Farmer Resources

Countryside Courses and Workshops

Exploring the Small Farm Dream

The purpose of Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? is to help aspiring farmers answer that question. The aim is to help those thinking about small-scale commercial farming (farming as a business with the goal to make a profit, rather than as a hobby or pastime), learn what it will take to start and manage a farm business, and decide whether that is something they really want to pursue.  Recognizing that many “Explorers” will choose not to farm commercially, Exploring the Small Farm Dream also looks at other possibilities that can satisfy their interest in agriculture.

Originally developed by the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI), the concept for the class was born in 1999. After offering several business planning courses for small farm start-ups, it became clear that many of the attendees were still in the “pre-venture” stage of business development.  A prequel of sorts – a decision-making workbook and short course – was needed. After gathering feedback from course participants, partnering with several other organizations, and multiple pilot courses, Exploring the Small Farm Dream was created in 2003. The course has been offered in Massachusetts each year since, and other organizations serving the beginning farmer constituency, such as Countryside, joined the network of service providers that offer the course nationwide.

During the 4-session course, you will:

  • Describe your small farm dream (pre-exploration ideas) including:
    • Your motivations and what you hope to gain personally from the venture
    • What enterprises you expect to pursue
    • How you hope to sell your products/services and to whom
    • How an ag business will be integrated with the rest of your life pursuits
    • An estimated timeline for starting your venture
  • Assess Yourself
    • Do you want to be a business owner?
    • Risks and rewards of ag business ownership
    • Personal traits assessment
    • Knowledge and skills assessment
    • Quality of life considerations
    • Financial considerations
  • Research the Landscape
    • Conduct farmer interviews
    • Identify opportunities and challenges in the landscape
    • Identify products, customers, and marketing options
    • Research market and revenue potential of your operation
  • Assess Your Resources
    • What you have and what you will need to begin your agricultural business
      • Physical resources inventory
      • Financial resources inventory
  • Make Decisions
    • Review your research
    • Decide if starting a farm business is right for you
    • Reevaluate your small farm dream, post-exploration
    • Plan next steps

Farmers Roundtable Winter Series

Winter is the best time to develop your farm knowledge and network with local farmers and gardeners. Each year, the Farmers Roundtables explore a variety of topics, meeting once or twice each month. Topics from the 2018/19 season was done in partnership with Portage Soil and Water Conservation District and included: Direct Marketing and Identifying your Core Customer Base; Finding and Funding your Farm; Seed Starting and Soil Preparation; Integrating Cover Crops and No-Till Practices into your Market Farm; Savings for your Pocket and the Planet: Creating a Closed Loop Farming System; and Savings for your Pocket and the Planet: Fertilize Right. 

Farm Tours

Educational farm tours often occur through other workshops. If you or a group would like help planning an educational tour of a local farm, please contact


Farmland Owners

If you own farmland in northeast Ohio and would like to sell or lease your land to a new and beginning farmer, we can help connect you. Real Estate Agents and estate lawyers: do your clients have land that they want to keep in farming? We can help them connect to new farmers looking for land. Contact our farm staff at

Farmland Seekers

Check out the National Young Farmers Coalition: Finding Farmland Calculator, here. This great tool helps farmers seeking land understand their financial options. Email to be added to an inquiry list for land opportunities.

Farmer Education Resources for Beginning and Seasoned Farmers

For upcoming programs hosted by Countryside, visit the workshop page and events calendar.

Farm Succession and Protection

American Famland Trust-

Western Reserve Land Conservancy-


Other Links

New Farmers USDA-

Ohio State University Extentsion-

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) –

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) –

Ohio Department of Agriculture –

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) –

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation –

Center for Rural Affairs –

Farm Aid –

Farm and Dairy –

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) –

USDA Rural Development in Ohio –

U.S. Census Bureau National Ag. Statistics Service – Quick Stats –

OSU – Agroecosystems Management Program –

Growing for Market –

Local Food Systems –

Local Matters –

LocalHarvest –

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