Farm Beginnings

Farm Beginnings is a year-long program for aspiring and beginning farmers that is designed to help participants launch or grow their farm business. The course is focused on sustainable agriculture and is led by Vermont-based farmers and service providers. The 2024/2025 Farm Beginnings cohort will begin in mid-October 2024. Read below for more details, including schedule, topics covered, and more.

Applications for the 2024/2025 will open in mid-August. Please complete this interest form to be notified when applications open, or contact Megan Browning at 802-434-7184 or [email protected] with any questions. 


What to Expect

The Farm Beginnings program starts in the fall with a series of in-depth business-planning modules taught by experienced Vermont-based farmers and service providers who will offer first-hand knowledge on topics such as goal-setting, land access, farm financing, recordkeeping, and marketing. Participants will increase their knowledge on all aspects of farm management, improve their decision-making skills, and develop a holistic business plan for their farm or future farm. Farm Beginnings is also designed to build supportive connections and relationships among the aspiring and beginning farmers in each cohort.

Farm Beginnings is great for both aspiring farmers who have farm experience and a goal of starting their own farm business as well as beginning farmers who are in their first few years of running their own business and looking to enhance their skill sets, with an emphasis on business management skills.  Applicants should be seeking support to refine their farm vision, apply whole-farm planning practices, overcome barriers they face, and have the time to fully utilize the resources of the program. Participation in Farm Beginnings is a first step toward participation in the NOFA-VT Journey Farmer program.  

This is a hybrid virtual and in-person program. From October through March, participants will meet for eight online learning modules, including video lectures, assignments, and live virtual meetings. Live virtual meetings are 2 hours (every other Wednesday), with approximately 2-4 hours of work on your own time in between live sessions. A Farm Plan Show & Tell will be scheduled in-person in March. In the summer, participants transition from the classroom into the fields to work one-on-one with an experienced farmer mentor and attend a series of on-farm workshops.


Program Objectives

  • Establish quality of life goals and identify your farm values, vision, and goals
  • Assess your resources, skills, and markets and how these fit into a profitable farm business 
  • Write a farm business plan, including a financial and marketing plan
  • Learn critical farm management and record-keeping skills
  • Meet and learn from innovative, local farming practitioners in class and at on-farm workshops 
  • Develop your farm business and production skills by working one-on-one with a farmer mentor  
  • Learn how to access resources and programs at NOFA-VT and throughout Vermont that can help bring your farm vision to fruition


Farm Beginnings Principles

  • Farmer-led: Class participants will learn directly from Vermont farmers about their farms and farming experience.
  • Focused on Sustainable Agriculture: Participants are encouraged to create a farm plan that is economically, socially, and ecologically sustainable.
  • Racial Equity: We acknowledge historical and ongoing racial inequities that disproportionately affect BIPOC farmers and land stewards. We commit to furthering our own understanding and supporting the farmers we interact with to do the same. We commit to using the power and influence we have across our organization to build more inclusive and equitable agricultural systems and implement changes that make it possible for more farmers of color to farm.  
  • Community Based: Because NOFA-VT is best able to provide resources and connections in this area, applicants living in Vermont will be given priority. If you are located elsewhere, check out the Farm Beginnings Collaborative website to see if there is an organization near you offering Farm Beginnings.  
Program Details
Program Offerings & Expectations
  • 8 farm business planning online modules October through March (Detailed schedule available here)
  • In-Person Farm Plan Show & Tell session in March to culminate the eight modules (location TBA)
  • 2-3 on-farm workshops held during the growing season
  • One-on-one mentorship from an experienced farmer
  • Course materials: printed copy and online access
  • Discounts on NOFA-VT educational offerings including Winter Conference and On-Farm Workshops
  • Farm Business Plan template
  • Relationship building with a cohort of beginning farmers in Vermont


Participants are expected to attend all live sessions (2 hours each, every other Wednesday) and commit 2-4 hours of work on your own time for each module. In-person attendance is expected for the Farm Plan Show & Tell in March. In the summer, participants are expected to attend 2-3 on-farm gatherings. 

Schedule & Presenters


October - March

Vermont farmers and farm service providers will lead eight online modules. The structure includes both lectures and interactive activities. Online modules are each two weeks long and include a two-hour live virtual session on Wednesday evenings, 4:30-6:30 pm. You can expect to spend 2-4 hours to complete individual work between the live sessions. Live sessions include time for connecting with the cohort and Q&A with presenters. Participants are encouraged to attend live, however, all sessions are recorded. Throughout the course of the program, participants will develop their own Farm Plan and have an opportunity to receive feedback. Modules are listed below with brief descriptions and likely presenters (final presenters TBA). We will also welcome one-two additional farmers with experience relevant to each module to join for live sessions.

Kick-Off Session: Introduction & Orientation Meet the cohort and orient to the structure, materials and curriculum for the Farm Beginnings program.

Module 1: Whole Farm Planning (Part 1) Create a holistic goal statement for your farm business with Ryan Fitzbeauchamp of Evening Song Farm 

Module 2: Whole Farm Planning (Part 2) Learn strategies for using your holistic goal to make decisions. Additional decision making and business analysis tools discussed. Discussion of sales channels will be included. With Calley Hastings, Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program

Module 3: Land - Stewardship & Soils Understand options for land access and tools to employ when accessing land. Will cover leases, land transfer, and conservation easements. Presenters TBA

Module 4: Farm Financial Management & Record Keeping Learn about three basic financial statements and tools for recordkeeping on the farm. Build out these statements for your farm business.​ With Richard Wiswall, Cate Farm

Module 5: Enterprise Analysis & Budgeting Learn tools for determining which enterprises to focus on and create budgets for individual enterprises.​ With Bruce Hennessey, Maple Wind Farm

Module 6: Marketing (Part 1) Take a broad look at the market landscape in VT and learn about conducting market research.​ With Rose Wilson, Agriculture Marketing Consultant

Module 7: Marketing (Part 2) Build your marketing plan and learn about marketing tactics, strategies and tools to tell your farm story and sell your products.​ With Mieko Ozeki, Marketing Consultant

Module 8: Taxes & Farm Financing Learn from an ag lender about options for financing your farm business. With Andy Wood, VEDA

Farm Plan Show & Tell Participants will each have time to share their Farm Plans and get feedback from the rest of the class.​

*Free registration is also available to the NOFA-VT Winter Conference.


March - November: 

Participants work one-on-one with a farmer mentor and participate in on-farm education geared specifically toward Farm Beginnings. This typically consists of two-three farm tours on Vermont farms with the Farm Beginnings class. In addition, free and discounted registration is available for all NOFA-VT On-Farm Workshops.

Application Instructions & Criteria

Applications for 2024/2025 will open in mid August 2024 and close in mid September 2024. One additional person working on the same business plan, such as a business partner, a family member, or life partner, may take the course with you. Only one application per farm business is required. 

Application Timeline: Applications are due by September 16, 2024, reviewed in late September, and applicants will be notified of a decision by the first week of October. 

For every applicant that is not offered a spot in this year's Farm Beginnings cohort, the Farmer Services team will put together specific recommendations for next steps and offer business coaching services to help you prepare to participate in a future cohort.

Application Criteria: The main goal in selecting participants is to ensure applicants are at an appropriate stage to take advantage of this program to launch their farm business or develop a newly launched business.  A strong candidate is seeking support to refine their farm vision, apply whole-farm planning practices, overcome barriers they face, and has the time to fully utilize the resources of the program. Applications are reviewed holistically to understand applicants' passion and commitment to farming and strong applicants will show a commitment to agriculture in at least one of the following ways:

  • Clear farm vision with specific enterprises and markets in mind
  • Past experience working on farms, stewarding land, and/or producing agricultural products
  • Business already started or goal of launching within 1-2 years
  • At least one year of financial and/or production records


Applicants living in Vermont by the time the program begins in October 2024 are prioritized. Farm Beginnings is offered in several other states. If you are not residing in Vermont and you are interested in Farm Beginnings, check here to see if there is a Farm Beginnings program available near you.


Contact Megan Browning at 802-434-7184 with any questions or to be mailed a paper application.


This program costs $500 per farm.

Tuition payments: Tuition is due in full by October 16th. We can also work with you to create a payment plan that meets your financial needs. 

Refund Policy: If you are unable to attend Farm Beginnings, refunds are available until the day before the first class. After the first class, refunds are not available, except under extenuating circumstances. 

Scholarships: A limited number of scholarships are available for the NOFA-VT Farm Beginnings cohort. Scholarships will be awarded based on financial need. NOFA-VT will provide a full scholarship to anyone who identifies as BIPOC. We can also work with participants to create a payment plan that meets your financial needs. Apply below. Contact Megan at [email protected]  or 802-434-7184 for more information on scholarships.


History of Farm Beginnings

The curriculum for Farm Beginnings was developed in 1996 by the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project and a group of farmers who recognized the need for more cohort-based learning opportunities that would support beginning farmers in developing their core skills. A Farm Beginnings Collaborative evolved so that the curriculum could be shared widely and create opportunities for shared learning among service providers. It is now a nationally recognized curriculum that helps create new strong farm businesses. NOFA-VT is the fourteenth organization to join the collaborative.

Hundreds of farmers have participated in Farm Beginnings classes with 80% of graduates still farming. In addition,  61% of graduates increased the amount of land they had in sustainable production,  82% of graduates sold more than eighty percent of their production within a 200-mile radius of their farm, and 51% of graduates met or exceeded their goals for family income from products produced on their farm.