Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Small-Farm Business Planning Resources

If you've been following my Twitter account or reading up on the local small-scale agriculture news, you may have noted that I've been teaching the Business Planning component of Kwantlen University's Richmond Farm School this fall. For anyone working on starting a new small farm, here is a summary of some of the business planning resources I would recommend.

***Updated 9 December 2011***

Business Planning

  • Business Planning for Small-Scale Community Farming Enterprises. Published by FarmFolkCityFolk and The Land Conservancy. This is an accessible, step-by-step guide to business planning for small-scale farms. Excellent for use as a workbook, although the end business plan may need some refining, based on a more professional business planning template.
  • Guide to Starting a New Farm Enterprise. The Province of BC’s business planning guide for small- and medium-sized farms. A very good guide for understanding the components of a successful small- to medium-size farm enterprise
  • Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook An excellent resource for researching and writing a business plan. Written for urban farms, this document has detailed worksheets to help guide users through the process of developing a useful business plan.
  • SmartFarm: A centralized site by the Province of BC's Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, providing information about programs, events and resources for farms.

Business Management
Finances and Bookkeeping
  • Farm Financial Records: A Guide to Managing for Success. Published by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. A comprehensive guide to managing your financial records. Available through (along with a variety of other publications that might be of use).
Whole Farm Plan
  • Whole Farm Plan Guide. Published by FarmFolkCityFolk and The Land Conservancy. When purchasing a property and/or establishing a farming project a whole farm plan helps develop an assessment of the farm’s capacity, resources and opportunities. It also helps to benchmark ecological indicators and, ultimately, develop shared vision and goals for those involved in managing the land.
Land Access Agreements
  • A Guide to Farmland Access Agreements Leases, Profits à Prendre, Licences and Memoranda of Understanding. Published by FarmFolkCityFolk and The Land Conservancy. Comprehensive guide to types of land access agreements, benefits and drawbacks of each and sample agreements.
Local Government
  • BC’s Farming and Food Future: A Local Government Toolkit for Sustainable Food Production. Published by FarmFolkCityFolk and The Land Conservancy. At times, the best plans for sustainable agriculture run up against local government regulations. This guide offers a toolkit for advocating change to municipal regulations around agriculture.
  • Small Farm Canada. The perfect resource for Canadian small-scale farmers. Covers a variety of agricultural and business-related topics for fruit, veggie, livestock and agritourism plus much more.
  • Growing For Market. An American resource, written specifically for farmers who market primarily through farmers markets and CSAs. Great info on growing practices, marketing and tools. One of the best publications for small farmers operating a farm enterprise for profit.
  • Stewards of Irreplaceable Land. A BC-based apprenticeship program, linking farmers and apprentices from across Canada.
  • WorkSafeBC. Once you find your employees, you’ll have to enroll in WorkSafeBC so your workers are covered by the provincial workers compensation program.
Coleman, Eliot. (1995) The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tool and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • Not a business planning resource, per se, but an essential introduction to organic growing. Excellent demonstration of how to merge thinking about crop planning, marketing and deciding what to grow based on what sells. Crucial if only for one piece of advice: don’t try to farm without taking a day off each week!
Henderson, Elizabeth. (2007) Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • An essential resource for starting a CSA. Includes everything from crop planning through to alternative means of engaging under-serviced communities. Based on work by North America’s original CSAs.
Wiswall, Richard. (2009) The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff—and Making a Profit. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • A business planning handbook written specifically for organic farmers. More suited to the scale and focus of small-scale vegetable farms. Includes a disc with planning and efficiency tools.
Canada Revenue Agency
Business Risk Management

Profitability on a small farm, Paul and Sandy Arnold. The best summary article of how to approach the management of a small-scale farm.


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