.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs): National network that coordinates initiatives to increase capital, credit, and financial services to low-income communities. More information can be found here.
Craft3: A non-profit, community development financial institution that provides loans and financial assistance and resources to entrepreneurs who wouldn’t otherwise have access to capital. Find out more about this non-profit here.
Slow Money Northwest: Matches sustainable food system businesses seeking investment with investors. They also provide business development assistance, a mentorship network, community partnerships, and creative financing, program related investment strategies. Find out more here.
MercyCorps Northwest: Offers business planning services and financial services to clients that don’t have access to traditional business financing and resources. More information here here.
Washington State Department of Agriculture: provides information on grants and specialty funding, including: USDA Conservation & Farm/Ranch Lands protection programs, disaster assistance programs, value added producers grants, rural development business grants, beginning farmer and rancher development, among others. Information about these grants can be found here
Washington Homeowners, Financial Assistance Programs in Washington: State wide resource list of financial assistance for buying property, including links to rural purchase programs. These resources can be found here
Start 2 Farm: Operated by the National Agricultural Library (USDA) and offers a user friendly resource website for new and established farmers. Follow this link for more info.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Organization designed to bring grassroots issues to the national policy table, by supporting small to mid-sized family farms. Useful guides, research, and links for navigating federal funding options, including conservation, loans/grants, local and regional food systems, and food safety. More information here.
Whole Foods Market, Local Producer Loan Program: Offers loans to small, local, independent producers to help them expand their businesses. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and can be for things like purchasing more animals, investing in new equipment or converting to organic production. Email LPLP@wholefoods.com or visit this link.
Farm Bureau Bank: Offers farm equipment loans, part-time and full-time farm loans, vehicle loans, mortgage loans, and financial tools. Contact via phone at (800) 492-3276 or visit this link
Business & Financial Planning
“Cultivating Success”: A WSU program that offers courses in Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Business Planning, among several other topics. Find out more here.
Northwest Agriculture Business Center: Extensive business education and support for Farm businesses. Find info here.
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: A wealth of information on business development, marketing, state resources, and the agricultural industry can be found here.
Washington State Small Business Development Center: Offers information on funding available to small business owners along with information on training, advising, research, and a long list of resources including business plans, taxes/licensing, and start up guides. More can be found here.
“Small Business Resource Guide: Everything you need to know to start and grow your business”: This Washington State specific guide includes downloadable templates for business plans and financial statements. here
Publications on Building a Farm Business:
The Sustainable Agriculture Network and Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture have put together a useful publication “Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses.” Downloadable PDF available here
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension “Farm Business Planning” workbook is an excellent resource with worksheets, samples, and step by step guidelines on developing a farm business plan. Downloadable PDF available here
Oregon State University, Small Farms Program, published “What can I do with my small farm?” a region-specific farm planning booklet that helps you map out options for your farm, based on size, goals, and resources. Available as a downloadable PDF here
The ATTRA publication, “Evaluating a Farm Enterprise”, has useful information for determining your farm business specialties and for assessing your business goals and due diligence when assessing potential farmland. Available here
A variety of publications and resources on various topics related to starting and running a farm business can also be found here
Online Mortgage Calculator: A great tool to help you plan for and determine a real estate purchase price range that is financially feasible for you. Zillow has a simple to use and free online mortgage calculator. Click “advanced” to adjust terms here
Farm Planning & Management
Washington State University Extension: Offers a multitude of courses, information, and programs geared towards just about every aspect of agriculture in Washington State. Visit their website to learn more here
WSU Small Farms program: Offers resources on soil and pest management and other courses on sustainable small-acreage farming. You can access the Small Farms Team webpage here.
WSU Agribusiness Management: Program within the School of Economic Sciences that studies agricultural producers and businesses involved with marketing and valuation of agricultural products. Learn more about their research and projects here.
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas: A sustainable agriculture program that has a number of very useful publications on a wide variety of management and marketing topics. Visit their website here.
Pest Management: Collection of ATTRA has a library of videos and articles regarding pests and identification that can be found here.
Ecological Pest Management Database: Highlights reduced risk materials to integrate into pest management strategies, can be found here.
Oregon State University Extension Service: Offers a broad range of publications that are extremely useful and be found at the Oregon State University Extension Service website.
Conservation Districts: Located in nearly every county or area of the State and can assist new or prospective landowners with best management practices such as fencing, manure management, farm planning, soil testing, as well as help you work through local environmental regulations, habitat restoration and more. Help the landowner you are renting from improve their land! Find your local conservation district here
University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension: Program under the College of Food, Agriculture, and the Environment that offers publications on season extension and links to other resources. Find more information here
National Resources Conservation Service: Offers a number of conservation services including technical assistance, habitat preservation grants, conservation innovation grants, financial assistance, and assistance with best practices for water management. Useful publications and links to regional resources can be found here
Rodale Institute: A non-profit focused on advancing organic farming through research and outreach. Visit their website to learn about their farmer trainings, webinars, and online courses here
Farmland Trusts & Preservation Pathways
Land Trusts: Often land trusts may be able to hold a conservation easement or buy the development rights for farmland, reducing the cost to a more affordable level for new farmers. Trusts may also own land that they lease or are willing to sell to farmers. Counties also may work with landowners and land trusts to pursue state recreation and land preservation grants.
Washington Association of Land Trusts: Has a comprehensive, county-by-county list of land trusts, including those that serve the entire state here.
Farmland.org: Provides information on land -trusts, conservation easements, purchase development rights, and transfer of development rights. Washington State site
Land Trust Alliance: A national land conservation organization with the goal of building strong land trusts, expanding the pace of land conservation, defending conservation easements both nationally and from its regional offices. Visit their website here
Farmland preservation: Washington State Conservation Commission, Office of Farmland Preservation: Links to county by county and statewide programs. Find a wealth of resources including succession planning, county grants, and mapping tools here
Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office: Farmland preservation grant program offers funding to cities, counties, and others to buy development rights on farmlands to ensure the lands remain available for farming in the future. This program may be available in your city, county, or through a nonprofit in your area. Learn more here
Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington: State wide information on purchase development rights and agricultural conservation land easements, transfer development rights, right-to-farm programs, and zoning and county codes. Find info here
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition: A non-profit citizens group, designed to represent conservation, business, recreation, fishing, farming, and community interests. This state grant funded program provides funding to protect habitat, preserve working farms, and create new local and state parks. More information available here
Farm and Ranch Protection Program (FRPP): Natural Resources Conservation Service program that provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Visit their website here
Incubators & Internships
FINDING AN INTERNSHIP OR EXPERIENCE ON A FARM
ATTRA Database: A collection of sustainable farming internships and apprenticeships, as well as educational and training opportunities through the National Agriculture Library’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC). This is widely used by Washington farms, who post the ads. It can be accessed here
Viva Farms: A bilingual farm incubator program that provides land, equipment, infrastructure, farm business planning/management training and microloans to start-up farmers. Viva’s collaborative marketing, sales and distribution channels also help new farmers access local markets. Visit www.VivaFarms.org Farms located in Mt. Vernon (Skagit County) and Sammamish Valley (King County).
Multinational Exchange in Sustainable Agriculture Program (MESA): Sponsors ecological farmer-to-farmer exchanges between participating countries and the United States. They promote experiential training and cross-cultural opportunities for aspiring agriculturists who then share new insights and skills with their home communities. MESA’s US Training Program offers a chance for internationals to gain hands-on skills at US sustainable farms. You can find these programs at www.mesaprogram.org.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): A worldwide network of organizations, linking volunteers with organic farmers, and help people share more sustainable ways of living. WWOOF organizations link people who want to volunteer on organic farms or smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help. If you interested, check out their website
The Japanese Agricultural Exchange Council (JAEC): Offers Japanese young farmers opportunities to cultivate their international awareness and to expand their abilities by participating as agricultural trainees overseas. You can find these programs here
Incubator Farms: An incubator farm can provide land, equipment and infrastructure, education, training, marketing, distribution, and technical assistance.
Whidbey Island Organic Farm School:
Cloud Mountain Farm, Everson: Visit this link
SnoValley Tilth’s Experience Farming Project: For farmers with 2-3 years of experience working on farms. Production must follow certified naturally grown guidelines and farmers have access to equipment and farm mentors as well as a small plot of farmland at SnoValley Tilth’s Stuart Landing just outside of Carnation, Washington. Visit this link
Sustainable Agriculture Education Association: Offers a list of sustainable agriculture educational programs here
Jobs & Apprenticeships
There are several listing services available for farmers to post ads looking for an apprentice or a farm manager.
Sustainable Food Jobs: Free to list, organizes by type, location, etc. This site had good job descriptions, which may be useful.
Good Food Jobs: This is a nice site with a posting service for food-related jobs. There is a fee to post. This could be a good resource for getting ideas for your job description, here.
Greenbank Farm Organic Farm School: This farm school trains and educates a class of beginning farmers every year, many of whom stay in the Northwest and may be looking for a farm internship or management position as a next step, and may be willing to pass on information to students about your internship or manager position, visit this link
Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS): Has an internship coordinator who can be reached via email here.
Farm Product Marketing
Farm Guide of Tilth Alliance: Offers the Puget Sound Fresh Website, App and Print Edition Farm Guide, all of which help connect farmers to eaters and buyers. Farms can list their business with information about products, their location, farm stands, CSAs, farmers markets, and contact information. Find the Farm Guide online here: www.pugetsoundfresh.org .
ATTRA’s Marketing resources discuss the importance of having a marketing plan, the characteristics of various direct marketing alternatives, and the important trade-offs in the various approaches, which can be found here
The Farmer-to-Consumer Marketing series (no.’s 1 – 4) provides an overview of direct marketing techniques. 1 – An Overview 2 – Production and Marketing Costs 3 – Merchandising, Pricing, and Promotion 4 – Place of Business and Product Quality
Small Farms Program: University of California has great marketing resources.
Washington State Farmers Market Manual: For those interested in starting a market where one does not already exist. Information on regulations as well. A useful document on how to get established at a farmers’ market/steps can be found here
Networking Association for Farm Direct Marketing and Agritourism: A membership based organization which hosts farm marketing conventions (including some in the NW), publications, marketing support, an online forum and several other benefits. More information here
USDA, Agricultural Marketing Program: Offers a wide range of publications, research and marketing information. Find out more about these services here
Northwest Agricultural Business Center: A business and marketing planning services organization with information on value-added product development, infrastructure development, and more. More information available here
WSDA Farm-to-School Program: A tool kit for selling to schools, developing farm to school programs, and information on creating interest in fresh food in schools. Find more help here
Growing for Market: A website full of great resources and publications on a wide variety of growing and marketing topics. Find out more here
HumanLinks grant: Support for sustainable farm projects in WA State. Up to $20 grand awarded here.
King Conservation District Regional Food System Grant: For group or organization applications in King County. Applicants must benefit more than one farm or farmers. visit this link.
Center for Rural Affairs: A variety of grants are listed on this site here.
Land for Good: Tons of useful information on this site.
Farmland easements program: Through the USDA here.
Ties to the Land: Land succession classes/resources here.
WSU: Succession planning for Forestry and Farmland here.
Food Animal Concerns Trust: For animal producers click here.
Ties to the Land: Land succession classes/resources here.
WSU Succession planning for Forestry and Farmland: Workshops are offered for families or successors several times a year around the state here.
Info about your soil and how to discuss how to manage with potential farmers here.
Farmland easements program here.
Other programs like WA FarmLink