How to Start Farming with No Money: Your Guide to Success

Can you start your farm with no money? Yes. Of course, that depends on several factors. You may have to accept that many farmers get their start while continuing to work a “regular” day job. You may have to work long hours and live frugally as you keep your eyes on the prize – owning your own farm. If that sounds like you, here is how to start farming with no money.

Is it Possible to Start a Farm with No Money?

how to start farming with no money

Let’s say that you don’t own a big chunk of land. And you don’t know how to start a farm or how to make money farming.

Starting farming without money is challenging but possible if you’re creative, resourceful, and committed. Here are some essential points to consider, strategies to apply, and opportunities to seek:

  1. Micro-farming: If you don’t have a lot of space, consider starting a micro-farm. This could involve growing microgreens, herbs, or small vegetables that require less space and resources.
  2. Niche farming: Find unique, high-demand crops or animals that you can farm. These could include items like exotic mushrooms, herbs, snails, worms, bees for honey, or small birds such as quails. Sunflower farming is another option.
  3. Urban farming: If you live in an urban environment, consider container farming, rooftop farming, or utilizing public spaces like community gardens.
  4. Permaculture: This type of farming utilizes natural systems and patterns, aiming to create a sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystem. This approach can help reduce the cost of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
  5. Cooperative farming: Join a farming cooperative where members pool resources to purchase seeds, share machinery, and sell their products. Cooperatives can also offer mentoring and training opportunities.
  6. Applying for grants and subsidies: Depending on your location, governmental or non-governmental organizations may offer grants or subsidies for new farmers. Look for “beginner farmer” or “sustainable farming” grants.
  7. Volunteer or intern: You can volunteer or intern at a farm to learn the ropes. This provides a hands-on learning experience, potentially allowing you to gain practical knowledge without investing your own resources.
  8. Crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending: Use crowdfunding platforms to raise startup capital for your farm. Alternatively, peer-to-peer lending networks could provide small loans for your startup costs.
  9. Agritourism: You could generate income by offering farm tours, classes, or events once your farm is up and running. This is a growing trend that adds another revenue stream for farmers.
  10. Bartering and trading: This age-old practice can save you money. Trade goods and services with other local farmers or community members.

Starting a farm from scratch without money requires careful planning, hard work, and a passion for farming. It’s a long journey, but with the right mindset and commitment, it can be rewarding in the end.

How to Start a Farm with No Money

Let’s break this down into a doable process.

Step One – Decide What Type of Farm You Should Start

how to start farming with no money

Get Real World Experience

There’s book learning (and you’ll need plenty of that), and there’s hands-on learning. You can consider getting a part-time job at a farm before you begin farming on your own.

Connect With Other Local Farmers

Other farmers are an invaluable resource for information about the farming business. A local farmer knows which crops are best to grow or raise in the local area and what the actual operating costs will be. Brainstorming with a reliable source, such as a local farmer, may give you other ideas for your own venture.

Do Market Research

Check your local farm stand or market, and check local restaurant needs. Are local farmers selling to restaurants? Are their products they can’t get? This information will help you determine the best farm type for you.

Check Zoning

You may own a few acres of land and a house but be restricted by residential zoning (often shown as R1, R2, or R3). Some high-density zoning may preclude you from even small-scale farming. All is not lost because if your venture would have little impact on neighbors, you may be able to obtain a variance from the local planning and zoning boards.

For example, some residential land zoning doesn’t allow people to raise livestock such as chickens, goats or other farm animals. Goats are hoofed animals and there are often special requirements establishing the number of hoofed livestock (by weight) allowed per acre.

Decide on a Small Farm Niche That You Could Do in Your Own Backyard

One way to set aside monies for starting a farm is to “start your farm” by growing your own food and produce. By doing this, you can gain experience and, in a few years or less, set aside quite a lot of money needed to start farming.

Step Two – Get Your Ducks in a Row

how to start farming with no money

Make a Farm Business Plan

A huge undertaking in how to start a business is the business plan. You’ll need a farm business plan that outlines your mission statement, plans for starting and growing, where you will sell your products and a description of who owns and runs the business.

Decide on Your Type of Business Entity

Most farms choose the Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, as the business entity. With an LLC, farms are separated from the owner’s personal assets. Small farms are often family-owned in an LLC.

Register Your Business

Farms must be registered with the state. Even if you’re starting very small, it’s best in the long run to register. That will help you later if you want to get funding to expand or do equipment finance – lenders look at how many years businesses have been operating.

Obtain a Business License

The state and also your local governing body, such as a county or town, will most likely require a farmer to license the business in the community.

Determine Your Business Insurance and Accounting Needs

The last thing you want to do is invest money into starting your farm and lose it. You can get crop insurance to protect your farm against crop failure, even if that’s not connected to natural disasters. You can get disaster assistance from government entities for weather calamities such as flooding. In other words, you don’t have complete control over your farm – Mother Nature plays a role.

Step Three – Start your Farm

how to start farming with no money

Launch your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan should be an integral part of your farm business plan. If you want to sell your farm’s products, you need to strongly market them.

Establish a website and social media presence

In addition to having a traditional website, build a Facebook page and join Facebook groups. Make a farm app for your business. All these efforts will help you sell products.

Step Four – When to Seek Financing

how to start farming with no money

Get Financial Assistance to Purchase Land or Lease Land

For the best chance of getting a farm loan, you’ll need to prove income from the farm. You’ll need tax returns proving both the farm income and your personal income so that the lender knows you have the resources to make payments. The lender will want to see proof of insurance and a comprehensive list of equipment and assets. A lender called FarmRaise can help you navigate available financing – you need to start the process by setting up a farm number.

Consider Using a Professional Grant Writer to Obtain Funding

Very few grant resources are available to start a farm, but many grants are available to expand a farm – especially if the farmer is adapting to a new strategy. For example, a farmer may want to add hydro-electric or solar power or grow an experimental crop.

Grants are available to add value to a farm, launch a research project and/or improve energy use and conservation of natural resources. Most grants require the farmer to provide a cash match of the amount.

Look into Farm Loans from the SBA

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a loan called the SBA 7 (2), which offers low-interest rates and lengthy pay-back periods.

Look into Finance from The United States Department of Agriculture Grants and Loans

The USDA has a guaranteed farm loans program that is available to businesses operating in a town or city with 50,000 or fewer inhabitants.

Step One: Decide What Type of Farm You Should Start- Get real-world experience
- Connect with other local farmers
- Do market research
- Check zoning
- Decide on a small farm niche
Step Two: Get Your Ducks in a Row- Make a farm business plan
- Decide on your type of business entity (typically LLC)
- Register your business
- Obtain a business license
- Determine your business insurance and accounting needs
Step Three: Start Your Farm- Launch your marketing plan
- Establish a website and social media presence
Step Four: When to Seek Financing- Get financial assistance to purchase or lease land
- Consider using a professional grant writer to obtain funding
- Look into farm loans from the SBA
- Look into finance from The United States Department of Agriculture grants and loans

How Much Profit To Expect From a Small Farm in The First Year

how to start farming with no money

Predicting profits for small farms in their first year of operation is tricky, as it’s highly dependent on several factors, including type of farming, market prices, location, and overhead costs. However, as a general rule, many new small-scale farming operations might expect to make little to no profit in the first year or two due to start-up costs and the time it takes for many agricultural products to become established and start producing.

For instance, if you’re starting a vegetable farm, you’ll have to invest in seeds, equipment, and potentially soil amendments before you can expect to harvest and sell your crops. Similarly, if you’re starting a livestock farm, animals take time to grow and produce products (like milk or eggs) or reach market weight for meat.

Furthermore, first-year farmers often face a learning curve where they refine their techniques and adjust their business strategies. It’s common to make some mistakes and face unexpected challenges in the first year, all of which can impact profitability.

Overall, the goal for a small farm’s first year might be more about learning, establishing the farm, and breaking even rather than making a significant profit. Once a farm is established, typically by the third year, farmers can expect to start seeing more substantial profits as their initial investments begin to pay off and their farming practices become more efficient. It’s also important to note that diversifying products or incorporating value-added products can increase a farm’s income.

The Bottom Line

how to start farming with no money

The amount you can earn from your farm is related to how much investment you have put into it. And the amount of investment is dependent on the type of farm you’ve started.

On average, the return on investment for farming ranges from 10 to 20%.

Start a Farm with No Money FAQs

What is The Easiest Farm to Start?

That answer is dependent on the skill and knowledge level of the person who is starting the farm. For example, if you’ve grown your own vegetables for years but want to start growing mushrooms, those ventures have commonalities. If you’ve raised a couple rabbits and want to raise milk goats, you’re already familiar with daily chores, feed and general veterinary needs.

Is Planting Crops or Raising Animals Better For a Beginner?

This is also dependent on experience level of the person. Planting crops is usually easier to start than raising animals, which may require special zoning permits.

Which Type of Farming is Most Profitable?

The most profitable type of farming is the type which fills a niche. In other words, the new farm isn’t competing with existing farms, it has a unique product with market demand. Your research will help you determine this.

Where is the Cheapest Place to Start a Farm in the US?

When you’re considering the best states to start a farm, keep natural resources and climate in mind. Although land is inexpensive in some areas of the country, there’s a reason for that! You need to factor in the cost of soil amendments, heating and cooling, and other business costs.

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.

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