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Whole Farm Planning Course Work

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program team has developed and is in the process of publishing a Whole Farm Planning Curriculum. This course work is designed to guide the beginning farmer in developing his or her whole farm plan.

These modules are designed with the beginning farmer as the primary learner. Topics and activities are purposefully organized at the introductory– intermediate stage of farming knowledge and experience. At the end of each module, additional resources and Virginia service provider contact information will be provided.

Whole Farm Planning Module Topics

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Introduction to Whole Farm Planning Module (Click to Download)

Introduction to Whole Farm Planning - Published

The purpose of the Introduction to Whole Farm Planning module is to help beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia to make informed farm planning decisions by introducing them to the whole farm planning process. The first module includes key concepts, worksheets, and examples to provide the framework and inspiration you will need to plan your own farm.

Land Pub Image
Land Acquisition and Tenure Module (Click to Download)

Land Acquisition and Tenure - Published

The Land Acquisition and Tenure module is designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers develop and implement farm tenure and transfer goals as part of the whole farm plan. Established farmers who are planning for the transfer of their farm may also find this module useful. The module includes key concepts and worksheets to help you assess land resources, land acquisition needs, and land transfer preferences.

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Whole Farm Business Management and Planning Module (Click to Download)

Whole Farm Business Management and Planning - Published

The purpose of the Whole Farm Business Management module is to help beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia to make informed business decisions by introducing them to the business management process. This module includes key concepts, worksheets, and examples to provide the framework and inspiration you will need to manage your business.

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Marketing Module (Click to Download)

Marketing - We are working to get this document published, but drafts are available

The Marketing module is designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers develop and implement their goals for market analysis, product establishment, and development of viable marketing channels. The module includes concepts, worksheets, and case study examples to help you assess your potential customers, product options, available markets, and dynamic marketing strategies.

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Sustainable Farming Practices: The Place and the Product Module (Click to Download)
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Sustainable Farming Practices: Soil Management Module (Click to Download)
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Sustainable Farming Practices: Animal Husbandry (Click to Download)

Sustainable Farming Practices - We are working to get these documents published, but drafts are available

The purpose of this module is to help beginning farmers and ranchers develop and hone their skills and knowledge in the fundamental production practices associated with establishing and growing a wide range of plants and animals. This module is divided into five sections, each focused on specific aspects of production agriculture: 1. The Place and the Products; 2. Farm Biodiversity; 3. Organisms in the Ecosystem: Beneficials, Pests and Diseases; 4. Soil Management; 5. Animal Husbandry.

Click here to send an email request for the full version of the module(s).  

Your request will be answered with an email reply from vabeginningfarmer@vt.edu.  It is very important that we get details of who is using the curriculum, and an evaluation of how it worked for them in order to improve the materials for future participants. You will be asked for your contact information, then the full version of the modules, with evaluation forms, will be provided for you. Each module will be delivered one at a time, as we believe that each module should be worked through individually. We will be following up with each participant to determine how your evaluations can be used to improve the curriculum.  

Select Resources from Virginia Whole Farm Planning Curriculum

Intro to Whole Farm Planning

Holistic Management: A Whole-Farm Decision Making Framework

ATTRA publication explores economic viability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.

Whole-Farm Planning for Economic and Environmental Sustainability

Kansas State University Dept. of Horticulture answers, "What is Whole-Farm Planning".

Successful Whole Farm Planning: Essential Elements Recommended by the Great Lakes Basin Farm Planning Network

Whole Farm Planning is a process to pull together decision making about environmental, economic, and production concerns. A toolbox for farmers.

Whole Farm Planning: Combining Family, Profit, and Environment

Publication of University of Minnesota Extension Service. Taking a look at the 4 steps to Whole Farm Planning.

Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You?

New England Small Farm Institute's workbook to help you decide if you want to own and operate your own farm business.

Whole Farm Planning Model

Ohio State Extension Service “Building for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business” Fact Sheet Series: Whole Farm Planning Model.

Land Acquisition & Tenure

Strategies for Financing Beginning Farmers

Center for Rural Affairs takes a look at opportunities and financing programs for beginning farmers.

The FarmLASTS Project: Farm Land Access, Succession, Tenure and Stewardship

Provides a structured approach for students and teachers in both academic and non-academic settings to study agricultural land tenure, and explore tenure alternatives and successful farm tenancy.

Planning the Future of Your Farm: A Workbook Supporting Farm Transfer Decisions, Virginia Edition

This publication is specifically for those who want to keep their family farm in production and in the family as it passes to the next generation.

Farm Transfers in Wisconsin: A Guide for Farmers

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture guide for farmers to assist in land/farm transition from the the current generation to the next.

Holistic Business Management

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses

Brings the business planning process alive to help today's alternative and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs transform farm-grown inspiration into profitable enterprises.

Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities

This guide lists funding opportunities offered by federal programs, and is indispensable for anyone seeking government help to foster their innovative enterprise in forestry and agriculture.

Establishing and Using a Farm Financial Record-Keeping System

Effective management of a farming operation today requires that records be kept so managers can make informed decisions affecting the profitability of their farms.

How to Direct Market Your Beef

How one couple used its family’s ranch to launch a profitable, grass-based beef operation focused on direct market sales.

2011 Farmer's Tax Guide

IRS Publication 225. For use in preparing 2011 returns.

The Role of Human Resource Management in Risk Management

Human resources play important roles in farm businesses of all sizes.

Strategic Planning: What is the Process?

What the farm business manager wants to do, What the business must do in order to compete and survive, and What the business is capable of doing. 

Questions and Answer Guide for Starting and Growing Your Small Business

Virginia Cooperative Extension guide. Friendly question and answer format.


Marketing Fresh Vegetables

Maryland Cooperative Extension fact sheet is one in the series Enterprise Guide for Southern Maryland, providing information about alternative agricultural enterprises for farmers.

Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors

This manual was developed by apprenticeship instructors, and professionals in direct marketing, small farm business planning, small farm viability, and Cooperative Extension personnel.

Tracking Sales

University of Vermont Extension publication discusses easy, inexpensive methods used to monitor how customers really feel about your product.

Sustainable Farming Practices

Building Soils for Better Crops: Sustainable Soil Management

Magdoff and van Es' third edition text on sustainable soil management.

Managing Cover Crop Profitably

Explores how and why cover crops work and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation.

Ecological agriculture: Principles, practices, and constraints

Research paper from Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont, Burlington examines the ecology of agriculture, and how natural systems can be encouraged to work together for crop production. 

Managing Insects on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies

Principals of ecologically based pest management



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The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition is a state-wide and coalition-based Extension program, housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Funding was sponsored by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Award #2017-70011-26861, and the Southern Risk Management Education Center Grant #545015. For more information about the program, contact Katie Trozzo, Program Coordinator, at vabeginningfarmer@vt.edu or 540-231-4582.   For other questions, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director, at niewolny@vt.edu.

For website updates, such as broken links, please contact vabeginningfarmer@vt.edu