BF 101: Starting at Square One

Farm Start-up Considerations for New and Aspiring Farmers

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Creating a Farm to Match Your Values, Goals, Skills, and Resources

So you're thinking about starting a farm, but feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions? Have your online searches turned up piles of information, but you still feel a bit lost? This course can help. It was designed to assist new and aspiring farmers in taking the first steps in thinking through farm start-up (whether you already have land access or not). Thoughtfully defining your goals and strategy before you start farming can prevent wasted time & money.

Target Audience

Aspiring/Beginner – This course is for those who want to make some or all of their livelihood from farming, and those who are actively planning the start-up of a farm in the next few years. Each participant will be assessing their own resources and will begin developing a farm start-up plan. You do not need to have land or know what you will grow – just that you want to explore the possibilities and learn about the steps you need to take to begin farming.

NOTE: This course covers some of the same material as BF 202: Writing a Business Plan, but at a much more introductory level. We recommend taking BF 101 first to prepare for the more advanced material in BF 202, unless you already have some business and farming background. We also recommend following this course with BF 102: Markets and Profits in order to complete your start-up plan.

Course Objectives

If you complete all the course readings, webinars and assignments, you will:

  • Compile an inventory of the resources you have that can be useful for your farm endeavor
  • Have a clearer understanding of what's involved in "profitable" farming and how it relates to your personal context
  • With other decision-makers for your farm, write down at least 3 clear statements of your values and how you want the farm to support your quality of life
  • Discover good information resources on land assessment, financing, learning to farm, and choosing enterprises that you can continue to refer back to as you progress on your farming journey
  • Practice using a holistic framework to help you make complex decisions that will impact your farm and your life
  • Learn at least 3 pieces of wisdom--tips for success as well as pitfalls to avoid--from successful farmers


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments here in Teachable, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, live webinars will be woven into the online interface for 6 weeks to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from presenters and ask questions in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing.

Webinar Schedule

In 2024, this course will be offered live for 6-weeks on Wednesdays from 6:30 – 8:00 PM (Eastern) from September 25 – October 30. While we encourage live attendance, so you have the opportunity to engage with presenters and ask questions, all webinars are recorded and posted in the online classroom to watch anytime. Once enrolled in this course, you will retain access to all materials indefinitely, and can return to participate in the live webinars in future offerings of the course if you wish. Join us!

Your Instructor

Erica Frenay
Erica Frenay

Erica owns and operates Shelterbelt Farm, a diversified operation with lambs, cattle, an orchard, high tunnels, an apiary, and overnight accommodations in Brooktondale, NY. She also manages online courses for the Cornell Small Farms Program.

Course Curriculum

Courses Included with Purchase

Plan Your Farm
free tutorials to get started planning a small farm business
Erica Frenay

Original Price: $0

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course officially starts on the date given above, when the instructor gets involved and begins hosting live weekly webinars. If you are registering after the webinars have concluded for the year, you will have immediate access to all the course materials, and will be able to participate in the next year's webinars if you choose to.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 7 days and we will give you a full refund.

Learn from successful farmers and start turning your farm dreams into reality today!

Get started now!