Important information to consider when you're just starting your small farm

Many first generation, New England farms start their operations from the ground up, spurred by a love of growing food for their families and community. But starting a small-scale farm business on your own requires high stakes decision making and learning from those with experience can help lower the risks involved in the process.

This virtual webinar series was designed to help small scale and beginner farmers by sharing information in a few key areas: Marketing, Production, and Food Safety. The series starts with three high-level webinar sessions aimed at giving broad strokes to these important factors. Drilling down, the next two sessions get specific to enterprises that might fit into a diversified farm business: grains and cut flowers. We wrap up with a session on Crop Insurance for Risk Reduction so that first time farmers can make informed decisions around insurance. Listening to each session, you’ll hear firsthand from NH farmers about their experiences of farming at a small scale and gain expertise from specialists at UNH Cooperative Extension and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

Innovative Marketing for Small Scale Farms

Farming at a small scale means that every unit sold matters. It is important to develop an intentional marketing plan and a clear farm brand to help get your products into the hands of customers, and to mitigate the risks associated with unsold products. In this session, Jesse Wright of UNH Extension explores the importance of telling your farms’ story and understanding who you’re selling to—both integral first steps in building your marketing plan. Featured Farmers include Partners’ Gardens and Vernon Family Farm, who share how they use marketing and their own farm stories to grow their businesses.

To take this learning from the screen to you farm, check out NCAT’s active workbook on farm branding: Selling Your Products Through Story.  


Crop Production Systems

Land is one of the most important assets on any farm. For farms just starting out or with limited acreage, it’s crucial to develop systems that make use efficient use of every square foot. This production-focused webinar features NCAT speakers Andy Pressman, Chris Lent, and Eric Fuchs-Stengel; you will also hear more from Eric about his work at MEVO farms, and how they utilize the principles of low-till, bio-intensive growing, permaculture, and market gardening in their organization.

Food Safety Practices

Adhering to good food safety standards is integral for your farm business, but where should you start? The long list of regulations can feel overwhelming. In this session on Food Safety Practices, Dr. Wendy Johnecheck of UNH Extension explains food safety basics and the implementation of farm food safety plans. Learn about what tools you can use to assess and manage food safety risks on your farm, regulatory requirements for produce farms, and what resources are available to create a food safety plan. Dan Birnstihl talks about his experience with implementing food safety practices and standard operating procedures while he worked at Hip Peas Farm in Hooksett, NH.

Additional information and helpful links from the webinar are summarized in this article.

If you want to improve food safety on your farm with the help of an Extension educator, visit the Jumpstart to Farm Food Safety with Extension project.

Producing and Marketing Grains

Locally grown grains have been piquing many farms’ interest over the past several years. Local breweries, bakeries, and more want to stand out to their customers, and one way to do this is by sourcing locally grown grains for their products. Could you add grain production to your operation?

In this session, UNH Extension Field Specialist Carl Majewski discusses important grain production considerations related to disease, pests, nutrient, and weed management. Featured speakers also include three businesses working to revive the NH Grainshed: Tuckaway Farm, Granite Grains, and Vida Tortilla. Together, the three discuss the grain collaboration that has emerged on the Seacoast of NH, how that collaboration formed, and what they hope for the future.

Producing and Marketing Cut Flowers

New England has a rich history of cultivating cut flowers – but where does the market stand now and could cut flowers be a successful enterprise for your farm? In this session, you’ll hear from UNH Extension Field Specialist Jonathan Ebba about the changing markets for flowers produced in our cold climate and effective mindsets for record keeping. Featured Farmers are Vera Flora Farm and Winnipesaukee Woods Farm, who share their stories of growing and selling their beautiful blooms.

Additional resources to further learning:

  • This video demonstrates how to schedule a cut flower crop with the end in mind.
  • This video demonstrates assigning costs to cut flower crops to help set prices and predict profitability.
  • This workbook forces you to identify competition and sales channels to help predict potential revenue.

Insurable Risk Reduction

A cost-effective and simple to access crop insurance program suited to diversified vegetable operations could have a tremendous impact on the profitability and sustainability of specialty crop farms. Unfortunately, the USDA’s Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program (WFRP) has yet to achieve this goal. In this video, Jeff Schazhinski, NCAT agricultural economist, will offer a revenue of the crop insurance program and provide a case study of using the new WFRP micro addendum policy for north eastern diversified specialty and horticultural operations.

If you’d like more resources from UNH Extension for Beginning Farmers, check out the New Farmers page and the resources listed on the NH Farm Network, or contact your local Extension Field Specialist.

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2021‐70027‐34693.


Extension Field Specialist, Agricultural Business Management
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension Food and Agriculture, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824