How to start a farm!
Okay just because of the title don’t think I really know what I’m doing! Sabrina nor I grew up on a working farm. My grandfather was a chicken farmer and I helped during the summers but back then I just did what I was told, so I really don’t know that many details. I did raise goats back at Fort Bragg when I was undergoing my Special Forces Medical Training and do have some idea of what’s involved to raise them and keep them alive.
We started this journey with the goal to live a simpler lifestyle, become more self-sufficient and have a healthier lifestyle. But since we all live in the real world it also had to provide an income to supplement our other careers. I am a Search Engine Optimization professional and of course many may have heard of Photography By Sabrina, if you have lived in Knoxville for any length of time.
We have had several businesses before and knew that basically we were starting a new business venture. In some ways the easiest part may be to get the land everything else has a steep learning curve!
Farm Tax Status
I had heard others speak of Tennessee Greenbelt tax credits and farm sales tax-exempt status but had no real experience of how or what to do. If we had known we would of purchased at least 15 acres to qualify for the greenbelt exemption, as long as we buy more acres in the same county we can qualify in the future. (Follow the links above to find out how you may apply or qualify.)
In the old days you could buy something and apply later for the return of the sales tax but times have changed and you have to have the tax certificate first to save money by avoiding the sales tax. I had planned on buying a tractor and now realized I needed a sales tax exemption certificate before I made my purchase.
The above links show you what and how to apply and was a very simple and straightforward process. Because this was a new farming endeavor we had to create a business plan to qualify.
I’ve created many business plans in the past and jumped at the chance to sit down and put my ideas on paper. Of course it’s work but a business plan should be a simple document that will help you sharpen your focus and articulate your goals. Sometimes we bite off more that we can chew so this can also be a wake up call!
Farm Expert Resources
Many of the universities have reliable guides to use as examples and I would encourage you to look first at local sources and check out of state ones as well to see what may be different.
Once we decided to go forward we came across a local advertisement for an Organic Field Day at the University of Tennessee and it was the next week and right here in Knoxville! (We moved the closing date so that we didn’t miss the classes.)
We both enjoyed the classes and got lots of information and we did pause at one point and ask each other what we had gotten our selves into! We both left with a certain confidence because everyone was so nice and helpful and we realized that we had a deep source of knowledge to tap into.
All of these people were right here in our city and encouraged us to call if we needed any help. All of the seminars were based on things and practices that were working here in our imediate growing environment!
Of course you never learn how to start a farm in one blog post but use the links below to use the resources that are in place to guide you as you start your farm operations.
Watch the short video to get an idea of how all these agencies work together and how they can help you to meet your goals.
- Farm Service Agency: you’ll need to see them to get a “farm number” this registers your farms geographic location and gets you in the “system”.
- Natural Resources Conservation Services: they will come out and assess your property and some financial assistance may be available.
- University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension: these are the local go to guys for anything and everything pertaining to farm operations. They have the ears of the state and federal regional agents and can help direct you to outside assistance.
Of course these are not the only sources that can help you but these are the foundational ones to get your farm recognized as a real “farm” and in the agricultural systems, county, state and federal.
My almost daily/weekly recourse are my peeps at the local Farmer’s Co-Op, they know everybody and know what works in your immediate community. I also rely on them for electricians, plumbers, and other professional contacts. I want to be a part of my local community and establish relationships and buying local and using local professionals just makes sense. I don’t want to be known as that guy from the city…
I am also a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition whose mission is to mobilize veterans to feed America. This organization has information of funding resources and educational training programs.