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New and small farms

Small farm news

Beginning and expanding farmer loan program now available in Oregon

The purpose of the Beginning and Expanding Farmer Loan Program (aka Aggie Bond Program) is to provide affordable financing to new farmers for financing capital purchases. Visit the Aggie Bond Program page on the Business Oregon web site or read a recent Oregon Department of Agriculture Story of the Week​ about the program for more information.
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What is a small farm?

The USDA-Economic Research Service updated its classification of farm size in April 2013. Small farmily farms now include several categories that earn $350,000 or less in gross annual sales. With this change, the share of small farms in the United States increased 3 percentage points from 88 to 91 percent.
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ODA resources for new and small farms

ODA has dedicated resources specifically toward supporting small farms and local markets.

ODA's Agricultural Development and Marketing program includes staff with a focus on local and farm direct marketing. The program also provides business planning and business development assistance and has led and participated in many discussions about business assistance for small-scale meat processing.

The Food Safety program has two staff specialists to assist small-scale processors and has a FAQ Web site for small-scale poultry processors.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture provides a variety of programs and fee-for-service certifications for farms of all sizes, including organic and Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices certifications.
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Training and education programs

The Oregon State University Small Farms program offers workshops for beginning and small farmers, including the Growing Farms course and the annual Small Farms Conference for agripreneurs of all levels of farming experience. This program has also launched a Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems.

Degree programs in agriculture
Jobs, internships, apprenticeships, and incubators

There are very specific requirements for farm "internships." If you farm is considering offering an internship, please read ODA's farm internships Web site.
If you are a farm operator interested in hiring non-family related youth under age 18 (14-17), they will need to obtain a tractor safety training certification. ODA has compiled a list of programs available to the public around the state offered by high schools, OSU Extension, and community colleges.

Additional information about employing minors is available on ODA's regulations Web site.

Opportunities for youth
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Business planning

Business plans are important for new and continuing farm operations. They describe what the farm produces, intended markets, resources needed to start, maintain, or expand the farm, and strategies to manage risk.

The Small Business Administration offers guidelines on how to develop a business plan. Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans, published by the USDA Farm Service Agency, also includes a list of several business planning resources.
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Loans to start or expand a farm

There are no grants to purchase or rent property. You'll generally need to cover rental or purchase payments with a loan, your earnings, or savings.

The USDA Farm Service Agency and Northwest Farm Credit Services are the primary starting places for new operations. Both offer loan products that are specifically designed for beginning and small farmers, including Farm Service Agency's microloan program and Farm Credit's AgVision program. Other potential sources of credit include banks, credit unions, and even equipment dealers.

The Beginning and Expanding Farmer Program (aka Aggie Bond program) is now available in Oregon. The program allows for tax-exempt interest on bonds used to finance loans to a qualified beginning or expanding farm operation. The goal of the program is to allow qualified new and expanding farm operations to access lower-interest loans. For more information and an application form, visit the Business Oregon Beginning and Expanding Farmer Loan Program​ web site.​

Several organizations help entrepreneurs save money to start a business through Individual Development Accounts or other tools. Some also offer micro-loan programs. Below are a few organizations that have these tools.
Mercy Corps has Individual Development Account and micro-loan programs.
Whole Foods operates a Local Producer Loan program.
Adelante Mujeres
PSU Business Outreach Program
RSF Social Finance
National Funding

For more information, visit ODA's business resources Web site.
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Strategies to find land for farming

Start small, using the resources that you have. When you are ready to expand, consider leasing or renting, and aim for short-term arrangements. Look into farm incubator programs available in your area. It may take years of slow expansion before you are ready to purchase land.

Here are some resources for farmers looking for land to rent or purchase.
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Farm direct to consumer marketing

Several organizations, tools and strategies can facilitate sales from farms directly to consumers.
  • Oregon Farmers Markets provide a marketplace for farmers and ranchers to interact with and sell to customers.
  • The Oregon Farmers Markets Association Web site includes information about Oregon's farmers markets, and supports the work of farmers markets around the state.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a model that allows farmers to establish a market for their products for the entire growing season. Customers generally subscribe to a CSA and pay up-front for the season's produce, then pick up or receive a delivery of produce from the farm throughout the season.
  • Farmer-chef collaboratives are a platform to link farmers with chefs looking for specific types of agricultural products.
  • Farmstands and u-pick operations bring the consumer to the farm.
  • FoodHub is an online tool to link farmers with customers searching for a particular agricultural product.
  • Oregon's Farm to School Program also helps link schools with farmers, ranchers, and fishers to provide healthy and nutritious food to Oregon's schoolchildren.
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Compliance assistance

Depending on your business activities, you may need a license from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. For example, ODA licenses several types of pesticide applicators, scales to sell products by weight, and a variety of food businesses to ensure food safety. Visit the regulations section of the Oregon Agripedia to learn more about the licenses you may need for your farm business.

ODA's Food Safety program has two specialists who work with small-scale processors, and has established a Web site with FAQs for small-scale poultry processing.
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Additional resources

Stephanie Page, Special Assistant to the Director, Oregon Department of Agriculture
(503) 986-4558

Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe, Farm to School Program Manager, Oregon Department of Agriculture
(503) 872-6620

Jerry Gardner, Business Development Manager, Oregon Department of Agriculture
(503) 872-6608

The Oregon State University Small Farms program provides one-on-one assistance, sponsors classes and workshops, and maintains a variety of valuable resources and links on the program Web site.

Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) advocates for assistance and support of small and family farms in Oregon. FoFF's Web site includes a variety of information for beginning and small farmers.

Start2Farm is a project of the National Agricultural Library in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation, and was developed to assist people with less than 10 years' experience in farming and ranching.

Small plot intensive farming (SPIN) describes resources and strategies to farm productively in small spaces such as backyards and raised beds.

The Greenhorns is an organization that supports young farmers and has resources, including a beginning farmer's guide, available online.

Read USDA's report on emerging market opportunities for small scale farmers.

The Oregon Economic Development Association supports economic development professionals in Oregon and works to strengthen Oregon's economy.
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