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Making a Risk Management Plan for Your Business

It’s impossible to eliminate all business risk. Therefore, it’s essential for having a plan for its management. You’ll be developing one covering compliance, environmental, financial, operational and reputation risk management. These guidelines are for making a risk management plan for your business.

Developing Your Executive Summary

When you start the risk management plan with an executive summary, you’re breaking apart what it will be compromised of into easy to understand chunks. Even though this summary is the project’s high-level overview, the goal is describing the risk management plan’s approach and scope. In doing so, you’re informing all stakeholders regarding what to expect when they’re reviewing these plans so that they can set their expectations appropriately.

Who Are the Stakeholders and What Potential Problems Need Identifying?

During this phase of making the risk management plan, you’re going to need to have a team meeting. Every member of the team must be vocal regarding what they believe could be potential problems or risks. Stakeholders should also be involved in this meeting as well to help you collect ideas regarding what could become a potential risk. All who are participating should look at past projects, what went wrong, what is going wrong in current projects and what everyone hopes to achieve from what they learned from these experiences. During this session, you’ll be creating a sample risk management plan that begins to outline risk management standards and risk management strategies.

Evaluate the Potential Risks Identified

A myriad of internal and external sources can pose as risks including commercial, management and technical, for example. When you’re identifying what these potential risks are and have your list complete, the next step is organizing it according to importance and likelihood. Categorize each risk according to how it could impact your project. For example, does the risk threaten to throw off timelines or budgets? Using a risk breakdown structure is an effective way to help ensure all potential risks are effectively categorized and considered. Use of this risk management plan template keeps everything organized and paints a clear picture of everything you’re identifying.

Assign Ownership and Create Responses

It’s essential to ensure a team member is overseeing each potential risk. That way, they can jump into action should an issue occur. Those who are assigned a risk, as well as the project manager, should work as a team to develop responses before problems arise. That way, if there are issues, the person overseeing the risk can refer to the response that was predetermined.

Have a System for Monitoring

Having effective risk management companies plans includes having a system for monitoring. It’s not wise to develop a security risk management or compliance risk management plan, for example, without having a system for monitoring. What this means is there’s a system for monitoring in place to ensure risk doesn’t occur until the project is finished. In doing so, you’re ensuring no new risks will potentially surface. If one does, like during the IT risk management process, for example, your team will know how to react.


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EcoFarming Daily

Planning Your Regenerative Agriculture Business

regenerative farm business plan

By Meg Greski

Congratulations on your decision to join the regenerative agriculture movement! There will be plenty of challenges, but if you take care of your soil, it will take care of you.

Whether you’re starting a new operation or transitioning a conventional one, step one must always be to create a viable business plan. Do not “wing it” and assume you’ll just figure it out as you go along. Even more importantly than that, do not proceed when the numbers don’t work. If something doesn’t even make money on paper, there’s no way it will magically be different in real life. The purpose of planning is to save you money, time and stress and to ensure that you meet your goals.

Your business plan is bound to change as time goes by, and it should. At least once a year, you should adapt it according to what’s going on in the world and what you’ve learned. The conditions in which your farm or ranch exists are always changing. What works at the beginning of your career may not continue to work in the subsequent years. Regenerative management is all about being adaptive.

You can choose the best enterprise mix for your farm or ranch by evaluating the following factors.

GROSS MARGINS: Figure out your gross margin (revenue minus direct costs, excluding overheads) for each class of livestock, each crop and each product. Do the calculations for current enterprises, and ones you might like to add. Compare how much money you make on each enterprise with how much work, land and equipment each one requires. Divide gross margin by the number of acres the enterprise uses to determine gross margin per acre. This is a good way to compare your options and make wise decisions about what to do with your resources. Taking acreage away from a low gross margin use and allocating it to a competing high gross margin use can turn a struggling farm or ranch around.

SPECIALIZATION: Having lots of diverse enterprises decreases risk, but too often results in huge amounts of work. Choose complimentary enterprises that share the same overheads (barns, equipment, etc), use one another’s byproducts, and have a high ratio of profit to work hours. For example, if your goal is to finish and sell 100% grass beef, you might think cow-calf and stocker cattle are a necessary part of it. But what if you could buy big calves, spend a couple months finishing them out, and avoid the cowherd’s winter feed bill? You could also use the cowherd’s grass for more finishers! Put that grass into cattle that are a direct short-term source of income, not an expense incurred in the hope of future income.

CUT OVERHEADS: Your choice of enterprises and the seasons in which you operate can greatly affect overhead costs. When I switched from year-round cow-calf to developing heifers in the growing season only, my overhead costs fell dramatically. I only had to commute to my rented pasture for seven months out of the year instead of twelve. I no longer needed to buy, transport, store and feed hay. This resulted in less wear and tear on my equipment. I no longer needed some of the equipment I owned and/or hired. High utility bills from water heaters also disappeared.

FEMALE DEPRECIATION: In a May 2020 webinar, Wally Olsen shared some eye-opening numbers concerning the changes in a cow’s value over her lifetime. Every year, you must count the value an aging female loses as a cost against the income from selling her calf. Every year older that she gets, the faster she loses value. The older you let a cow get on your operation (after she exceeds her peak value at 5-6 years old), the higher the percentage of calf sale revenue must go just to cover her depreciation. Wally proved that keeping females from birth until culling as an old open cow means you have built wealth, failed to capture it, and let it disappear. The same is true for breeding stock of other species.

How can you fight this depreciation phenomenon? On an example ranch of Wally’s, a switch was made from the traditional “keep ‘em until they fail to breed” strategy to selling all females at 5-6 years old, and developing more heifers. This change caused the example ranch’s net worth to increase 6 percent, and income from cattle sales went up 44 percent. The ranch was also able to run more head on their grass because having more younger cattle means they’re smaller and eat less.

Another option is to lease cows, or raise them under a shares agreement with someone else. This insulates you from cow depreciation cost because that burden is carried by the owner of the cows.

If breeding seedstock with longevity is your primary focus, you’ll have to bite the depreciation bullet. But if your goal is to maximize profit through whichever enterprise(s) necessary, you may not want to keep too many old cattle around.

RAISE OR TRADE? In 2017, I spent close to 40 hours “desk farming” to figure out how much money I could squeeze out of my grass with cattle. Thirty-one pages of spreadsheets and 23 pages on Microsoft Word later, I was confident that I had thought of and evaluated almost every possible business model for bovine breeding stock. My numbers led me to conclude that frequent buying and selling of animals instead of keeping home-raised livestock long-term may result in more profit. Using the right enterprise, I could make as much money on a flip animal as I could on a raised animal.

TURNOVER: Turnover is defined as the number of units produced in a given time period. If you have room for 20 cattle on your place and you keep them all year, that’s 20 units. Going with a trading enterprise over a home-raised one can really boost turnover. Say you have grass to support 20 cattle, but you flip 3 groups per year. You just sold 60 units in a year instead of 20! You have tripled the “size” of your operation without having to acquire and maintain triple the land, machinery and infrastructure.

TIME IS RISK: The longer you own an animal before selling it, the more risk you take that it could get sick or injured and die, leaving you with nothing. Take the above cow-calf-to-finish scenario. If you insist on raising each one of your finished cattle from conception, you are looking at almost three years from conception to harvest. A lot could go wrong in three years.

LIQUIDITY: Three years you have money tied up in a conception-to-harvest beef enterprise. But if you bought a calf at 800 lbs and took it to 1100 lbs in 150 days (2 lbs/day gain), you will have your investment back in under 6 months. You will only incur costs and risk on that animal for 150 days, not upwards of two years. If you think you can raise a calf cheaper than you can buy one, make sure you’re really counting ALL the hidden costs of raising that calf. This includes the carrying capacity loss to your finishing enterprise due to keeping mother, calf and yearling. There is a cost of the maintenance energy used by the cow just to stay alive. There are other investment opportunities for your money that you forgo when you tie it up in a calf for 2-3 years. Even if your gross margin is higher on raising a calf than on buying and flipping, you could flip multiple groups during the time you’d be hanging onto that single raised-calf group.

THE CHANGING MARKET: The longer you hang onto cattle, the more market prices can change on you. (Even if you don’t sell on the commodity market, the value of all livestock is affected by it.) Sudden events like the COVID-19 pandemic can cause drastic unforeseen changes in the value of all assets. Learn to analyze and use the changing price relationships between different ages, classes and sizes of livestock. Use market signals to decide when to buy and sell. Don’t be dead set on doing the same thing and selling at the same time every year regardless of what the market picture looks like. Just like we need to be adaptive in grazing, we need to be adaptive in operating our businesses.

Bud Williams first popularized the concept of sell-buy marketing. It’s a method of livestock business planning in which your profit comes from selling one group of animals, and replacing them for less than you got for selling them. This is opposite from the traditional buy-sell approach, in which you buy animals and hope you can sell them for more than you spent on them. You can use a weekly market report and Bud’s calculations to see which classes of livestock are overvalued and undervalued. Sell any overvalued classes you own before their price comes down, and buy undervalued ones while you can for less than they’re worth.

DOWNSIDES TO TRADING: Trading cattle isn’t for everyone. You have less control over your genetics. Cattle that have traveled through sale barns, trucks and multiple ranches will probably require more preventative healthcare than those in a closed herd. Bringing outside cattle onto your operation may also bring disease. There is likely to be more death loss. You will need safe, sturdy handling facilities and workers with good stockmanship skills. Frequent buying and selling of cattle, and tailoring your enterprise mix to market signals, requires intensive business management.

CONTEXT: The right enterprise mix for your farm or ranch can only be determined through economic analysis and planning that is specific to your situation. If you don’t know how to create or interpret a business plan, find a consultant or farm and ranch business workshop to help you. The Ranching For Profit Schools put on by Ranch Management Consultants (, (307) 213-6010) has been extremely valuable to me. Understanding Ag LLC (, (256) 996-3142) is a worldwide regenerative ag consulting firm started by Dr. Allen Williams, Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and many other visionaries. Their collective knowledge, experience and resources are unmatched. You can also contact me with questions: [email protected] .

Regenerative Design Group

Farm Planning in New England

Full-spectrum farm planning envisions a new community agriculture enterprise on threatened farm land..

regenerative farm business plan

Farm Planning, Dracut, MA

Regenerative Design Group was hired to facilitate a comprehensive farm planning process to revitalize a 27-acre family farm. The vision was to develop a community-based agricultural enterprise that engages the public through educational programming and agritourism. The plans included information about establishing regenerative agricultural practices, producing food for local markets, and providing farm training opportunities to members of surrounding communities.

For this project, RDG facilitated communication between The Trustees of Reservations and the clients in order to develop a farm planning document that met everyone’s needs. Located in an area of New England where farmland is under constant threat of development, some of the goals for this project included engaging the community in the farm landscape, establishing a commercial kitchen, and creating a viable business model to contribute to regional farm development.

The final product included detailed site plans for new farm infrastructure and a 25-page illustrated report with project goals, GIS site analyses, a phased implementation plan, and a detailed enterprise budget with six-year projected income for diversified farm production.

Key Features

Services Provided

The Trustees [of Reservations] believe that access to land, for all that it offers us, is essential to a good quality of life. We work to protect and sustainably steward important farmland, putting the land to good use by providing healthy food for local communities; nurturing the next generation of farmers; education, exciting, and inspiring consumers; and promoting the multiples benefits of local food and farms to create a strong local food system inclusive of all people.

TTOR Agriculture Vision, October 2013


regenerative farm business plan

Regenerative Business Models

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To create regenerative systems at scale, you need to plan ahead. reNature analyzes the context of the project, aligns the objectives, and develops a rough business model based on modeling projections in the first phase of any project. Thus resulting in a regenerative business model, reNature prepares each project for the next phase, the implementation of the model farm.

Understanding the Context

There is no one size fits all regenerative solution. Every system depends strongly on corp, farm, and region situation. During the Context Analysis phase, our local team, consisting of a regenerative agroforestry expert and a project manager, starts with a detailed analysis of the local reality. They look at the ecosystem, soil type, weather, market access, cost of production, and farming practices. Through this research, reNature will collect the local environmental, social, and economic challenges and is able to develop a regenerative transition strategy.

regenerative farm business plan

There is an important role for indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage in (regenerative) agriculture; many farming communities have histories of producing food & fiber in harmony with nature. Tapping into these cultural roots not only improves engagement and willingness to change but also ensures the protection of indigenous and historical knowledge and practices at risk of disappearing forever. 

Designing a Regenerative System based on Key Performance Indicators

To successfully design a regenerative system you have to agree on the desired outcome. Together with farmer and client, reNature aligns the objectives and key performance indicators of the model farm in the making. The KPIs cover socio-economic as well as environmental components. These include but are not limited to:

Some Socio-economic KPIs

Some Environmental KPIs

With these indicators in mind, our reNature experts design a unique regenerative farm design. The design is then used to model the financial projections. For these projections, reNature works together with top-notch modeling tools. The regenerative system becomes investable as a result.

Starting with a Baseline measurement 

reNature’s local project manager executes the first baseline measurement on the agreed key performance indicators. This report will be added to the Impact Dashboard that reNature is developing. 

regenerative farm business plan

Supporting the transition to regenerative farming

Some regions are suffering severely from climate change. Prolonging drought periods, the rise of the average temperature, changing micro-climates, and failing harvests force farmers to take action. Most smallholder farmers in the global south have no access to finance for this transition and are facing a long period of low to no income. The regenerative business model helps these smallholder farmers, SMEs, and small coops to find investors willing to help them with the transition and implementation of a model farm.

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regenerative farm business plan

Small Farm Funding Guide

regenerative farm business plan

This guide contains information about issues to consider before starting a farming operation. 

Find links to full-text guides on how to start a small farm business and develop business and marketing plans.  Identify information about funding programs for beginning and experienced farmers, technical assistance contacts, disaster assistance, and organizations with available resources.

Farm Business Planning

Contacts for Technical Assistance: Both SBA  and USDA provide small business planning technical assistance and USDA also provides technical farming specifics through the extensive network of USDA, Cooperative Extension Service (CES) specialists.

Disaster Assistance for Agricultural Producers ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service  

Farm Aid  1-800-FARM AID

Funding and Program Assistance

State Programs

You may want to start your financial assistance search with your  state  Department of Agriculture to see if your state has a Beginning Farmer Loan Program or other type of grants or loans for farming and ranching.

Agricultural Lenders

Information on Farm Financial Management & Performance can be located on the  USDA's Economic Research Service web site.

The nation's farm banks (defined by the Federal Reserve Board as banks that have above average proportions of farm real estate and production loans in their loan portfolios) offer a variety of loans to small and large farms and agribusiness firms; they also handle many of the loans made under USDA's guaranteed farm loan programs.

Farm Credit : Farm Credit is a nationwide network of 70 customer-owned financial institutions across all 50 states and Puerto Rico and provides loans and related financial services to U.S. farmers and ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives and other agribusinesses, rural homebuyers and rural infrastructure providers.​

Information and Contacts

Featured Resources

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Details of a Small Farm Business Plan

regenerative farm business plan

Writing a farm business plan can be a tool for you to plan your farming business. It can also be a requirement of securing grants and loans for your farm business. The process of writing a farm business plan may seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but if you break it down into its component steps, it becomes much more manageable.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a roadmap for your small farm . It is both process and product. During the writing of a farm business plan, you'll develop an overall vision and mission for your business. You will think about your short- and long-term goals. You'll define the steps needed to achieve those goals. You'll set the direction for your business to develop over the next five years.

If you're already an established business, your new business plan will show where you're going next. A good business plan should be:

Mission Statement

Your farm’s mission statement is your overarching purpose for your business:

This is beyond “make money.” This mission statement is based on your values and your core identity as a small farm.

The goals in your business plan are the specific, measurable “things” you will achieve with your small farm. Short-term goals are defined as those that you will complete within one year. Long-term goals are those that take longer than one year to complete.

SMART Goals are:

Background Information

In this section of your business plan, take inventory of what you have right now:

Farm Strategy

This is where your business plan gets to looking forward. You are going to formulate your farm strategy from now into the next five years or so.

Marketing Strategy and Plan

In the next part of your farm business plan, you develop and outline a marketing strategy for your products and services. This can build on the research you did in the previous step. For each product, include ​the price, placement, and promotion ideas. Consider how you will convey real and perceived value to your customers.

Management Summary

This part of your business plan details your farm business’ structure. Everyone who is involved in the management of the business should be listed here. External resources are listed here as well.

Financial Analysis

In this section, you will need to detail the financial aspect of your farming operation. List your current finances in detail, including all income and operating expenses. Referring to your new strategy, you will forecast what is needed for future growth and to meet the goals you have outlined in terms of capital. Include what your future operating expenses will be.

Pulling It All Together

Writing a farm business plan is a big project. Don’t let that put you off. Your plan can be as simple as it needs to be for right now. Begin with your mission statement and goals. Do your homework by analyzing markets and researching competitors and trends. Have fun brainstorming alternative strategies and let them marinate a while. Take it one step at a time.

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Farm & Agriculture Business Plans

Did you know each of these plans was created in LivePlan? Learn More

Agri-tourism Business Plans

Agriculture Consulting Business Plans

Agriculture Products & Retail Business Plans

Farm Business Plans

Farm Machinery Business Plans

Farming and agriculture is a complicated business. To be successful, you need more than a green thumb and the willingness to get your hands dirty. You need to know how to operate your agricultural enterprise efficiently and not just forecast your crop rotations, but your cash position and revenue. To do that, you need a business plan.

A good business plan will help your farm or food production business grow. It can improve your chances of receiving government grants or loans, help you manage your business through hard times, and identify additional forms of revenue like tourism or consulting.

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our farms, food growers, food production facilities, and other agriculture-related sample business plans for inspiration. Or to build a more modern plan that helps you easily manage your agricultural business we recommend you try LivePlan . It contains the same templates and information you see here, but with additional guidance to help you develop the perfect plan.

regenerative farm business plan

Plan, fund, and grow.

Easily write a business plan, secure funding, and gain insights.

Achieve your business funding goals with a proven plan format.

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15 tips to start a small farm using regenerative practices

As an Amazon Associate, GrowJourney earns from qualifying purchases. Read more: terms of service .

This article is the second installation in our Small Farm series . Here, we begin covering the basics of starting a small, regenerative farm. To assist, we ask for help from small farming expert Chris Miller of Horseshoe Farm in Greenville, SC. (If you haven’t already done so, you can meet Chris in our first article .)  

Chris Miller, owner/operator of Horseshoe Farm, in Greenville, SC - a successful regenerative small farm.

Chris Miller, owner/operator of Horseshoe Farm, in Greenville, SC – a successful regenerative small farm.

On a recent morning, I went to Horseshoe Farm to talk with Chris about his top recommendations for anyone looking to start a small, regenerative farm. The information below is a summary of our conversation, with expletives removed. 

Top 15 tips for starting your small farm using regenerative practices

Tip #1. get farming experience on multiple farms before you start a farm. .

Many people have romanticized notions of what farming is all about. Those notions don’t necessarily match up with reality. Then when they start their farm, they get overwhelmed because they don’t have the experience needed to be successful. 

Chris had 5+ solid years of experience working on farms before he felt ready to go out on his own. He also worked on multiple farms in different climate regions. 

“Every farmer and farm is different and you learn something new from each of them,” says Chris.  “Farming is equal parts planning ahead and managing chaos (often poorly). This is especially true with the increasing unpredictability of weather caused by ‘global weirding.'”

The frequency and intensity of severe weather events is increasing everywhere . As one small example, Chris’s farm experienced two weeks of unseasonably cool dry conditions in spring followed by a week straight of rain totaling about 20″ with three different nearby tornadic events.

When you work indoors, extreme and mercurial weather isn’t a big deal. When your livelihood depends on the wellbeing of plants and/or animals that live outdoors, you are intimately tuned into the weather in a way that’s hard to explain to other people. Thus, the more experience you have working on or operating a small farm in various weather or climate conditions, the better prepared you’ll be to handle those situations on your own farm.

Here are a few ways you might gain small farming experience: 

Interns and crew working at Horseshoe Farm in spring.

Interns and crew working at Horseshoe Farm in spring.

Tip #2. Read and learn from the world’s best small farmers.  

Experience may be the best teacher, but books, courses, and other educational resources are experience’s best friend. Chris highly recommends the following resources:

Tip #3: Have one year of savings and/or a second job when you start your farm. 

Starting a small farm is a significant time and financial investment that’s going to cost you a minimum of $5,000 – $10,000. The crops you start today won’t generate income for months. 

You can mitigate these risks by having at least one year of savings set aside and/or having a side job. For instance, Chris worked as a bartender at night when he was getting started on his own as a farmer — and he also had savings.  

Tip #4. Don’t break ground, cover ground. 

Are you looking at an acre of bare land covered in grass, weeds, or shrubs and trying to figure out how to get your farm started? Think you need to bring in a giant tractor and plow everything? Maybe not.  

When Chris and I were setting up the farm at Oak Hill Cafe & Farm on a nonexistent budget, we had access to dumpster truck loads of free leaves via our county’s sanitation department. We mowed the field low (leaving the trimmings in place), blanketed the field with 8-12″ of leaves, then put rows of compost directly on top of the leaves. Then we started planting.  

The leaves worked as a weed blocker that also inhibited weed seed germination. As the leaves decomposed they boosted soil fertility. Chris has since used this same technique at Horseshoe Farm using wood chips instead of leaves. (The wood chips were provided free by a local tree service company that would have had to pay to dump the chips in a county landfill.)

Any bioavailable soil nitrogen that gets temporarily locked up as these carbon-rich materials are broken down can be ameliorated by quality compost or pelleted chicken manure.      

What about clearing saplings and denser brush? To clear a shrubby patch of land filled with small saplings, Chris “borrowed” a small herd of  Ossabaw Island pigs from a restaurant friend. The pigs promptly ate every piece of vegetation, including fairly large saplings. The restaurant got fattened, pastured heritage breed pigs and Chris got cleared land with some extra fertility added. Victory! 

Bottom line: you don’t have to have a tiller or a tractor to prepare new land for your small farm.  

Young potato plants growing in a mulched field. This spot previously had saplings and weeds growing prior to being

Young potato plants growing in a mulched field. This spot previously had saplings and weeds growing prior to being “cleared” by hogs.

Tip #5. Remember: regenerative farming is a business, not a non-profit. 

Yes, you care about people, planet, and place, but you’re also a business. If you’re not profitable, you won’t be in business or making the world better for long. So focus relentlessly on the financial part of the triple bottom line as well. 

This is often easier to say than do, and there are going to be times when you have to make tough decisions that require you to think holistically and long-term, not just through the lens of “what’s profitable right now or this quarter.” For instance, you might be inclined to cut costs by paying essential team members less, but if they leave and you have high employee turnover, have you actually saved money?

Or you may cut costs today by not investing in your soil health, but how much will that decision cost you over the course of a growing season or a year?      

Also, when you’re profitable, have money tucked away, and are not overcome by financial stress, you’ll be more likely to treat your land and your team better. A lot of bad long-term decisions get made due to financial desperation.  

Tip #6. Cultivate personal resilience. 

There will be painful setbacks. There will be crop failures. You’re going to work your butt off in rain, snow, and scorching hot temperatures.

Anybody can work hard for a day. You’ll need to work hard and also work smart for years for your small farm to be successful. This is going to require a combination of a great work ethic, physical conditioning, and mental fortitude. So plan to be resilient, like nature.  

No matter what farm life throws at you, keep going, growing, learning, and improving. 

As Chris says: 

“I can’t emphasize personal resilience enough. Specifically, mentally. There is nothing more humbling than growing food for a living. I’m hard on myself, I want things to be further along than they are, I want them to be better than they are. I have to remind myself how far I’ve come and how much work I’ve put into it, and learn to enjoy the process. Also, I’m tough as hell, and can handle the constant physical and mental abuse that comes when you lose thousands of dollars in carrots due to rot or beets due to deer, or 60 days of work straight in 90+ degrees. But I still get discouraged and frustrated. Burnout is a real thing. You may work every day, but find things to enjoy about it. Also take care of your personal life and make sure to get some R&R… some chores you can’t put off, some you can. It’s all about the 3 P’s… perspective, perseverance, and prioritization.”  

Tip #7: Grow your buyers before you grow your crops. 

If you grow it, will they come? Maybe, but do you really want to invest months of your life and hard-earned money growing crops only to see them rot in bins because you didn’t sell them? 

Farming is a business, not a hobby or a non-profit. This kohlrabi had a buyer before its seed was sown.

Farming is a business, not a hobby or a non-profit. This kohlrabi had a buyer before its seed was sown.

Instead, find committed buyers for your crops BEFORE you grow them. This might be a CSA model (which is the backbone of Horseshoe Farms’ sales). Or it could be a commitment from a local restaurant (like Horseshoe Farms’ partnership with The Anchorage restaurant), non-profit, or other organization. 

Chris also utilizes farmers markets even though he likes to take a bit of time off on the weekend. The downside of farmers markets: you never know how much produce you’re going to sell at market even though you’re going to pay to have a stall there.

Chris points out that perhaps the greatest value of a farmers market for him has been the human relationships forged. “People have favorite baseball teams, and they also have favorite farmers.   It’s hard to beat face-to-face conversations and handshakes for forming those local relationships.”

Tip #8: The 85/15 Rule  

What crops should you plant from season-to-season? Despite always wanting to trial new and unusual crops, Chris tries to be disciplined by following the “ 85/15 rule .” 

Root crops such as beets, turnips, and carrots are staples at Horseshoe due to their reliability, market demand, and profitability.

Root crops such as beets, turnips, and carrots are staples at Horseshoe due to their reliability, market demand, and profitability.

85% of the crops in his rows in any given season are devoted to tried-and-true crops that are highly likely to produce a predictable yield, profit, and demand. A maximum of 15% of his rows are devoted to new or unusual crops whose performance, profitability, and demand aren’t predictable. 

Also included in the 15%: growing crops out of season in interesting ways. Example: a cattle panel trellised hoop house with tomatoes/cucumbers vining up providing shade for intercropped lettuce.  

Tip #9: Don’t go it alone. 

You might want to be an island, but an island isn’t a very attractive spot to be during storms. Partner with larger, established organizations in your community to find buyers, amplify your marketing efforts, find good team members, and to ensure that your farm has a beneficial local impact. 

For instance, Chris’s partnership with The Anchorage restaurant guarantees a certain amount of sales each week (when restaurants aren’t shut down due to pandemics). Horseshoe Farms’ CSA sells out so quickly partly because it’s done in partnership with The Anchorage, which has a giant list of email contacts.  

Examples of other helpful farm partnerships:

An intern gaining valuable knowledge and field experience at Horseshoe Farm.

An intern gaining valuable knowledge and field experience at Horseshoe Farm.

Tip #10: Buy land or lease land… Or be creative? 

Should you lease or buy land to start your small farm? Or maybe the choice isn’t binary… 

When a local environmentally-conscious couple in Traveler’s Rest, SC, heard about what Chris and The Anchorage were up to, they reached out to offer their land. For free. 

All they wanted in exchange was a CSA share. They weren’t using the land, loved the idea of helping a local business, and seeing their land put to good use as a beyond-organic regenerative farm. 

Thus, Horseshoe Farm isn’t financially burdened by lease or debt payments. Like any smart partnership, all parties involved put their relationship in writing to clarify terms. For instance, if the property owners die or decide to sell, Horseshoe Farm has first right of refusal to buy the property. 

Before committing to a land purchase or lease, consider reaching out to everyone in your local network to see if anyone knows a landowner who might be willing to be home to your small regenerative farm. 

When searching for a farm site, Chris also recommends the following:

“Be sure to talk to existing farms as well. Three of the farms I’ve worked on all wanted me to take over their operation. That’s an existing operation, often generations of experience, existing sales outlets, and they may be aging out and want to see their legacy carried out but don’t have children or the children don’t want to work on that farm.”  

Tip #11. Get your basic tools & infrastructure in order 

There are certain tools and infrastructure you simply have to have to run a small farm. The basics:

The coolbot + wash station at Horseshoe Farm.

The coolbot + wash station at Horseshoe Farm.

Just like you wouldn’t have much luck fishing without fishing poles and line, you won’t have much luck farming without infrastructure and tools. 

Tip #12: Reinvest rather than pay ahead. 

Yes, you have to pay upfront for your basic tools and infrastructure. But for future costs, invest wisely.

Sometimes, you have to invest in a tool that can easily generate a 100% or higher return on investment in a single growing season, so don’t be too rigid with this rule. However, more often than not it makes sense to wait to buy the next “must-have” tools on your list or expand your farm’s footprint until you’ve booked future profit.

This approach also helps you avoid unnecessary debt. And debt costs more than cash.    

Tip #13: Standardize to boost efficiency.  

How long are the rows in Chris’s fields? 50 feet. 

That way, when he buys or uses row cover, he knows exactly how much he needs. When he’s estimating the quantity of seeds or transplants he needs for a row, he knows exactly what he needs. When he’s doing crop yield estimates, yield comparisons, profit projections, etc, he’s comparing apples to apples (or more accurately turnips to turnips).  

Without this type of standardization, Christ would be operationally rudderless. 

A 50' row of lettuce mix. How will this row compare to other lettuce mixes in yield? There's no way to know unless you're comparing it to another 50' lettuce row.

A 50′ row of lettuce mix. How will this row compare to other lettuce mixes in yield? There’s no way to know unless you’re comparing it to another 50′ lettuce row.

Tip #14: Diversify through biodiversity.    

Every financial investment manager will tell you to “diversify your portfolio.” If your entire life savings are wrapped up in a single stock, that’s extremely risky. 

The same is true with crop selection on a resilient farm. If a pest or disease overwhelms your bean crops, the farm that only has 5% of its growing space devoted to beans is going to be more resilient than the farm with a monoculture of beans. 

Additional ways to biodiversify your small farm:

a. Perennial hedgerows  

Outside the rows of annual crops, Chris is also starting perennial hedgerows with various long-lived plant species like elderberries and blackberries ( proudly shared from Tyrant Farms ), bronze fennel, figs, and more. These make great homes for overwintering predatory insects (which eat pest insects), block wind, and create more stable microclimates that help with his row crop productivity.

These perennial hedgerows will also be low-maintenance cash crops that produce more and more food each year as they mature. 

b. Crop rotation

Never plant the same (or related) crop species in the same row back-to-back. This way, soil pathogens and pests that like a certain type of plant can’t proliferate. 

Tip #15: Plan to lose so you can plan to win.

40% crop loss. That’s what Chris financially plans for each season and year. Again, with global weirding, there are seasons where 40% loss is good. 

What about crop insurance? Horseshoe self-insures their crops rather than carrying the certain cost of crop insurance. Plus, Chris isn’t certain if his farm would qualify for insurance given how outside the norm his operation is from a size and crop diversity standpoint. 

As Chris jokingly says, “farming is basically gambling for a living.”  So stack the odds in your favor by planning for worst case scenarios, not best case. 

What’s the best case scenario if everything goes right on Chris’s farm for a year? Horseshoe can generate $200-$500 per bed per “flip” (e.g. crop transition). In our moderate climate, you can flip a bed 3-7 times per year, which means that each 50′ row can potentially yield a gross profit of $3,500/year. That’s IF everything goes perfectly all year long — no tornadoes, hail, hurricanes, goblins, pandemics, supernovas, or Martian invasions. 

Does Chris plan to gross $3,500/row/year? Nope. He banks on making $2,100/row (40% less than the maximum).  

We hope these 15 tips help you successfully start and operate your own small, regenerative farm — or better appreciate where your food comes from! Please subscribe (below) to our email list to get more helpful articles as they’re published.  

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About the author: aaron von frank.

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Thanks for mentioning that starting a small farm is a significant time and financial investment. It would be nice to hire a land-clearing company to help me clear out an acre of my land. I would like to start a small farm, and it would be nice to ensure that the land is ready to use.

It’s good to know that you should plan the percentage of loss on your farm for each season and year. My dad left my husband and I a small farm in the country. We’re hoping to go and make something of it, but we’ll need some insurance first.

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Absolutely! When it comes to crop yield, plan for the worst, hope for the best, and you’ll usually end up somewhere in between if you average things out over multiple seasons/years. Best of luck to you and your family in your new small farm venture!

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We only grow for ourselves plus some to donate. Your tips work well for home gardeners as well as farmers. Thanks from a fellow Furman grad.

Much appreciated, Carole! Glad the info was helpful.

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regenerative farm business plan

A 5 acre farm plan for the small landholder

regenerative farm business plan

More and more people are leaving the cities and buying small rural properties.

How do you make best use of a small holding? Can you actually make a living on 5 acres?

Here's a 5 acre farm plan to help them (and maybe YOU) manage a micro-farm to create a sustainable, profitable business.

regenerative farm business plan

"A dream without a plan is just a wish"

If you aren't  planning for success , what ARE you planning for? Download my free 2-page business plan template and get methodical about your business success. 

 To start, let's set some basic assumptions in place: Assumption 1. The farm will be 'natural': We will use organic and sustainable methods to the degree feasible. If you live where you work , you don't want to introduce toxic substances into the environment. Assumption 2. Integrated production of livestock and vegetable crops: Livestock animals are beneficial on a small farm, provided you raise them properly. This means raising them outdoors and not in confinement. And the livestock will add another valuable income stream to your micro-farm. Assumption 3. This is a business , not a hobby: No business starts up without some idea of where customers will come from, or how much revenue is needed, or who will do the work needed on your 5 acre farm.

This means we need to think about planning, marketing, and management as well as production. Your first step should be to build your Success Plan for your business OK, with these basic assumptions in place, let's look at the plan.

The 5 acre farm plan

Here are the pieces of your 5 acre farm:

Equipment needed for your 5 acre farm

Here's a list of the minimum basic equipment needed to efficiently manage your mini-farm:

regenerative farm business plan

regenerative farm business plan

regenerative farm business plan

Putting it all together

regenerative farm business plan

Here's how it all goes together:

Revenue from your 5 acre farm

Let's assume you are following the Community Supported Agriculture model for your small farm. Here's a quick breakdown of the revenue possible from the above plan.

CAUTION: this is an example only, actual income will depend on your market, your model, and your skill as a grower. Expenses will probably go up as you add enterprises as well.

Total sales = $115,000 This is not the limit; you could add bedding plants for the spring, or a fall planting of garlic , or value-added products for the winter to the mix.

You could have laying hens in an 'egg-mobile' in the summer, and house them in the greenhouse in the winter. You could raise bunnies on pasture in movable rabbit pens, like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm .

Lots of possibilities, limited only by your ability to manage.

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If you are considering a move to the country and plan to buy a farm, this article has some information that can help you through the process. Read it here

So, what else do you need to consider when you buy a hobby farm?

It seems that income declines or remains stagnant while expenses continue to rise. Can a small operator take steps to increase his/her income? Definitely yes!

Creating a farm business plan is the first (and most important) step you should take when starting your own Bootstrap Market Garden . This is time well invested in the success of your business. Read more here

Here are a few farm hurdles to think about before making the leap to your own piece of paradise.

Best Farm Investments for the Small Farmer

A backyard nursery can be a profitable home business for the new grower or would-be small farmer. You can take advantage of this fact by growing and selling plants for money.

How do you choose which jobs and tasks to tackle on your small farm, and how do you get the work done? That is part of farm living .

A good farm plan does more than just aid decision-making and priority-setting. It should also inspire and motivate the farmer to pursue the goals that are important to her.

Farm risk management is important even to the small commercial grower. This article examines the types of risks that small farmers may be exposed to, and identify some risk avoidance and risk mitigation strategies to avoid serious harm to the farm.

So I Wrote Some Books...

Based on 20+ years of gardening and farming experience, I wrote some books that show you practical approaches to gardening and raising small livestock. If you want to fill your freezer and cold storage with your own healthy, nutritious food, and provide some real food security for your family, it might be worth a look here.

I just put together two special book deals:

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I'm an affiliate for some products I promote on this site. This means I may get a small commission for a product you buy through a link on one of my pages

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