University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Beginning Farmer Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service?
The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is a joint partnership between the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University which aims to improve the lives of rural Kentuckians. The Kentucky CES offers programming in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community and economic development, and 4-H youth development.

What is the KyFarmStart Program?
The KyFarmStart program is a whole farm management education program sponsored through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The KyFarmStart program began in Kentucky in January 2010. The educational programs are designed for those individuals with less than ten years farming experience. The educational program may include face to face county meetings, field days, on-line learning lessons, and a mentorship program.

How do I find out if there is a beginning farmer class offered in my area?
Your local county extension agent will be able to provide you information about the locations of the face to face educational program, known as KyFarmStart. Your local county extension office can also provide additional information and resources.

Where can I find additional resources?
In addition to the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, there are several state and federal agencies which serve agriculture. The list below is an example of additional resources available and is not intended to be all-inclusive.
USDA Farm Service Agency - Federal agency with county offices across the state to administer farm loans, price support programs, commodity programs and payments, conservation programs, and disaster assistance.
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service - Federal agency that has a mutual agreement with state-funded Soil and Water Conservation Districts. PRovides one-on-one assistance to private landowners and local governmental units in all aspects of natural resource protection. They also administer federal cost-share conservation programs.
Kentucky Department of Agriculture – Provides information for consumers and farmers on state services, initiatives, and programs. Includes information on programs, Kentucky agriculture news and events, regulations, certifications, and testing.
Kentucky Division of Conservation – Assists Kentucky’s 121 local conservation districts in the development and implementation of sound soil and water conservation programs to manage, enhance, and promote the wise use of the commonwealth’s natural resources. Provide information on programs as well as links to soil, water and resource conservation activities.

What's the step-by-step process to starting a farm?
Because every farm is unique, there is no formula to follow! Your start-up process will depend on your current situation: your primary goal (full-time farm? part-time? hobby?), level of farming experience, financing, access to land, and time available. Starting a farm is overwhelming - so many decisions to make! The best advice is to start small and grow as you experience success.

The learning lessons on this website offer you a framework for planning, and the opportunity to put your plans into writing as you go through each unit (via online worksheets). Even if you don't need a loan to get started, it's a good idea to put some kind of plan writing, to help yourself get organized and make sure that you have thought through all the major aspects of your farm operation. Such a plan, whether it's a formal business plan or not, will help you take one step at a time and lay the foundation for your success.