As winter blankets much of the United States and the active farming season winds down for many of us, it's a great time to brush up on some skills, learn something new, maybe tweak - or create - a business plan. Some ideas:
- Read a book. There are so many wonderful books out there - from hardcore how-to books, to nonfiction stories of farmers who made it, or didn't, and what they learned along the way.
- Research grants and loans. New programs from the USDA are underway via the Know Your Farmer initiative, and there are so many opportunities for farmers to get the help they need to succeed. Make sure you take advantage of anything you might qualify for!
- Write a business plan. A business plan should be a cornerstone of any serious small farm venture. Make sure that you have one - it will help you move forward in a way nothing else can. If you have one already, revisit it and make sure it's up to date.
- Take a class. Look for one near you: there is Exploring the Small Farm Dream in Pennsylvania, New England, the Growing Farms Workshop Series at Oregon State University, and a series of courses in New York through the Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the New York Beginning Farmers Project.
With all these great resources, there's no excuse not to learn something new this winter!