Farm Out Your Financial Woes?

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by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

While some may say the recession is over, jobs are still scarce and many still feel the pinch.  If you’re looking for extra income, an interesting hobby or a new business, why not try farming?  The New Jersey Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NJ) can help.  They are holding two new classes this month on how to start up or expand agricultural businesses.

“Farming” often brings to mind images of fields spreading out far and wide, cavernous barns full of cows, and tractors with giant tires. But farming is actually quite diverse. Even small properties can support a surprising array of agricultural products.

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As NOFA-NJ points out, there are niche markets for everything from goat cheese to fresh flowers and heirloom tomatoes. Maybe your favorite restaurant is importing specialty herbs that YOU could raise and sell.  Or maybe your town has a farmers market where you could set up a booth on weekends.

And don’t forget that organic products grown close to home are increasingly popular in the Garden State. Health-conscious consumers are seeking out foods grown without pesticides or fertilizers, and many New Jersey residents are looking to buy local.

“Exploring The Small Farm Dream” is NOFA-NJ’s four-week class designed to help answer the question, “Is starting an agricultural business right for me?”  If you have ever thought about using your green thumb to earn some greenbacks, this course may be the perfect starting point. You will learn about small-scale farming opportunities, how to assess personal and financial resources, conduct market research and develop a business plan.

If the seeds of an agricultural business have already been planted in your mind, check out NOFA-NJ’s more comprehensive course titled, “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity.”  This course is geared toward farmers looking for innovative ideas and enhanced marketing opportunities. Topics include equipment, legal issues, management and communication, risk management, marketing, budgeting and accounting, financing, succession planning, and how to evaluate resources, among others.

Both classes begin in mid-February and will be held at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.

You can register for either course by calling (908) 722-3700 any day between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.  For more information contact NOFA-NJ at (908) 371-1111 or download a brochure under the ‘Events’ link at www.nofanj.org.

Although your farming may end up small in scale, you’ll become part of New Jersey’s rich history of agriculture. And here’s a fun fact about the Garden State’s farms: In the last decade alone, 1,455 farms totaling 120,000 acres were preserved in New Jersey!

Let’s hear it for farmers! And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s farms, open spaces and natural resources.


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